Sunday, September 02, 2012

Coincidence? Um--

Yesterday I bought a Kindle link to In the Shadow of the Sword, Tom Holland's new account of the origins of Islam--the unauthorized version, which retails a body of not-well-known modern scholarship, casting doubt on the standard account.  I'm about a quarter of the way in; it's a worthwhile read, with some defects and some virtues, about both of which I hope to say more later.  For the moment, though, a meta-issue.

Specifically: this morning when I fired up my email, I was greeted by (inter alia) a piece of toxic sludge offering a far more mischief-making of the same, promising to tell me the truth about  Mohammed as "a drunken, child molesting, cowardly pimp."    "The Ayatollahs and Terrorists do not want you to know," my well-wisher informs me.  Supposed to be a barrel of laughs, too.  Anyway, just buy our book, it says here, and you'll learn the whole truth. Well thanks, just what I needed for a measured and scholarly inquiry into a difficult and explosive topic.

My well-wisher provides a link to an Amazon purchase page.  There's also an "unsubscribe" link which I wouldn't touch with a dung fork (my mail provider tagged the offending message as possible spam, which is not a big surprise). But wait:  in my long and not overly corrupt career as an email-and-Amazon user, this is the first time ever--ever--that I have got an email seemingly so well calibrated to match my supposed literary tastes.  Coincidence?   Maybe so.  But my order mail is time-stamped 11:07 am Saturday; the little piece of marketing shit came rolling in at 1:40 am Sunday.  Has Amazon been hacked?

Update:   By way of clarification--I don't see the slightest evidence that Amazon itself had any conscious role in producing this pestiferous intrusion.

Update II:  But they sure don't seem very interested.  I sent them an email saying I thought they might have been hacked. They responded with helpful suggestions on protecting my email account.  I wrote back and said no, no,you dingdong, I am trying to do you a favor.   No response so far.


Marcelo said...

I don't think "hacked" is the right work. Seems to be working as intended, from Amazon's point of view.

Anonymous said...

I've received the same spam, and am pretty sure there is nothing in my Amazon history to spark it. (Powell's or Librarything would be a different story.)

Buce said...

Well I can't be certain but I doubt it. Amazon certainly knows how to send me clean, well-produced marketing mail. If they don't send me email on individual books, I surmise that it is a strategic choice not to annoy the customer. Also: an Amazon direct mail would not get tagged as spam. And the unsubscribe link would go to a recognized source. This, by contrast, was pretty clearly amateur hackwork.

Does Amazon feel no strong incentive to police an offending email which has the potential of generating sales? Ah, now that is a slightly different story.

The New York Crank said...

Before you let Amazon completely off the hook, think of the feature that says, "People who bought this book also bought..."

Is it possible Amazon rents out this data?

And what about Google, which no doubt is tracking my travels across the Internet so that advertisers can offer me things "more likely to interest me."

I'm not accusing. But I am asking.

Crankily yours,
The New York Crnk

brad said...

Oh boy. The quest for the historical Mohammed. Good luck!

The fact that everyone competing for power in the early eight century had to be descended from Mohammed's grandfather or at least have a cousin who married one of Mohammed's daughters--and the fact that by the end of the seventh century there is enormous political mojo to be gained even if you aren't descended from Mohammed's grandfather by putting "mhmt rsl lh" on your coins--suggests both that but the Prophet Mohammed did and preached was really really something and is now largely lost beneath the sea of false ahadith forged for the faction rights.

And the absence of the Quraysh from the non-Islamic historical record is damned odd. But lots of history is damned odd...

Anonymous said...

Does this book discuss the Luxenberg thesis about the language of the Quran? That has always seemed like a very interesting argument to me, but I lack the background to critically evaluate it.