Deborah Yaffe

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Weird Austen

By Deborah Yaffe, May 30 2019 01:00PM

Sometimes, the Jane Austen mentions you find on the internet are seriously stupid. Other times, they’re just seriously weird.


This month, I happened across two examples of the latter:


* Tariffs and Tantrums: China’s state-controlled media has responded with defiance and ridicule to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on Chinese products, reported the Associated Press.


"Pride makes it impossible for other people to love me, while prejudice makes it impossible for me to love others,” wrote the People’s Daily, the official publication of China’s Communist Party. “Today, a few American politicians are just like the characters that Austen assailed.”


Take that, all you critics who think Austen has nothing to say about politics and war!


* Extortion and Embarrassment: You may have gotten one: a scam email claiming that the sender has hacked into your computer and will disseminate webcam photos that show you masturbating to porn websites, unless you fork over a chunk of bitcoinage.


At first blush, the email can seem plausible, because the sender often mentions an email password that you may once have used. But it’s all a bluff: your password was probably compromised in a recent large-scale data breach, rather than obtained by a hacker with personal knowledge of your computer usage.


And why does this bit of malicious spam make it through your spam filter? Because scammers have come up with a nefarious method of evasion. “One tactic they use to avoid detection is to paste lines from Shakespeare or Jane Austen in invisible text in the email—a signal to the filters that there is mostly ‘good language’ in the email, helping it land in recipients’ in-boxes, rather than being blocked,” Fortune reports.


Which raises the question: why invisible text? Note to spammers and scammers: Nothing would cheer me up more than an email containing actual lines from Jane Austen. I might even pay a few bitcoins for that.


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