The campaign e-mail deluge from Super Tuesday and the Washington caucuses has slowed to a steady dribble. I checked the Yahoo account set...

Share story

The campaign e-mail deluge from Super Tuesday and the Washington caucuses has slowed to a steady dribble. I checked the Yahoo account set up for the purpose of monitoring these messages, and there are only a few innocuous notes from the last four candidates standing.

There are some differences between candidate e-mail and spam. The most prominent is this mail is solicited by the recipient, and the senders are generally pretty good about taking you off the list when requested. This contrasts with standard commercial lists, where you are always asked if you are really sure if you want to be removed.

Many people sign onto campaign lists under the illusion they will receive valuable insight from the candidate that they cannot get from the biased media. Between the time they realize such messages are only a fundraising tool and when they actually send the remove request, they are inured to this feeling. The first message from a candidate elicits some excitement, but you will not even open the 50th.

Which is one place where campaign sites have learned from spammers — make the message originate from strangers, stimulating the impulse to need to know why they are writing. I know who John McCain is, but who is Chris Fidler and why is he writing me? Turns out Chris is the state organizer for McCain and provides some caucus information that any supporter will find useful.

Additionally, I hear from Ted Kennedy, Patty Murray, John Kerry and Chelsea Clinton. I get more than a few from Michelle Obama, like a homey little note with a link to a “user created” video. This is a little disingenuous, because the “user” is a member of the Black Eyed Peas and he got Scarlett Johansson to participate. This was nevertheless inspiring, if not for the message but the idea that moviemaking, at least, is democratic.

Then, I get a note from NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, offering up the 10 reasons I should not support Hillary Rodham Clinton. Except it turns out this one is a hoax. Bond soon puts out the word that he did not write the e-mail, which goes against the NAACP practice of staying out of elections. So there goes my innocence, once again.

If neither Bond nor the Obama campaign is behind this, it must be an actual lie. Does this mean Chelsea wasn’t really asking me for my vote? If Chuck Norris writes and asks me to support his candidate, how do I know it is not some impostor?

Or maybe none of this matters, and I am naive to expect anything different. E-mail, by nature, allows messages to go out under people’s names without their actual involvement. So not only is Hillary not sending me messages — mom, my boss and that cute girl who wants to meet for drinks probably aren’t for real either.

The more e-mail is integrated into our lives — business, politics and government — the more it reflects human behavior. As proof, consider people who aren’t what they seem, voters who follow the crowd without thinking, and politicians who don’t tell the entire truth.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.