My Turn
My Mac Magazine #23, March ’97

I got this letter in my e-mail the other day. Now, I’m sure the advertiser did not mean for it to show up in My Mac Magazine, but that is the risk you take if you’re a moron. This has GOT to be the biggest fraud I have ever read about. Let me first share with you the letter, and then give you my reasons why I say that.

Hello, I am Kenneth Kindsteen, Ph.D., a nationally known psychic and I sense an aura of stress emanating from you and I can help you rid yourself of it right now. I want you to make a free call to my Psychic facility and learn today what your future holds for love, family, and money. And before you become skeptical or a non believer about the possibilities for solutions in your life by calling a Psychic, why don’t you just take advantage of THE ONE FREE CALL! Please don’t be afraid. Call right now!

First, as you know, I got this via e-mail. Now, I am no Psychic, and am not even sure I believe in that sort of thing. Truth be told, I have never really thought about it much. No, I am not saying that Psychic abilities are untrue, nor am I saying that I believe in them. I have no opinion on the matter either way. But I do have a problem with THIS person, and this e-mail.

“I sense an aura of stress emanating from you…” his letter says. That emanation you are receiving is from the fact that I pay for my online time and am forced to read garbage e-mail from idiots like you, pal. Besides, this e-mail was sent via bulk rate to thousands of recipients all over the ‘Net. Some of the people reading this in My Mac, I would bet, received the same letter, or one just like it. I bet, Mr. Kenneth Kindsteen, that you did not even know my NAME when you sent this letter. Or where I live. But somehow, magically, you can sense an aura from me? Two words, pal: “Yeah, right!”

As I said, I have NO idea if Psychic abilities really exist or not. I really couldn’t care less either way. I don’t have any, so what do I care? But I assume that if I did have Psychic abilities, I doubt I could “sense an aura…” of anyone I don’t know, never heard of, or the like. I really doubt that my e-mail address radiates an “aura”, let alone one emanating stress. And it is, after all, my e-mail address you know. Not my name. Not my age. Not the type of car I have. Heck, you can’t even tell if I have a DOG or not! But you can sense my stress? Boy, my modem is better than I thought, if it can send e-mail, upload files, and send out STRESS all at the same time!

How did I get on this e-mail list? That is the question, and one I am unable to answer. I think that I am on a master list some company generates, which it in turn sells to marketers who want to reach people to “sell their wares”. The same company must sell my e-mail address to the guy who sells cable TV descramblers and how-to books on “How to tap into a soviet spy satellite.” And, of course, to the weight loss diet programs who send me e-mail once a week. (I’m 150 pounds, and 5’10”. I don’t need to lose weight!)

No, I can’t fault these people for trying to reach as many potential customers as they can. That’s what they do for a living. But I do have a problem when I have to PAY to receive their junk e-mail. And folks, that is just not right. Or is it? After all, you have a TV. You paid for it. You pay to connect to the cable or satellite dish you have. Now, why is it not less legal to be forced to watch those ads? Or when you receive junk postal mail? Hey, the more junk mail, the longer the postal carrier takes to get to your house. (I know, I was a postal carrier for four years) Why is all that accepted as a norm, while junk e-mail is not? Is it a double standard? And why is junk e-mail any worse than visiting Web sites with billboard advertisers? Hey, I’m paying for my online time then, too. Are we, then, talking about double standards? I think so.

E-mail has become something many people cannot live without. It’s the fastest way to communicate via text, next to the FAX and telephone. With an e-mail address, you can subscribe to newsletters, write to your pal in New York, and many more things. You can write to a famous author, who may be more apt to write back via e-mail than he/she would otherwise.

E-mail, as we all know, is great. We all love it. Until, of course, the Mr. Kenneth Kindsteen, Ph.D psychics of the world, use it to try and sell us something. And then we get all in a tizzy, upset that our precious e-mail has been violated by these no good bulk-rate e-mailers. Shame on them for sending you a letter. Shame on them! Hey, you PAY for your e-mail account! What gives them the right to send you anything you did not want or ask for?

Well, folks, I am here to tell you, they have every right, as much as I hate to admit it. And, seriously, there is not much you can do to stop it. You have the right to send e-mail to that famous author I was speaking of. Do you have any more right to send that e-mail than the Mr. Kenneth Kindsteen’s of the world do? I don’t think so. Nor does the cable TV descrambler salesman. But while I myself do not send out bulk-rate junk e-mail to those who do not ask for it, I do not berate those who do. Why? Because they have the right to do it. And we gave them that right. We gave them the right when you agreed that we can send e-mail to anyone we want, regardless of whether they want it or not. If we have that right, then so do they. Double standards, don’t you know.

However, there needs to be a set standard on what you CAN send, and what you cannot. For instance, if someone sends you e-mail you did not want, and it has a file attached to it, then that is wrong. But if it is a small one page document, then okay. Or did I just make a NEW double standard by saying that? Of course, I am all behind a “abeling” system for e-mail, something that would point out whether or not the incoming e-mail is “Junk” or so forth. And I think good e-mail programs should have the built-in ability to ignore said messages if you want it to. Also, if you send e-mail to someone stating you no longer want to receive any e-mail from them, then they should not be able to do so again. But is labeling the answer? If not, what is? What do YOU think is the answer? Write in, and the best responses will be printed here in the months to come.

So, the next time you receive some junk e-mail, remember two things. First, they have the right to send that e-mail to you. Second, you have the right NOT to read it. And that, folks, is My Turn for this month.

Tim Robertson (

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