R.I.P. Herman Howard

NOTE: This was written a few years ago. Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

This is a funny story, but also it sad.  It is a true story, but it includes some fiction.  Now that you are thoroughly confused, and I hope at least slightly intrigued, let me give you a little background on the main character, who is a real person.

Suzanne and I have known Jim Randel for at least twenty-five years.  He introduced us to Jane Glen Haas.  Jane, who became a good friend, was a columnist for the Orange County Register, writing on senior issues…aging, retirement, etc.  She wrote an article a few years ago that included an interview and photo of me.  It explored my decision to go back to work after retiring from Rockwell International. Sadly, she passed a couple years after that.

But I digress…

We first met Jim when our kids were in high school.  Our son James and Mitch Randel, one of Jim’s sons, became friends.  Mitch is a talented artist.  His black crayon portrait of a city skyline with a background of tropical hurricanes as seen from a satellite is stunning.  It had a place of honor over our fireplace for twenty years.  Mitch is one of four children, three boys and a girl that Jim raised single-handedly.  His wife died many years ago, when they were small children.  Jim never remarried.

Jim grew up in Oklahoma.  He’s not well educated, and he’s extremely conservative politically…a classic redneck.  Nevertheless, we have always gotten along okay.  He has a good sense of humor, likes to laugh a lot…and tell bad jokes.

Two years ago, Jim sold his house here in Orange and moved to Kansas.  We had been corresponding via Email before he moved, and we stayed in touch, sharing jokes and political items after his move.

We have always argued about politics.  His conservative views, unstinting Bush support, racial and ethnic biases, and opposition to abortion under any circumstances, were all the opposite of mine.  We fired off salvos at each other continually on these subjects, but it stayed friendly for the most part.  He liked to send me anything that was negative about Democrats or liberal views, but he took particular pleasure in items that slammed the Clintons, Jane Fonda, and last fall during the campaign he sent a barrage of blasts aimed at John Kerry.

I started researching some of the pieces he was sending, and most of them were total fabrications.  They looked like legitimate news articles or essays, but they were full of lies, distortions and out-of-context quotes.  I sent him the results of my research, pointing out that he was spreading lies.  He wasn’t sending them just to me.  His Emails had a lengthy address list.  His response was that he couldn’t be bothered checking these things out.  He thought they were funny, and he liked to laugh.

It bothered me that he was broadcasting this stuff.  Many of the recipients probably didn’t bother to check the validity of his stuff.  They just sent it on, so the lies were being propagated.  I gradually raised the level of my criticism, and he just laughed.  At one point, I said, “Jim, you’re spreading bullshit again.”  He responded, “Yeah, but it sure smells good.”

So…I escalated.  When I researched the next piece of junk he sent, instead of just responding to him, I copied his whole address list and sent it to all of them!  I’m sure this embarrassed him, but he didn’t say anything.  On all subsequent Emails from him, I was the only addressee.  He was “blind copying” me…a standard Email technique when the sender does not want recipients to know the Email addresses of other recipients.  It’s intended to be used a way to protect the privacy of the recipients.  Jim was using it to prevent me from responding to his addressees.

But he forgot that I already had his address list from a previous Email, so when I sent him the analysis of the next one, this is what I wrote:

Jim,

As usual you are spreading the stuff that farmers spread.  Since you are now blind-copying me, so that I can’t inform all the other people on your address list that you are mailing out garbage, I went back to the address list that you sent with your last bullshit piece, and I am sending them this message.  The following is from the Snopes website, an excellent source for debunking Internet hoaxes and fabrications.

[I followed with an excerpt that debunked the piece he had sent]

I thought this might provoke a reaction from Jim, and I was right!  Here was his response:

You need to get a life You got no f$$kin` sense of Humor. Don`t send me any more f$$kin e-mail and I`ll do the same, Your a real f$$kin` Pr$$k goodbye for ever…….

Randel

I cleaned this up for public consumption.  Those $’s were not there in the original.

Oh well…one more conservative “friend” lost.  I wasn’t unhappy with this outcome.  When I escalated the criticism and starting sending it to his friends, I was pretty sure it was eventually going to come to this.

