Not even in jest

When the Internet was young, and spam was still manageable, I used to send my friends emails with funny subject lines like: "Huge Penis Viagra Porn Stock Market Whores" and they would laugh (well, I'd laugh) and we'd get on with life.

Since spam has taken control of the world and now accounts for 80% of global bandwidth and storage capacities, it really aint so funny–and a subject line like that wouldn't get through the ubiquitous filters we all use these days.

I get about 150 spam emails a day. I've been very careful about my addresses but if you do business online they will get you eventually. I was present at the wind-up of a few dot-coms back in the day and, when the cash is low, they're only too happy to ignore your service agreement and sell your active address to direct marketers.

Here's a few spam subject lines from today:

  • I just started dating a guy I like, but his shaft is on the small side and doesn't really satisfy me [The tone is quite conversational and friendly]
  • Make your sexual life more different and easier! [An odd combination of improvements, don't you think. Easier??]
  • Brutale Videosexaction [The email was in German hence the compound noun and the direct forceful eroticism of the invitation]

Curiously, none of these mails followed through on their promises. They just tried to sell me stocks, mortgages, and teeth whitener.

Keyword filtering is used not only to remove unwanted messages but to find interesting ones as well. The US government's Echelon spying programme has been reading your emails since 1974. They flag certain words and phrases, and when you have enough red flags, they pass them along the chain until eventually a dark car pulls up outside your house…

Just like the funny emails, I often threaten to enter a search term in someone's Google just to get them flagged by the NSA. A good word to use is Not Any Military Business Language Anyway [first letters of that phrase]. I dare you to research that crowd!

I also thought about maybe posting a comment on someone's blog with certain phrases to do with, shall we say, an atrocity that has yet to occur–just to get them flagged for a laugh. I'm sure plenty of teenagers text each other phrases that jest about terrorist attacks. But then something stopped me cold.

I actually I thought about it.

I was frightened.

I simply couldn't do it. When you read about what's happening to others, you realise that ending up on a list on Cheney's desk is no joke; it's a genuinely terrifying thing. You can never go back. McCarthyism only lasted ten years or so, but then Joe didn't have the awesome power that Dick has (sounds like another spam subject line).

Harking back to an earlier post about our corporate masters, the Federal Reserve: What will a protester/dissenter/free-thinker do in the year 2027 when we're all RFID chipped? Every move tracked and logged. And when, as 'persons of interest' (for reading the wrong book maybe?) our credit is wiped, we will discover that we can no longer even use cash.

Scary. Stuff. Indeed.