Number Five

« August 2007 »

I'm on vacation, and while I'm gone, with computers and Net connections in short supply, I'm counting down the Ten Greatest Crimes Against Humanity Committed By The Internet. The series begins here.

We've passed the halfway point. One full week of vacation padding. The five weaksauce Internet crimes against humanity batted out of the way, almost absent-mindedly. Now we get to the big guns. The ones that not only make you hate the Internet, and hate Al Gore for inventing it, but actually makes your hate travel in the bed of Ted Stevens' truck and lash out at each individual IP address representing each individual idiot the global information superhighway has enabled you to learn about.

Like that fucker that just forwarded the urban legend about the telecom scam to the guy in the next cubicle.

Don't get me wrong. I fully support the decision by the developers of e-mail software to include a "Forward" button in their software. I just wish they'd gone the extra mile and hooked it up to deliver some kind of moderate electric shock to the user when it was pressed, is all.

Then, maybe, people would pause for the second or two necessary for Aunt Janet to ask herself if her sister REALLY needs to read about the brave Christian students who (didn't actually) die rather than renounce God at Columbine. If Aunt Janet had to balance a couple hundred volts at 20 milliamps against a heartwarming lie, maybe the bitch would check Snopes first. I'm just saying.

It is established scientific fact that there has never, in human history, been a single e-mail that has been both forwarded two or more times and been of any use to anybody ever. Think back over your own sordid e-mail history. Think back to e-mails you've received with nested greater-thans stacked ten deep. Think back, perhaps, to e-mails you've forwarded along because you thought they were funny.

Every single one of those e-mails wasted somebody's fucking time and made the Internet a worse place. Each one of them is part of a giant, aggregate, Von Neumann crime against humanity. It's worse than spam. Because at least spam is inherently malicious. But if you printed out every "read this and thought of you" e-mail that's ever been sent over the Internet, you could pave the road to Hell twice over and still have enough raw material for some nice benches and an Orange Julius or two along the way.

None of them are true, and none of them are funny. Because even if there is one that's true or one that's funny, the giant morass of all the unfunny lies distributed this way reduce that individual e-mail's comedy or truthfulness content to EFFECTIVELY ZERO. It's like orange juice in the ocean. You know there's gotta be some of it in the ocean, but in the end it all just tastes like saltwater.

And if everyone who's ever forwarded an e-mail to someone else needs to fuck off a little bit, imagine how much the people who MASS-FORWARD need to fuck off. I'll give you a hint, it's a lot more. Because if forwarding an e-mail is jaywalking, mass-forwarding an e-mail is mowing down a bunch of pedestrians while you're drunk.

If you've passed along one e-mail to more than three family members at the same time, you're part of the problem. If you've forwarded anything you've gotten to your entire team, entire department, or dear sweet merciful fuck the organization's "To All" address, feel free to self-flagellate for the rest of the day. I guarantee you your co-workers will help. Especially because, when you do that, you will inevitably send it to someone who's a lot smarter than you are, and who therefore knows, without looking, that whatever you sent is a lie. And then they have to try and explain that to you, knowing full well that you will be defensive and try to justify it.

Dumb people forwarding e-mails make smart people suffer the most. And if that ain't a crime against humanity, I don't know what is.