Does a Robot Write the White House's Emails?
|by Maxim Blin|
File under: Fake Tech22 Oct 2013 13:23 EDT
Last night, we at Fakenation received an email from the Obama administration entitled "More than just a website".
Yes, an official memorandum from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave announced by copy that would be rejected at a third tier advertising firm. "Doritos: More Than Just A Snack" or "Visit Idaho: More Than Just Potatoes" would not be very sophisticated marketing slogans, for they leave us with nothing more than a vague assurance that something is better than we might expect. And yet it is good enough for a White House email, an email from the single most powerful and prestigious office in the land. And why not? The message itself is not much more than a tone-deaf, mechanical attempt at propaganda.
Shameless. Our failure is justified by the number of people that were expecting us to succeed, or at least depending on us to do so. This isn't some struggling start up that had server problems after an unexpected surge in traffic. After so many years of media hype over a program offered by our growing leviathan of a federal government, getting an audience isn't exactly an accomplishment. In fact, citing it as such is pathetic and obviously manipulative, as if an algorithm programmed only to spit out positive news had searched long and hard for something to say. No human could say this with a straight face.
Well, clearly President Obama himself didn't write this, since he is being quoted in the third person. In fact, as we will see, nobody signed their name to this particular message. It was produced by nobody in particular for no real audience. This is not an actual statement of any kind, which would require a speaker of some kind, a human, a real personality.
There is no confidence or leadership here. President Obama is not speaking to us. We are being related what he already said, as if its objectification in being repeated by another voice lends his words credibility.
A statement of reassurance that help is available if this program isn't working out for you. Presumably, in response to widespread disappointment with the technical malfunctions of the system. Which, of course, involves the failure of the very mechanisms available for our aid. Notice the adherence to formula here as well. You need to include a statement of assurance and assistance even when nobody has faith in that either. One imagines sending an advertising executive into a doctor's office to give patients bad news as it arrives. "Don't worry, Mr. Johnson, your wife's condition is terminal, but if you call our hotline we can work out financing for your bill over the next six months..."
The relatively unimportant technical aspect of this site we've totally butchered is only part of the wider program, so don't worry. With the effectively infinite resources of the federal government behind us we weren't able to accomplish something thousands of small businesses do every day, but we will be able to manage this Byzantine system when it comes down to matters of life and death.
And notice the notification that we, the public, are already benefiting from this program. If it were actually the case, we would know it already, and this entire email would be unnecessary. Instead, they are telling the public at large how we feel, processing our attitudes for us, speaking as if they actually had understanding and empathy for our plight, when they are actually reading a transcript of what we are supposed to think of the situation. All of which points to this document being authored by a robot. No human could muster enough blind presumption to tell people what they are thinking and feeling.
Real gravitas here. Notice the blind assumption that the audience is still engaged here, and the robotic "Thanks", as if we are to be thanked for suspending our disbelief or boredom long enough to listen to this utterly transparent, inhuman sales pitch. It's not like anybody was actually talking all this time, or is at least willing to take credit for writing this and sign his or her name.
This may be the first genuine piece of spam e-mail ever produced by an American administration, although if you have earlier instances, please send them in for analysis. This piece, though, represents very clearly that the lowest kind of economic activity — pyramid schemes, scam chain-emails, insurance fraud— is now also coming directly from the nation's capital. Could you imagine Dwight Eisenhower sending out junk mail soliciting the American people to adopt highways to keep his interstate highway program alive, or Thomas Jefferson writing out self-validating bullet points to justify the Louisiana Purchase and disseminating them in envelopes to be sent back with down payments for lots in the new territory? This is a bizarre new literary genre, up there in stature and growing with the Baby Boomer apology. The unsigned letter from the bowels of the federal government patting itself on the back for its accomplishments and attempting to sell us insurance.
But this isn't really necessarily just the government's fault. This approach has clearly worked to some extent, which suggests that perhaps these emails are written by robots and sent to zombies. Maybe we should work on talking to each other like real people before we make another attempt to fix our technical and medicinal problems.
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