Editorial: Vendetta Schmendetta

Just when it seemed the anti-spam camp couldn't get any more adolescent, one or more of its ranks employs a harassment tactic of which I wasn't aware until last week when the resulting spam began appearing in my e-mail box.

It's called the vendetta post. Apparently, if someone really dislikes you online, he'll use your e-mail address to post questions to newsgroups that invite answers — i.e., Spam — from people from whom you'd rather not hear.

Do a search on Google.com in the “groups” section under “Ken Magill,” and you'll see “Mr. Magill” has been asking some very stupid questions:

“I'm new to usenet, and I'm looking for good clean cut porn, no kiddie stuff, no animal sickos.” Hey, even a moron who can't find porn on the Internet without help has to have standards.

A woman named Kathy answers the lunkheaded alter ego about as politely as one could, and then schools him on newsgroup etiquette:

“I'll send a copy of this by e-mail, since you're probably a new user and probably don't yet know that it's rude to ask in a newsgroup for help and then not come back to the newsgroup to read responses … [I]t suggests that your time is too valuable to be bothered with participating in the group, but our time in composing an answer is not valuable.”

Uh oh. Not only is he a moron, Mr. Alter Ego is also rude, even if his behavior nails right on the head what the real Ken actually believes about time spent in newsgroups.

Apparently Mr. Alter Ego has also been inquiring about electronic appliances leading to the following reply [reproduced exactly] from a Chinese spammer:

“We owe your name and address to the Internet, and are glad to take this opportunity to introduce our company as a leading manufacturer and exporter for low voltage electrical appliances.

“We have experiences of exported our products to East-south Asia, Europe, South America, Africa etc of more than five years and received very good and general reputation … Now we are learned that you are interested in electrical appliances, please send us the details, so that we will send you our favorable prices immediatedly.”

Meanwhile, an exchange with one member of the anti-spam camp last week led to a timely analogy.

It began when a 60-year-old self-righteous nurse forwarded me headers from some spam she had received from pornography marketers and asked me if I'd like my mother to receive such e-mail.

I explained that, no, I would rather my mother not receive such e-mail, and that I, too, receive a lot of spam. In fact, I get flooded with it every time an editorial appears in iMarketing News criticizing anti-spammers, ironically enough.

“[W]hat makes you so sure they are anti-spammers?” she asked “Why couldn't it be a spammer wanting to make you think it's anti-spammers?”

That's funny. Didn't some folks in the Middle East attempt similar logic when a pack of lunatics turned four jets into flying bombs on Sept. 11?

This is what zealots do. They whip each other into a frenzy and then go into denial when the more radical element of their ranks does things that are unacceptable.

To be fair, the adolescent-harassment faction of the anti-spam camp is not to be confused with the folks at anti-spam group Mail Abuse Preventions System LLC. MAPS founder Paul Vixie and his colleagues have at least claimed to condemn this type of behavior repeatedly.

Also, as someone who was evacuated from Tower One and who picked his way through rubble to get away from the World Trade Center after the first jet hit and who witnessed the second one slam into Tower Two, I am in no way comparing the magnitude of these anti-spam harassers' actions to that of the terrorist savages on Sept. 11.

However, there are parallels. Anti-spam zealots harass from the shadows. They also hit and run anonymously, leaving an almost audible snicker.

And that some anti-spammers engage in such hypocritical behavior is pretty strong evidence that though many in their camp claim to condemn it, they aren't nearly as vocal as they could be.

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