This morning was another watershed moment for me in my life as a political blogger. I woke up early, about 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time, very agitated. Maybe I had some sixth sense that something was up — although I need no special reason to wake up less than serene. Those of you who know my story a little, know that I had recent hip surgery, am undergoing dental surgery, and have also been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. So, I have plenty of things to concern me, and I frequently wake up in pain. And all this is apart from personal issues, like plans to move to my own apartment, things like that. Plenty of change, lots of challenge, that I hope that I’m up to. Quite frankly, there are days I have my doubts.
My blogging has always been, among other things, an escape from these mundane and frequently unpleasant activities of the “real world.” I love to write, that’s the foundation of all of this. And I’m passionately concerned about the state of my beautiful country, in the Age of Trump. I’m a proud American, and I know that all of you are, too. People don’t read political sites, unless they are intelligent, aware, and seeking to become more informed. A lot of us here are activists, or have been in the past. More than a few of us here have met our representative or senator. Our fellow zoomer, Shockwave, even met Donald Trump himself, here in Los Angeles. Hint: he didn’t like him way back then and also, Trump is not 6’3″. That’s yet another one of his deceptions. Obviously, he wants you to think he’s a much bigger man than he is, on all levels.
In any event, my worldview altered slightly, but significantly, nevertheless, in the early hours of Thursday morning. Lots of times when I wake up early, in this case, nudged by back pain, I take advantage of it and read what’s just hit from Washington Post, Politico, all the sites I religiously read on a daily basis. So I opened up those tabs and then went to PolitiZoom to answer new comments. Lo and behold, I’m replying to somebody, and the teaser mechanism that tells you of recent posts, puts up some bizarre headline that I’ve never seen — and I know damn good and well that neither Murf nor Durrati ever wrote. “Writing Skillfully As Titans From The Ages” followed by “Moving Ahead Through Life’s Knowledge At Writing Performance.” Long story short, there were SIXTEEN of these travesties, written by no one on this site — or any site in this dimension. This was clearly from some patch of the Twilight Zone, where all the inhabitants are cursed with Toxic Illiteracy. Well, Sir, THIS jerked me to full consciousness, like mainlining caffeine and cannabis, while swigging Red Bull.
So, the awful truth dawned, we had been hacked! And this was a spam attack! (Bear in mind that this is the first time this has happened since I took over as editor. Those of you who maintain sites for a living are probably laughing — and well you should be. I’m quite sure I sound ridiculous. I know I did to the brainy techie who designed this site.)
Anyhow, pulse racing, I put through two calls to technical, trying to not sound hysterical, and then went into edit mode and deleted each one of these godawful, horribly written messes — which had nothing to do with politics. That’s what upset me most of all. I would at least have sympathy for somebody who wanted to hack in here and post a piece on anything we actually talk about here — although it’s not necessary to hack, we now have the Community Writing page. And then I became even more upset. We just started the Community Writing page this week and we’ve had two lovely submissions, both from Denis Elliott, so far. So it dawned on me, “My GAWD, are people going to think that THIS shit is from a community writer? And I signed off on it?” OH, NOOOO!!! So, then my blood pressure was soaring. I did not have a good morning. I even took a few moments to snarl in an email to a fellow admin, “Do we have any legal recourse against this shit?” (answer: no) I was at war — and I hadn’t even left my bed. But that’s actually normal for me.
In any event, I deleted the spam, wrote a few pieces, did a little correspondence and went back to sleep. When I woke up, the PolitiZoom Newsletter had launched for the day and I unhappily found out that it included this little ditty, “What Needs To Be Done About What Is Resonance In Chemistry.” Now, check out the caliber of writing here and you’ll know why I was roaring and clawing my fur.
It happens when a system has the ability to store and easily transfer energy between a couple of different storage modes (like kinetic energy and potential energy in the instance of a very simple pendulum). They have a couple of possible electron structures. Should it, draw all the sensible resonance structures and the resonance hybrid.
Reading “prose” this bad, for me, is like fingernails on a blackboard to some people. No, it’s worse than that. It’s more like the scene in Marathon Man, where Dustin Hoffman is getting tortured by the Nazi dentist. What writing this bad does to my literary nerve endings is simply indescribable. If I had to read penned feculance like this every day, I swear I would do an Oedipus Rex and claw out my eyes. Or, I would form a vigilante group, the Verbiage Volunteers, and we would wear superhero costumes and behead the empty-headed, who write this dreck, and save clear writing for the world.
Now, this indescribably bad piece had been opened by a number of people here, and a couple of them even left comments. One noted the blatant illiteracy and opined that English was not the “author’s” first language. Another said, “Why is this even on a political site?” I responded to those queries by saying that this was spam and we had been hacked.
So, as you can see, my purpose in writing this piece, is to share with the entire community, that we have been hacked, and assure everybody that we have not gone insane here. You are never going to read garbage on PolitiZoom — now while I’m still on this side of the grass. You have my solemn vow on that. And if you see any more obviously out of place pieces, do not even even click on them. I’m not sure of the financial mechanism involved, but clicking on a piece leads eventually to ad revenues — which is why we see so many terrible clickbait headlines on the internet, like Meryl Streep getting married to Robert Redford. The mechanism of WTF? is precisely the mechanism these people are trying to activate — I guess. Seems like a hell of a waste of time to me, because the posts don’t last that long and angry site administrators get into action and put up defenses — but on the other hand, volume is everything and more on that in a minute.
