by Quinn

I was delighted yesterday when I discovered I’d received an email from Jason Alexander, the actor who played George in Seinfeld; until I noticed that he was trying to sell me Viagra and I decided that it wasn’t that Jason Alexander after all. In fact not only was it not from that Jason Alexander – I think he’s busy – but it wasn’t from any Jason Alexander, just an e-pistle from a random name generated by a computer that has been spitting out spam emails recently to no good effect.

A brief history of email spam; I used to get stuff allegedly written by Mike, or Stephen, but recently that has changed. To be more realistic I guess the spammers started sending emails from people with a forename and a surname; but if it is unlikely that I will be fooled into thinking an email from Tony is really for me, how more unlikely is it that they will stumble upon a forename/surname combination of someone I actually know; or who is even likely to exist?

I’m reminded of an old Alexei Sayle sketch; the world, he said, was being dominated by people who’s names are made up of either two Christian names (like Jason Alexander), two surnames (Cameron MacKintosh) or two non words (Meryl Streep). I think the new spammers have taken this idea too seriously.

So, looking in my deleted box I see I have received emails from a Josh Matthews, a Wilson Porter and a Hallam Curry; but they are some of the more believable names. I am fascinated by the possibility of a Jeruvis Giles, a Moises Brown, a Brett Sherpard and a Trying Whitley walking the earth and writing to ask me if I want to buy a restaurant paging system, even though I don’t own a restaurant. My favourite email comes from someone called Guy Ransom who has surely just wandered out of a Martin Amis novel. I have also received stuff from a whole slew of unlikely Hispanics; Ernesto James, Enrique Bailey, Colton Lopez, Ashton Diaz and his/her brother, Sven.

With my more recent spam, however, I think the name generator has blown a gasket completely; perhaps aware that it has created some unlikely name combinations it has gone back to single names; but with a crazy twist. What are the chances that I know a Marumi, an Ernestine, a Winfred or a Fidel, and so be suckered into thinking they have personally emailed me asking for cash? What about Lupe, Cobb, Boggs, Darnell and Moran; do you know them? If so then I may have received your advert for Windows Office in error. And I really don’t know what it was thinking of when it churned out emails from Diary, Butter, Discriminant and Nautical Chassis.

I hanker for the halcyon days of old, believable spam; will we ever see their like again?

What have I been up to recently, you’re not asking? Some readers may be under the impression that I’d started my paternity leave way early, although regular readers will not be at all surprised that I haven’t written anything here for a week or so. There are all manner of things that can keep me from blogging; being busy at work, catching rays in the fine weather, popping away on a short break, being drunk (or recovering from being drunk), messing about with my brand new mobile phone. All these and more have applied over the past few weeks, as well as the fact that I don’t really want to write just for the sake of it, whatever you may think. However, I have also been in one of those moods where I feel jaundiced and disenchanted about blogging. While I have previously said that I will never quit blogging because I will always shout at the telly, so on the contrary when I find myself shouting at blogs via the computer monitor it puts me off the whole business.

Sometimes trips around the blogosphere (someone please come up with a better word!) can be very rewarding, as you discover new blogs and great examples of well-argued writing that you think you should keep tabs on. Recently however my journeys have been depressing, unedifying descents into the bowels of the ’sphere, reading posts so insane that you can’t argue back because you don’t know where to start ; and I haven’t even bothered to visit Devil’s Kitchen.

I think one day a couple of weeks back was the nadir; try as I might I couldn’t avoid stumbling upon blogs written by moronic trolls spouting their ill thought out prejudice and bile, with even more repulsive views in the comments. As in the real world, it seems, the whole crisis in Lebanon seems to bring out the worst in both sides. Whatever side of the fence the blogger stood, he or she thought that their side was entirely justified in acting as they chose, while the other side was wholly to blame and deserved what they were getting, and obviously moaned about the media – and of course the BBC primarily – as being either a leftist front or Zionist propagandists* (*delete according to stupidity).

But the nasty, one eyed spite and bigotry wasn’t confined to the middle east situation; that day I also kept encountering stuff written by the same authors that showed they could be just as idiotic when discussing other subjects. The terrible case of Jean Charles de Menezes was back in the news at the time, concerning the CPS’s decision to charge the Met under Health and Safety laws, and with the vigil held to mark the first anniversary of his death. I found it (and still find it) quite incomprehensible that sentient beings can respond to his death by questioning his innocence due to him “being an illegal” and to bemoan his family mourning and demanding answers to what happened a year ago; but that day everything I read was either of that opinion, or else viewed the police as laughing butchers who knowingly pumped (always pumped) seven bullets into an innocent man’s head for a laugh because he “looked a bit foreign”. I came across no middle ground. I could also see no sensible connection as to why it was that the Israel supporters were anti-de Menezes (can anyone really be “anti” the poor bloke? Sadly it seems so) while those most critical of the police were also the most stridently anti-Israel; but that was the way it seemed.

I am not suggesting of course that everyone who is pro-Israel is anti-de Menezes, and so on, and I know there are many thoughtful and reasonable writers out there covering Lebanon and other situations; this fed up feeling will soon pass. One of the best antidotes I’ve found is to read Tim Worstall. It can be refreshing to read the opinions of someone with whom you disagree and yet don’t think is a complete cunt.

Call me naive, but it is grim to realise there are so many apparantly intelligent people out there who subscribe to such nasty views; but are there, really? My one hope is that the offensive drivel hurled out recently is in fact just another development in the spam industry; that the posts are not intentionally evil, just nonsensical, generated by the same computer that believes Varette Fake is a likely name, and all part of an effort to screw money out of Google AdSense. What do you reckon?

Let’s hope so; keep thinking happy thoughts.