Column: What’s a Guy Gotta Do?

A couple of anti-spammers have determined that no matter what I write, it’s not what I mean.

This propensity for verbal switcharoo was apparently on display in a May 12 column bemoaning, among other things, the Direct Marketing Association’s pro-opt-out e-mail marketing position delivered by president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen at the Federal Trade Commission’s recent spam forum.

“As long as sending e-mail costs so little, opt-out prospecting logically leads to disastrous consequences,” the column said. “There is no monetary incentive to send to clean lists, even if we somehow get rid of the 150 to 200 or so ‘bad actors’ to whom Wientzen repeatedly refers. … [T]o pretend there is no e-mail prospecting without spam … is intellectually dishonest.”

If one didn’t know better, one might think this column was warning against opt-out e-mail marketing. But some ever-vigilant anti-spammers have apparently broken the DM News’ columnist secret code and discovered that statements against unsolicited e-mail marketing actually mean something else. And at least one took a principled stand in a discussion on anti-spam newsgroup Nanae on the May 12 piece.

“I ask that no Ken Maggot articles should be posted to any anti-spam forum, ever,” posted someone under the name Tero Paananen. “All it accomplishes is raising everyone’s blood pressure. The guy is a spam-apologist of the worst kind, the kind that knows he’s wrong, but still continues to lie and misrepresent the issues.”

Yep, that’s what repeatedly gets published in this space: columns that include statements against unsolicited e-mail marketing, but if you read them backward, you can faintly hear “hail spammers” repeatedly.

And for a peek inside Tero’s brain, another of his posts ends with:

“Q: What do the DMA and a convicted felon have in common? A: Both advocate for opt-out regulation.”

It’s one of those time-delayed jokes. You’ll suddenly break into hysterical laughter on the way home this afternoon.

Meanwhile, another anti-spammer on Nanae pointed out that there’s no hope for my secret pro-spam thoughts.

“I took a hand at educating Mr. Magoo a year or so ago, and found him to be truly clue-resistant,” posted someone under the name Patricia Shaffer.

Of course, Shaffer and Paananen do not speak for all anti-spammers.

But a significant group of them loves the word “clue” for some reason. Either you’re clued, meaning you think just like them, or clueless, meaning you don’t. They endlessly pontificate about “educating” the rest of us so we can all “get a clue.”

But education is a two-way street. And Nanae is one of the most self-righteously ignorant places in cyberspace.

For example, Shaffer continues: “In kindness, I figure he knows on which side his bread is buttered and is not about to give that up for the sake of righteousness.” Thank you, Patricia. Implying I lack integrity was, indeed, very kind. Oh, and Mr. Magoo is such an original twist on my name, I actually got the tingles. Ooh, wait, there they go again.

During Shaffer’s attempt at “educating” me, she invoked the argument that the Internet was not invented to carry advertising. She has used this intellectually vacant argument in newsgroup discussions as well.

“E-mail was never designed to be ‘a marketing medium,'” says an old post under her name. “It was designed for person to person, one-to-one, not one-to-many.”

Shaffer is far from alone in using the “Internet-wasn’t-meant-for-this” argument. It arises repeatedly in spam/e-mail marketing debates and was invoked at the FTC’s spam forum. It’s an argument that needs to be put out of its misery.

Radio and printing presses weren’t originally intended for advertising, either. Inventors’ intentions often quickly become irrelevant, and thank goodness for that.

Otherwise, we’d all be stuck on planet Shaffer, where radio is used only for communicating with ships offshore, and printing only for bibles.

Hail spammers, hail spammers, hail spammers …

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