“[Bleep] off and die you piece of [bleep].”
Alas, that was the entire message, meaning there was no way to know what I had done to inflame the anonymous writer.
He (I’ll assume the writer was a man, though a correspondent in her 80s once called me a word that rhymes with bunt) might have been upset about that day’s column, which was about the federal election. Or maybe he was ticked off about the previous day’s piece, which had to do with B.C. Ferries pulling the plug on onboard Wi-Fi. Or the one before that, which was about vaccine passports.
My money is on vaccine passports, as it triggered a spate of angry responses from anti-vaxxers.
“I used to love reading your columns, but they just aren’t funny anymore,” read one. “You seem to be trying very hard at being a pandemic ‘expert’ now or a politician instead. Both don’t suit you.”
Same column, different reader: “You’ll be sued shortly as a representative of the Times Colonist and as an individual in civil court. Prepare yourself. Maybe do the community a favour and write a story about the trial date being set for the class action lawsuit in which Bonnie Henry is being charged with several crimes against humanity.”
Same column: “Yellow journalism is alive and large.”
Same column: Someone called the editor to demand I be fired.
Same column: “It looks like government is being greased by Big Pharma and your media outlet is being greased by government.” I was appalled. There was greasing going on and none of it was oozing down to me? I demand my cut!
On the upside, another reader replied to the vaccine-passport column by saying I showed great promise. OK, his actual words were: “You would make a good Nazi.” He also said: “Enjoy your blood clots, idiot.” Still, silver lining.
Yes, Dear Reader, it’s that time again. Time to publish letters from those who did not embrace my column as tightly as I might have hoped in 2021.
The backlash started with the very first column of January, when I wrote about popular baby names and the negative connotations suddenly attached to the name Karen. “I was looking forward to the Times Colonist’s first newspaper of the New Year and then I saw Jack Knox’s article on top B.C. baby names, which was bad enough but a true disappointment to be situated on the front page,” one reader wrote. “I suppose that Knox was trying to be amusing but his article was, in my opinion, rude, arrogant and offensive… Does the Times Colonist not review articles before publication? I think an apology is in order.”
Another woman, this one named Karen, said the same piece had brought her to tears. “I will still read your column but will now think of you as Jackass,” she wrote. If it makes her feel better, I did feel like a jackass after that. Humour columns should make people laugh, not cry. (BTW, the same column, in which I mentioned my cousin’s schoolmate Duane Pipe — say it quickly — drew a response from someone who signed himself Rob Graves. Really?)
The nastygrams kept on coming after that:
• In response to a column on violent extremists: “Go kill yourself.”
• When the Times Colonist asked readers to help shape its election coverage, this came in reply: “One thing I really do not want to see in the paper is another article by your lifestyle/humorist/person-about-town columnist on actual matters of substance. Keep Mr. Knox’s contributions contained to the editorial, food, comics, anywhere that matches the tone and manner of his contributions. It is simple misinformation to put his contributions on the front page or near actual news.”
• This came after I fussed about the return of the handshake: “Beta males are ruining society. You contribute to that. In the end, the strong survive and the soy boy cucks will die in The Great Reset. But good luck!”
• On the bright side, there was gushing praise after I argued that ridiculing the anti-vaxxers picketing the legislature isn’t helpful: “A sensible take from this moron for once.”
• When I vowed to stop making fun of increasingly alienated Albertans, this came from Wild Rose Country. “Your frail welcome and vacuous apology rings hollow. ... It will take a generation to forget, let alone forgive. Your self-dealing hypocrite of a premier is mud to us. Your beer will be stale long before it is ever imbibed.” I thought it was our wine that they weren’t imbibing.
• After I wrote that the same Victorians who maintain a Dalai Lama-like serenity in the face of COVID and climate change go Hitler-in-the-bunker bonkers over downtown parking, this came from (the appropriately named) Parksville: “Hitler has nothing to do with parking. Please refrain from using Nazis to describe someone’s trivial acts.”
• As usual, Twitter was encouraging: “I recoil in horror that Jack Knox is still writing for the Times Colonist.”
• After I joked that I should be the last in line to be vaccinated, this came from North Vancouver: “I am sorry to have to say that your articles are increasingly less humorous and historically interesting and informative than they used to be pre-pandemic.”
• After I wrote a Are-You-A-True-Victorian quiz on the May long weekend, the editor got this: “Sorry, I have never seen anything stupider, and certainly not funny. This man’s commentaries over the years are mostly poor, and possibly 10 to 20 per cent interesting or informative. Too bad that the Colonist employs him.”
• Others were more understanding of the editor’s dilemma: “I feel your pain, wondering how best to deal with Jack Knox’s breakdown.”
• An end-of-school current-events quiz earned this: “Jack, why do you write and why does the TC let you print such DRIFFLE? Total uselessness…. not funny at all. Gosh, where do you get your humour?”
• A Courtenay reader didn’t like my decision to cover the prime minister’s campaign stop in Saanich: “What a rotten way to start a beautiful Friday morning! Pick the paper up off the porch and get a front page picture, article, the works on Trudeau. Very disappointing of you, Jack!”
And so on.
Now, I should hasten to say that I’m not complaining. Nobody forced me onto my soapbox, so I can’t complain about the odd tomato aimed at my noggin. Also, even the nastiest stuff sent my way pales beside the truly disturbing messages women journalists get.
The good news for those who are weary of me is that they will get a respite. I’m taking January off to work on a book, meaning the critics can leave the Pepto Bismol on the shelf for a few weeks.
To all of you who have stuck with me for this long, my sincere thanks, and all the best in 2022.