“Egg and Bacon;
Egg, sausage and Bacon;
Egg and Spam;
Spam Egg Sausage and Spam;
Egg, Bacon and Spam;
Egg, Bacon, sausage and Spam;
Spam, Bacon, sausage and Spam;
Spam, Egg, Spam, Spam, Bacon and Spam;
Spam, Spam, Spam, Egg and Spam;
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam;
Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam.”
The above is the menu bawled out by Terry Jones playing a waitress in a 1970 Monty Python restaurant sketch while speaking to ‘Mrs. Bun,’ a customer played by Graham Chapman—who emphatically retorts, “I DON’T LIKE SPAM!” It seems that Spam, a canned meat product of dubious biological origins, was readily available in Britain during World War II, when rationing meant that many other less processed meats were not; thus the derogatory comment about the unwanted ubiquity of ‘spam.’
The term has of course subsequently come to mean any unwelcome, permeating internet messaging. Although no one is quite sure precisely where that morphed usage began, its Pythonesque source is undisputed.
I mention this curious bit of etymology because this blog was brought down by a ‘brute force’ onslaught of spam two weeks ago, and the blitz continues even now, despite various efforts by myself and the good people at myhosting.com, where this blog ephemerally resides. These messages are cloaked in language meant to convince me that the writer has actually read and much admired my post. They are also riddled with links, and apparently poorly translated from Chinese, if the number of surviving Chinese characters is any indication.
It’s a new, and infinitely more pervasive form of scam that in the past would have manifest simply as, say, a ‘contractor’ knocking on your front door to offer a spiffy new surface for your crumbling driveway, or a well-dressed man accosting you downtown one night, telling an elaborate tale of losing his car, then his wallet. I’m invariably given to wonder just what it is that motivates these obviously very capable, skilled people to pursue these nefarious practices, at such laborious length?
‘Money’ is of course the answer, that greatest of all motivators within a society where money may not always buy happiness, but where it most certainly buys status, power, creature comforts and pleasure, but then I’m given to note that people as determined and accomplished as these perpetrators could obviously earn money in less objectionable pursuits. So why do they choose the scam as employment, why a vocation with only negative consequences for the ordinary, often less able scammee?
(More specifically, in the case of modern-day spam, it seems the goal is more links, with the attendant increase in search engine profile, which is of course to say the goal is money.)
‘Easy money’ might be the next answer; it’s a pursuit with greater payoff-per-hour than other less damaging endeavors. It’s an essentially sociopathic activity, taken up by individuals who simply don’t care about the consequences for others, so long as it means money flowing to their own pockets. And I don’t think the practice is then pursued by only those inherently conscience-free; I suspect there’s an incremental opportunity-reward process at work in the corruption of these scammers. These folks simply find themselves one day in a position where they know they are doing no good for anyone, but where retreat to moral legitimacy is now difficult and costly.
As a younger man I aspired to making the world a better place, in the long term if not daily. These days my ambitions may have retreated to a position best articulated by a wise friend of mine: “Do no harm.” If each of us could simply get up each morning, then manage our day without causing any damage to others or the planet, the world would immediately be a far, far better place. If the spammers would just change the menu, the internet café would be so much more enjoyable for all us customers. Sadly, as another less wise but no less accurate friend of mine likes to say, “It ain’t happenin’.”