Powerful Enough to Fuse Hydrogen


I only see spam when I check my email on my iPhone; my desktop and laptop have some nifty bayesian spam classifiers that are about 99% accurate. On most days I never see any spam at all. It might be fun to do a breakdown of the various forms of spam that I get, but roughly it’s about 30% erectile dysfunction, 25% political (lots of anti-Obama and anti-Hillary. Still anti-Hillary) , 20% tactical/paramilitary gear, 10% how to pick up girls, 10% hair growth, 5% brides for sale.

There’s also a lot of spam I can’t read; I get stuff in a variety of languages, from everywhere I’ve been in the world. I can’t tell if it’s from hotels I’ve stayed in, or goodness knows. I get Polish, Japanese, Chinese, a bit of Hungarian, and even some French. How do I get on all these spam lists? Most likely from grazer-bots – I’ve had my email address in a bunch of places for a long time, and every so often I get a new thread of spam from a new source and it never stops. The worst was back in the 1990s when I taught classes in spam-blocking at USENIX – some spammers retaliated by using my email as a sender, and also signed me up for a lot of stuff. My incoming spam-rate fluctuates, though. I suspect that, over years, some spammers stop and do other things, and eventually I no longer get their important messages.

I don’t assume that the spam that I get shows any kind of targeting; I’ve never donated to a political party or politician except Chase Iron Eyes, so I assume the anti-Obama and anti-Clinton stuff is just being carpet-bombed out there. Am I getting a cross-section of a form of American media? Are most Americans getting these important offers?

I followed the link, out of a sense of horrified curiosity, and it turned out the grizzly-blinding light is the same as the tactical flashlight from the other day. Every day I get an important announcement from the same online seller, offering me tactical flashlights or tactical sunglasses.

That’s really sad. Under normal circumstances, I’d never see any of this stuff. If I were going to buy it, I’d have already bought some. Because it’s free, they can be incompetent at marketing. Generally, I have a very low opinion of marketing communications. One example that particularly annoys me is United Airlines’ Visa card: I have been getting an application in the mail every month for 12 years. I am not exaggerating. The crazy part is that I actually already had a United Airlines Visa card for about 5 of those years. Occasionally I think about writing the CEO of United’s office and suggesting that they drag their marketing communications firm off the plane.

Now I am beginning to wonder whether there is an underlying demographic at play in all these spams. Check out this one:

The people producing these ads are reaching toward a population of people who are afraid and uncertain about the future. The anti-Clinton and anti-Obama messages are not simple political garbage, they’re oriented toward conspiracy-level thinking. Why are they still attacking Hillary Clinton?

Jim Bakker is selling survival food (I wonder if the Puerto Ricans would choke it down?) and talking about apocalypses and conspiracies. The tactical pen and flashlight purveyors are appealing to people who appear to be prepared to believe that there will be a great big meltdown in which desperate “average folks” are wandering around trying to find food – food that the insider is smart enough to be growing in their concealed garden. When the apocalypse comes and grizzly bears are snuffling around, they can put on their sunglasses, blind the bears with their flashlights, and poke holes in them with the concealed Strike Pen.

Apocalypse planning is another axis of America’s deep ignorance-based fear-programming. Americans have been propagandized for several generations to believe that there is a threatening enemy out there – an enemy that the government can protect us from.

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By the way, the “unsubscribe” links on most spam actually flag you as a live address – so you get more spam. Unless it’s a semi “responsible marketing” company like mailchimp or constantcontact, don’t use that sort of link. If you start getting spam from real companies: call the CEO’s office and tell them succinctly that you regret that now you’ll never be able to do business with them, since they’ve spammed you.

I actually have a case of Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE) in the basement – not because I’m afraid things will go horribly wrong – but because someone gave them to me. The current generation of MREs sure are better than Vietnam-era C rations. I’ve been snowed in here a couple times, once for nearly two weeks. For me, “survival rations” are Kitchens of India heat and eat curry, and rice. [amzn] The Kitchens of India is $1.70/helping, which is more than the $50/helping Jim Bakker’s garbage costs, but it’s delicious!

Augason Farms is the company that produces Bakker’s bucket-o-glarp products. I was curious as to whether or not it was, perhaps, owned by Bakker and if he was dealing from one hand to the other, but it seems to be a separate business. Although – it looks like the Auguson Farms people are pretty active in the glarp business. [auguson] Their parent company, Blue Chip Group also sells emergency preparedness stuff. [bcg] I have a mormon friend who explained that the mormons value self-sufficiency because they actually have had the US Government try to launch pogroms of eradication against them.