Now one thing these spam pieces all have in common is no photographs, so that will be a clue. Bizarre, illiterate title plus no photo — don’t touch it. Unless you really want to see what idiocy is contained therein. Be my guest. But after you glance at the first one, believe me, you’ve seen them all.
Now, as to volume — the common theme among internet crooks is to find the one sucker. I knew a guy, a former pastor of mine, if you can believe it, who actually fell for an internet inheritance scam last year. He believed that somebody in Cote d’Ivoire had actually died and left him $1.8Mil, in a bank in China. And all that he had to do was wire $18,000, ostensibly for “taxes” and the money would be made available to him — on a Visa card, of all things.
Now, if you’ve stopped laughing, yes, the red flags are dancing all over these facts, jumping up and down in rainbow neon. And we all tried to tell him this. I even called an old friend of mine from law school, because he knows bankers in China and he assured me this was fraud. And I called one of my law professors, plus a systems analyst friend who knows about scam — and then I called Murfster, because he used to work in cyber security. ALL of them told me this was a scam, and they sent links to sites, which I forwarded on to the guy who thought he was now a millionaire.
The former pastor, I’ll call him Harry, just didn’t want to believe that this was a scam, despite expert witnesses providing him with empirical evidence. In his mind, it was God sending him money for his church — and as long as he had this magical, prosperity consciousness thinking, which I thought was limited to the evangelical wingnuts, but evidently not, he was not going to listen to reality. I’ll tell you the conclusion of that story, because it is a sad testimony to how desperate people will fall for a scam, and how this darkness engulfs innocent people: Harry sent these thieves money, and rendered himself destitute. He was going to be evicted from his apartment, and he called a former parishioner of his, and a friend of mine, a wonderful generous woman I’ll call Kathy. He borrowed $6,000 from Kathy, assuring her it would be returned to her in 72 hours when he got his million dollars — and that was eleven months ago. Kathy has seen $100 from him in the past year. She called me, distraught. She had a bad year selling real estate and the $6,000 she gave him was all she had saved. And she shared with me that her husband hadn’t found out about this yet, and she was understandably terrified of those repercussions. Since her mother is dying and her daughter is in remission from leukemia, she needs no further grief. [BTW, Kathy also met Donald Trump, at a real estate seminar in the 80’s. She told me his handshake was rough and his eyebrows were cruel.] So, the reverberations from these activities send tremors throughout our community and culture and it’s terribly sad. And these thieves on the other side of the world count their money on the beach and laugh at us.
Point being, that hackers and scammers depend on the needle in the haystack, like Harry, the one person in a thousand that will fall for their scam, and it is those people that keep the thieves in business — not only in business, but in swag. Every thousand dollars scammed from a stupid American buys champagne and jewelry, otherwise unaffordable. I know this, because I read a feature article in The Guardian, where they interviewed a former internet scammer — who started out as a hacker, by the way, and then found out where the big money is. Just FYI, ethical hackers, those who hack to test security systems, make $100,000 a year, average. The thieves make a lot more.
What the interviewee said about hacking, spamming, internet fraud, the whole enchilada, is that numbers are everything. Hundreds of millions of messages are sent out into the ethernet. If even a miniscule number of people fall for the scam at hand, the scammers win. It’s a numbers game.
Now, as to other aspects of hacking, I want to give you some assurances. Your personal data is not at risk. Don’t even go there in your thinking. This is something else, entirely, that I’m talking about. I’m speaking of the annoyance of dealing with spammers trashing the website, literally. I need to go in and clean up their trash, by deleting, and if anybody sees it before I clean it, then the reputation of the site is trashed, and that is precisely my motivation in writing to you about this. I want to let you know, no, we have not gone crazy by allowing illiterates to blog on this platform, and be on guard if you see anything peculiar.
Anyhow, friends, fellow zoomers, hopefully we will rid ourselves of these pests before they become an infestation. Generally speaking, these people are a plague. But this is life in the online world. Once you join the big community of the world wide web, and you transform your ideas into illuminated pixels, which you post in a public place, you are tacitly issuing an invitation to the creeps of the world to mess with you. It’s that simple.
Now this notion most probably does not come to you as revelation, but it’s yet another learning experience for me. I was in the first wave of office workers that got PCs on their desks, circa 1984. I was 35 years old in 1984, so the experience of the computer, and then later on the internet, and now the smart phone, are technological advances that I have experienced as an adult. Now, we have kids with tablets learning how to code at a very young age — none of this existed for the boomer generation. And I know boomers who are very tech savvy indeed — and we have many of them on this site. All of this magical, life transforming technology, a computer in everybody’s pocket, has manifested in my lifetime and who knows what else I’m going to see in the years ahead? Now facial recognition software is the new thing, with all its obvious ups and downs.
Point being, it is an axiom of history, that every time a new technology comes along, even if it was designed for the most practical and benign of purposes, the evil exploitation of that technology also comes into existence, either simultaneously, or shortly thereafter. Unlocking the secrets of the atom always held great promise to serve mankind — and the knowledge was immediately perverted into the deadliest weaponry ever conceived.
So, of course, the internet, like Noah’s ark, contains specimens of all types found in human nature — and a lot of those types want to rip off your money. And they design ways to do it. So, what we saw here this morning, and I don’t want to make more of it than it is, was just one more manifestation of PolitiZoom interfacing with the larger world. We may be a little political blog in the shadows, but we’re still big enough to screw with.
Just wanted to give everybody a head’s up. Thank you for letting me share my personal perspective. Okay, gotta get back to work. Trump’s still in Washington, and there’s no rest for me while that’s the case.