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Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Humor Break: Hoax Chain Letter

Okay, now for something completely different. I had one of my weird "inspirations" the other night, about an email chain letter which might almost be believable in the current campaign environment. As a stereotypical engineer with too much time on his hands (except that in reality I have far too little time available) I couldn't stop myself from writing it up and posting it.

WARNING: Do NOT send this chain letter to anyone. It is intended for satirical purposes only.

With that out of the way, here's my missive:

***** Copy and Paste starting with this line *****

Please help elect my husband President and earn thousands of dollars (or even hundreds of thousands of dollars) at the same time!

Hello, I’m Teresa Heinz Kerry, and I’ve decided to put my entire fortune on the line in order to get rid of George Bush and get the United States out of the quagmire of Iraq. I will PAY you to email this vital message to your own friends and family-members and co-workers.

Please read this entire email, and then act on it immediately. There’s very little time left until the election. The faster you act, the more money you can make!

There are an estimated 125 million people in the United States who are on-line and have email. We must reach as many of them as possible and convince them to vote for John Kerry on November 2nd. Approximately half of these people are so disgusted by our corrupt political system that they don’t normally vote, but this election is different. This election will decide the fate of our country. Their votes can save us from four more years of Bush and Cheney and Halliburton.

We don’t have the email addresses of all those millions of people, and even if we did we couldn’t "spam" them. Spam is now against the law, and the Republican attack machine would slime us if we did anything illegal. However, it is perfectly legal for you to send emails to the people you personally know. You have the private email addresses of your friends and relatives, and an email from you will carry far more weight than an email from a political campaign committee.

So here’s my proposition: Send this EXACT message to everyone you know, asking them to do the same thing in turn. I WILL PAY YOU $10 FOR EVERY ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS WHO READS THIS MESSAGE AND PASSES IT ON TO THEIR FRIENDS.

You heard right: TEN DOLLARS. If you email this to 100 people, and just 10 of them pass the email along, you’ll receive ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Even better, for everyone on that second level who passes along this message, I will pay you $8. For everyone on the third level, you’ll get $6. On the fourth level, you’ll get $4. And on the fifth level, you’ll get $2.

Here’s a sample calculation of what you can make, based on a 10% pass-along rate:

Suppose you email 100 people with this message.

FIRST LEVEL: 10 of those people pass it along. You get 10 x $10 = $100. Each one sends it to 100 of their friends, so my message reaches 10 x 100 = 1,000 people.

SECOND LEVEL: 100 of those people pass it along. You get 100 x $8 = $800. Each one sends it to 100 of their friends, so my message reaches 100 x 100 = 10,000 people.

THIRD LEVEL: 1,000 of those people pass it along. You get 1,000 x $6 = $6,000. Each one sends it to 100 of their friends, so my message reaches 1,000 x 100 = 100,000 people.

FOURTH LEVEL: 10,000 of those people pass it along. You get 10,000 x $4 = $40,000. Each one sends it to 100 of their friends, so my message reaches 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 people.

FIFTH LEVEL: 100,000 of those people pass it along. You get 100,000 x $2 = $200,000. Each one sends it to 100 of their friends, so my message reaches 100,000 x 100 = 10,000,000 people.

Your total income in the above example is $100 + $800 + $6,000 + $40,000 + $200,000 = $246,900! (The more emails you send out, and the more of those people pass it along, the more money you can make!)

And you will have earned every single penny of it, because you’ll be helping me to reach the 50% of the population that hasn’t been voting. If only one out of five of those non-voters realize how crucial this election is and come to the voting booths on November 2nd, my husband will get an extra 10% of the vote. That will easily be enough to win the election and throw George Bush out of the White House which he shouldn’t have been in to start with!

And how much will it cost me to reach 125 million people? I won’t bore you with the math, but my accountants have estimated that it will cost about $41.6 million. My Heinz Corporation stock and other assets are worth $750 million, so I can easily afford $41.6 million if that’s what it takes to win the White House. Besides, that works out to only 33.3 cents per person, which is less than the cost of a postage stamp.

There’s one other important ground rule: If someone receives more than one copy of this message, only the first sender gets the $10 (and all payments from the other levels). For example, if your cousin passes on this message after receiving copies from three different people including you, the $10 will go to the person who sent the earliest email to your cousin.

DO NOT DELAY!!! The sooner you send out this message to your friends and acquaintances, the less you’ll have to worry that someone else will have beaten you to them!

My message is very simple: Go to the http://www.KerryVictory.US web page. Learn how John Kerry will extricate us from the Iraq quagmire. John knows all about quagmires -- he was in Vietnam. Here are some selected quotes from my husband:

"It's the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

"My plan is to lead NATO to make the security of Iraq one of its global missions and to deploy a significant portion of the force needed to secure and win the peace there. NATO participation will open the door to greater international involvement from non-NATO countries."

