Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Internet is not America

Okay, the temptation became too strong. I tried not to write this post, but it would be written. And it is a bit of a rant. Sorry.

I got an email this morning, asking me to blog about a certain matter. Nothing unusual in this. I often get such emails. People want their cause/event/publication promoted and approach bloggers who address related issues, asking them to give the cause/event/publication a plug. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't.

On this occasion, not only will I not, I have taken offence. On this occasion, the writer didn't even bother to check whether I was a suitable candidate, or whether this blog was a suitable vehicle for his cause.

The email mentioned someone that I (and you - yes, you were mentioned too, albeit not by name) had probably not heard of but should have heard of (apparently), because he's done something rather marvellous... in America.

All manner of issues relating to US politics were cited and (apparently) I should consider these things terribly important. So important, that I should do you the service of bringing them to your attention. I was even offered the opportunity to interview this person for your benefit and edification.

So let us pause for a moment and consider how desperately a South African girl living in England wants to delve into the machinations of American politics.

The answer - of course - is not at all.

I know that I have American readers, and if you're one of them, I hope that you're not offended that I have chosen not to try to inform you about the future of your own country. If you are not American, but are fascinated by their politics, I trust that you have far more reliable sources of information than this blog.

If (like me) you are not American and have only a passing interest in US politics, then perhaps (like me) you are irked by the occasional assumption that cyberspace is US territory.


John Zurovchak said...


Please don't hold all of us Yanks accountable for such boorish behavior. I applaud your push back against this type of blanket request for publicity. I place such requests in the same basket with the frequent emails from Nigeria that I receive about the money I somehow left in their national banking system!


Karyn Romeis said...

@John I wouldn't dream of tarring you all with the same brush. I wouldn't dream of calling you 'Yanks' either ;o)

Oddly enough, my emails about money now come from Burkina Faso. Perhaps the philanthropists moved from Lagos to Ouagadougou. Isn't it exciting that all this money is just lying there, waiting to be claimed? I think I should accept their offer and retire on the proceeds. What do you reckon?

Tim Bray said...


I can really appreciate your dilemma. My colleagues and I discuss this assumption quite often. It has even taken root in my international school. We are in Korea, but have a holiday for US Thanksgiving... Huh? We don't get a day off for Canadian Thanksgiving, even though about 30% of our teachers are from Canada. What's that all about, eh? (In a poorly done British Columbia accent.) I've been living outside the States for 13 years and still can't believe how often people who know me do the same type of things that were done to you. I mean, they know I don't live in the US -- why would I comment or care about the person, policy, etc. Anyway, my sympathies and apologies for the arrogance of my fellow citizens.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Tim That is it exactly! However, you don't need to apologise for your fellow-citizens (heck, then I'd have to start apologising for some of mine!). At the risk of calling to mind an old and rather feeble joke, I have many American friends who are well informed... even those who are not well-travelled.

However, if you're up for a wry chortle, check out this post, especially the closing anecdote.

V Yonkers said...

Do you think they thought you were American, it was just a computer generated message based on readership (do you have a number of American readers), or someone that googled the issue and you came up at the top of the page?

I currently don't answer my phone in the middle of the day as there are those obnoxious phone calls from politicians as we near election day. What is even more disturbing are the computer generated polls (press 1 if you are planning to vote in the up coming election, 2 if...).

I just can't help wondering what they hoped to accomplish???!!!

Karyn Romeis said...

@Virginia The email appears to have been sent by a real, live person, because I sent a rather pointed reply and got a response.

However, he may simply have been using the results of some computer algorithm to identify me. I do have a number of American readers, but my location and/or nationality are not difficult to establish.

I can understand your reluctance to answer your phone. If it's someone who really wants to talk to you, no doubt they will either leave a message or contact you by some other means.

I think it's possible in the UK to have a service that blocks telemarketing and/or canvassing calls. I would have thought that there was such a service in the US, too. If it gets too bad, perhaps you should look into it.

V Yonkers said...

Actually, we do have laws that allow you to be put on a "no-call" list (which we are part of). However, political messages are exempted.