We write this with a heavy heart. On behalf of our partners — the GOP, the Democratic National Party, and the Green Party — e-conjob.com would like to issue a formal apology for any harm or inconvenience caused by our (recently dismantled) voter-targeted information service, mycampaignrhetoric?.
The inspiration behind mycampaignrhetoric? was the realization that for most Americans, enduring a presidential campaign is like being subjected to a yearlong time-share pitch — without the free weekend at a ski condo. According to polls, more than 74% of Americans would rather pass a kidney stone than listen to a presidential debate (and 79% can't tell the difference). Nearly the same percentage of Americans (76%) feel intense guilt — measured as being the "same as" or "worse than" the guilt that they would feel about stealing the petty-cash envelope from the receptionist's desk drawer — about attempting to ignore the entire political spectacle.
So mycampaignrhetoric? was conceived in good faith. Our value proposition: We provided a public service to voters who feel obligated to keep up on the political spin but who don't want to wade through the empty blather surrounding all of those measures that (let's face it) add up to running the country. Using cutting-edge consumer-profiling practices and up-to-date "cookie" technology, mycampaignrhetoric ? connected Internet users to issues that they truly care about — by offering them a special link to our partners' campaign headquarters.
It worked like this: Say that you read an article on campaign-finance reform on nytimes.com. Within 24 hours, a representative from each campaign would email you its candidate's position on that issue. Frankly, we here at e-conjob.com imagined that this service might give us a shot at next year's Nobel Peace Prize: At last, every American would get individual political attention. Public discourse meets the new economy!
For the record, not everyone wants our e-ass in a sling.
Take Tami, a purchasing agent from Atlanta (who, incidentally, orders too much Ben & Jerry's Nutty Waffle Cone Ice Cream from kozmo.com, according to the Elect George W. Bush campaign. Said a GWB spokesperson: "Tami, a registered Republican who makes $71,000 a year and who buys a size 10 when she's really a size 14, should know better than to throw her money at Ben and Jerry, those thumb-sucking liberals"). Well, Tami is a happy mycampaignrhetoric ? user who says, "Do I give a rat's ass about farm subsidies or Libya? I don't have a farm, and I don't even know where Libya is."
"It's a way killer app," said Harry F., of Corona del Mar, California. "I emailed a dude from work, asking whether he thought that swim trunks were too casual for casual Friday, and the next time I logged on, I had email from Gore 2000 campaign headquarters, which stated that while Al has his own issues with casualness, for me he would go on record as saying that although trunks have their place in the outdoors, perhaps I should stick to some nice distressed chinos with front pleats. Now, that's spin that I can use!"
Despite its successes (and there were some: Amburr-Stefanny, a 16-year-old from Lake Forest, Illinois, learned that while Al thinks Britney is a virgin, GWB does not), we are not pretending that mycampaignrhetoric ? was anything other than a gross misuse of info-structure technology.
We would also like to extend a special apology to the CEO and bondage enthusiast whose wife downloaded his email while he was on his way to Switzerland and discovered the Green Party's official position on submission-versus-domination.
Again, if we invaded the privacy of any of our fellow Americans, we are deeply sorry. We were only trying to be patriotic.
This is the latest episode in The Spy's continuing saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).
A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.