Why I am difficult, so often: a response to hatred and hate mail

This article is appearing at my blog, not at The Sound, for a reason that will become clear when you’ve read the piece. This is on me, no one else. Your intepid #artcriticfromhell owns who he is and what he does, with good intentions often gone awry, but no one else need be concerned with it unless they so desire, and sometimes that has complications that are difficult. After all, I was “let go” from an ARC that falls over itself to jabber about “reconciliation” but oh my, you surely can’t call out one board member’s employer for a pattern of serious, serial institutional racism, oh no.

And that isn’t okay nor just nor right (where’s my unicorn?), but I am here now because of that, and that is a good thing. The world is what it is, I have voice and freedom that many would envy and perhaps do better things with, so let us move on.

But let us focus on what matters here, and now.

I greatly enjoy Patrick Crummey’s articles in The Sound. I often find he cuts to the point with a clarity often missing from most political commentary in Canada, and sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t, but I’m proud to be published in the same paper (the same way I was often embaressed by my “peers” in FUSE, or Canadian Art Magazine, but was very proud to be associated with The Planet for their series on the First Nations University in Regina, or the courage of my editor there to run my pieces about institutional racism at the University of Saskatchewan).

In Patrick’s piece, he refers to a piece of “hate mail.” It came to me, and Chris Illich, as both our emails are out there for the readers, and I enjoy being a public face of The Sound. So, in light of that, I want to add a few things to Patrick’s reference to the hate mail, including how I engaged this person further, and how, in the end, I shut him down like the ignorant piece of filth that he clearly is, and surely continues to be, but, thankfully, elsewhere. Or perhaps I scared him enough to help him mind his manners. We do, they say, live in the best of all possible worlds.

But before we begin, let me offer hate mailer’s email and name, which is Andy ‘Hector’ McDonald and andyautoservice@hotmail.com ; the one was clear in his various messages with their fetid obscene rage that was almost impressive in its excess, and the latter came with a bit of research. You might think I’m being inappropriate here, “doxxing” if you will. But my experience with hate mailers is more extensive and varied than either Chris or Patrick (or I could be wrong, and I welcome them correcting me).

During my time in Saskatchewan one right wing Klan focused group tried to recruit me, then tried to scuttle me, and I’ve also received hate from artists I’ve panned in word and person that has been interesting (and often anonymous), and has made me draft and enact responses that are – as here – very effective.

A digression, offering examples of my experience: Having an “artist” complain to you for ten minutes about a review, then asking them what part they took issue with, and having them respond that “I haven’t read it” was met, by me – only once – with a “well, why don’t you go and f**k yourself, as I spent more time on your work than you did on the review, and you’re obviously wasting my time.” Word got around of my inability / unwillingness to suffer self aggrandizing egoistes.

Alternately, I once had an hour long argument – in the best sense – with a painter in Saskatoon, over the legacy (or not) of Emma Lake, and Greg Hardy knew his history and aesthetic, and we both came away wiser and with respect for each other.

So, when I found The Sound’s hatefan on Linked In, with the same email and other stats, I happily emailed him and my words were “Hey, can I connect with you on LinkedIn so everyone can know how proud you are? I’ll share your stuff ALL OVER.”

I didn’t hear back from Andy McDonald after that. He shut up, stopping up his verbal bile. Completely.

andyautoservice@hotmail.com is his email, again, just to be clear.

His LinkedIn page is here: and here’s a screen shot. The Web page is nothing but a placeholder so don’t mind it.

Now, surely some of you are “oh, but Bart, why didn’t you just ignore him? Oh, aren’t you stooping to his level?”

And yes, that was an option. But here’s the thing: people like this are cowards, and when bleached by the light of day, often run away and hide. And well, your intrepid #artcriticfromhell must be honest: I am often the “designated asshole” as I told a friend, an amazing writer I’m also chuffed to know, when she thanked me for slapping down with vigour some fool who felt the need to troll her online.

When we tolerate idiots, we are tainted by them. When we tolerate threatening hate speech from assholes, and don’t call them out – literally, as I did with Andy McDonald here – they get bolder.

That cannot be allowed to happen. If you’re so sure of your views, own them. I’ve NEVER written under a psuedonym, and grant no one else the same privilege if the sole reason is to hide behind a controversial opinion. You’re entitled to an informed opinion: no one is entitled to ignorance.

I have nothing but contempt for cowards. And if I may, if there’s still doubts, would you like to read his emails? Well, here’s his sweetness in the Andy.first and then the Andy.one installmants. You go. Enjoy.

About Bart Gazzola

Bart Gazzola has published with Canadian Art, Galleries West, FUSE, Hamilton Arts & Letters, BlackFlash, ArtSeen, ti<, Long Exposure and Magenta. Past curatorial projects include REGION (Contemporary Saskatchewan Painting) and Personal Geographies (an overview of The Photographers Gallery collection). Gazzola was Editorial Chair of BlackFlash Magazine (3 years), and was the visual arts critic for Planet S Magazine. He held the latter role for more than a decade, publishing reviews about Saskatoon visual arts and the larger community twice monthly. He's a frequent contributor to The SoundSTC and is the facilitator of the 5 x 2 Image Makers Conversations, through Rodman Hall Art Centre.
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