Family Political Problem
July 23, 2009 9:08 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with a bullying uncle who hates liberals.

My sister-in-law was raised Mormon, but escaped as a teenager. Her relatives are very conservative and she is not. She has endured years of torment from her uncle (a Bill O'Reilly type) via numerous daily e-mails regarding Obama's birth certificate and such. He knows she disagrees so he's basically just bullying her. She usually just deletes them.

Today she received another e-mail from him about Obama (muslim, socialist, antichrist, whatever) she replied that she'd had enough, told him she was insulted and asked for her name to be removed from his list (I think she should have done this long ago). He replied to the entire list (mostly family) calling her a thin-skinned liberal dummocrat. She's humiliated, but happy to be off the list, but she never will be rid of him because he's family.

How do you guys deal with this kind of stuff?
posted by samsaunt to Human Relations (58 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
First off, she should block his email and should have done so long ago. Second, at family functions, if he starts being a bully, just walk away. Nothing she says will get through to this type of person. Just leave the room, house, city, whatever it takes to get away.
posted by chiababe at 9:13 PM on July 23, 2009

Exactly how she did. Ask to be removed and then create a filter that sends mail from him/that person directly to the trash.

Jerks (of any stripe) don't listen to reason. There's not much more you can do.
posted by unixrat at 9:14 PM on July 23, 2009

Aww, my mom has to deal with this shit from some of her siblings. It really sucks, but she's dealt with it by being as politically active as she can (donating to Planned Parenthood and to Democrat candidates for all sorts of office, mostly, but also volunteering for local immigrants rights groups).

I actually got similar advice to the above when I asked how to deal with a conservative workplace. It lacks instant gratification, but being really secure in your beliefs and acting on them (non-ostentatiously) when you can goes a long way.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:16 PM on July 23, 2009

There is nothing left to deal with. Your wife did the right thing.

If he pushes her more, with even one more email, she should pick up the phone and call him. She should say, "You're family and that's the only reason I don't tell you to go fuck yourself. But stop this right now." Then hang up. He'll get the message or alienate the entire family.
posted by wfrgms at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I'd create a rule in my email client to delete that person's emails as they arrived.

Alternatively, to create a fuss, I've seen it suggested on the Green that you could reply with something like "Thank you for your email. This script will now donate $5 to the gay-ethnic-communists for President PAC" or similar.
posted by pompomtom at 9:22 PM on July 23, 2009 [24 favorites]

I don't get angry with ignorant family members - I just feel sorry for them and lucky to have the education and etc. advantages to have a different view. Maybe a change in perspective would help?
posted by moxiedoll at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2009

She could always point out the contradictions of his behavior, but minimizing contact and framing interactions intellectually to her advantage with layers of detachment will probably be the best expenditure of her precious time.
posted by effluvia at 9:34 PM on July 23, 2009

Mockery. But I have a terrible character flaw: I enjoy picking on people like that. They get so mad. It's very rewarding.

I would also follow pompomtoms suggestion of making a donation for every email and announcing it via reply all. It'll only cost her $20 or $30 to get her point across and make him look like a stubborn old fool.
posted by fshgrl at 9:38 PM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

I, who was raised Mormon and never did escape, have either blocked people who send this sort of thing, created a rule in Gmail that puts all of the email from the offending persons in a separate folder, skipping the inbox, or responded to one or two of the emails with extremely lengthy and well-reasoned rebuttals that end with me saying I don't really like these sorts of emails, but that I would respond once thoroughly so that they understand where I'm coming from and why I don't like the ultra-conservative propaganda. It has worked like a charm.

