Rachel Caine (rachelcaine) wrote,
Rachel Caine

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Mom's Mail: Episode 1


I'm going to cut this for length, so you can skip this incredible tale of what kind of fear mongering gets marketed to the elderly. BUT DON'T BECAUSE IT'S AMAZING.

Let me 'splain.

My mother is turning 85 in the next few months, and like many 84+ year-olds, she has trouble staying abreast of current events (or indeed, any technology invented after the rotary phone). And she gets LOTS of mail. Ridiculous handfuls of mail daily, from all kinds of crazy sources, because she is so polite that she actually *writes back* to these bulk mail idiots to tell them she's sorry she can't help them, and explaining in torturous detail about her medical conditions.

I try to go through her mail when I'm at her apartment to help her keep up with what's real and what's bogus, and talk it through with her.

So this is what I found a couple of days ago that kicked off this new feature.

My first clue that something was rotten in the mail stack was this envelope.

My mother, of course, was VERY upset when she saw it, and immediately began asking me what had happened to her checks, was she overdrawn, was it from the bank, etc. When I say "upset" I mean that it took me about 15 minutes to calm her down. She was almost in tears just from the envelope.

I already knew what I'd find -- you probably do as well, dear reader -- but what the hell, I'll go ahead and show it to you. There are several pages. Gird yourself. And be sure to click to embiggen, for full effect.

You'll notice that no less than 5 times does it repeat the same underlined, CAPITALIZED phrase. That doesn't count the additional two times he rephrased it, but used the same basic structure. Or the time he explicitly said "Mexicans." Because that's where all of 'em come from, the illegals, right?

Let's go to page 2 ... because this is where it starts to get fun.

OK, to recap ... that's 5 MORE times he uses that magic phrase. And another two specific mentions of "Mexicans." BUT WAIT! There's more! Because right around midway through he begins to sneak in his desperate plea for your $16.50, reiterated 4 times before the end of the page.

Wait ... let me get this straight. So I'm signing a "petition" to help Congressman Dreier* get a bill out of committee. And then he explicitly tells me that if I DON'T SEND THE MONEY this bill won't happen. So, what? We're on a cash-for-votes basis now in Congress? Not like we didn't already know that, but ... oooookay.

Oh, hang, on, there's MORE!

See, I'll bet you thought he'd made his point, didn't you? NO. Because here's page 3, where we repeat that underlined phrase 6 more times, plus bonus mentions of "illegal aliens," "Mexicans," and just to mix it up, "illegal Mexicans." (Pause a moment to savor the crazy of "illegal Mexican." Because being a Mexican is, clearly, ILLEGAL, EVEN IN MEXICO.)

HA, you thought he was done, but NO. He only got his plea for your $16.50 in FOUR TIMES on page 3. Clearly, this is not enough. He had a marketing class once that said to keep repeating the key points, and by God, he's going to do that until your eyes bleed.

... But not to worry, he can mix it up. He tossed in at least four more specific $16.50 demands on page 4! Oh, and heck, another four underlined all-caps phrases, plus a bonus "illegal aliens," AND "Mexicans."


So, to recap: did he get his point across? I MEAN, HE ONLY REPEATED IT FOURTEEN TIMES IN ALL CAPS AND UNDERLINED. (Plus, if you were REALLY keeping score, there was a bonus 15th time where his poor, beleaguered office assistant failed to underline the phrase, but did ALL CAPS; she probably was docked a day's pesos for that.) And even though he didn't start asking for money until halfway through page 2, he managed to almost even the score at TWELVE solid reminders that you need to send him $16.50. RIGHT THE HELL NOW OR THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS, PEOPLE**.

... but wait. You thought it was over, didn't you? Silly wabbit.

This is a THING OF BEAUTY. Not only because of the money-specific use of green and the official-looking border, but the utterly elegant "... I pray we stop this scheme to steal our Social Security money before it's too late." I mean, doesn't it just give you the vapors? Bring me my smelling salts!

(To his credit, he DID manage to only keep the money demand down to one tasteful line on this particular page. So that brings us up to ... thirteen, a very unlucky number, SURELY HE WON'T STOP THERE!)

He didn't. Behold, the back of that return envelope, which manages to throw in two more reminders to GET THAT CHECK IN THE MAIL. Bonus: also worked in ILLEGAL ALIENS one more time, 'cause why not?

For completeness, here's the back of the petition form ...

Why, looky, you can request financial reports. *done*

And ... from the front of the return envelope, here's the address you can write to should you wish to tell Mr. Wilcox what you think of his tactics.

Ours is already in the mail. FYI: does not include $16.50 check or "generous donation."

I feel better now. Thank you. Oh, and yes, Secure America Alliance does have a website. Feel free to Google -- I don't want to give them link karma. But clearly, they aren't spending your $16.50 on nonsense like web development, since they haven't updated it in, like, forever.

-- R.

P.S. - Lest you think that I am harshing on this poor, idealistic man when CLEARLY THERE IS A PROBLEM, go to the official documentation and definition of the US/Mexico "Totalization" agreements. Totalization agreements have been in place since the 1970s, this one was voted in 2004, and we have similar agreements with Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, Canada, the UK, Sweden, France, Chile, South Korea and Australia. Here's some additional info.

Not only that, check out the Snopes busting of this particular urban legend, which was an old chestnut in 2006.

For obvious reasons, I am screening comments. Because crazy people are crazy.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, STOP THE PRESSES ... I pulled up the full text version of H.R. 98 HERE and did a search for "totalization" (which came up empty), then skimmed the text itself. It appears to me that the much-lauded NO SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS resolution contains, in fact, not one word about any such thing. It concerns making Social Security cards more counterfeit-resistant, establishing employment eligibility databases, etc., but it doesn't say anything like what the letter leads you to believe.

* I called the congressman's office. His staffers (three, including a senior staffer) didn't know about him being featured in the letter, and confirmed that in fact the bill mentioned is unrelated to the specific content of this fundraising letter.

** Even though the plea is, of course URGENT, this particular Apocalyptic hobby-horse has been ridden by Mr. Wilcox since .. you guessed it, 2006. That's just lazy, man. LAZY. We expect better from our cynical fearmongerers!
Tags: mom's mail
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