"This is not an instant solution. There isn't one. But it's a realistic plan to share the burden and secure the peace and bring our troops home."


1. Copy this ENTIRE message WITHOUT CHANGES into an email which you will then send out. In order to qualify, you must include the top line ("Copy and Paste starting with this line") all the way down through the bottom line ("Copy and Paste ending with this line").
2. You can add your own words, if you want, to urge your friends to pass this on. But your own words must be OUTSIDE the boundaries of this message; nothing between the top and bottom lines of this message can be changed.
3. You can send out as many emails as you want. You can also have multiple recipients for your emails if you want (just separate several email addresses in the "TO:" line with commas or semi-colons).
4. Each email you send out MUST include a copy to Teresa@KerryVictory.US. Just paste this address (Teresa@KerryVictory.US) into the "CC:" line of your email. This will allow us to credit your account based on the people you emailed to, who later pass the message on. We can also tell from the date and time on your email whether you were the first to send it to those people.
5. This project will end on election day, November 2, 2004. No one will be paid for any emails sent after that date.
6. After the election my accountants will determine how much money each person is owed. You will be sent an email with instructions on how to receive your payment (in your reply you can indicate whether you want it by check, PayPal, or as a credit on your credit card account). YOU'LL BE PAID REGARDLESS OF WHO WINS THE ELECTION.

Finally, I want to thank you for helping to save this country from the greedy corporate interests who are pulling the strings of George Bush, who hid out in the National Guard during Vietnam. John Kerry protected this country when he fought and bled in Vietnam, and he'll do it again as President of the United States.

Sincerely yours,
Teresa Heinz Kerry

***** Copy and Paste ending with this line *****

It's interesting that most of the enormously wealth political activists seem to be Democrats. For example George Soros has said he'd be willing to trade his entire $7 billion fortune if he could be guaranteed that it would defeat George Bush. With so many billionaires and rich Hollywood celebrities publicly working hard to beat Bush, a chain letter offering big bucks for emails seemed eminently plausible. Teresa Heinz Kerry was the most plausible source of all, and she certainly has the financial resources to fund such an effort.

I tried to imagine a similar letter targeted towards Republicans, but I could think of no well-known, wealthy, credible source. Besides, it's a lot less believable that the candidate who is far in the lead in the polls would resort to this desperation tactic.

Now let's speculate a bit. Could the above chain email letter achieve critical mass? And if so, what would its impact be?

There are plenty of other hoax emails and urban legends which circulate endlessly around the Internet, so a gullible audience surely exists. This chain letter has the advantage that it requires absolutely no financial investment to participate, and yet it offers huge riches. It has the necessary urgency motivation factors (the approaching election, and the need to be high on the multi-level food chain) which should spur a rapid response.

Most of all, it targets an audience which wants to believe it's true. There are millions of Democrats out there who are convinced that Bush is a modern-day fascist war-mongerer who is despised by the (silent) majority of Americans. Hence all that's needed to defeat Bush is some new way to contact that silent majority. A lot of Democrats will figure that this letter might be legitimate, and in any case it won't cost them anything to pass it on. They'll salivate at the prospect of making a lot of money while simultaneously saving the world.

Suppose the letter took off, and it quickly got to the point where millions or even tens of millions of emails were flashing around the Internet. What would be the consequences?

One obvious result would be a lot of disappointed people after the election when they failed to receive their bounties. Of course they'd have no way of calculating their expected payoffs, since they couldn't know how many of their recipients passed the message along.

Another consequence is that an exponentially growing chain letter would consume a lot of time and effort and attention by gullible liberal activists in the critical month before the election, at the expense of more effective political action.

Would the message itself sway anyone? Not very likely. There's nothing too persuasive in it to get undecided voters to vote against Bush, especially since the payments are not contingent on the election outcome. If anything, the slightly-over-the-top rhetoric, along with reminders of Teresa Heinz Kerry's wealth, could create a backlash against Kerry. The unsolicited email aspect would also anger a lot of people, to the detriment of Kerry. Nor will perennial non-voters be especially motivated to turn out on election day; non-voters simply don't vote, despite tremendous efforts to drag them to the polls every election year.

But most of all, this chain letter effect would be enormously fun to watch.

Too bad it's just a day-dream. Let me emphasize once again, do not under any circumstances attempt to circulate this chain letter hoax. (As an additional precaution, I've purchased the domain name "" to make sure no one else can use it.)

And what about the propriety of promoting a forged email? Three words:

Fake but accurate.

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