March 10, 2007


HATEFULNESS IS INCREASINGLY an identifying characteristic of life in the present-day United States. We see it everywhere: the political paralysis inflicted by fanatics, the skyrocketing incidence of road-rage, the spiteful arrogance of bureaucrats and elected officials, and the outrageous rudeness -- especially the defiant, trod-on-our-heels invasion of personal space -- by which the nation’s young demonstrate their infinite contempt not just for their elders but for any semblance of human civilization.

It is therefore probably no coincidence that the Internet -- overwhelmingly the domain of America’s singularly amoral, apolitical youth -- reflects this hatefulness more vividly than any other facet of our society. Indeed it is no exaggeration at all to say that (despite the Internet’s innumerable positive aspects), a rich and pampered techno-aristocracy of skillfully venomous sadists are methodically turning it into a treacherous miasma of malice.

I learned this the hard way recently when someone with whom I am exceptionally close e-mailed me with the very best of intentions a useful-looking document entitled “5 Things Your Cell Phone Can Do.” My e-correspondent had in turn received it from a friend she has known and trusted since her school days; the friend had herself sent it on in nothing less than maximum good faith. But all of our instinctive confidence in one another -- considerably bolstered by the fact we are all presumably sophisticated urbanites -- was betrayed by the malignant sadist who, tens of thousands of e-mailers ago, originated what more properly should be titled “5 False Hopes to Further Intensify Your Terror and Despair in Dire Emergencies.”

Just as most of us were, I was conned by the fact “5 Things” looked cheerily helpful -- exactly the same carefully art-directed quality possessed by a user-manual written in English rather than Nurd and therefore a rare and invaluable find. Thus after noting it was not only written in the clear language characteristic of good professional writing but apparently also had the imprimatur of a legitimate business (and had of course been thoroughly vetted by my constantly updated virus protection), I concluded it was useful information well presented, and I forwarded it without much further thought to all the people on my “friends and colleagues” list.

Most of these folks were all the more vulnerable given the fact persons of my age group would probably never have imagined the ubiquitous cell-phone as the centerpiece of a malicious scam -- its malice inherent in the disappointment and even horror that would surely result were someone to attempt, under emergency conditions, the false remedies and bogus last-ditch measures "5 Things” described.

But another friend and colleague -- a highly skilled and alert woman who is already involved with broadcast media and has several times demonstrated more than enough instinctive reportorial talent to break into serious print -- is also at least 20 years my junior and is therefore in much closer grass-roots contact with just how relentlessly vicious Americans have actually become.

Thus she reflexively submitted “5 Things” to verification by and quickly alerted everyone on my mailing list to the fact it is a fraud. My original correspondent was of course embarrassed because she had forwarded the material to me, I was thoroughly mortified because factual verification is one of my professional obligations, and both of us apologized accordingly

But beyond the red faces and discomfort of being caught up in a con, it seems to me there are at least three vital lessons to be learned from this episode:

(1)-That the Internet, though it contains much that is good and useful, has become a dark and perverse realm in which legions of sadists, vandals and thieves conspire to inflict loss, injury and mortification by every means possible.

(2)-That given this increasingly emergent alternate identity of the Internet, the malevolent intent of its content should be assumed: that is, any message not originating from a recognizably legitimate source should be regarded as a potential attack (whether on one's computer, one's finances or one's credibility) until proven otherwise.

(3)-That we therefore need to maintain not only the long-recognized defense of reflexive skepticism toward any and all Internet financial offers, but to aggressively develop an all-inclusive and overtly hostile suspicion toward anything and everything we encounter on the Internet.

Obviously the “5 Things” scam was furthered by the fact that cell-phone technology -- and today’s information technology in general -- is based on science totally alien to the Newtonian world of my boyhood. It is thus utterly incomprehensible to anyone save esoteric-minded specialists (the modern-day equivalent of witch-doctors) who in any case are never much older than about age 50 maximum because the requisite schooling simply did not exist until maybe 25 years ago. Which makes those of us who are more elderly all the more vulnerable -- especially since today's society of sociopathic spitefulness is such a relatively recent phenomenon.

But whatever our age or knowledge of technology, we are nearly all in absolute denial of the fact that today's Internet -- never mind its other aspects -- is the ultimate example of malice facilitated by wealth: one of the defining characteristics of capitalism. Indeed the Internet has become a virtual jungle prowled by the most scheming sociopaths in human history.

The existence of these predators is proven not only by the viruses and scams that inflict ruinous financial loss but by repeated expressions of unprovoked yet elaborate hatefulness -- “5 Things” and everything like it -- that serve no purpose beyond the sadistic gratification of their perpetrators.

For example someone went to great lengths using computer graphics equipment -- the cost of which is beyond all but the wealthy and the use of which is hopelessly mysterious to all save a college-initiated priesthood -- and deliberately made it appear "5 Things" originated from a legitimate business, its very falsehood undeniable proof of the huge malice with which it was crafted.

Thus we should all adopt as core principles the three lessons set out above, thereby providing all of us some basic protection against the ever-worsening onslaught of Internet antagonism -- sadistically calculated hurtfulness that, alas, is impossible to filter out with even the best anti-virus/anti-spam software.

Discussion of the corollary facts -- that the hatefulness running amok in our nation is a direct measurement of how deeply we are already wounded by class war and how totally the corporate fat-cats have conned us into believing we are helpless to resist -- will have to wait for another time.

Posted by Loren at March 10, 2007 10:57 PM | TrackBack

hey wolf

one thing to keep in mind about cell phones is that even if they are "off" they still have some juice to allow for the automatic start-up feature and so forth

Authorities have already used this to listen in to someone through their cellphone (the boom mic makes sure they pick up a wide area around the cellphone too).

So, the only way to say for sure that you cann't be tracked and spied on via your own cellphone is to take the damn battery really sucks

However, that feature isn't in some of the older model phones so if you have an old one, you might consider hanging onto it. In fact, as far as I know analog cellphones are just as good (maybe better) than the newer much-hyped digital ones.

I've heard it might even be possible to get reception on a plane with an analog phone. Not sure that matters much really. Anyway, as long as analog phones are still in use the companies are apparently obliged to continue supporting 'em.

I still have one although I don't use it right now.

You might also want to scroogle "unlocking your SIM card" as well. I've done it..a good place to check for info is

Posted by: kid of the black hole at March 12, 2007 07:18 PM

Excellent. The degree to which the general public is vulnerable to scams of all sorts is appalling.

Posted by: Mike at March 15, 2007 09:37 AM