West Mt Vernon Place in Baltimore is right near the Walters Art Gallery and the Engineer’s Club – I am tempted to wander by next weekend when I’m in Baltimore – but why is Metrix Publications in Sanford, NC, telling people to write to a place in Baltimore?

Anyway, this weird anti-Hillary spam comes about once a week. Is there a substantial propaganda campaign still trying to fuel Hillary-hatred in Trump’s followers? I wonder if this is just playing to a certain demographic, or reinforcing that demographic? Probably a bit of both; it seems to be remarkably similar to the religious mind-set: there are powerful forces out to get you, you need to believe in the dear leader and his anointed ones, you need to buy our buckets of horrible food-substitute, you must wear the glare-resistant sunglasses of war, and carry the grizzly bear-blasting flashlight with the striking edge, and your pen of mortal wounding. I feel like looking at this spam is giving me a view into the demographic that was targeted by the Trump campaign and Jim Bakker. I’m extremely suspicious of the social sciences, but it’s as if someone read Altemeyer and said “Let’s use this a a blueprint.” [stderr]

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    This sort of apocalypse survival guff speaks to something very wrong in the American mind. Most cultures would see the appropriate response to a huge disaster to be banding together, organising your resources and ensuring that everyone gets what help can be given on a sustainable basis. Which, surprisingly enough, works well even in non-apocalypse scenarios too!

    This uniquely American vision would have everyone fighting each other in gladiatorial spork skirmishes for what camouflaged turnips survived the disaster, rather than cooperating to build communal farms and infrastructure. The perfect combination of short-sightedness and antisociality!

  2. cartomancer says

    Also, how does the insane Navy Seal flashlight differ from the one they give to sane Navy Seals?

  3. Brian English says

    Apocalypse planning is another axis of America’s deep ignorance-based fear-programming. Americans have been propagandized for several generations to believe that there is a threatening enemy out there – an enemy that the government can protect us from.

    It’s nice that your goverment can protect you. Obviously it choses not to do so…
    I’m possibly going into tin-foil territory, but I’m not a scientist, nor have I played one on tv….We have about 60 years left of crops due to the craptastic way we destroy soil by plowing to make crops and losing precious top soil. We’re killing off vital insects due to the way we’re Monsantoing everything. We’re turning Oceans into death zones with runoff from farming, overfishing with industrial ships and plastics. And we’re changing the environment by burning anthing that contains carbon and will oxidize, even if solar/eolic/hydro is cheaper….
    Most of this has been known for 3 decades, and we’re less likely to solve this than we were then. We’ve chosen some form of apocolype, where a few rich types will try to enjoy life in the remaining habitable zones (and hopefully get overthrown by the people they fucked over). People in my country will increasingly die of heat death and snakes and spiders (sorry, it’s Australia, we’ll have snakes and spiders always, oh and crocodiles and sharks)…..
    OK, I’ve got two young boys, it worries me. And no, I’m not buying anything tactical, individuals can’t solve these issues, only action like with CFCs and the Ozone layer is at all hopeful. But my government is controlled by denialists who see nature as something to be mounted like a frisky filly, then paraded when it’s ‘broken’…and so with most countries.

  4. says

    The spam e-mails I get are somewhat different.

    Most of them are the next generation of Nigerian princes who need my money. They are no longer claiming to be princes and they don’t claim that they are from Nigeria. But they all have a never ending series of different problems and they believe that I could help them.

    I also get lots of snake oil offers. Penis enlargement miracle pills, weight loss miracle pills, hair growth enhancing miracle medicine. I think I remember even an offer of miracle pills that are supposed to make female breasts larger.

    And then there are all sorts of actual product offers — Viagra, cosmetics, shoes and so on.

    And occasionally I also get “beautiful Russian/Asian women are searching for men”.

    I have never received any anti-Obama or anti-Clinton messages. In fact I don’t remember anything politics related. And if there were any tactical/survival/apocalypse related offers, then they were very few without me noticing them. I can’t remember any “how to pick up girls” either.

    Almost all the spam I get is in English. Which is sort of weird considering that I’m a polyglot who lives in a non English speaking country.

    One example that particularly annoys me is United Airlines’ Visa card: I have been getting an application in the mail every month for 12 years. I am not exaggerating. The crazy part is that I actually already had a United Airlines Visa card for about 5 of those years.