I decided to let his other addressees know what Jim had sent to me, so, I sent it out…the cleaned up version that appears above…to everybody on his address list.  Along with it, I sent the following comments:

This is the response I got from Jim Randel for my last Email, which I also copied to all of you.  I cleaned it up a little so it wouldn’t offend anyone.
Jim likes to send out Right Wing stuff, and I have no problem with that.  He’s entitled to his opinion.  Many of you may agree with the things he sends.

My problem is when he sends out stuff that isn’t true…that smears people, even when it’s “all in fun.”  I guess he’s right…I’ve got no sense of humor about stuff like that.  For some time, I’ve been pointing out that he shouldn’t spread vicious lies, even if he likes them.  He just kept on sending them out, and I noticed he was sending them to a whole lot of people, so I decided to start sending corrections out to some of you on his address list.

I made the mistake of telling him that I was doing that, so, clever Jim started blind copying me so that I couldn’t get his address list.  Fortunately, I had saved an old Email from him that had an address list, so he couldn’t shut me up that easily…and that really ticked him off, I guess.

Anyway, this is the last you will hear from me, obviously.  I hope I haven’t offended any of you.  But if you get any more Emails from Jim, please check with Snopes or Hoaxbusters before you send them on.  We have enough crap going around on the Web now.  We don’t need any more.
Bert

And that, I thought, was the end of it.

And then…an idea began to germinate in the back of my head.  I suppose I would never have thought of it if Randel’s final message hadn’t been so vituperatively, profanely insulting.  I was not shocked by it…I’ve heard those words more than a few times in my life…but it did get my dander up, and I simply could not suppress my lust for some kind of revenge.  Gradually, as the idea formed, a scheme began to hatch.

What if I created a Randel-like character….

I would like to introduce you to Herman Howard.  He’ll tell you that most people call him Herm.  He was born in Texas, but he and his wife Martha are now living in the Midwest.  He doesn’t say exactly where for reasons that will become apparent.  Herm and Martha are in their late 70’s.

They have two children, a son named Harold…he doesn’t like to be called Harry, prefers Hal…and a daughter named Harriet, named after Herm’s mother.  They are both in their forties.  Herm’s father’s original name was Hyman, but people misspelled it, and then when he was older made jokes about it, so he changed it to Guy.  Herm has a sister named Henrietta.

There is more.  Martha’s mother read all the romantic adventure novels by C.S. Forester about the British naval officer, Horatio Hornblower, when she was young and she really liked them, so the full names of their children are:

Harold Horatio Howard

Harriet Hornblower Howard

The irony of the fact that both his children share a monogram…and Harold shares his middle name…with a famous liberal Democratic politician, Hubert  Horatio Humphrey, is lost on Herm.  And I guess he and Martha never anticipated the razzing poor Harriet had to suffer when the boys at school sang, “Harriet, come blow my horn.”

Herm and Martha live with his sister Henrietta, whose husband died a few years ago…of Hodgkin’s Disease.

Now, it happens that Herm, whose Email handle is hermhow@aol.com,  has been following this “ruckus” between bigelowrs@aol.com  and thaRandelr@earthlink.net  through a mutual friend who is on Randel’s address list.  The friend has been sending Herm copies of the correspondence between Jim and me.  Herm is not the brightest guy in the world, and he’s a redneck.  He applauds Jim’s put-down of me.

[In the Emails that follow, the spelling, grammar and typo errors in Herm’s Emails were deliberate, and they were hard work!  The errors in Randel’s…I am sure…were neither.]

Herm writes:

You dont know me, but I have been followin your ruckus with bigelowrs for a while  I relly liked how you told him off  That liberal asshole has no bisness telling you what you can and can not send out.  This is a free country and you can send what ever you want.  You might wonder how i know about this  well i met a guy named bullettk on the web  a while ago his real name is Dennis and he sends me stuff and latly he has been sendig the argument betwen you and that guy. I say you done good  Those fucking liberals think they now whats right for the whole dam country
Anyway my name is Herman Howard most people call me Herm  I am new at this email stuff my son just gave me this computer and Im still learning to type
How old are you?  I’m 78
Herm

[The mutual friend, bullettk, is a friend of mine.  Before I used his name, I told him what was going on, so if Randel contacted him, he could confirm that he was sending stuff to Herm.  He was happy to oblige, but Randel never contacted him.]

