Ionic Column -- May 1997
Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a TPC member from 1986. A frequent contributor to the AJ, he was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990 and began the Ionic Column in 1992. This column has won a prize and an honorable mention in newsletter awards. To the Tokyo BBS community, he now lives in virtual cyberspace and teleports textually over the ether. On the physical level, he currently lives and works in Düsseldorf, that part of Germany that most resembles Japan.
In the last Ionic Column I made some comments about cyber-sex and porn via the Internet. Here I have a breath-taking example.
Subj: Child Sex!!
Date: 96-10-20 23:35:40 EDT
Hi! I sent you this letter because you were on a list of email addresses that fit this category. I am a collector of child pornography, and over the past 3 years, I have gathered quite a large collection. I am now selling these pictures, (or trading for other pics) to anyone who is interested. You can get them on normal kodak pictures, or get them on the computer in either GIF or JPG format. I have created a catalog of all my products. There are many video tapes, pictures, posters, and audio recordings in the catalog. I have boys ages 7 to 17, and girls ages 4 to 19. I have action shots, still shots, shower shots, sleeping shots, etc. Anything you can imagine, I have taken pictures of. If you send me your picture, I can morph your face into one of the action shots to make it appear you are the one actually having anal intercourse with one of my young boys. These are just a few of the services I provide. For $2.99, if you send me your name, I can have one of the boys moan your name several times, and record it onto an audio cassette for you!
If you are not supposed to be on this mailing list, then I greatly apologize for the mix up. Please delete this letter. You will not receive another letter by me or my company.
(Address in Jackson Heights, NY.
No telephone or fax number.)
Why, thank you, Steve, how kind of you to think of me! By the way, is that your real name? I am impressed in your boldness in revealing your personal preferences and unconventional predilections in public. I likewise wonder if the street address given is real, and whether law enforcement officers went around there hot-foot, but somehow I doubt it. I also doubt they would find the piles of videos, diskettes and photos, or even the hapless little boys. Just some very puzzled neighbours and a bulging mailbox in an empty apartment?
"Hi! I sent you this letter because you were on a list of email addresses that fit this category."
How sweet of you, Steve! I don't where you got this list from, but I rather think that you merely dredged the Internet and Compuserve for addresses. Mailing lists of "guaranteed" addresses are offered regularly; your guess is as good as mine as to what they are guaranteed for. I have also seen offers for people to read through e-mail and sift "hot" e-mail addresses out of the general lists, looking for particular topics of interest.
Or were you perhaps implying that I have been caught snooping on the Internet in the more dubious areas relating to personal relationships? And in case that does not work, you carefully include the standard disclaimer about having made a mistake and not bothering me again. Let's just call it the "Spam Mantra," guaranteed to ward off the evil spirits of the Internet and placate the ruffled. It may even work.
A great deal of junk e-mail such as this cannot be answered by hitting the "Reply" button in my mail reader. As I mentioned previously, many Internet hopefuls seem to believe that I am willing to dial an 800- number to listen to a taped sales spiel. Others refer you to a different Internet address, stressing that a simple "Reply" will not work. It often fails anyway, even without any such comments. Yet another route is a fax number or a Web homepage address. I resolutely ignore anything that cannot be answered by e-mail.
Needless to add, America OnLine and Compuserve most certainly did not approve of this, and are probably trying to track down to Mr. Barnard, alias Phetish741, or at least, keep him out. Or so I sincerely hope. My terse reply to Phetish741 was not received, which was hardly surprising, since he had used one of the techniques referred to by many vendors of e-mail software and mailing lists. They claim to help you bypass the limits on the numbers of messages or censorship of the contents, etc. They also state that you can do this in a way that cannot be traced back to you. Phetish741 evidently did all this. Don't ask me for the details of how this done, but you have probably seen such messages too if you have an online account.
Now for the part that is both funny and sinister.
"If you send me your picture, I can morph your face into one of the action shots to make it appear you are the one actually having anal intercourse with one of my young boys."
Tell me, Steve, are you for real, or are you a policeman working a "sting" operation? Not only do you get the address of your customers, but even a photo, if you are lucky!
This just took my breath away. Who on earth would want to send a photo of themselves to a total stranger, asking them to produce a photo that would be highly embarrassing at best? I don't know if you could be arrested on the basis of such a photo, but try explaining that one away; "No, officer, I never touched him, never even met him, actually, it's just a photo, it never happened..."
The possibilities do not end there. Want to embarrass somebody you don't like? Just send their photo and leave it to Mr. Barnard to add his artistic touch. Of course, you would have a libel suit and no defence, so perhaps you should reconsider it.
The current crop of morphing and graphics editing programs allow you to do things like this image composite with great ease, and not all that much skill is required. In my student days I did a lot of photography, including darkroom work. With a lot of experience and practise you could produce a passable photo-montage, although not a very convincing one. Try balancing the density, the contrast and the lighting, and then air-brush out the joins. Not easy. Want to remove something or somebody? Filling up the space left requires real artistic talent and deftness.
Perhaps the most famous example of this is a photo of Lenin in 1920, speaking from a podium. Most versions do not show Trotsky, or at least, not until recently. Soviet-era news pictures had to be regularly edited to expunge the politically-undesirable after a top-level reshuffle, and other Communist countries did the same.
In the same vein, I saw an ad a few months back for a service that offered to digitize your photos and edit them to remove unwanted people. This goes beyond editing out common photographic faux pas, such as standing in front of something that appears to be growing out of your head like a pair of antlers. No, this is Soviet-style revisionism. The embarrassing ex-boyfriend / girlfriend / spouse is removed from the records as if they had never existed. The ultimate compliment. Or insult?
A fairly recent example of faking a photograph to embarrass somebody occurred in France about a decade ago. Somebody took a porno photograph and replaced the features of the woman on it with the face of the premier's wife. In a lighter vein, advertisements and record covers often use the same superimposition technique. One example is the Crash Test Dummies cover for "God Shuffled His Feet", where the faces of the band are seamlessly superimposed onto a 17th-century painting. Ho-hum.
These days I get the impression that most ads use techniques like this. Apart from the air-brushed look, the juxtapositions are sometimes so incongruous that it is clear that much of the final image existed only in the form of pixels. As somebody reported, these days most car ads are a composite of a photo in the showroom and the computer-generated background. One example is a German ad for Opel, showing the car apparently perched on the Great Wall of China. You can be sure this did not require sending the vehicle to China and laboriously getting permission from dozens of government ministries.
To conclude, anyone wanting to send me examples of incongruous or humorous or extraordinary messages is welcome to do so. But no kiddy-porn.
Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573 (or DAParry@compuserve.com) or e-mail by anonymous ftp to ftp.core-ad.co.jp/parry.
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