    Why did you have their card for 5 of those years? If my bank tried to send me such spam even once a year, I would instantly cancel my Visa card from that bank and get another card from a different bank (I own only one debit card at a time, I see no use from having multiple cards, and I don’t own any credit cards either).

  5. kestrel says

    The survivalist thing leaves me shaking my head in astonishment. People don’t seem to realize how much we all depend on each other; that’s kinda what civilization is all about.

    My neighbors have told me that when “things fall apart” that we rural people will be over run with city people desperate for food. Most city people have no idea how to take a cow and turn it into McBurgers; and meanwhile, back on the farm, how are we supposed to make hay for those cows with no fuel? You ever cut hay with a scythe? One day I heard a woman being told to keep her sewing machine and not sell it, because the “prophet” (this was in UT, so it would have been a Mormon prophet) had said “teach your women to sew” for when things fall apart. Of course, if Things Fall Apart there won’t be any electricity to run that sewing machine. I told her to go ahead and sell it.

    The whole secret here is, don’t let Things Fall Apart. And if they do, make new things to keep people together. Going off all on your own is simply throwing away all the advantage of civilization while not really getting any benefit.

  6. Sunday Afternoon says

    A long time ago I did a user’s comparison of the various spam filters on large email services, including the company I worded for at the time. Google’s filter was clearly the best that I could see (far better than the anti-spam service the company was buying) and I centralized to using gmail for my personal email.

    Aside – I know people who like to keep their email “up to date” with no unread emails. That boat sailed a long time ago for me as I hover at ~25.000 unread emails. It’s trivial to search for most things I need to look for within gmail, so spending time keeping things “up to date” is, for me, a waste of time.

    @6 kestrel: absolutely! I don’t get it either. Let’s do our utmost to keep the benefits we enjoy from our collaborative society.

    There was a fringe I interacted with in the UK that fit a quasi-survivalist mold, but from a luddite “the modern world is (largely) wrong”, very left-leaning perspective. The normalization of extreme right-wing views and gun fetishization (but I repeat myself) that appears to be the run-of-the-mill republican party membership is simply beyond my UK-programmed brain.

    There is a certain fun to be had from understanding “how things were done in ye olde days”. I’m far more “productive” in my DIY jobs around the house with my battery drill/screwdriver device than when everything required human effort. I see Marcus’s series on making his sword as a hybrid example of a thing we don’t need to make many of these days, made with olden techniques using modern tools.

  7. EigenSprocketUK says

    Also possible: United Airlines Credit Card have a bounty / commission for other organisations to sign up new customers. Spam mail-outs become an entirely reasonable thing for the spammers to do. In which case it goes triple that their scuzzball marketing dept should be fired along with a memo from the CEO demanding to know why they allowed and encouraged other suppliers to treat everyone like shit. (One can dream….)

  8. says

    cartomancer@#3:
    Also, how does the insane Navy Seal flashlight differ from the one they give to sane Navy Seals?

    The insane model can blind a grizzly bear. The sane model can tickle a panda.

  9. says

    LykeX@#1:
    But are the tactical sun glasses good enough to protect against the tactical flashlight? Inquiring minds wish to know.

    Don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.

  10. komarov says

    Drat, my spam is so bland I never even look inside. Apparently I get a lot of discounts (100% on average, which is pretty good), URGENT MESSAGES!! and requests to be product tester. That last one might have been more interesting than it is, but it’s mostly vacuum cleaners which I’m neither keen on nor knowledgeable about. Having one is enough for me, and even if the requests were legit I’d feel bad for the uninformed boiler-plate reviews I’d have to write.
    “[product] did [whatever you’d expect from [product type]]. Product did not burst into flames, exhibit demonic possession or rise up and enslave me. Product was not IoT-enabled, which was the best thing about it. / Product was IoT enabled, promptly hacked and currently hosts secret files for the NSA.”

    Re: Marcus Ranum (#10):

    LykeX@#1:
    But are the tactical sun glasses good enough to protect against the tactical flashlight? Inquiring minds wish to know.

    Don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.

    The logical conclusion of that arms race is a pair of shades that absorbs all light and darkens the sun in the process. It doesn’t simply block it out for the wearer but literally darkens it, for everyone, forever. Ordinarily this would be a disaster, but fortunately the response, an even more powerful torch, will likely ignite the Earth’s atmosphere. At least noone will freeze to death. On the other hand we’ll probably never know whether or not it was enough to blind the grizzly wearing the tactical sunglasses.