Incidentally, why is it that my liberal friends (Mormon and non-mormon alike) never send me liberal propaganda emails, but conservatives (Mormon and non-mormon alike) are into that sort of thing?
posted by The World Famous at 9:52 PM on July 23, 2009

Donations in his name to whichever deserving liberal candidate or campaign she calculates will annoy him the most.
posted by genghis at 9:52 PM on July 23, 2009 [20 favorites]

Your sister-in-law did the right thing and has no reason to be humilated. My brother went through the same thing with our uncle and finally told him he was happy to hear about family related goings on, but stop it with the political bullshit. Now he doesn't hear from him at all.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:04 PM on July 23, 2009

I would advise against following any of the advice in this thread suggesting tit-for-tat mockery tactics. Don't provoke him. Don't stoop to his level. People like him thrive on conflict and you can never win, no matter what you try. Further interaction will just cause more aggravation and frustration for you. It's not worth it. Your life will be better without him, so just do everything to just detach yourselves from his existence.
posted by randomstriker at 10:09 PM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

...or responded to one or two of the emails with extremely lengthy and well-reasoned rebuttals that end with me saying I don't really like these sorts of emails, but that I would respond once thoroughly so that they understand where I'm coming from and why I don't like the ultra-conservative propaganda.
This. Works wonders, especially in combination with debunking information from Snopes, Media Matters, etc.
posted by jtron at 10:11 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

"thin-skinned liberal dummocrat"

I'd wear that label with pride. In the end it doesn't matter who believes what. It'd be nice if we could change people's minds, but it's so rare that the best thing is just be yourself and don't let the bastards drive you down.

The best revenge is living well.
posted by @troy at 10:17 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's as easy as ABC

A. Go to Media Matters or Snopes and easily debunk the propaganda

B. Craft an response that cuts their argument off at the knees and embarrasses them. Be sure to figure out a way to include a link to the O'Reilly falafel lawsuit

C. Most important step - Collect every email in the list - scroll down the entire email and include every single one from each time it was forwarded, sometimes it's in the hundreds - and send the response out to all of them.

You will be deleted from all future lists immediately. I haven't been included on a list in years despite having a ton of brainwashed family members.
posted by any major dude at 10:23 PM on July 23, 2009 [18 favorites]

My ubcle does this same shit. I DO reply with Snopes links disproving the forward (they always exist.) a few weeks back there was a particularly raciat one.

I told my mom that I had no interest in me or my kid being around such people. When we had a family reunion. I said hello but didn't interact.

Anyway, the point of this tale is that many people that also hate these emails tell me in person that they appreciate my standing up to him.
posted by k8t at 10:24 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

k8t, I think a lot of liberals fail to realize that email propaganda is to right wingers as blogs are to left wingers. After Fox News it's the 2nd most reliable medium for disinformation. If all liberals subscribed to my 3 step retaliation plan outlined above it would do significant harm to the Republican propaganda machine. It won't deter the diehards but passive wingers will think long and hard if it's worth the embarrassment of forwarding the next one.
posted by any major dude at 10:42 PM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

The uncle's a lost cause. Not so the other family members. If it were me, I might write a broadcast email to the tune of "You recently received a condemnation of my character and views from Uncle Joe. I think it's terribly unfortunate that we can't be respectful in our disagreements about how to address the serious problems our country faces. I want you all to know that I'm open to discussing my views at any time, in a mutually respectful way, with a view toward solving these consistent problems in a way that meets all of our needs. I do hope that people who care about America and its future can find a way to have a positive, civic discussion that moves toward a stronger, safer, healthier, and happier nation for all of us to live in. So sorry that you have been exposed to this negative response."

It reframes the debate and claims the high ground. It's unassailable. It creates a contrast between name-calling and bullying and reasoned discourse with civic intent. Stay there, and let anyone who's curious come to you. I have to believe that, with sane speech, the reasonable people will win the day.
posted by Miko at 10:47 PM on July 23, 2009 [38 favorites]

Walk away, ignore. The people who believe anything bad he says about you don't really know the real you or appreciate you, and thus don't matter.

Dummocrat? What 4-year-old made that up?
posted by IndigoRain at 11:02 PM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Dear Uncle Republican,

If you find that your political beliefs are so unassailable as to find it necessary to insult your own family when disagreed with, I can only say I am sorry to hear that. To the rest of the family, I apologize for the spectacle. Take care and best wishes. See you next (family picnic/reunion/holiday/other gathering).

