Spambots Say the Darndest Things

Spambots Say the Darndest Things November 11, 2011

On the day the tech guy upgraded my blog, the following comment turned up in my queue, posted under the name “Daily Deals” :

Outstanding weblog here! Additionally your web page loads up quick! What host are you currently employing? Can I get your affiliate hyperlink for your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

Though obviously placed by a spambot, it looked to have sprung from the mind of a human being — someone who knew how to play to a writer’s fragile ego on one hand, and on the other to affect a casual tone with an abbreviation like “LOL.” Even as I deleted it, I marveled at the creator’s cunning.

Just then, I got another effusive message, this one signed, simply, “here”:

I precisely wanted to thank you very much again. I do not know what I could possibly have carried out in the absence of the type of secrets discussed by you relating to my problem.

Again, whoever or whatever generated the copy all but conquered me with my own wishful thinking. At a single read-through, it could have passed for the work of a foreigner, maybe a struggling staff writer for the India Times. It was with an irrational sorrow at alienating a potential pen pal that I dropped it in the spam bin.

Of course, the spam kept coming. It seemed to me that the ruses of its authors — if that’s the right word — grew subtler by the hour. Sometimes, posts appeared under commerical come-ons, like “Cheap Ugg Boots for Men,“ but often, they pretended to be the work of people with pretty names like “Jacinda” and “Conrad Bellefleur.“ After I posted a piece on Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, some entity calling itself “Domy Warszawa” (which, I believe, means “Warsaw Homes”) referred to Noemi Letizia, an alleged Berlusconi tootsie whose name I hadn‘t seen fit to mention. Then something with the name “Authentic Patrick Robertson Jersey” wrote: “Nice piece, but you need more information.”

The last one really scared me. For one thing, Authentic Patrick was au fait with industry jargon: the term “article” refers to straight news; “piece,” to opinion and analysis. For another, it was right. I really should have included more information to support my thesis. I’d winged it, and Authentic Patrick had caught me out. Spambots were becoming some of my most insightful readers and sharpest critics.

Today, this letter arrived:


I found your website the other day, and I was impressed! Not so much by your knowledge, which — let’s face it — is pretty shallow in most areas of general importance. If it weren’t for Wikipedia, you’d be Texas toast, wouldn’t you? Go on, admit it.

If I’m being honest, I don’t really care much for your style, either. Those rolling sentences of yours exhaust a reader before she gets halfway to the punch line. On the other hand, they do have a certain hypnotic property: by the time I’ve made it halfway through one, I’m no longer entirely sure what you’re saying, so I can’t judge with any confidence whether you’re right or wrong. If that’s the idea, well played, sir!

But — and you’ll kindly forgive me if I go out on a bit of a limb here — there’s more to it than that, isn’t there? This is an era when the people who aspire to lead our society communicate in 140-character tweets and make up new words on the spot. To ape the style of a fossil like, say, Dickens, even badly, is a meaningful act. You’re like Grandma Moses, if Grandma Moses had tried to paint like the pre-Raphaelites. In this, the age of the Special Olympics, you’re a winner just for making the attempt.

Now that I’ve established my bona fides as a well-wisher, can I beg you please, for the love of Mike, to quit speaking of the middle class as though it just stepped off the mothership at Roswell? You may not have had the luck or the talent to remain in it, my fine friend, but you remain its psychological property. Yes, you worked for a time on the ramp at Sky Harbor, or so you’ve written; but that doesn’t make you Terry Molloy. If anything, it makes you the Freddie Bartholomew character from Captains Courageous, crying for homesickness and getting fishhooks stuck in his arm.

While we’re on the subject, Leetle Feesh, quit pretending to be a rebel. You’re not. Your opinions are some of the most blandly mainstream I’ve ever run across in cyberspace. Your thinking is so conventional, you could write a column for the Washington Post. Even your vices are humdrum. Seriously — go check out Salon. Every motherloving day, some woman writes a moving personal essay about how her father showed up in the club she strips in and turned out to be a terrible tipper. Not even they can be called “edgy” anymore, so don’t you try.

None of this is meant to discourage you, Skeezix. David Sedaris has no firm opinions about anything; his sole claim to exoticism is being gay. Big whoop! Who isn’t these days? Yet the middle class — the very group you pretend to be so alienated from — has set the balding twerp on its lap and feeds him one lollipop after another. He spends his time traveling the globe, making fun of red-staters with names like Bonnie and Betty and Binky. Good work if you can get it. You only go around once, so you might as well go for yours.

It was posted under the name “myp2p eu index php part home,” and its MSN e-mail address contains the phrase “calling all lovers of online avid gamers knowing all the ups and downs of the football subject.” I’m not a huge football fan myself, but I think I’m going to look for some sign of this thing on Facebook and try to friend it. Artificial intelligence might be the best kind, after all.

"Saint Joseph of Cupertino.'Nuff said."

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