  11. says

    Trump got his supporters to chant “Lock her up!” during his September appearance in Alabama. And Trump tweeted on October 16 that he hoped Clinton would run again in 2020. So it seems she’s still an effective target to rally Trumpsters.

  12. says

    chigau@#12:
    I have a foot-powered sewing machine.
    Nothing short of death will part me from it.>/i>

    Those are wonderful. I learned to sew on one. Or, more precisely, I learned to do whatever you call it that I do with a sewing machine.

    They will last past the collapse, which is nice. Mine is one of the ones that’s been retrofitted with a belt and an electric motor. So if I needed to, I could jigger up a treadle-wheel pretty easily, come The Collapse. Assuming I don’t just get eaten in the first wave.

  13. says

    komarov@#11:
    Drat, my spam is so bland I never even look inside. Apparently I get a lot of discounts (100% on average, which is pretty good), URGENT MESSAGES!! and requests to be product tester. That last one might have been more interesting than it is, but it’s mostly vacuum cleaners which I’m neither keen on nor knowledgeable about.

    I suspect that you could become pretty knowledgeable, pretty quickly. Just think: that’s where all those reviewers on Amazon, etc., come from. It’s more of the war on authenticity; thank you for enlisting on our side.

    The logical conclusion of that arms race is a pair of shades that absorbs all light and darkens the sun in the process.

    Wouldn’t that have to be a face-mounted black hole?

  14. says

    kestrel@#6:
    The survivalist thing leaves me shaking my head in astonishment. People don’t seem to realize how much we all depend on each other; that’s kinda what civilization is all about.

    Yeah, me too.
    I’ve tried to engage with survivalists a few times – and I usually wind up much more confused than they do.

    Their premises don’t seem to make much sense to me: “when the ${apocalypse} comes, 99% of everyone will die” Well, then that means you’ve only got a 1% chance of having to worry about it. And, if 99% of everyone dies, then there’ll be plenty of food for a while (but, again, I only have a 1% chance of having to worry about it) The survivalists usually assume that they’ll survive and they’re oriented toward a single threat model (zombie outbreak, or whatever) but if it’s not, then the assumption is civilization will reduce to little pockets, right? If we have something like a nuclear war, and who areas (like, say, NZ) are left intact, then there will be civilization there. If we have something massive and random (like a mega-plague) then civilization may collapse if the die-off is big enough and random enough. In neither scenario does the survivalist strategy seem to make sense.

    The whole secret here is, don’t let Things Fall Apart. And if they do, make new things to keep people together. Going off all on your own is simply throwing away all the advantage of civilization while not really getting any benefit.

    I was not a big fan of David Brin’s The Postman but there were some parts I thought were really interesting. He obliquely refers to a character, Nathan Holn, who apparently was a charismatic nihilist/survivalist philosopher, who – just at the critical moment when civilization might start to re-form – promulgated a doctrine of selfishness that was so empowering to survivalists that they opted out, and civilization finally collapsed. I think that’s a fairly plausible scenario; pretty depressing.

  15. jimmf says

    I run all spam into the same trash that deleted mail goes into. I don’t see any of the good stuff like you get for the past couple of weeks. I see merchants I no longer do business with, “we noticed you were looking…” stuff from Amazon, solicitations for donations, and some other explainable stuff. I wonder if some upstream ISP is filtering it. If so, I wonder what else they’re filtering. Odd, because a few years ago there would be hundreds of pill and porn come ons in a 2 week period.

  16. komarov says

    Re: Marcus Ranum (#16):

    Wouldn’t that have to be a face-mounted black hole?

    Maybe? I’m sure there are some other physics-defying options but wouldn’t really know. I’m not a professional tactical sunglass designer, after all. It’s just as well since I’m not too fond of animals and wouldn’t like working with grizzlies all day. I guess I’m not really a grizzly-person?

  17. johnhodges says

    All my spam is easily explainable, from places I do business with. But back in 2007, and/or early 2008, six times a day I would get email from strangers offering to lend me $250,000. Granted, at the time I had been steadily employed for awhile, I had no debts. But, I had never borrowed money from anyone, had no credit card, had never shown any interest in getting into debt.

  18. says

    komarov@#19:
    It’s just as well since I’m not too fond of animals and wouldn’t like working with grizzlies all day

    I don’t approve of animal testing, unless it’s on humans. So perhaps instead of testing on grizzly bears, they would have an employee named “Griz” and they’d just shine flashlights in his face until he asked them to stop…?

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