Niece Dummocrat"

Passive-aggressive? Yes. A direct needle at how he outright insulted a family member? Absolutely. Effective when dealing with a conservative religious family? Very possibly.

It doesn't feel like the most mature response, but it's certainly reasonable, probably completely honest, and it's framed in a way he'll understand. You can't make him believe Obama isn't the Super Devil, but you can point out that if he cares about his family (and his family's opinion of how he treats other family), he can hang his elephant hat at the door and sit down at the table as kin, not adversary.
posted by Saydur at 11:25 PM on July 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

As long as "she will never be rid of him because he is family" is the paradigm, this will be a thorn in her foot. He's not behaving like family and she is giving his talk-radio antics too much weight.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:27 PM on July 23, 2009

I have said this before in AskMe and I will say it again. We liberal athiests in the deep South long ago solved this problem. At the next family gathering when Uncle Red goes off on his tirade, just smile and say with all the sincerity you can muster, "Well, bless your heart." it's the single most infuriating, condescending, passive-aggresive SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE thing you can say. Don't waste your breath trying to teach that pig to sing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:40 AM on July 24, 2009 [63 favorites]

Check out this interesting & short article about The Backfire Effect.

Some scientists did some studies.... apparently, when you inform a conservative of the facts in an argument vs. the propaganda or disinformation they believe....well, the conservative only feels their false beliefs reinforced and validated! It's as though calling them out is what proves them correct, in spite of all evidence to the contrary!!

The study didn't say how you could effectively get through to these types of people, but at least we know now why Bill O'Reilly feels so empowered when someone comes on his show to contradict him;)
posted by jbenben at 1:52 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I usually break out my corrolary to Godwins law:

If one person cannot complete a conversation without reducing the situation to Liberal vs Conservative (R vs D) or any other such gross oversimplification they lose the conversation.

It stops people from parrotting off those simple email itrade and, for the ones that actually think about things, gets them to think critically about the issues at hand. The world has too many different shades of grey to accurately describe anything as L vs C. To even attempt that is doing a disservice to anyone who thinks for themselves out there. If it can get people to focus on what they don't like about the legislation, or what they disagree about in a conversation then it removes the emotive source of belonging to a group. The grouping of people institutes some protective thoughts in our tribal lizard brain and frames the discussion down to us vs them. If it were all down to specifics it would be me vs you vs third person vs. . . . . and no one would get too involved because there isn't a large enough group.
posted by koolkat at 2:04 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

"thin-skinned liberal dummocrat"

I'd wear that label with pride.

I agree. Print it on a T-shirt and wear it to family outings.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:15 AM on July 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

I say "So what else did Rush O'Reilly tell you to think today?"
posted by jara1953 at 3:45 AM on July 24, 2009

Personally, I'd probably reply (to all) with an email that starts:

"Is today 'Silly email Day'? Great!"

Then attach some ridiculous "bat boy" type story from one of the goofy tabloids that specializes in psychics, alien babies and Christ's face appearing on various foodstuffs.

Don't reply to any (of his) replies to that email, but rinse and repeat every time he starts.

Yes, I like infuriating bullies.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:07 AM on July 24, 2009


"Is today 'Political email Day'? Great"

And attach a story about the Conservative scandal du jour.

You'll never convince him to change his mind about Obama, so don't even bother trying.

posted by JaredSeth at 4:08 AM on July 24, 2009

Since she is now off the email list, it sounds like the current problem is family gatherings. Does conservative uncle use these gatherings as opportunities to get on a soap box?
posted by hworth at 4:28 AM on July 24, 2009

I'm a survivor of a dozen family reunions: my husband's family is conservative and fundamentalist. I have found that focusing on their good qualities and disregarding their blind spots helps me getting along with them and truly liking them. Everybody knows that I am ultra-liberal and when the conversation turns too politically biased, I'll excuse myself by saying "Oops, my bleeding heart is starting to bleed" and I'll walk away.

