May 25th, 2007

To the border: the descent of spam

My email spam folder grows larger by leaps and bounds; now it takes only a day or two for it to reach the two hundred mark. I enter with hip waders on and quickly skim the subject titles before deleting them, because every now and then a bona fide communication gets stuck in there and I want to fetch it. Otherwise, I’d rather not in go there at all, thank you very much.

But this process allows me to keep track of spam trends, and in recent months there’s been a very disturbing one. Oh yes, the messages from distressed daughters of deceased minor imaginary third-world officials wanting my help (“Beloved one”) to liberate some money are still in there, as well as the canceled e-bay accounts I never had, notices from pseudo-banks, all sorts of stuff about mortgages, and rhapsodies on the benefits of green tea. Oh, and of course, the major ones: buying drugs, sex in general, and a thousand creative varieties of penile enhancement in particular.

But I’m not talking about those. I’ve grown used to those. No, I’m talking about ads for incest. Or, rather, I would assume–since I’m not clicking on them and never will click on them–ads for websites that feature photos of what purport to be incest.

The titles of the emails–which I will not reproduce here–are very graphic and changeable, but they always refer to incest in one of various forms. And I find this development to be exceedingly puzzling because, at least as far as I know, incest is not a source of titillation for most people, but rather a turnoff.

Freud may indeed have felt that some sort of incestuous feeling underlay human sexual motivation, but way underneath, so far underneath that it was turned into something else. Most of us experience revulsion at the very thought.

The fact that spammers have decided that graphic representations of incest would appeal to people is not a good sign. What does it mean? In reminds me of those attempts to serve esoteric foods to revive the faded palates of royals who’ve eaten too many delicacies in their lives and are bored, bored, bored: tongues of hummingbirds, monkey brains, that sort of thing. Whether these culinary stories are apocryphal or not doesn’t matter; it’s the principle that I’m talking about, and that is the fact that the spammers are trying to appeal to the jaded palates of people who’ve grown used to ordinary pornography and find it lacking in pizzazz.

And this reminds me–as do so many things, it turns out–of the work of Milan Kundera, especially the last chapter of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, entitled “The Border.” The border to which Kundera refers is manifold, but part of it concerns the line where rampant and indiscriminate sexuality (either in the name of hedonism or the name of liberation) becomes stripped of meaning and depth–and in fact, in the end, of sensation itself.

The spammers have crossed the border, I’m afraid.

18 Responses to “To the border: the descent of spam”

  1. Don Says:

    Their paying market is incredibly small compared to their email lists, and they will keep trying new stuff to grow it. I don’t think there’s much thought in it. Crossed the border. No sympathy for them but what’s sad to me is they will always find people willing to be in the pictures.

  2. Trimegistus Says:

    Whenever the Left demolishes another support of American society, they’re always careful to pooh-pooh the idea of a “slippery slope.” They say it’s absurd to worry that legalizing marijuana would lead people to use harder drugs. They say it’s absurd that medical suicide would lead to medical euthanasia. They say it’s absurd that gay marriage might lead to other changes in the definition.

    Unfortunately, they’re wrong, and with each step the slope gets slipprier. Often conservatives have to preface comments on public morality with some phrase like “I’m not suggesting we go back to the days of corsets, but…”

    Well I am suggesting that. Victorian society, for all its racism and hypocrisy, was fundamentally a lot more healthy than ours. There are worse things than racism and hypocrisy: civilizational suicide and a complete absence of standards of behavior, for instance. Maybe we need to thoroughly re-examine all the “progress” of the past century and decide what’s really worth keeping.

  3. md Says:

    the “Left”: of course, even though the term as used here is almost devoid of meaning. what’s your professional opinion dr neo? free-floating anxiety/anger?

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    I checked some of the origin ips of these comment spam bots for sex ads. And it was from the Netherlands and South America. Ya.

    Although maybe the incest thing is catering to Islamic demand?

  5. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    And if we used “progressive,” md, you would find that preferable? Which political generalizations would you find reasonable and which unreasonable?

    To the OP: The border is in itself what some people seek: to be risky, dangerous, or shocking is what they desire, more than the specific act. Artists speak approvingly of something being transgressive, and pushing the envelope is the point.

  6. Ymarsakar Says:

    # md Says:
    May 25th, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    the “Left”: of course, even though the term as used here is almost devoid of meaning. what’s your professional opinion dr neo? free-floating anxiety/anger?

