Re: Help! When I Mocked That Frat Boy Imprisoned In North Korea For Allegedly Stealing A Poster I Didn’t Think He’d Die

In the wake of Otto Warmbier’s death, a lot of self-congratulatory hot takes written in April 2016 have resurfaced. Thanks to a combination of a complete lack of foresight with our desire for immediate sense of righteousness and callousness, their authors have, predictably, gone underground. My hope is that we recognize the inherent problems growing in the muggy, lucrative, often poorly conceived and easy to digest landscape of ‘hot takes’/op-ed online media full of freelance writers so desperate to make their mark — and the sites desperate to get page views off of bupkis — that no one bothers to demand better.

Below is my imagining of what one of those writers’ email inbox looks like today.

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From: Polgreen, Lydia <dopelydz@huff.po>

Date: Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:09 PM

Subject: re: URGENT!! Need Help Deleting Op-Ed??!?

To: You

Thanks for contacting us regarding your piece A Dumb Frat Boy Got What He Deserved, published in April 2016.

We understand your sudden realization that calling Warmbier a “privileged cry baby” who “should’ve known better” has soured slightly in the wake of his death, which came shortly after he was delivered back to the U.S. after it was discovered that he was mysteriously comatose for more than a year after being sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in North Korea after allegedly stealing a poster.

Although we take your request for the article to be removed very seriously, the article was a huge hit for us at the time. You gave the people what they wanted! Now the people have realized that’s not exactly what they meant and they more so just wanted to criticize the college student who is now very dead in a metaphorical, ‘sticking it to the man’ sense. It happens to the best of us. As our founder and former Editor in Chief Arianna Huffington would say, “Take a nap! It’ll pass!”

We understand from your multiple emails that the people who once reveled in your screed are coming after you in the literal sense. We regret if our editorial team failed to directly inform you on how to write a “safe” hot take, but my records indicate that we did send you several Snap Stories detailing how to protect yourself from what you refer to in your last email as “so much shit being flung at my house it smells like the inside of a dungeon back when those were a thing.” In the media world, that’s called organic engagement.

Although you were not compensated for your piece wherein you referred to the now-dead college student as “an Axe-doused scrotum crying to his mama,” you should feel proud that your article has managed to strike a chord in two dramatically different ways. We would be happy to work with you on any future pitches.

We understand that times are scary and that you might not be able to read this until after you’ve fled the country and re-started your life as a different person. But I wanted to take the time to let you know that we decided to push your piece to the front page today. You would not believe the organic engagement we’re getting from all the outrage clicks. But take a nap! It’ll pass!

Sincerely,

Lydia Polgreen

Editor in Chief

From: Johnson, Mike <mike@vice.com>

Date: Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Subject: re: PLEASE DELETE MY OP-ED???

To: You

Hey!

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, Vice doesn’t delete articles unless we’re like, getting sued. I mean, I just read the piece and I’m pretty surprised we were able to run something titled “I Hope That Frat Boy Dies After Being Secretly Comatose For Several Months.” It’s wild that you like, basically prophesized all this (BTW, that’d actually be a pretty cool pitch, if you’re interested). But yeah, no can do on taking down the post. We paid you twenty bones for it so it’s ours, ya know?

Good luck fleeing the outrage, though! My buddy Geoff did that once. He says the trick is to pack more socks and protein than you think you’ll need.

Cheers!

Mike

From: Submissions <submissions@buzzfeed.com>

Date: Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 9:32 PM

Subject: Regarding A Previous Listicle

Unfortunately we have decided to remove your listicle, “30 Ways The Frat Boy Crying At His Sentencing Gave Us Life.” Our editorial staff initially thought your listicle was very “LOL” button. However, now that he has literally died and the threat of a nuclear war with North Korea grows more imminent, we are concerned that our readers and future historians may interpret your piece as extremely “wtf” button. We deeply apologize for the inconvenience.

If you need tips on how to ride out any disgust and/or hate being directed at you, please check out our piece, “23 Ways To Survive Internet Outrage — Plus Kitten Gifs!” And head over to Buzzfeed News for original, in-depth coverage by our on-the-ground reporters of the tenuous relationship between the United States and North Korea.

Thanks,

Your friends at Buzzfeed

From: Mail Delivery Subsystem <mailer-daemon@googlemail.com>

Date: Mon, Jun 19 at 9:36 PM

To: You

Address not found

Your message wasn’t delivered to submit@gawker.com because the domain gawker.com couldn’t be found. Check for typos or unnecessary spaces and try again.

Final-Recipient: rfc9022; submit@gawker.com

Action: failed

Status: 4.0.0

Diagnostic-Code: smtp; DNS Error: 57590772 DNS type ‘mx’ lookup of gawker.com responded with code NXDOMAIN

Domain name not found: gawker.com

Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:08:24 -0700 (PDT)

— — — — — Forwarded message — — — — —

From: You

To: submit@gawker.com

Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:09:36 -0400

Subject: THIS IS A LONG SHOT BUT I HOPE TO THE WRITING GODS SOMEONE IS STILL MONITORING THIS

This is a long shot but if this email is still running can someone please remove my freelance piece I wrote for Gawker in April 2016 called “I Can’t Wait To Piss On That Frat Kid's Grave With My Best Bud Stephen Colbert”???

I don’t know if Colbert is planning to issue any sort of retraction but I’m not insulated from criticism the way Colbert is so if you guys could just like, make the piece unavailable or take my name off it??? That’d be SO amazing and appreciated and I’m just doing everything I can before they find me and break through the makeshift barricade in my room oh god theyre here im so sorry i just wanted to get published!! please tell my mom im sorr