Randel responds:

Herm: Thanks for your support, I`ve known that ass-hole about thirty years.  He gets worse with time. I got my ass full of his liberal shit.  I`ll be 78 the 25th of this month. Getting old is the shits…
I`ve put you in my address book..Look forward to hearing from you again………I love poking the liberals.  But bigelows is the worst…I live in Kansas.  I moved here from Orange California 2 years ago this month….It`s different I`d like to send the liberal your letter but then he would be on you..HaHa…

thaRandelr
James L Randel
(address and telephone number redacted)

Randel’s inclusion of his full name, address and telephone number is an obvious invitation for Herm to do the same.  Herm can NOT do that!  He doesn’t want any letters sent to a fictitious address, or phone calls to a nonexistent number!  So he just ignores the hint.

Herm responds:

Shit youre as old as i am!!!!   We are both older than dirt  I feel pretty good most of the time.  Little arthuritis in my left knee tells me when the wether is gonna change but it aint bad.

Dont give that asshole my letter  I dont want nothing to do with him

Herm

Randel replies:

I won`t

Randel starts sending his jokes to Herm.  Here’s an example.  It is typically crude and puerile.

 

SIPPING VODKA

A new priest at his first mass was so nervous he could hardly speak.

After mass he asked the monsignor how he had done.

The monsignor replied, ” When I am worried about getting nervous on the pulpit, I put a glass of vodka next to the water glass. If I start to get nervous, I take a sip.”

So next Sunday he took the monsignor’s advice.

At the beginning of the sermon, he got nervous and took a drink.

He proceeded to talk up a storm.

Upon his return to his office after the mass, he found the following note on the door:

 

1)  Sip the vodka, don’t gulp.

2) There are 10 commandments, not 12.

3) There are 12 disciples, not 10.

4) Jesus was consecrated, not constipated.

5) Jacob wagered his donkey, he did not bet his ass.

6)  We do not refer to Jesus Christ as the late J.C.

7) The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not referred to as Daddy, Junior and

the spook.

8) David slew Goliath, he did not kick the shit out of him.

9) When David was hit by a rock and was knocked off his donkey, don’t say he

was stoned off his ass.

10) We do not refer to the cross as the “Big T.”

11) When Jesus broke the bread at the last supper he said, “take this and eat         it for it is my body.” He did not say “Eat me”

12) The Virgin Mary is not called “Mary with the Cherry.”

13) The recommended grace before a meal is not: Rub-A-Dub-Dub thanks for the grub, Yeah God.

14) Next Sunday there will be a taffy pulling contest at St.Peter’s not a peter pulling contest at St. Taffy’s.

Herm responds:

Woohoo that’s pretty funny!!!!  I used to go to church but I don’t no more.
It got too political and they was always after me for money.  I think a man’s religion ought to be a private thing anyway.  I don’t need no church to tell me how to talk to God and I don’t want to tell anybody else how to either.
Herm

Randel sends:

You think just like I do exactly………………

Randel

I had to come up with a way to get Herm to start talking to me so that my plan could unfold.  Here’s how I did it.  Herm writes the following to Randel:

I was fooling around with AOL.  Im still learning to use it and my son tole me about IM  Its a way to talk to people who are logged in by just typing.  You have to make this buddy list thing and then you ocan tell whos there.  Just for fun I put in bigelowrs and sure enough he was there so I sent him a kick in the face. Probably should not have, but I do stuff like that sometimes just for the hell of it.
I asked him how come a smart guy like him is a liberal   well I think he was pretty surprised  he said WHO ARE YOU???   So I said that i knew about you and him. He was real polite and said he was glad to meet me  he wants to send me stuff he wrote to explain why hes a liberal.  I said okay  shit why not?
I will let you know what he sends.
Herm

[A word of explanation: IM stands for Instant Message.  When two people are online, they can use this facility to “talk” to each other.  Whatever the sender types appears instantly on the receiver’s screen.]

