Monday, November 24, 2008

Human Spam?

Dan Savage has never offended me with any of his columns describing all manner of lewd, perverse, weird, kinky, and occasionally extralegal behavior. But today he went and did it.

Dan Savage called street canvassers "human spam" on the Stranger's blog today.

Human Spam. Spam, as in the annoying and often fraudulent crap that fills your email inbox. He thinks that canvassers are no better than spammers.

It's an insult to everyone who's ever been held a clipboard and asked for money. I should know. I was a field canvasser for a month, going door-to-door and raising money for a local nonprofit. It was one of the hardest jobs I've ever done, and I don't think I'd have the guts to do it again. But I have enormous respect for anyone who does this job - and clearly I'm ahead of Savage in this way.

I still raise money today, and I learned a tremendous amount in my time as a canvasser. If you don't like them, don't respond to them. But they deserve respect, whether or not you agree with them.

He apparently said the same thing a couple of years ago. This was from his column back in 2007.

So I watched as the WashPIRG workers hit the office workers up for donations. And I thought, man, I hate those WashPIRG people. I know, I know—all for a good cause, blah blah blah. But I still fucking hate it when one of a WashPIRGer collars me on the street. According to their website, WashPIRG is a "non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group working on behalf of consumers, the environment, and good government," and the subtext to any interaction with a WashPIRGer is, basically, "Give me some money—unless you don't care about product safety, the environment, good government, and all that other stuff."

I don't want to pretend that Dan Savage's opinion is more influential than someone like Joel Connelly or Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. He's a professional loudmouth, a middle-aged curmudgeon. He's Andy Rooney for the hip Seattle set.

What's more discouraging is the number of people who agree with him, or who offer their own nasty comments about canvassers. Here's one response:

i view this as social terrorism. it's one of my biggest pet peeves. i'm serious. if i was interested in your damn cause, i'd seek you out. if it only happened occasionally, i'd mind less but it's a never-ending stream of someone needing something from me. i'm just trying to go about my business. it's no different from panhandling as far as i'm concerned. and if i have my headphones on or AM on a phone call, please don't interrupt me -- it's rude!

Like it's not bad enough to have Sarah Palin talking smack about community organizers. It's not bad enough to have everyone from Rush Limbaugh to John McCain talking smack about voter registration drives by groups like ACORN. Now we've got to deal with Dan Savage acting all offended and righteous about canvassers.

I've had it. This act of aggression will not stand, man. I'm going to put my two cents on the blog. And I'll encourage you all to do the same, if you've ever been a field canvasser. Or if you've ever known anyone who did the job. We need to add some balance to the blog's comments. Someone has to point out that, no matter how much they may not like it, canvassing is a legal activity. It's an important activity. It's not panhandling. It's still the way many nonprofits pay their bills and find new members. If it didn't work, no one would be doing it.

(A friendly reminder - if you do respond to Savage, remember to be civil. Any profanity, name-calling, insults, etc. will just be taken as evidence of our less-than-worthiness. Speak truth to Power, don't just call Power an asshole and think you did something great.)

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