Somebody sent me an email in reply to one of my blog posts. I wondered why they didn’t just comment as per blog custom, but since they identified themselves in their message as the author of something I’d read, I assumed their opening line, ‘Hi, enjoyed your post’, was a genuine overture to conversation on a topic in which we both had a vested interest. I understand modesty if you’re not at ease with the kind of exposure you get in the blogosphere. I understand wanting to remain anonymous to avoid any consequences or just plain embarrassment if someone makes the connection between your online pseudonym and your embodied existence. I thanked the sender for taking the time to respond and let them know that I had read their work as they’d suspected from the details of my post.
I revealed to the sender that we had met in the ‘real’ world and had acquaintances in common. I said I looked forward to engaging with the thesis chapter they had sent me, and that perhaps rather than continue the conversation via email, it would be easier to talk after an event we were both going to attend, or if that was too intense for a drinks occasion, then we might meet at a nearby coffee shop during a lunch break one day.
Then I attended the event where I saw the respondent. Since they didn’t know me, I waved and said, ‘Hi, I’m the person you emailed’. It turns out the sender knew who I was when they emailed me. I was surprised. Oh. Why didn’t the sender say so in the email? The sender avoided eye contact, didn’t even really want to acknowledge me, said ‘yeah I haven’t replied to your email’, and ‘I was being political’. Huh? The event got underway, and I was distracted by thinking about such a strange statement. Political? About what?
I thought about the content of the email I received. The sender had offered a different perspective on something I’d reported. At the time I’d thought the alternative account was very interesting. I had wanted to ask if I might post sections of the email to the comments page. Now I began to doubt the motivations behind the email. I thought about the sixty-five page chapter I had downloaded with every intention of reading, not really sure if I was up to the task of commenting, but honoured to be asked. I wondered, could a personal email to a less advanced colleague—an email that essentially negated the reported facts of the post and asserted the sender’s higher status/greater knowledge—be political in any affirmative way? If the politics expressed were directed solely towards the reported content of the post, then wouldn’t it make more sense to make the response public?
At the drinks after the event, the sender sat at the other end of the table with someone who doesn’t acknowledge me on any occasion. I felt humiliated and stupid that I’d thought the sender’s email was sincere rather than disingenuous and the assertion of authority that it now appears it was. I’m not sure what it was. I still don’t understand entirely . The sender hasn't offered me anything more.