As far as emails, I disagree with the filtering: I actually read them carefully, both the evangelical and the political ones. It helps in my understanding of this part of the American Society: there are a lot of conservative republican evangelicals out there (at times it seems all in my husband's family) and we need to figure out why they think this way. From my not-born in the US point of view, it does seem that the cause is mostly fear: fear of changes, fear of the unknown, fear of the different, fear of loosing something, and in my answers or discussions my aim is reassuring those fears.

When emails get too outrageous, a mild reference to WWJD works.
posted by francesca too at 4:55 AM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Short version: "Why don't you look up 'overcompensating'" in the dictionary?"

When my dad started going on and on how the liberals had "brainwashed" me, I replied: quite on the contrary; you raised me right - to think for myself. So I got a lefthanded compliment, an insult, and a rebuttal in one little line. Obviously the uncle didn't raise her, but something to that effect might be effective.
posted by notsnot at 4:56 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

My mother-in-law did the same thing. I told her to please stop because my email filters were identifying her email address as a spammer and had started to delete everything she sent. This meant that if something important/tragic happened, she'd have no way of getting in touch. The emails stopped.

Of course, once my name was on some CC list, I started getting emails from some sort of not-at-all-related-to-my-wife crank dude. To him I just did a 'WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU SENDING ME THIS STUFF' screed. I told him I would call the cops on him if he kept sending emails about harming women (he was a big Hillary Hater), which wouldn't go over well in his community if he really was a pastor like his sig claimed. Those emails stopped too.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:25 AM on July 24, 2009

He just made himself look like a tool (especially if "dumb-o-crat" is a quote) so she should just enjoy being rid of him. Uncles are optional. I adore one of mine and consider him a good friend. If he were a toolbag like this guy I'd have zero problem ignoring the hell out of him, "family" or not. Even if the rest of the family is more-or-less of his way of thinking I can't imagine that most of them think it's cool to insult each other like that--especially in an "everyone on my mailing list call-out" sort of way.
posted by Neofelis at 5:28 AM on July 24, 2009

Nthing the others, your steps seem to be:

1. Directly confront uncle in open email to rest of family indicating your dissapointment with him trying to insult a family member;
2. Indicating that if political emails continue (at all) then the new spam system you just set up will file all his emails to the trash and therefore he wouldn't be able to contact you;
3. Donating in his name to an awesome cause in his neighborhood (pro gay rights?) for every new email;
4. Ignoring Uncle from now on, telling dad / mom (whomever is related by blood) how disappointing you are in his/her brother;
5. Forgetting all this and moving on with life.
posted by maxpower at 5:34 AM on July 24, 2009

Does she want to maintain some form of relationship with him? Because sometimes bad families happen to good people. You don't get to choose who you are related to, but you can certainly choose to ignore the relationship if it is toxic. If she's not getting anything of emotional value from him, why even waste the time thinking about him?
posted by crankylex at 5:37 AM on July 24, 2009

You can't choose your family, but you can choose how you interact with them.

I think the stumbling point for most people is that they accept the paradigm that because a jackass is family, they have to endure the jackass.

To reduce this to the absurd, let me propose that if Daddy sexually abuses daughter, daughter must continue to permit the abuse, by this reasoning.

While it differs in scale and severity, the assumption is the same: family gets a pass.

I think to be healthy, one must be willing to walk away from unhealthy situations. To be responsible, one must advertise why. To be kind, one must be willing to be tolerant. To be effective, one must be willing to be persistent, reasonable, and growth producing and forgiving.

It's a tall order to do produce change. Often, it won't come to the agent who needs it most. I determined years ago that my arguments were most effective not against my opponents, but to the casual listener. The goal is not to change the mind of the opponent, but to win over those he seeks to recruit. That is how he and his ideas lose the war.

You can't shoot if you aren't in range, either. Disengaging, while prudent under most circumstances, prevents you from effective participation in changing the world around HIM, even if you can't change him. That's what social pressure is for... reducing his effectiveness.

