Bill Murchison

So, this morning, whom should I hear from, via e-mail, but TNG, seeking to set up 15-cent-per-minute conference calls for me?

Next came Angela Marrion, offering to "get creditors off (my) back." Joy Dill signaled her readiness to ship me Phentermine, Viagra or Soma "totally free" -- assuming I read her right. (The message could be understood as promising "totally free" pharmaceuticals, an unlikely prospect.)

And, yes, there was news from Jarnett Yoder, but I won't divulge in a family publication exactly what commercial transaction Brother Yoder was proposing we enter into. I will merely say it wasn't illegal.

Ah, the "spam" level is rising, as is the country's indignation level.

Legislatures are moving to outlaw spam, unsolicited advertising via e-mail. Calls are heard daily for the federal government to Do Something and Do It Now. Anti-spam services are stepping forward. Earthlink, I believe, is filing lawsuits against some of the worst perpetrators.

Where does it all end? My own instinct is to believe it doesn't. So long as there is something somebody believes someone else might be induced to buy, there will be advertisements of one sort or another -- most likely, many sorts. Spam is the latest manifestation.

What a mess, yes! You call up your e-mail. Yikes -- one dumb solicitation after another. How do these people get your address? (My own, I must admit, is public -- flamboyantly displayed, here and there, at the top or bottom of the column.)

On noting that you have once again been spammed, you have two options, as I make it out: You can immediately delete the item in question, or you can open it and "unsubscribe." Taking the first course is obviously quicker, but failing to unsubscribe renders you, theoretically, susceptible to hits from the same spammer. On the other hand, do you really know he isn't going to hit you again under another name? A third option is actually to read the Viagra offers and such like before deleting them. Each to his own.

Precisely what kind of regulation could improve the situation is hard to say. Human experience with regulation shows that for every problem it clears up, another one (unforeseen, of course) generally arises.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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