Part I. Personal
Wednesday evening I answered the phone, and a man pretending to work for the local sheriff’s department asked me to identify myself, told me that the call would be recorded because it might be used against me in a court of law, and ordered me to get a pen and paper. He spoke fast and unclearly and with lots of strange background noises. He claimed that I had failed to appear for jury duty and I would be arrested if I didn’t do what he said. (I’d received no notice of jury duty.)
I ignored obvious signs that this guy was a fraud. He was not calling from a local number. He couldn’t pronounce the name of my street. I had to ask him four times before he told me his supposed name, which he didn’t seem totally sure of. He was extremely hostile while claiming to have no choice about behaving that way. And when questioned on things he said, he offered explanations, but the explanations made no sense. He said that because he was required to treat me as a criminal I had to tell him my cell phone number. What? He said I could pay a fine and would get it back the next day, but I couldn’t pay wish cash or check or credit card because the sheriff’s department considered it inappropriate to use a form of payment that included personal information. What? Personalized cash?
I waited through all this patent nonsense (including him doubling the amount of the fine, apparently under the impression that he’d hooked a true sucker) until the guy said I could not come to the sheriff’s department to clear things up but would have to go withdraw the money from the bank (which was, of course, closed for the night, and ATMs have limits). Then I’d have to use the money to buy some kind of card at a grocery store. As soon as he said that, I called 911 on my other phone and asked their advice. They told me to hang up on the guy, and they said it with an air of tired annoyance. My wife, who’s better informed than I, then told me there’d been a news report about this scam.
According to the news report, once you buy a card, the guy asks you for the number on it, and then he has your money. This means that people actually go forward with taking money out of the bank, driving to the grocery store, buying the card, and then rather than taking it to the police, reading the number off it to the person on the phone.
I have a wife and kids and things I need to do. I’m willing to jump through moronic hoops for a jerk on the phone if it keeps me from getting arrested for no good cause. But I really do not take well to authoritarian assholes. The more demanding the guy got, the less I wanted to go along with him.
But I’ve been scared before, not on this occasion but at other moments in my life, I’ve been scared. People, including me, do not think well when scared. If I’d been frightened into trying and somehow succeeded in giving away money I don’t even have, I’d be out that money with no recourse and nothing to show for it.
Part II. Political
Every evening for several months, tired overworked Americans flipped on the corporate advertising networks and saw the political content that sometimes fills in between the commercials. They saw a hostile and aggressive man who claimed there was no other way. They heard him say that Mexicans were coming the rape them and rob them. They heard him say Muslims had to be kept out of their country. They heard him say that unless they did as he said they would lose their jobs, their families, their culture, their lives.
Sometimes another face would pop onto the screen to warn everyone that unless they voted for her their world would be destroyed by either the first guy or Vladimir Putin or possibly Bashar al Assad.
If one were inclined toward fear, listening to one or the other of these two people might have seemed far more appealing than it did to me.
Take any topic in the news, for example the recent U.S. election, and I’ll give you 12 important stories about it that are being generally ignored because they don’t offer an occasion for scaring anybody. For example:
1. The loser got the most votes.
2. The loser’s primary was seriously slanted.
3. People were stripped from voting roles on a racist basis.
4. People were blocked from voting for lack of ID.
5. Felons are disenfranchised.
6. Colonies are disenfranchised.
7. People were intimidated out of voting.
8. Machines broke in Detroit.
9. Exit polls suggest fraud or error.
10. Machines are unverifiable.
11. Even where there’s paper it’s not being counted.
12. The corporate media effectively nominated the winner.
I could give you 12 more. But then there are the stories that win wall-to-wall reporting because they play to fear. For example: the unproven claim that Russia released Democratic emails, which somehow swayed the election. You can believe that, even if it makes no sense, or Putin will destroy your life.
If anyone at the CIA is interested in hiring the jury-duty scammer, I’m happy to say I don’t know his real name. I also have no reason to believe him ruthless or heartless enough to do the job if hired.