Don't be afraid to abandon family, but consider how you can increase your influence if you decide to stay engaged.
posted by FauxScot at 5:56 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's very difficult to be surrounded by people who see the world in a fundamentally different way than you do, it's doubly difficult when those people are your family, and it's even more difficult when your family mocks/rejects you for it. That's the place where you're supposed to feel safe and accepted and encouraged. It's not just the asshole uncle, it's her entire family (nobody on that email list said "hey uncle, ease up"?)

Although I think that this polarizing left-vs-right, red-vs-blue, lib-vs-dem, o'reilly-vs-olbermann stuff is the problem, and in principle it's better to engage with people who disagree with you about issues rather than living in a like-minded echo-chamber, I think sometimes it is important to be supported by others who can reinforce your beliefs and make you feel less alone. I would suggest that your sister-in-law seek out connections with like-minded people. Volunteering someplace important to her, joining civic organizations & other groups, supporting a campaign by stuffing envelopes, etc. Last fall I had the only Obama sign in my McCain-Palin neighborhood. The neighbors weren't jerks about it, but I still felt pretty conspicuous. Not having a whole lot of money, but having an awesome skill I love to share, I took my massage chair down to Obama's local campaign office and gave the staff chair massages. It was a great way to feel connected & energized & helpful.

One last thing: I would try not to refer to leaving a religion as "escaping." It sounds like your sister-in-law has a pretty crappy family, and breaking free from a crappy family can be painful, but perpetuating the myth that Mormons are cult-like and need escaping from is not helpful. One's personal experience ≠ the religion/gender/political party as a whole. We think-skinned liberal dummocrats are supposed to be the ones who can make that distinction.
posted by headnsouth at 5:58 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's probably too late now, but another approach would have been an email that said, "Thank you for sending these! Every time I get another email from you, it reminds me to make another donation to . This year alone, you've been responsible for $XXX in donations. Thanks!"
posted by browse at 6:01 AM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think you did absolutely the right thing, and I also think that you are under no obligation to respond to his "libural" email. Your silence is probably speaking volumes right now. I think Miko's follow-up is good, though, if you feel you must say something.

The one time I had to handle this I did something else:

My mother-in-law did the same thing. I told her to please stop because my email filters were identifying her email address as a spammer and had started to delete everything she sent. This meant that if something important/tragic happened, she'd have no way of getting in touch. The emails stopped.

I did something like this when I had an aunt who was sending around a lot of similar emails. They were also very picture-heavy; this was a couple years ago, when I was still struggling with dial-up to boot.

One afternoon, it took ONE HOUR to download my incoming email (and I had no choice, because I was waiting for a very specific file for work that someone else was supposed to send me), and I saw that it was all because it was getting hung up on one message. Which turned out to be from my aunt. And it was nothing more than a series of politicians' faces photoshopped onto swimsuit models' heads, and the caption way at the bottom read "and they're all still prettier than Hillary!"

I finally snapped, and crafted an email that would sound as much like a form letter as possible: "Hello! I have been having problems with very large files, so I have set a filter on my email. If you are receiving this email, it is because you tried to send me something too big for my email account to handle. Please contact me WITHOUT sending me that file telling me what it is, and we can arrange another way for you to get it to me. Thanks!" And then every time she tried sending me another crank mail, I'd just shoot off that in response. As for what I'd say if she ever contacted me saying "Hi, sorry, I was trying to send you this too-too-funny email about Hillary" -- I figured I'd cross that bridge when I came to it. But she never did. And the emails stopped within a month.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:12 AM on July 24, 2009

Reply to all saying: Don't be an asshole, Uncle Whoever. Don't send me spam.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:25 AM on July 24, 2009

The World Famous asked: "Incidentally, why is it that my liberal friends (Mormon and non-mormon alike) never send me liberal propaganda emails, but conservatives (Mormon and non-mormon alike) are into that sort of thing?"

Two possible reasons come to mind.

First, it's my impression that a lot of the conservative propaganda comes out of right-wing talk radio; there's no left-wing analogue of this.