Randel responds:

It will get better (bullshit) as time goes by…………………
Most Liberal bastard I ever met.  I never cared to much wether a story was true or. If   it was funny I sent it on.  I never spent hours on the computer trying to prove somebody wrong….I just like to laugh……………

Randel

Meanwhile, I respond to Herm with an Email and Herm forwards it to Randel:

This is what he sent
Herm
—————–
Forwarded Message:
Subj: Some Thoughts for you
Date: 9/17/05 11:00:20 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Bigelowrs
To: Hermhow

Herm,
It was good to meet you today on IM.  Needless to say, I was surprised.  I don’t get IM messages from strangers very often.

I understand and respect your views, even though they are different from mine.

As I promised, following is a piece that I wrote a few months ago in response to another very conservative friend…not Randel.  This guy is intelligent, studies history and politics, and makes very convincing arguments.  And he doesn’t mail out slanderous lies like Randel does.  You are right, it is a free country, but it is illegal to smear people with lies.  You can be sued for doing that.  Unfortunately, it’s really hard to enforce on the Web, so a lot of crap goes around…both Left Wing and Right Wing.  I sent out some stuff last year without checking it out, and one of the recipients responded that it was not true.  After checking it out, I had to mail out a retraction to a whole lot of people.  It was very embarrassing.  So now I check stuff out before I send it.

Randel doesn’t do that.  He just sends it out, even if he knows it’s lies.  I think that’s wrong.  I can’t stop him from doing it, but I can…and should…let him know that what he’s doing is wrong.  Not because it’s Right Wing.  Because it’s wrong.

Herm, I have no argument with you.  We have different opinions about politics, and that’s fine.  I’d be willing to discuss it with you if you want, but I understand if you would rather not.

Anyway, here’s the thing I wrote.  I don’t think I ever sent it to Randel…he would have just called it LIBERAL BULLSHIT anyway.  I think this answers your question about how a “smart guy” like me could be a liberal.

[I left out the piece that I sent…it’s not part of the story]

I was getting tired of trying to generate Herm’s messages full of spelling and grammar errors, so in response to one of Randel’s jokes (I lost the joke…it was something about fast food) Herm sent him the following:

“I don’t like that fast food shit.  My wife Martha is a great cook so I don’t have to eat none of that.
I started using the spell checker so you might not have to work so hard to figure out what I am trying to say.  Still working with the typing tutor to.  I’ll get this shit after while.
Herm”

Here’s Herm’s next response to a joke from Randel.  It refers back to my Email to him:

“I like to laugh too but what he said about lies got me thinking.
I don’t lie to nobody.  I have to think about this some more.
Herm”

The “he” refers to is me, of course.  Now you can see where I am going with this.  Herm is a good old boy, a redneck, but he’s an honest and honorable man.  He’s starting to question Randel’s forwarding ethics.

Randel answers:

“He says they were lies They were e-mail that I got.  I didn`t write them I only layghed at them…true or not…………….I don`t lie either. sounds like you and I went to the same school………………..”

Randel

Randel is trying hard to justify his sending of garbage.  Hey…just all in fun.  It might be true, might not…

And then, Randel decides he needs to get Herm off this subject, so he sends:

“What do you have to think about??????????????”

But old Herm wants to know more about this, so he Emails me and asks a question.  I respond and Herm forwards it to Randel along with this:
I thought about what you said.  He said your things were lies, but could he prove it?  So I asked him and he sent me this.
I did what he said and it was easy.
Herm
—————–
Forwarded Message:
Subj: Re: A Question
Date: 9/18/05 11:30:29 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Bigelowrs
To: Hermhow

In a message dated 9/17/05 10:51:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time, Hermhow writes:

You say that Randelr’s Emails are full of lies.  Can you back that up?
Herm

My answer:

“I sure can, Herm.  In fact, I’ll teach you how to check them out yourself.  It’s very simple and quick.  I have to laugh when Randelr tells me to “get a life” because I am wasting so much time researching these things.  As you will see, it just takes a minute or two.  I have told him how to do this too, but he’s either too lazy or he really does not want to know if they are true or not.  If he knew they were lies, then his conscience might bother him for spreading them all over.

