Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I heard once about a trial lawyer who used bumper stickers when interviewing potential jurists. In addition to the long list of the usual juror questions, he would ask the candidates if they had any bumper stickers on their cars. Evidently the lawyer thought he could tell a lot about a candidate who was willing to glue a “My Daughter is an Honor Student at Westphalia High” on his car as opposed to “I’m Not Ignoring Your Honking—I’m Just Reloading.”

Interesting theory—I don’t know if it can be proven. However, I am willing to take it one step further and have the trial lawyer ask the potential candidates if they ever forward spam emails (the “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:” type). I think you can tell a lot about a person by the spam they foist on unsuspecting friends, relatives, and various address book recipients.

Take, for example, the emails that try to guilt you into forwarding the message: “If you’re really my friend, you’ll prove it by forwarding this email to ten more people including me, and I’ll get your email back—and that’s how I’ll know if you’re really my friend.” Or “If you don't forward this email, a little girl in Paraguay will die a horrible death with puss-filled boils and lesions covering the inside of her mouth—and her death will be directly on your shoulders.” My personal guilt-inducing favorite is, “If you forward this, you prove that you love Jesus (or God or the Ten Commandments). If you don’t forward it, you are ashamed of Jesus and you’ll burn in the fiery depths of hell for all eternity.” Guilt, guilt, guilt—delete, delete, delete.

Or how about the inspirational stories—the dog that led 100 people to safety in the World Trade Center (never happened), the kidnapped teenager (started the story himself), or the Iraq war amputee Purple Heart winner who still flies a flag 24/7 in a spotlight outside his home while singing “Proud to be an American? ” (he doesn’t exist) Even though these stories are easily verifiable by checking on one of those spam websites like Snopes.com or truthorfiction.com, people would rather just hit the forward button on their distribution list and send them on their way.

There is dirty joke spam, funny photo spam, patriotic spam, left-wing spam, right-wing spam, my-wing-is-better-than-your-wing spam, warnings about real or imagined dangers spam, National Geographic inspirational scenery photo spam, Obama-is-a-Muslim spam, religious spam—but spam by any other name is spam nonetheless.

A window to the psyche? Trial attorney jury selection material? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that we are in the address books of people who firmly believe that if they send an email on to five people in the next 15 minutes and wait for 36 hours while hopping on one foot and rubbing the top of their head at the same time, that unbelievably good (unnamed) things will happen to them. And if they don’t send that same email on, a plague will come to their land, and they will die, writhing painfully in a hospital charity ward . . . that is, if their computer doesn’t contract a virus first. Or maybe they can just avoid jury duty.

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