Do you receive emails accusing you or someone known to you of things that are untrue? Do your friends, colleagues and business associates receive similar letters with unprovoked comments?
We receive many such letters by email and post and usually ignore them.
“That is the best thing to do; people who write such letters could be mentally sick or harbour inexplicable hatred towards such persons. They are cowards who hide their name and face,” many readers said.
University of Auckland Professor of Psychology Dr John Duckitt said more research was required in this area.
People who are generally intolerant and prejudiced have a moderate to strong tendency to be characterised by certain social attitudes and values. They usually have anti-egalitarian and socially conservative attitudes. Although research does not clearly suggest a general association with mental disturbance, it is possible that any specific person sending hate mail might be mentally disturbed,” he said.
His primary areas of research are study of intergroup hostility and conflict, prejudice, discrimination and stigmatisation.
Handwriting and IT expert said technology had advanced to track the source of emails even if they are web-based and sometimes ‘fabricated’ addresses.
“Handwriting is easier to identify,” he said, and declined to speak further, not keen to giveaway what he called, ‘trade secrets.’
The handwriting of a few letters sent anonymously to us and two other senior executives of commercial organisations by a ‘hate mailer’ accusing Fiji leader Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Satya Sai Baba have been identified ‘in the first instance,’ and experts said it would be a matter of time before the perpetrator is traced.
“People are entitled to their views and New Zealand is a country that promotes freedom of opinion and expression. But this freedom does not extend to foul language and character assassination. Everyone who has seen these was outraged,” he said.
Christchurch based lecturer and community leader Dr George Abraham said anonymous letters that are inflammatory and accusatory were totally unacceptable, especially in New Zealand where the media provides an avenue for free expression.
“Such behaviour makes us wonder if the money that we invest on education is achieving its objective of making people citizens of good character, with self-esteem, integrity, mutual respect and tolerance,” he said.
Auckland City District Police Western Area Commander Inspector Jim Wilson said such hate mails were best ignored.
“Such persons are probably mentally disaffected and/or have an axe to grind.
“However, we can prosecute if anyone is directly threatened by statements, either written or verbal,” he said.
New Zealand High Court Barrister Rambhatla Sastry had a different view.
“The person who writes such letters is among many people throughout the world who have no courage to come out openly or address the issues to the people who are targeted. Cowards do such acts and drop big names to derive support to their unscrupulous thoughts and comments. The writer of letters about your newspaper apparently chose this path to sanitise his or her stupid and irrational behaviour to some extent. The contents were threatening and highly offensive,” he said.
Mr Sastry, who is specialised in criminal law, said such hate mails were covered under the Harassment Act 1997, which provided for a maximum imprisonment of two years of those convicted.
Professor Duckitt said he would ask his students if they were interested in doing research on this issue.
“They can look at the hate mails that you have been receiving,” he said.
Apart from anonymous letters, some members of the community have also been subject to abuse by people who fell out as friends.
“I have complained to the Police and they have spoken to the persons concerned, warning them of action if they did not desist from the practice,” a reader said.
Indian Newslink would like to know if you are in receipt of such letters either by post or by email. Please write to email@example.com