Second, it's been documented that there are personality differences between liberals and conservatives. Perhaps conservatism is correlated with whatever it is that makes people pass on these emails.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2009

posted by alms at 6:50 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recently had to deal with this exact situation and solved it by pointing out that the conflict was ruining our relationship. Did they really want to continue sending these emails and destroy the relationship or were they willing to stop and we'd avoid discussions about politics?

Put the ball in their court. If they feel that politics trumps familial relationships, that's on them, but you don't have to put their bullshit. When it comes to family gatherings and the political screeds start, I politely say, in front of everyone, "I thought we agreed to disagree, as the conflict was ruining family bounds. Now, how is doing?" In the situation X is list of prethought out topics that don't involve politics but which the person enjoys talking about.

If they continued with the screeds, I would leave the family gatherings without making a big scene and if asked by other members why I was leaving, would explain what had transpired.

There's absolutely no reason for your sister-in-law to feel humiliated. She took a stand and deserves praise for doing it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:04 AM on July 24, 2009

Perhaps conservatism is correlated with whatever it is that makes people pass on these emails.
The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.
So maybe the intellectual curiosity and desire for novelty lead liberals to seek stuff out, while conservatives are more apt to follow whatever information they get, preferring the oldest?

Or, could just be a coincidence.
posted by jtron at 7:15 AM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thus leading liberals to look for [blogs|non-corporate news sources|egghead perfessers|"books"] while conservatives are the ones [sending on email forwards|consulting the Elders|chasing away sources of new info]? Forgot to put that in.
posted by jtron at 7:17 AM on July 24, 2009

I work in a very political workplace (literally - I work for a politician). The funny thing about being elected on the basis of your beliefs is that you will, almost every day, find yourself sitting at a table opposite from someone elected on the basis of entirely opposing beliefs. Seriously. You end up seeing them more often than your own wife.

Obviously they all dislike each other intensely, but everyone is usually entirely cordial because nobody gains anything by being a dick. When someone is extremely rude, that stands out a mile, and party allegiance tends to go out the window - everyone unites against an asshole.

What helps is having allies. Uncle Bill's views might be shared by his relatives, but that doesn't mean they support his being a dick about it. Has she looked for allies amongst those relatives? She might find that, politics aside, some want to support her emotionally.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 7:22 AM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Might also mention that the internet has some occasional genius on these issues....

Here's Jon Stewart on the birthers.

You don't even have to type, hardly, if you want to let someone else dissect the absurdity of this birther thing. Uncle will have to argue with Stewart.

Repeat as needed with other topics.... indirect engagement.
posted by FauxScot at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You will not convince Uncle Republican to cede any ground on any issue. Ever. It's not a problem of politics. It's a problem of decent behavior.

He thinks yelling, bullying, and insulting other people is just "talking politics." If someone brings up anything political, he'll go into "talking politics" mode. He probably doesn't recognize the difference between someone saying "Actually, if you read the full text of that speech, I think it says..." and his obnoxious screeds. So it's never going to be worth it to engage him at all on any political issue--you're never going to get the satisfaction of knowing you convinced him to reconsider some point--because he's not ready to behave decently enough to have a gracious conversation. What will be satisfying, on some level, is frustrating his efforts at baiting the liberal relative. "No thanks, not interested, see you later" will go a lot further than "Oh, but I have proof you're wrong!" This sister-in-law needs to seek out some kind, decent allies among her relatives and pull them aside into a new conversation when Uncle Republican gets going.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2009

Which turned out to be from my aunt. And it was nothing more than a series of politicians' faces photoshopped onto swimsuit models' heads, and the caption way at the bottom read "and they're all still prettier than Hillary!"

I commend you for not going crazy with that.

