White hunters, black hearts

By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 12, 2007

He confesses that his baits aren’t always family-friendly. “We get into some adult stuff. We’ll get them naked sometimes, just to humiliate them.”

But when it comes to the R-word, he’s emphatic: “If anyone thinks it’s racist, they obviously haven’t been to my site. We make sure that there’s no racism involved at all. We get new posters who come along and use the N-word in the first post, and we ban them and move on.” (That said, his online avatar is a grinning black man, holding a bouquet of roses and wearing a woman’s slip as, out of frame, he exposes himself.)

Hate crimes
At 419Eater.com (which just this past week fell victim to a distributed denial of service attack — a planned cyber assault in which a site’s bandwidth is intentionally flooded by malicious bots, thereby shutting out legitimate access — and appears to be down indefinitely while its diehard members congregate on a private message board), it’s put just as plainly: “Racism is not permitted here.”

As proof, a site moderator — presumably founder Michael Berry, whose screen name is “Shiver Metimbers” (and who did not respond to a request for comment) — lays out the facts.

First, scambaiters only bait the scammers that approach them, irrespective of color, race, or ethnic origin. “We have no way of knowing what their characteristics are — the only thing we know for sure, or care about at all, is that they are scammers.”

Also, while it’s well established that there are many, many Nigerian scammers, it’s also true that “the vast majority of Nigerians are law-abiding citizens, and we know that a good many of them are appalled at the reputation that widespread scamming has inflicted on their country.”

In fact, it’s noted, 419Eater has a few long-time members who happen to be Nigerian, “not one of [whom] has complained that the ethos of the site is racist.” Moreover, it’s argued, “white scammers exist and we bait them.”

The disclaimer touts an “active moderation team who keep a close eye on posts, and will delete or edit any that infringe [upon] Eater policy. Individual posts are reported for racism from time to time, and they are always acted on speedily. . . . We have banned people for using racist usernames, linking to racist sites, and in one instance we banned a member solely because we discovered that they also belonged to a white-supremacist site.”

Yes, it’s probably true, as one poster puts it, that “the colour of [scammers’] skin . . . is incidental to the fact that they would happily rob an old woman blind if she could get to a Western Union office!”

But while one can admire many funny and creative baits, this writer, at least, gets no joy paging through some of the degradation on display at sites like 419Eater. Never mind the problematic terminology of the “Trophy Room,” with its vague echoes of the Dark Continent and colonial conquest. Or the “pwnage” of scammers, which takes a Leetspeak phrase and, intentionally or not, imbues it with sinister slavery-era connotations. (“Pwn” is Web speak for “own.” “Pwnage,” therefore, defined on UrbanDictionary.com, is a term “used in online gaming to stress your superiority on all levels.”)

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