Friday, 18 April 2008
A Raven, Spoofers, Charles Simic and the Ticking Clock
So today I received over 300 failure to deliver Mailer Daemon notices. (I thought daemons were meant to be animal versions of our soul invented by Phillip Pullman) I contact my email provider who allows me to chat on line, which is nice of them. It appears I am being seriously spoofed, they are emails with failure to deliver notice as the heading and not what they seem to be (in life as on the internet I seem to attract those who are not what they at first appear to be, it is a medium designed for such as they). The spoofers appear to be trying to sell electronic goods in very poor English. I have a quick live chat with the Customer Care person who calls themselves Raven (I immediately imagine someone dressed in Goth clothes trying to earn their way out of student debt). They (I am unsure whether I am chatting to a male or female raven) treated me very efficiently and kindly and explained about spoofing as opposed to spamming. I ask basic question of course such as, can a spoof be passed on , how do I stop this and other spoofs, how have I suddenly become the object of spoofing, when does a jolly jape stop being a jolly jape and tip over into a spoof? I feel myself back in the school playground wondering if the cool but slightly malign group are picking on me because they can, because I have done something wrong, because I was wearing a ladybird vest in PE, because I am stupid enough to let them do it, because I am unable to fathom the deep recesses of their mind to understand why they would want to do this to me. Raven tells me, in what I am beginning to read as a soothing prescribed tone, that spoofing isn’t personal. Every fibre of my being denies this, if when I open my e mail account I have 300 ‘Failure to Deliver’ notices I take it very personally. Someone out there is out to get me.
The internet opens up so many more opportunities to experience paranoia. I used to think that junk mail through the letter box, delivered by the Royal Mail was an affront. Our postal service that had for years ensured that the good people of Great Britain received letters, telegrams, parcels delivered by liveried officers with cheery smiles and bikes was now fast becoming nothing more than a sullied leaflet distributor. I will now digress.
I knew an old man who delivered telegrams when he was a boy. He told me in his day telegrams were always either bad or good news, usually bad. In my father’s effects after he died, I found the original telegram that informed him his mother had died. It was in the original brown envelope, the words on the thin sepia paper bore the impressed weight of one of those very heavy old fashioned typewriters. It was very brief, words cost money in those days. Mother died today. The old man told me he sometimes had to wait for an answer, write it down and take payment for it. In the days when phones were few and far between the telegram was the only means of quick communication. He hated those telegrams that he knew were bad news, he couldn’t just shove them through the door. The Royal Mail in those days demanded telegrams be handed over to a real person and then he would have to wait while they read it, absorbed the contents. Next he had to pipe up with the ‘Any answer?’ question that he dreaded. Almost always it was a blank look and a shake of the head, ‘No, there’s no answer.’ I don’t know if my father sent an answer, probably not he would have written a letter in reply.
I will now return from the slow slightly lavender world of digression. The spoofers and spammers must take the time to generate their mail or at least take time to work out how to circumvent the spam guards; the virtual equivalent of the vicious terriers that wait behind hedges for unsuspecting postmen. Of course my letterbox on my front door is open to anybody; everybody is free to stick something through it that they want me to read. The pile this week alone contains leaflets about; tree lopping, wet fish delivery, a new Tandoori Restaurant, three local election leaflets, a scrap mental dealer visiting the area, savings to be made at the local Co-op supermarket on wines and spirits this week, four charities and a small hand-printed poster about a lost cat. I have not resorted to the ‘NO JUNK MAIL’ sign as I am told by those that have them that everyone just ignores them anyway and besides I may want to know about the new Tandoori, cheap wine and the lost cat. I fill up my blue recycle bin with leaflets that are then re-cycled into more leaflets and so it goes on, it is the wheel of life in text and images of lost cats, children in refugee camps near Dafur, wine and politicians’ promises and a drawing of a Bengal Lancer holding what looks like a dish of rice.
My bulk folder despite resetting the parameters of my spam guard overflows with junk mail, no trees of course were harmed in its making, its carbon footprint is probably very low, it does not require men to take it away once a week and yet today it feels more intrusive and more annoying to get it than all the other hard copy junk I get. Someone out there is out to get me electronically and I suppose our lives are so interwoven with the virtual world these days that trashing that world, littering that, with unwanted stuff feels far more aggressive. Of course three hundred leaflets stuffed through my letterbox about a Tandoori Restaurant opening would no doubt annoy me as much, yet because of costs and economics etc that never happens. For spammers and spoofers the whole virtual world is their playground. I have thought myself back to that playground scenario again…they are getting at me, making my life a misery, simply because they can. Who says we shouldn’t treat it as personal Mr/Ms/Mrs Raven?
If the world seems a tad frightening to me today it is because this incident has underlined to me how bizarre and interconnected our world is becoming for good and ill. How the press of a button in India can flood in-boxes all over the world, the old cliché about America catching a cold and the world sneezing has never been more true both economically and politically and the time lag is diminishing, the clock is ticking faster and faster. How fast can it go before it breaks and the clock stops? You can virtually hear that tick dying out and taste the fear in this poem by Charles Simic