Joe Queenan: If Only My Spam Emails Were All True

From a Wall Street Journal column by Joe Queenan headlined “If Only My Spam Emails Were All True”:

Every so often I check my spam folder to see if emails from friends or professional contacts somehow got intercepted and rejected by the spam filter. This requires a fast descent into a netherworld of obvious scams and preposterous come-ons, many involving sex. Those emails quickly get purged.

But last week, while going through the folder, I had an electrifying insight. If by chance the come-ons in my spam folder were actually legitimate, my life would improve dramatically and immediately. I would love to receive a free brand-new power drill simply by responding to an online survey. I’d love if somebody would send me a dirt-cheap device that prevents annoying dogs from barking. And I would dearly love to improve my dexterity, credit rating and dental health. Who wouldn’t?

I used to think that people who reflexively click on the links in emails of dubious provenance are ding-dongs. Didn’t they realize that activating those links could expose their computers to malware, ransomware, spyware? Didn’t they know that they were opening the gates to an electronic Trojan horse that could result in stolen credit-card numbers and passwords? Or prevent access to their files? What was wrong with them?

But the more I looked at the products and services being offered, the more I realized that people respond to spam in the first place because it offers a ticket to paradise. What kind of person wouldn’t want to reverse 15 years of hair loss in just 30 days and pay virtually nothing? What kind of stick-in-the-mud wouldn’t want to banish every form of bodily pain merely by watching a short, instructional video that’s just a click away?

And who among us hasn’t asked: “Gee, I wonder if I could sue my neighbors for exposing me to deadly weed killers—and make a bundle off it?” Yet it never would have occurred to me to call my lawyer if I hadn’t gotten that email alerting me to the litigious possibilities generated by seemingly innocuous gardening supplies. Thanks, guys! Wherever you are.

Not everything I found in my spam folder qualified as a product or service I would swoon over. I don’t need to get out of my time-share agreement, if only because I don’t own a time share. And I personally don’t need to upgrade my storm windows; the windows are terrific.

But a way to train my brain to be happier and more productive? Now, that one is almost irresistible. Even though it might be disastrous to do so, I am sorely tempted to click on that video—and the one that will show me how to banish all bodily pain forever.

Luckily, I have several old computers lying around the house that I no longer use. If I switched one on to get my email and just this once clicked on one of the shocking, life-altering, absolutely free links, it wouldn’t matter if doing so would contaminate my computer. It was headed for the junk heap anyway.

By taking this step—a step the so-called “experts” warn against—I would find out once and for all whether there is a miracle cure for arthritic knees and whether my hair can be restored to the thickness and luster it enjoyed 40 years ago. Maybe, just maybe, one of the emails that gets trapped in my spam filter isn’t a complete and utter scam. Maybe more than one. Maybe a whole bunch.

After all, the utter dominion of my hard-hearted spam filter capriciously isolates me from solutions to some of my greatest problems. This suggests a wider conspiracy to shield the public from the truth by making spam appear creepy and unreliable. Who’s to say that Big Pharma isn’t deliberately concealing the obvious remedy to vision loss or balding from me? Who’s to say that the big-shot medical community doesn’t want me to ever find out about a secret, dirt-cheap cure for cancer?

Maybe it’s not the spam that can’t be trusted.

Maybe it’s the spam filter.

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