Sunday, 14 May 2006

Credulity

I've ranted in the past about the stupid untrue "Space Pen" urban legend and about how people like to believe that story about the Russians seemingly using a pencil. The Space Review further elaborates on the true origins of the Space Pen:
The Million Dollar Space Pen Myth is just that, a myth. The pens never cost a lot of money and were not developed by wasteful bureaucrats or overactive NASA engineers. The real story of the Space Pen is less interesting than the myth, but in many ways more inspiring. It is not a story of NASA bureaucrats versus simplistic Russians, but a story of a clever capitalist who built a superior product and conducted some innovative marketing. That story, however, is a little harder to sell to a public that believes what it wants to believe.
Speaking of credulity and people believing what they want to believe, check out the New Yorker's account of how a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian 419 scam. I hadn't realised just how deep the Nigerians worked - I've always thought once they got the first cheque that was it. Apparently not - the case describes a really elaborate con job.



I'm sorry, but I find it really hard to sympathise. It's not an issue of how elaborate or deep the con job is (bad, bad Nigerians!), it's an issue of how greedy and stupid people can be, even Christian ministers (surely there must be something in the Bible against being greedy and overmaterialistic and opportunistic?). I mean, what was this guy doing? He was wiring money for bribes, he was violating his professional ethics. That is no longer stupidity, that is clear, knowing moral transgression. Of course, the Nigerians are definitely evil for this scamming, but it takes two (hands to clap, partners to tango etc). I'm with the Secret Service guy: "if nobody falls for it, these guys won't succeed." It's not how evil they are, but how greedy we are.


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