Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Some random thoughts about spam

I get a lot of spam. Lots and lots and lots of it. Thankfully though, the junk mail filters in both my email client and webmail service are top notch. So surprisingly enough, as the amount of spam has increased, so its nuisance value has decreased. I tend to only see 4 or 5 pieces of the 200+ junkmail messages I receive every day.

Except, of course, when I choose to glance through my junkmail folder once a day to make sure I pick up any (extremely rare) "false positives". It is then, as I scan the subject lines of 150 bizarre and unsettling marketing pitches, that I catch a glimpse of the person the online marketing industry thinks I am. And it's a deeply unflattering portrait they paint.

Does anyone buy a mortgage from a company that spells it "mor.tGaage"? Really? And why am I going to trust a credit-card company that offers a "100% monnneys back gaurentee"? The only people who purchase financial services from a mor.tGaage broker are morons. That may sound harsh. But it's clearly true. So assumption number 1 is that I'm a moron.

And it's all downhill from there.

I'm not a prude. Far from it. Like every survivor of Christian Brothers schooling I had plenty of issues about sex. Thankfully though, I fell in with a very bad crowd in highschool and an even worse one at university. I've still got plenty of issues of course... don't get me wrong... falling in with bad crowds brings it's own set with it as it happens. But they tend not to be about sex any more. Life's too short to have hang-ups about your own body or about getting sweaty with your special lady (life's greatest gift after all).

I mention this so you'll understand that porn spam is not the kind of thing that's likely to phase or offend me. In fact, if it wasn't for the - quickly discovered - fact that all porn spam is for sites featuring unappealing women in ugly poses, then I might actually take an interest in the junkmail. But 99% of all porn spam is from the online equivalents of Razzle magazine. And even back in those heady days of the early 80s when - as a delinquent 13-year-old - I would shoplift from the top shelf by quickly shoving a magazine into the fold of a newspaper that I'd then pay for at the counter (the real skill, incidentally, wasn't getting the porn... no, the real skill was lifting a Mars Bar off the counter along with the newspaper, right under the eye of the shopkeeper)... even back then, I'd rather leave the shop empty handed than sully my discerning 13-year-old fantasies with Razzle.

It goes without saying that I hate junkmail as a matter of principle. But aside from that, my major complaint about porn spam - until lately - has been how crass and unappealing it all is.

Lately a change has occurred however. And it's one that, to be blunt, has done my head in a little. Perhaps my email address has been sold onto a particularly sordid list? Or perhaps particularly sordid sites have only just begun spamming? Or perhaps someone who doesn't like me (do such people exist?!) signed me up to a dodgy site? Whatever the answer, there's a junkmailer out there who thinks I'm interested in some really disturbing stuff. Illegal stuff. Very nasty and violent illegal stuff.

One subject line in particular made me double-take. It described something that, had it appeared in a David Lynch movie, would have made me go "ooooohhhh, now that's a bit strong there David". But seeing it in the context of a junkmail... a random mail-out advertising images for titilation and masturbation... it actually shocked me.

And the fact that I was shocked shocked me. Because it takes a lot.

I'm trying to understand what's going on inside the head of today's 13-year-old boy who receives a piece of junkmail with that subject line. And it's pretty scary stuff. Me? I was reading Bukowski by the time I was 13, stealing porn and emerging from the twisted darkness of Catholicism. So I was far from sheltered... but it seems to me that kids in a world where extreme sexual violence is being openly sold as entertainment are going to grow into adults with an even bigger set of neuroses and hang-ups than my generation have. Which doesn't bode at all well for the future.

I wonder though, do women get lots of spam for breast-enlargement and only one or two for penis-enlargement? Or does everyone get the same spam, and there's just a lot more desperate men?

Which reminds me, it's time to take my pills.


Blogger L said...

I usually just receive the ads for penis enlargment -- because I'm so masculine and sporty of course...

27/1/05 00:45  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

It's bizarre, but I find it very reassuring that you get penis enlargement spam, L. It means the spammers haven't got us all gender-profiled just yet.

27/1/05 03:37  
Blogger john b said...

"It seems to me that kids in a world where extreme sexual violence is being openly sold as entertainment are going to grow into adults with an even bigger set of neuroses and hang-ups than my generation have."Has anyone done a psychological study of the effects of Japanese porn on the Japanese? They seem to have a 20-year head start on the rest of the world in this field.

27/1/05 23:07  

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