The web site I use most for checking these things is Snopes.  Here is the link.
http://www.snopes.com/
If you have your browser running (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, etc.) you can click it right now and it will take you there.  Now the first thing you should do is to bookmark it.  To do that, click the Bookmark button in the top menu and then click the top item in the dropdown menu which is “Bookmark this Page.”  Now, whenever you want to go there, all you have to do is click the Bookmark button and click Snopes.  You don’t have to do this, but it just makes it easy to get there next time.

When you look at the Snopes home page, you will see a little box in the upper right that says Search.  What you have to do is pick a word or two from the title of the thing you want to check and enter it there and then click GO.  That’s all there is to it!

Let’s do an example.  Randel sent me a thing about Jane Fonda a few weeks ago.  It told about an Air Force pilot named Jerry Driscoll who had been captured by the Vietnamese, and when Fonda went to visit the prisoners in their jail, he spit on her.  His captors beat him so bad that he almost died and has double vision to this day.

Now when I first read that story, it made me mad.  I never liked her anyway.  But I decided to check it out on Snopes.  So here’s what I did, and you can do the same thing and see for yourself.  I entered “Jane Fonda” in the box and clicked GO.

Snopes has a whole section on her under what they call Urban Legends, and they tell you that some of the stories are true and some are lies.  If you read it, you will come to the story about Driscoll. He’s a real person who was imprisoned by the Vietnamese.  He has spent most of his life since he got back from Nam denying this story.  It never happened.  He never saw her, didn’t spit on her, didn’t get a beating, and he doesn’t have double vision.  He says he doesn’t like Jane Fonda, and he’s really tired of denying this story!

Now how long did it take you to get there and find that?  One minute?  Two?  Are you spending your life on this?  No, it’s very easy and quick.

Sometimes I feel like I am peeing in the ocean.  There is so much of this stuff getting sent around on the Web.  What good does my little effort do?  But if I tell all my friends about this, and they tell theirs and so on, maybe, over time, it WILL make a difference.  It’s kind of like voting.  A lot of people don’t vote because they figure what difference will their one vote make in all the millions cast.  Well, if everybody thought that, nobody would vote at all!

So what I am hoping you will do is to start checking out the stuff you get, especially the stuff from Randel, and don’t send it on if it’s not true.  You don’t even have to tell him that you’re doing it if you don’t want to.  Oh, and tell all your friends to do the same thing to the Emails they receive.  The Internet is full of all kinds of crap and the government is not going to do anything about it.  It’s up to us users to clean it up…and we can if we make just a little effort.

Oh, one more thing.  Snopes is not the only place you can go to check these things out.  Hoaxbusters and Google are good too.  They all work just about the same way.  Sometimes you can find answers on one that aren’t on the others.  After you use Snopes for a while, go try the others.  I don’t find it to be a chore at all.  It’s kinda like being a detective.”

Now Randel does a really strange thing, and for awhile, I thought the game was up.  He sends his response to Herm’s Email to me instead of to Herm!  I thought he had figured out what was going on.

This is what he sent to ME instead of Herm:

“If their Lies they are not mine.  I never wrote any that I ever sent him.  I would send him things if I knew they were lies.  Just too make that liberal Bastard Mad and it usualy did. I finished with him when he emailed people on my e-mail telling that I was Lying.  When I never wrote any of that shit. But he always got it…heh..heh”

Oho, he DID know that the stuff he was sending me was lies!  Earlier he said he didn’t know.  I wonder if Herm caught that…er, what am I saying?

I sent Randel a copy of his message with the following:

Hey Randel, I think you meant to send this to Herm.

Herm doesn’t seem like a bad guy.  I don’t think you are gonna be able to use him to spread your shit.  He is an honest man.

