Cris Mooney
A Personal
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"Of course, that's just my opinion, and I may be full of shit"
- Dennis Miller -

Since this opinion was considered in great detail, it will be difficult to change my mind. However, it's not impossible. I am always open to reason. I welcome well thoughtful, logical, response.

Recorded March 1, 1998 -  Minor Link Updates October 19, 2010

Chain Mail (opinion)

(or..Hey buddy, get a clue)

Chain Letter: "A letter directing the recipient to send out multiple copies so that its circulation increases in a geometric progression as long as the instructions are carried out." - Webster's

I am strongly opposed to chain letters, especially electronic. They are mostly fraudulent, preying on P.T Barnum style suckers, at the expense of all of us. Even if they are just for fun, they are potentially dangerous and at minimal "litter". Anyone who sends me a message of that sort, will find me responding with a ripping response appropriate for anyone spreading such a disease. They should have used their brain, before they acted. NEXT TIME, THEY SHOULD THINK!

If you are here, and do nothing else, please read this page about chain letters in general, and here about even more offensive lies and hoaxes.

The bottom line is NEVER forward copies of a letter you have gotten, without thinking about it in great detail. It is far too easy to forward junk in this environment, and such activity is becoming a painful blight on our society (you know, also don't throw your trash out you car window, it is all part of being an adult).

Especially, do not forward copies of a letter that asks you to forward it to a bunch of people (duh!). And, if you must forward anything, ALWAYS be sure that you investigate the content rather than forwarding dangerous lies, fraud, or other viruses. If you don't know where it came from, and can't verify the facts quickly, then it is probably bogus, so don't go forwarding it (duh!). Ask yourself: why are they making all these claims without references to reputible sources to back up their claims? It only takes a second for them to add links to resources that would support their causes.

Links to resources like these: HoaxBusters, VMyths

Very often, it is also sufficient just to cut a key part of a sentence that looks unique, or the email subject, and search on it at Google (enclose it in double quotes to tell Google to look for the eact words in that order). Consider this search: "one alive today will ever see this again" ... it doesn't take long to find it is an "Urban Legends and Folklore" (and to see how many fools have been, well, fooled).

If you must forward some mail, at least take the time to clean up all the extraneous "FWD:", ">", and "private" email addresses that are contained in the letter. If you are too damn lazy to do that or it is not worth the effort, and you forward it anyway, then you deserve what comes to you -- and hopefully it will be me with an ax.

If you are tempted to propagate a chain letter, then this web page is directed at you. If your motivation is one of superstition, then please read this page as well. Further, Rob Rosenberger constantly provides excellent information that helps teach us how to think, and helps avoid fraud.

Also be aware that any time you open up an attachment to mail, that action might have ramifications. When you open up an attachment, you potentially authorize the attachment to take control of your computer. In such a case (Melissa example at ZDNet, PCNet and CERT), the attachment might forward multiple copies. Thus opening an attachment could activate chain mail. So, never open any attachment without knowing exactly what it is! Never! (Any attachment could be any sort of virus, thus you should ALWAYS be careful opening attachments).

One can recognize a chain letter because it has no clear terminating condition (everyone who gets it is supposed to send it on to an undefined list). Great danger lies in that. Moreover, since each individual sends to more than one recipient, chain letters are "geometric" in progression (deadly!) They become especially dangerous when the cost to each individual in the chain is reduced to nothing, as in email where you can forward to a pre defined list without delivery fees. At least with AIDS you usually have to convince someone to let you fuck them, and that slows the progression. The result is an unreasonable burden placed on a limited shared resource, in this case the Internet. 

Note that it doesn't matter is the chain letter claims to be selling "good luck", "make money fast", or "save this (thing) by signing the petition". None of these are real; all are constantly employed by scam artists; and all are dangerous. 

For most chain mail, the participant's objective in forwarding the mail to obtain something for nothing (or next to nothing). Without considering, or in their ignorance or greed, what they fail to recognize is that the cost is borne by society when they irresponsibly subject our shared mailing system to a geometric threat. Either that, or they are malicious (Melissa shut down Microsoft email for a day). If we do not all pay with a total system failure, at least we pay with reduced (wasted) performance. All for nothing, because chain letters are fraudulent by design. No wonder I can't ver get anything done around here.

History is full of geometrically propagating events crashing computers, even ones that have resulted in the entire Internet grinding to a halt. Almost all computer viruses ever created are based on this principal. People like myself waste a lot of time working to thwart such threats, and I consider it my obligation to draw attention to the issue in much the same way medics discuss AIDS. 

The odds are very, very, great that the original author of a chain mail message was a "crasher" who created this "virus", relying human weakness to obtain something for nothing, with explicit objective of damaging the Internet mail system. If this was not the authors explicit purpose, it was almost certainly the result of an ignorant and mischievous "child" playing with something they do not understand - with debatable objectives. 

In a geometric progression each individual in the progression that passes on the "virus" is the "origin" for a whole new progression, and thus equally as responsible as the original author. Thus, I voice my disapproval with strong emotion. Moreover, I object to being exposed to the virus in the casual way (a random address in someone's address book). 

Though I appreciate the reasonable opinion that the sky is not falling, I still believe that the end of the world as we know it may very well be the result of a geometric virus of some sort: nuclear, biological, or electronic. The only thing that stops the sky from falling, is that there are enough people hat understand the problem and do something to prevent it. So, is it my objective to do what I can to educate the ignorant on this subject, without going so far as to disrupt the world in the process. It still remains that if Melissa could shut down God's (Microsoft's) email for a day, what is next?

If you do not agree with me, then you are not thinking about this seriously - you are playing with fire. That is irresponsible.