Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Where Have All the Nigerian Princes Gone?



A recent email I received:

"I am writing you from an online marketing company, working in partnership with a company specialized in diamond appraisals. That company also writes some articles and reports about jewelry and watches.

"I consider 'Memphis Flyer' very interesting because of both your content and your target. I would like to offer you an article, to be published on your website in exchange for mentioning the company as a source. I was wondering if you accept this kind of collaboration and what are you prices for it."

Clearly spam, right? But what is interesting to me is that I received a very similar email, except that this person worked for a boat dealership and would we like articles about boats? Is this the new Nigerian prince? And where have all the Nigerian princes gone? What is the latest scam?

Gather round, kiddies, and let me tell you about the olden days.

Back then, if you did an innocent internet search for something like "school uniform," dozens of porn websites would rapidly appear on your screen in an effect, I think, called waterfalling. It was terrifying.

And then all the spam. So much spam. Tons and tons from porn actors and so many Nigerian princes.

So, one day, as an experiment of sorts, I decided to write back to the spam, maybe about a dozen in all.

I only heard back from two. One, of course, was the Nigerian prince, who was very enthusiastic about my interest. (Just as an aside: Tim Sampson told me that he would write the Nigerian princes and invite them to live with him.) The prince told me that going forward I needed to keep this just between him and me. I emailed back and said that I was so excited I told everybody. Lots of exclamation points in that email. And then I never heard back. So rude for a prince.

The other was from a screenwriting contest. It had said that the deadline was a week away, and I wrote them to say that I needed at least two weeks. In return came a chiding that said if I got two weeks then all the other contestants would want two weeks and did I think that was fair and blah blah blah. I still get emails from them.

So back to the present. I've recently gotten into listening to digital books (sometimes I slip and call them books on tape), and, to some degree, podcasts. Some of the podcasts recommended to me include Books on the Nightstand, Cultish, Lore, 99% Invisible, Slate's Culture Gabfest, Limetown, and others. Now, let me recommend one to you: The Flyer Podcast. This is a newish project spearheaded by staff writer Toby Sells. He leads the staff through the issue each week, and it's a pretty fun listen. Check it out when it returns next week.

Bruce VanWyngarden is fishing this week. His column, like the podcast, returns next week.

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