    The Left basically means the fake liberals and all their allies like the Islamic Jihad, soci[a]lists, communists, environmentalists, and the various other totalitarian revolutionary cliques around. By that def it also includes the Kansas church group, for environmentalism is no less a religion than any other.

  7. Don Says:

    Victorian society, for all its racism and hypocrisy, was fundamentally a lot more healthy than ours.

    What utter bollix. It takes a brilliantly selective ignorance of history to come up with something like this. Even if we narrow the scope just to sex, drugs, standards of behavior and civilizational suicide, it is completely wrong, never mind all the other horrendous ills of that fascinating and complex age.

  8. Trimegistus Says:

    Okay, Don, demonstrate my “brilliantly selective ignorance.” Explain how Victorian society was less healthy than our own. I’m not talking about technological improvements or GNP, I’m talking about attitudes and ideas. How is our society now really more sane?

  9. camojack Says:

    It’s a sick world…and the prognosis is not good.

  10. Stephen A. Meigs Says:

    A similar phenomenon occurs on usenet. I’m guessing about 40% of all sex stories posted there involve incest. This has been one of the most inexplicable mysteries to me. Who would fantasize about incest? I shouldn’t have thought but maybe 1% of people at most, and wouldn’t expect many of them to be literate. I almost think there must be some bizarre billionaire funding the stuff. Yeah, sometimes there are singular explanations for singular phenomena, which is why I don’t draw general inferences about humanity from those observations, or put much significance in the data.

    But perhaps somehow it is just part of a larger phenomenon, namely that the vast majority of erotic literature is not about females giving it away from love, but about females giving it away from some unnatural reason. This latter phenomenon I do mostly understand. Both selfish priggish women (along with the men who buy them) and selfish nasty men (along with the deluded females they have screwed up) have the same goal of conflating unselfish female sexuality with skanky stupid female sexuality. Selfish women want to make unselfish female sexuality seem stupid while selfish men want to make skanky female sexuality seem unselfish. Where the bad conservatives are united with the bad radicals, that’s where deceptions have their strongest effect. The effect, unfortunately, is that the majority of people vastly underestimate the extent to which females can care about sexual pleasure and love without becomng skanks, and so the females in literature who care greatly about sexual pleasure tend to be skanky and depraved, even if such skankiness is presented as something desirable.

  11. Don Says:

    Explain how Victorian society was less healthy than our own.

    Scientific racism. Lynch culture in the South. Anglo-Saxons presumed superior. Children in coal mines etc. Women’s suffrage almost non-existent. Indian languages suppressed. Homosexuality an insanity that demands imprisonment. Strict temperance the only reaction to alcoholism. Workers’ civil rights rendered moot. Class lines nearly impossible to cross (in UK particularly). I’m sure I could start a list if I thought about it.

    Don’t get me wrong, many of the 20th Century’s cures were worse than the disease. But I wouldn’t choose to live in the Victorian era unless I could also be rich, and that doesn’t say much for it.

    I gather you are uncomfortable with the relative social chaos of the modern era. Some of it sucks. Some of it isn’t chaotic enough in my opinion. Practically none of it would be improved with Victorian attitudes.

    The subject of this post is an example of freedom gone haywire, but my opinion it’s driven by a desperate chase for dollars more than any actual growth in interest in sick sexual practices. There’s a small subset of people who will buy anything and there always has been.

  12. Manfred Says:

    The muslim population is growing the fastest, and is dominated by people who want to cut other people’s heads off. No one seems capable of standing up to the human wave of intolerance represented by a madly procreative Islam bent on world dominance.

    It will be fascinating to see how the fastidiously correct, multiculturally tolerant leftist societies will deal with a tsunami of religious supremacist bigots pouring out of of the third world.

  13. Trimegistus Says:

    Okay, Don, let’s look at your points one by one:

    “Scientific racism.” — whereas now we simply assume non-whites can’t be graded and admitted to colleges under the same standards as whites. Is that progress?

    “Lynch culture in the South.” — authorities prosecuted black men for crimes they didn’t commit based on race-baiting accusations. That never would happen in a modern Southern city. Oh, wait…

    Moreover, we still have racial violence, but instead of remote poverty-stricken rural areas it’s in places like Los Angeles and the suburbs of Paris. The races on the committing and receiving ends are different, but racist violence is racist violence.

