Spamfoolery: Why it’s Good to be Bad

"When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better." - Mae WestAll war is based on deception. – Sun Tzu

Spam. We hate it. We curse it. We dread the moment, every morning, when we open our inbox to a flood of the most mundane, inane and insane group of drivel that a thousand monkeys typing at a thousand keyboards could hammer out. We CTRL click and hit Delete with prejudice as we wipe the contents from our hard drives, feeling the kind of dirty that a thousand showers can’t wash away. When we meet at the coffee machine, we share our horror stories in a Kumbayah-inspired moment with our coworkers. And just when we think it’s safe to go back into cyberspace, we get home at night only to be barraged with a whole new set of crayon-inspired messages from pretend deposed princes, fake ailing widows and shady imaginary lawyers.

What’s an honest, Steve Jobs-fearing IT professional to do? It seems that we can’t wipe away the dirt, no matter how much effort we put into it. In a war that appears to have no discernable end, we might be inspired to move to a desert island and reinvent the Internet using a couple of coconuts strung together with twine and connected to iPads fabricated out of bamboo; but that’s not practical and batteries made of bananas just don’t pack the same power as Li-ion polymer. Besides – and sorry for the generalization – most tech people don’t do sun very well and the rich tan of a desert island is sparse solace compared to the pasty white glow we work so hard to nurture as we’re bathed in the glow of our tanning beds – computer monitors. We toil away in our organization’s headquarters, buried deep underground like so many orcs and trolls, as if they put us there to contain us and make us prisoners. All the while, we curse spam and hate it for what it represents.

Don’t Hate the Player – Hate the Game

I don’t know why a player wanna hate T 
I didn’t choose the game, the game chose me 
– Ice T

It’s easy to dole out the significant amount of spite we feel toward the individuals who concoct these ridiculous schemes. It’s more difficult to accept the fact that the game, for lack of a better word, wasn’t devised by any one person. A game is what spam has become, the sheer mediocrity of the schemes making it all-too-obvious that while a great deal of thought and planning has not gone into most of them, these schemes are still somehow designed to defeat us. At very least, they irritate, a mosquito that just can’t be swatted. At very worst, they are effective enough to cause some serious damage, both financially and organizationally.

It would be wrong to hate any one individual who targets us, the same way it would be wrong to turn down a meal because there was broccoli on the plate and you didn’t like broccoli. Even if the meal is terrible, hating broccoli won’t really help you know that the meal is terrible. Indeed, if there is any one thing worth hating, it’s the way that spam has infiltrated our society like the social disease it is. The less savory qualities of humanity – greed, deception, indifference, apathy – are the true villains here and truly worthy of our disgust.

It’s Okay to be Bad – Just Don’t be Seen

If the enemy is in range, so are you. – Murphy’s Laws of Combat

If spam has taught us anything over the handful of years it’s been around, it’s that the worse the spam, the better it is. I’m using ‘bad’ here not in the sense of malevolence, but in the sense of ineptitude. If spam truly is a game – and I believe it is – then it’s no secret that spammers are the worst gamers in history. I hope someday to meet all of them on the battlefield in Call of Duty because there are some easy XPs there, and I could work off some frustration at the incalculable hours spent dealing with their frivolous crap.

It’s because spam’s so bad that it’s actually good. Spam is so obvious that it would be laughable – if it didn’t give us headaches. Unfortunately, we may be facing a world of hurt in the future, because the spammers are getting better at what they do. Let’s face it: we shouldn’t worry about the enemies we can see coming. It’s the ones we can’t see that should concern us.

Written by Malcolm James


  1. Craig Campbell · August 24, 2011

    I agree that spam is so bad that it’s good (for them and for us). On our end, it’s easier to root out and eliminate, on their end, it requires very little foresight or apparently proofreading, and allows them to churn it out quickly and constantly. It’s an odd duck, and one that tends to be a nuisance, but I’ve always said I’d rather fight a persistent primitive enemy than a calculated, patient foe.

  2. Rico Miskovitz · August 26, 2011

    If there’s one thing spam has thought me all throughout these years is that you should not be too trusting. Most spam nowadays contain attachments that when clicked or opened spells trouble for you.

    Just last month, I learned a very important lesson – never open an email which Apple Mail has labelled as spam (even if that email was sent by a person you personally know).

    In that email, I clicked a link that redirected me to a website that I thought was my online bank. To make the story short, I have to reset my bank account and replace my ATM card number, which took almost two weeks to process. What a hassle. I was not able to withdraw for almost 12 days.

  3. Jamie Campbell · August 26, 2011


    Thanks for sharing that story. It is difficult to tell what’s safe and what’s not, as the spammers get smarter. Hope you got your account back!

  4. Jamie Campbell · August 26, 2011

    Wise words, Craig! More people should think like that – maybe the spammers would go away if we were all more vigilant.

  5. Carl Gorel · August 30, 2011

    It shows strength to see the good in bad things. Spam is bad but as Rico notes, it did us good by making us more responsible – or at least this part of us who know not to touch an attachment in a spam message. Yeah, I have to agree that spam made us wiser.

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