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  • The letter arrived in my email in-box at precisely 11:12 a.m. on November 12, 2011.


    Dear Unknown Recipient,

    Well, actually you’re not unknown. We know all about you. In fact this is the reason you’re receiving this letter.

    This is one of many chain letters that have been circulating the globe since the mid-20th century. We started this process when letters had to be written by hand. Needless to say, this was a royal pain in the butt. However, people like you were worried about the consequences, and they did as we demanded.

    Carbon paper helped a little, but when email finally became universal, it made our menacing procedures much easier to deploy. And don’t get me started on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. They have made it much easier for us to spread the venom that so many people seem to relish.

    OK. Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way.

    Here’s the obligatory “what happened to the unfortunate souls who didn’t follow the demands of this letter.”

    • A powerful congressman (Ways & Means committee, if I recall) from some backwater southern state neglected to send this letter to the required number of people and two weeks later he was found in a D.C. water fountain, drunk, disoriented, nude and soon out of office.

    • A business tycoon who made a fortune falsifying his P&L statements and manipulating the supply of electricity felt he was bulletproof, didn’t resend this letter and the next thing you know the formerly compliant SEC agents swooped in and took him to jail. He died of a heart attack before going to prison. (This guy was really stupid. He could have easily sent this letter as a statement stuffer to every customer.)

    • Then there was the televangelist and his grotesquely-made-up and emotionally unstable wife who were rolling in the contributions until they decided that a simple chain-letter like this one had no effect on their lives. They’re now divorced and living in squalor somewhere in Florida.

    There are millions of other stories, but if you’re as smart as your internet surfing records suggests, you understand that we mean business. Oh yes. We know everywhere you’ve been on the internet. That’s why we invented it. We also know what airplane trips you’ve booked, which movies you’ve downloaded, which coupons at which grocery stores you’ve cashed in, which bars you’ve frequented…well, you get the idea.

    What chain letter would be worth a damn without a demand? Am I right?

    Don’t for any reason let this chain letter die. You must send it to 2,720 friends within the next two days or unspeakable things will happen to you and possibly your family. Plus, you must recite this mantra found in the next paragraph each time you press SEND on these individually sent emails. (Don’t even think of mass emailing this. The spam filters would never let it through!)

    “Chain letters are memes. As memes, they are like genes in an organism. Their only reason for being is to replicate themselves. Memes are spread from brain to brain and are more powerful than any technology.”

    Sincerely,

    (Cut and paste your name and address here)




    Sorry about sending this to you. I don’t really know what to say, other than I can’t afford to have bad things happen to me now. I’m scheduled to go on vacation next week and the kids have all been looking forward to it. I had to find 2,720 people to send this letter immediately. Probably nothing will happen.
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