    “Anglo-Saxons presumed superior.” — whereas now they’re taught self-loathing and racial guilt. much more healthy.

    “Children in coal mines etc.” — The Victorians didn’t invent child labor, they ended it. Before the 19th century children didn’t work in coal mines, they worked on farms and died like mayflies. It was Victorians who invented things like compulsory public education. They essentially created what we know as childhood.

    Whereas we sexualize children and infantilize adults. More healthy?

    “Women’s suffrage almost non-existent.” — Of course Victorians invented the suffrage movement. Whereas we’ve got gender feminism and Andrea Dworkin. An improvement?

    “Indian languages suppressed.” — Conservative speech suppressed.

    “Homosexuality an insanity that demands imprisonment.” — whereas now “homophobia” is considered a pathology. Such progress.

    “Strict temperance the only reaction to alcoholism.” — Legal bans the only reaction to smoking.

    “Workers’ civil rights rendered moot.” — Taxpayers’ civil rights rendered moot.

    “Class lines nearly impossible to cross (in UK particularly).” — Lord Roberts, one of Victoria’s generals, started his military career as a private. Charles Darwin’s grandfather started as a potter. Joe Chamberlain started as an ironmaker. And this is completely ignoring the rocketlike social mobility which existed in the US during the same era.

    “Don’t get me wrong, many of the 20th Century’s cures were worse than the disease. But I wouldn’t choose to live in the Victorian era unless I could also be rich, and that doesn’t say much for it.” — But that’s my point! Sure, the Victorian era had ills, but were they worse than the Progressive “cures” which have been inflicted on us since then?

    “I gather you are uncomfortable with the relative social chaos of the modern era. Some of it sucks. Some of it isn’t chaotic enough in my opinion. Practically none of it would be improved with Victorian attitudes.”

    That’s where I disagree. Victorian attitudes are exactly what we need — the best of their attitudes involved responsibility, personal honor, physical courage, stoicism, and self-confidence. What have we replaced those ideals with? Victimhood, corruption, permanent adolescence, and cultural self-loathing.

    We’re destroying family life, destroying personal initiative, and destroying the very fabric of our civilization. Are those things worth giving up, just in exchange for Paris Hilton videos and Che Guevara posters?

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    I think we have progressed since the Victorian days. But it has gotten to a point where the Left is making us regress, not progress. Regress to the 11th century that is.

  15. Brian Says:

    Or, it could simply be that the market for incest porn is larger than we would expect. I don’t know that anyone I know is a consumer of such things. However, I know almost nothing about the sexual tastes of most of my friends and family members. It’s entirely possible that many of them get a buzz from incest porn and I’d never know.

    As for it being hard to imagine, somewhere around half of US citizens who vote think voting Democrat is a good idea the majority of the time. They voted for Bill Clinton’s second term. This is far more inexplicable to me than simply having a deviant sexual appetite.

  16. Don Says:

    Voting to re-elect Clinton is more inexplicable than having an appetite for incest? I think some of you have let internet discussion boards rot your brains.

    Trimegistus: Some of your points are well-taken, but most are a stretch (or goalpost shifting anyway), and some are wrong (e.g. homophobia IS a pathology, no question). Suffice it to say that a step back to Victorian times would be a bad thing. If you wish to pick and choose a few attitudes you identify as Victorian and wish they could apply today, that’s fine, but that isn’t resurrecting the age of Victoria. I would like to see a handful of 19th Century values return to vogue as well, mixed in with some of the good stuff from the 21st, so let’s just disagree on the terminology. If you don’t see any good stuff in the 21st, sorry.

  17. Mark Says:

    Y’know, I don’t get any of that kind of spam. Maybe it’s because I don’t have correspondents whose accounts have been compromised to the people sending it. But maybe somebody’s hoping that a noted neocon will accidentally open some of it and leave a few tainted data blocks around on her hard drive where it can be found by a forensics team after an anonymous tip … creating one more scandal. It would not be beyond the ethics of the left.

  18. NahnCee Says:

    1. Lots of Arabs are rich.
    2. Lots of Arabs use the internet to download pornography, since they can’t access it at home in magazines or movies.
    3. Lots of Arabs are Muslims.
    4. The Koran says pedophelia is OK, so how far of a logic leap is it to adding incest is OK, too? Incestuous fathers are busted and reported upon fairly regularly in the Saudi ArabNews on-line site, any way.

    Do the math on who the target audience for the spammers is.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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