My sister sends a lot of fwds to my work address - to which I get over 100 e-mails a day. I've just politely asked her just to send that kind of stuff to my private one. However, none of them are actually offensive. I received a very racist poem from an old schoolfriend and simply replied 'I would prefer if you didn't send me this kind of thing in future, thanks.'
posted by mippy at 7:52 AM on July 24, 2009

Make sure any donations are made in the name of bullying uncle. He'll probably enjoy getting literature from various left-leaning organizations, and letters thanking him for his support.
posted by Kurichina at 8:15 AM on July 24, 2009

My friend once got me a subscription to Mother Jones magazine for my birthday (it is a highly enjoyable magazine by the way, very readable) but they must share their list with every leftist organization/charity on earth. I all the sudden began getting things in the mail constantly about legalizing gay abortions and mandatory unionization of the whales, all that stuff. Tell her to get the fucker a subscription to Mother Jones and if he complains just call him a conservative crybaby. "I didn't want your e-mails. You don't want that subscription. Sounds like we're even motherfucker. Oh and go eat a dick." Bullies only back down when you stop making it easy for them to bully you. They go looking for easier prey.
posted by ND¢ at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can't argue with crazy, and when it comes to family, it's even hard to save face when dealing with it. With my own dense ill-informed family ideologues, I simply re-route their email to my trash. In person, I say with a slightly condescending smile, "Aww, still spittin' into the wind I see."
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:49 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Out of all of the responses thus far, I must admit, I like Miko's the best, because it involves that hope that someday conservatives and liberals can go back to a place of non-ad hominem attacks ...
posted by WCityMike at 9:05 AM on July 24, 2009

Well it is too late and the die is cast, but I would most definitely NOT have done what she did.

Since these are mass e-mails, even if they are racist, obnoxious, etc., etc. why not just put uncle in the "Spam" list.

The problem with what she is doing is that uncle, like obnoxious bullies everywhere *want to get just that kind of reaction* so he can send out the idiot e-mail about her being a thin-skinned dummocrat. I've had to deal with a relative like that. When it comes to e-mails, goes straight to spam, don't even open it. Don't even know I got it. At family reunions the e-mail is never mentioned, and when politics are brought up, I go talk to someone else or have myself another drink.

I guess what I am saying is that as much of an asshole as uncle is, she might actually *be* a bit thin skinned, or thin skinned enough that uncle knew how to push her buttons, which is what he was looking to do of course. From uncle's perspective he wins. He is too clueless to realize how he looks to other people and I doubt he cares.

Thus to ignore the way a statesman would ignore a crank from nowhere who sends ranting letters about how the moon landing was faked is the best tack.
posted by xetere at 11:00 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, why is it that my liberal friends (Mormon and non-mormon alike) never send me liberal propaganda emails, but conservatives (Mormon and non-mormon alike) are into that sort of thing?

because your liberal friends' "Way of Life" isn't "under attack" by the "Liberal Media".
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2009

because your liberal friends' "Way of Life" isn't "under attack" by the "Liberal Media".

My liberal mormon friends have a lot more of a "my way of life is under attack" complex than any of the conservative ones. I'm not sure this explains the propensity of the conservatives, but not the liberals, to forward propaganda emails.
posted by The World Famous at 1:27 PM on July 24, 2009

You asked a family member to stop sending you political emails, esp. ones that are agitated, and ones the person knows are antithetical to your own views. This person can be described as a troll or griefer, who wants to create contention. You can't have an intelligent, respectful discussion with such a person. However, you might be able to have such a discussion with other people on the list/in the family.

Reply all: Uncle Jackass loves to tweak me about politics, but, as yet, his emails have only shown the ornery side of his views, and my own beliefs have only grown stronger. I welcome respectful dialogue, but have opted out of his political emails. I respect and love Uncle, and can't wait to sit down with him at the reunion to share some potato salad, and talk about the %sportsteam finally winning the %biggame.

Family is important. Burn as few bridges as possible. People in the family will appreciate it.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on July 26, 2009

As an update, my sister-in-law has heard from her siblings and other relatives that they were also annoyed by the e-mails, but didn't want to provoke the uncle. Some of them have asked to be removed from the list as well.

Thank you everyone for your intelligent and thoughtful answers. You've given us lots to think about.
posted by samsaunt at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2009

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