Wrestling the demons of spam


We realized today that some important emails from friends and colleagues were being dumped into our junk mail folder — hidden from view, lost amid erectile dysfunction pitches for weeks. This probably cost us a new account or two from business contacts who wonder why we haven’t written them back.

So we dug in and reviewed crap from spammers — you know, those marketers who flood the internet with millions of messages about your private parts, rotten souls surely condemned to the Seventh Circle of Hell. Not Dante’s inner ring, reserved for the blasphemers, and not the middle ring, with its Harpies and thorny bushes. Nope. We mean the outer ring, the special place for those who are violent against people, sunk in a river of boiling blood.

Did we mention we don’t like spammers?

But wait. Perhaps we go too far. After all, every form of advertising is intrusive — the question is simply the degree to which our marketing messages are uninvited. The most welcoming are the signs at the retail store or the text ads on Google, which invite users searching for wares to find exactly what they want. Then come catalogs and targeted web banners, tailored a bit to our preferences, followed by magazine print ads that might delight with good copy or harmonious design. As we continue down the intrusion scale, the braying of commercial radio car salesmen begins to grate on our nerves.

Ah, but junk email. Spam. Those misspelled messages trying to sneak past our filters, promising to build long dongs that ring gongs and all manner of girth, whatever that means. (Historians, unearthing digital bits of our age, will think girth was the most popular product of the early 21st century.) Junk email is more than obnoxious. It overwhelms us with bad taste, and upsets us when real messages from our friends get lost in the mix.

It’s really not the email medium that is rotten. Instead, it’s the sneakiness — the fact that the authors hide behind the message, avoiding any adverse impact from consumers who would think poorly of the brand. These marketers prey upon the stupid or naive, and disguise their own names so that anyone with half a brain can’t fight back or complain.

We’ll rethink the punishment … let’s put the spammers into the Ninth Circle of Hell, which Dante wrote was guarded by giants to lock up souls who were betrayers. People who committed fraudulent acts were frozen in a lake of ice called Cocytus, sunk into the painful cold at various degrees depending on the level of the crime. For the marketing authors of unwanted email, ice up to the neck feels about right.

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