Friday, May 18, 2007
"I crave your distinguished indulgence" part 2
In our last episode, antihero Phil Mycrackin, a purveyor of the Nigerian scam, was on display with an embarassing sign - the indication that he had become a victim of the scam-baiters. These intrepid do-gooders seek out the evil con men and women who try to steal our money with email scams and turn the tables on them, tricking the scammers into performing all sorts of demonstrations of gullibility in order to get their hands on the money they seek. Hence, the pages and pages of funny photos found in the "Trophy Room" at 419eater.com - like the one seen here. (Believe it or not, there are something like 2,000 photos on this site.)
The last post also referenced the article in the June Atlantic Monthly where I first learned about these scam baiters. And here's where the other shoe drops. As I am grinning along with the story and imagining the schadenfreude that would come from scam-baiting, the Atlantic article shifts into a collective white guilt theme. Notice that most all the scammers in the trophy room are black, says the story. Doesn't that make you feel bad? Haven't these poor Africans had enough misfortune? Didn't a lot of that misfortune come at the hands of greedy white men? Aren't they just getting back a little of what they've lost? Hmmmm. Suddenly I'm not having so much fun.
But wait - I should feel sorry for these people? Granted they don't live on easy street like most Americans, but is stealing the answer to poverty? If I am poor and want more, the way to get it is to lie and cheat and take it from someone more gullible than myself? What about hard work, getting an education, pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps and all that?
I don't feel much sympathy for email scammers. But there's a funny bit of pscyhology here. No matter how much you may have been wronged, there's a point where your retaliation can go over the top, and you lose the sympathy of the crowd. Especially if you are bigger, stronger, richer or - face it - whiter. Suddenly you no longer a clever table-turner, just a bully.