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Dan's Opinion #2

Green Cards and Spam

by Daniel Tobias

"I do not like green cards and spam;
I do not like them, Martha I Am."

(This line isn't original to me; I swiped it from somebody else's Canter and Siegel information page; I forget whose, but it may be one of the ones I link to below!)

The husband-and-wife legal team of Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel shocked the net back in 1994 by posting their advertisement for immigration services (related to a U.S. green-card lottery) to 6,000 different newsgroups in blatant violation of the rules against off-topic postings, multiple postings, and (in many newsgroups) against commercial advertising in general. This resulted in such a flood of negative mail in response that their Internet provider's machine crashed several times, and they decided to cut off Canter and Siegel's account.

Rather than apologize for their misdeed, however, Canter and Siegel responded with hostility toward the entire net community. They threatened their Internet provider with lawsuits for cutting off their access. They also threatened lawsuits against people on the net who criticized their behavior. (However, as far as I know, they never actually sued anybody, so they seem to be all talk and no action.) And, they continued to engage in their repetitive advertising behavior (known as "spamming" to the net community, after a Monty Python skit in which just about every ingredient in a restaurant's menu is spam).

Finally, they published a book on "How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway," in which they advocated that others do the same thing. Several have followed their advice, and ended up deluged with hate-mail just as Canter and Siegel were. The lawyer team has been kicked off several Internet services due to their actions, but at last report they are operating a firm called "CyberSell" that purports to help clients market on the Internet.

They maintain that the commercialization of Internet is inevitable, and that they should be regarded as pioneers in this field; they called the present net community a bunch of "hackers, pornographers, and forgers" whose concepts of netiquette deserved nothing but contempt. They seem to have hatred for computer enthusiasts, and for young people in general: they dismissed one critical article by saying that the reporter (in his 20s) was just a "kid" and that they were astonished that the Washington Post would hire somebody so young. Apparently, when an article is written by a "kid" or a "hacker," that makes it false on its face, and it is unnecessary to actually refute it with facts.

All of this shows Canter and Siegel to be slimeballs (in my opinion), but I wouldn't have considered them to be worth making any sort of fuss over, except for the latest insult from Martha Siegel. In a recent interview, she has called for government regulation of Internet, saying that this is necessary to stop the "anarchy" that now rules. Regulation (administered by the FCC) is needed to "protect the public."

Protect the public against whom? Obnoxious jerks like Ms. Siegel with her contempt for netiquette? I think anarchy has worked fine against the likes of her. The massive hate-mail reaction she received was simply the net's method of dealing with transgressors through social sanctions rather than legislation. It works. Presumably, she would prefer putting the net in charge of bureaucrats, because government bureaucracies tend to be controlled by scum-bag lawyers similar to Ms. Siegel who could perhaps be counted on to show professional courtesy and overlook her transgressions against the net while throwing the book at all who retaliate against her (via hate e-mail, for instance).

If nothing else, Siegel's call for regulation proves the veracity of H. L. Mencken's dictum: "Whenever 'A' seeks through law to impose his moral standards on 'B', 'A' is most likely a scoundrel."

Some related links

(There used to be a lot more, but most have gone dead by now)

What folks have to say about Canter & Siegel...

Retaliatory campaigns against 'spammers'... Other links:

This page was first created 25 Apr 1995, and was last modified 13 Feb 2001.
This page is maintained by Daniel Tobias.
To Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel: Don't like this page? So sue me!

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