Every morning when I check my blog the first job is to delete the masses of spam “comments”, empty, meaningless phrases, that have accumulated in just a few hours and vastly outnumber genuine comments. The spammers are trying to sell me viagra, ugg boots, fake watches, handbags, and some are just full of inexplicable computer garbage aimed at damaging your computer. Hard to imagine anyone clicking on any of them even if they did get past the spam filter, but they are sent out in their millions by people unconcerned about the damage they could do to the lives of people fooled into clicking.
Same when checking my email inbox. Full of Nigerian bank accounts, United Nations’ lottery wins, unclaimed parcels, all promising untold riches if only I send my bank account details. Scattered in between are demands that I sort out problems with my bank, tax, web site, just click here and all your problems will disappear. Along with your money.
Different kind of spam spewing out of radios these days. Trash talk pretending to be entertainment. Same with newspapers hacking into the phones of people suffering some tragedy. No concern again for the damage done to the people treated badly. One a few days ago a couple of Australian radio presenters rang the London hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated. The purpose, it has been forgotten in what followed, was to try to obtain confidential information about the patient, her treatment, and condition. To hell with her privacy.
They succeeded in getting through, fooling two nurses, being given the information. What a hoot eh? Except that one of the poor nurses concerned appears to have been so affected she committed she committed suicide. Uproar. Much defence of the radio presenters, who it was said, mainly by other media people, “couldn’t have predicted such a terrible outcome”. True enough, but the original intent was bad. And unintended consequences often flow from using people’s lives for entertainment.
Finally, as if influenced by the flood of spam all around them, political discourse has been turned into spam. Meaningless three word slogans, empty speeches, abusive descriptions of opponents, lies about policy, empty publicity stunts. Discourse full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (did Shakespeare anticipate the coming of an age of spam?). Discourse which must have Eisenhower and Kennedy, Churchill and Wilson, Menzies and Curtin, all spinning away in their graves.
And mindless as it is, this political spam also has consequences. Makes good policy development impossible. Forces good people out of politics. Gets rid of any thought about politics being about intellect and ideas. Intended consequences, for some, it seems.
We seem to be living in, drowning in, an age of spam. And unfortunately some of it can’t be just deleted with the click of a mouse button.