On cures that are worse than the disease

Tuesday, 22 April 2003, 2:41 AM EST

How much electronic annoyance can you take?

If you're like me, a lot.

Take, for example, spam for anti-virus software. In a sublime and almost beautiful upending of the natural state of electronic affairs, a-v spam overtook and then rocketed past the number of actual viruses arriving at my inbox. Norton, McAfee, Panda Amanda and "Beware the Black Hole Worm Virus, Secure Your PC" -- for the love of God, Montresor, stop! What in Sam Hill, anyway, is the Black Hole Worm virus?

I don't buy that anyone, even cabbage, is moved by spam to purchase a-v software, no matter what the deal. Anti-virus advertising penetration reached a practical maximum years ago. Who could be persuaded by such things?

The unreasoning, regular arrival of the stuff convinces me that only people who had turned themselves into loathsome machines for unguessable reasons could be behind it. What could those reasons be? Profound mental illness? Third-stage syphilis? A raging bennies addiction? A soul-selling pact with the Great Cthulhu?

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