Oh, and by the way, if you spread somebody else’s lies, it’s the same as telling them yourself if you know they are lies.  If you don’t know, it’s either because you are lazy, or you really don’t want to know.  It’s easy enough to find out.

Have a good life, Jim.

And get a little sense of humor will ya?

Bert

PS – Tell you what…I’ll do you a favor.  I’ll forward this to Herm for you <laughing>

So then Herm sends Randel the following:

I just got this Email from bigelowrs that was from you to me I think.
What the Hell is going on?
Herm

At this point, I still didn’t know if Randel had figured it out or not.  I just decided to continue to play the game.

So then Randel responded to Herm:

Hit the wrong address….hahaaha

And I knew we were still cooking.

As you can see, what I am trying to do is manipulate Randel through Herm.  Herm is a guy just like him, but he’s starting to have some doubts about what Randel is doing.  Criticism from me is easy to discount, but from Herm…another redneck…that’s got to hurt.  If you look at the last couple messages from Herm to Randel, they are very short…like he doesn’t really want to talk to him.  Randel knows this, and is trying desperately to justify himself…hey, it’s just for fun, just for laughs.  He knows what Herm is thinking…it’s lies, and Herm doesn’t like that.  Randel is squirming now.

When Randel sent out the next one of his pieces of junk, bigelowrs was, of course, not on the address list, but Herm was, and he sent Randel the coups de gras.

I checked out the thing you sent about Hillary Clinton on snopes.  It is all lies.  Martha and I have been talking about this for a while now.  We both think that bigelowrs is right and you are wrong on this.  Mailing out lies is wrong.

Well I’ll tell you what.  How about if you send those things to me first before you send them to the others and I will check it out and tell you yes or no.

If you don’t want to do that, then I need to tell you to stop sending stuff to us.  I don’t want to get in a fight about it.  Hell we are too dam old to fight!!!!

Martha and I have been working on this off and on all day now.  She made me change some things I wrote.  She thinks I was too hard on you.

You and I are old but we are not to old to admit we are wrong and change our ways.  Think about it.

Herm

 

Since this was sent a few days ago, Emails from Randel to Herm have stopped.

This is good as far as I am concerned, because I am getting tired of the game.  It occurs to me that I have the same problem that the Czar’s courtiers had in the satiric film comedy Lieutenant Kije, for which Serge Prokofiev provided the musical score.  The suite that he extracted from that score is one of his most popular compositions, particularly the Troika, a Russian sleigh ride that is so captivating that it makes you want to go out and find three horses to hitch to your BMW.  In the story, the Czar misreads an aide’s paper, and thinks that there is a military hero named Kije.  The aide is afraid to correct the monarch, so with the connivance of other staffers, they create a fictional Kije, and all of his heroic exploits.  Eventually, they have to figure out a way for Kije to die so that they can end the danger of their fabrication being discovered.

I am working on the demise of Herm.  I sure as Hell don’t want to spend any more time checking out Randel’s junk.  The guys who did away with Kije would be very envious of me.  What I have to do is pretty simple.  Some day in the not-too-distant future, Herm is going to wake up with pains in his left arm and shoulder and shortness of breath.  He’s going to mention it to Randel in an Email, saying that Martha is taking him to the hospital.  That will be the last Email Randel will ever get from Herm, and a week or so later, his Email address will disappear, so anything sent to him will be returned.

I will let you know when this happens so you can send flowers.

Rest In Peace, Herm.  You were a good guy!

 

Postlogue

When I got the profane message from Randel, I sent it out to everybody on his address list…the cleaned up version, along with my comments.
For a long time, I did not hear from anybody on the list.  I didn’t know any of them except my friend Dennis (bullettk), and for all I knew they agreed with him and approved of his blast at me.  Then, weeks later, I got the following from one of his addressees:

“Bert, This is Bob O’Keefe….I was the one Jim ask how to send an email so someone could not see the other addressees.  I wondered at the time what he was up to.  So know, Jim is not that clever on email. [This is a response to my comment that “clever Jim” was blind copying me…Bert] As for the lies he sends out….he believes everyone is as stupid as he is.  I honestly think he believes a lot of that junk and as for the rest he DOES like to spread lies.  He defends a President who started a war that we can’t win.  How do you when it is the infidel invading a Muslem country?  He refuses to accept the fact that President Bush is responsable for the largest deficit spending of all time.  5 Trillion in the hole going into this presidency and now 8 Trillion and counting.  I down loaded and printed for him the deficit spending under the Presidents going back to the 1800s.  He refused to accept the fact that Reagan’s 8 years and Bush I’s 4 were responsible for such a high percentage of the 5 Trillion.  This from so called conservative politicians.  He doesn’t give a damn that his children and grandchildren will have to pay for same.  It’s OK as long as its not him that pays the taxes to support the current expendatures.

PS  I voted for Reagan both times…I had hoped he would be able to pull off his 3 step program.  ie 1. cut taxes, 2. increase military spending, 3. pay for same by cutting out waste in goverment.  As we all know (and maybe Reagan knew up front) number 3 didn’t get done…so we had the hugh deficit.  When assholes like Jim say Democrats tax and spend…they should add Republicans don’t tax and continue to spend.”

 

Here are my final thoughts on this whole episode:

I have thought a lot about the Internet, and how it has affected my life and the lives of everyone in the world.  I believe we have only begun to realize the full extent of its influence on our lives…on our culture, commerce and communication.  I think it is one of those monumental developments in human history that will change the way we live in very fundamental ways.  The magnitude of its impact will be as great as inventions like the wheel, printing press,  automobile, airplane and nuclear power.  Like all of these things, it has great potential for both good and mischief…for use and and abuse.

At this point, the Internet is a pretty chaotic mess, with spammers, phishers and others who fill it with misinformation, hate, pornography and blatant aggressive advertising, to say nothing of the viruses, worms and spyware that they plant on your computer for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

Even so, the benefits are still immense.   The easy access to almost unlimited information on any subject you can name, and the enhanced communications with friends and relatives are things I now take for granted.  The world had no such capabilities as recently as ten years ago.  I have never been as well informed about as many subjects as I am now.

That freedom of access and use is wonderful…and terrible.  Some individuals are not satisfied with enjoying the benefits of the Web.  They must turn it to their own advantage, even at the expense of others, or, worse yet, devise schemes to harm others through its facilities for no apparent reason other than some sadistic satisfaction.  Such people are a small minority, but as with terrorists…which they really are…it only takes a few to cause great damage and disruption.

I am not suggesting that Randel is a terrorist, but he…and lots of others like him…are using the Web to spread misinformation to further some personal agenda.  The end seems to justify the means, even if it is dishonest.  I believe Jim is basically a decent person.  How can he rationalize such behavior?  I have no idea, but he has a lot of company doing the same thing.

Debunking the junk that I get on the Web has become a sort of hobby with me.  I realize that it’s the tiniest finger in a huge and porous dike holding back a sea of sewage.  But it’s something that has become a bit of an obsession with me.  I suspect, though, that this little caper was probably a futile effort.  It is unlikely that Herm’s actions convinced Randel to change his ways.  I will probably never know the outcome.  I suppose it doesn’t matter much.  I don’t think I will ever do anything like this again.  It’s a little too devious and manipulative for me to be comfortable with it.

When I started this “project” I made a promise to myself that I would not do anything to hurt Jim Randel or increase his stress level…beyond what his own conscience would dictate.  He has enough health problems now, and I didn’t want to contribute to them.  I believe I have kept that promise.

After all the effort, I simply had to share this with a few people.   I hope you have found it entertaining, and maybe even a little informative.  And now I must ask you to help me keep my promise and never disclose any of this to anyone who might have even a remote connection to Jim.  I do not want him to know about this.  Ever.

FINAL NOTE: I have no idea if Jim is still alive. This was written quite a few years ago, and he was in failing health at that time.

 

Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan engineering school, and then pursued a career in software design.  He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects.  His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two.  Many of his writings are posted on his web site, bigelowbert.com.  You can contact him at bigelowbert@aol.com.

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