Trapped Behind Enemy Lines


May 31, 2017 by Jean

imageFor several months now, I’ve been trapped on an email mailing list for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC); they send me 3-5 emails per day. I don’t know how a liberal Democrat like me got on this list, but I’ve made many valiant attempts to get off it. First, I filled out the online “unsubscribe” form linked at the bottom of each email message. Each time I filled it out, I got a message cheerfully telling me that I had “Successfully Unsubscribed!” – but there was never any diminution in the quantity of the emails. After doing this more than a dozen times over a period of several weeks, I came to the conclusion that it was never going to work. My next step was to go to the NRCC website and fill out an email contact form with my request to be unsubscribed from the list. This got no response at all, and the emails just kept on coming. Finally, I found a phone number for the NRCC and called them. I spoke to a very nice young man who promised to get my email address off their mailing list. But that was more than a month ago, and – you guessed it – the emails just keep on coming.

The NRCC is just not willing to let me go. I feel as though I’m trapped behind enemy lines. It’s not that I think of Republicans as my enemies, but the NRCC emails make it clear that they consider people like me the enemy. I have been both fascinated and appalled by the lies and distortions of truth that the NRCC uses to try to whip its base into action. (“Action” here is defined as sending money; each email ends with a request for a donation.) In the early weeks, before the first round of voting in the Georgia special election for Congress, the emails screamed about how the Democrats were trying to “steal” this congressional seat. (I wish I had saved one of those emails so that I could quote it directly.) The charge of trying to “steal” an election implies some kind of illegal activity – campaign dirty tricks or voter fraud. But when I read further, it turned out that trying to “steal” the election consisted of uniting behind a single candidate and funneling funds to that candidate. I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of these emails, which were asking me – a Mainer who lives nowhere near Georgia – to donate money to this campaign to help offset all the “outside” money that the Democrats were pouring into the race; meanwhile, the Democratic Party (of which I am a registered member), had not asked me to contribute any money to this race. Recent emails have let go of the “stealing” rhetoric and mostly focused on Nancy Pelosi as the embodiment of all that is evil.

I am well aware that Republicans don’t have the market cornered on political distortions of truth. To my great dismay, liberals have been engaging in the same tactics. I don’t get these lies from any official Democratic Party source, however. Rather, they appear on social media, usually as anonymous posts that we are asked to copy and paste rather than share (presumably because copying and pasting obliterates the source of the post). The difference is that I feel comfortable confronting my liberal friends about these tactics. I respond to misleading political Facebook posts by asking the friend who posted it to identify the source of their information and exhorting them to stand up for a fact-based political discourse; they usually respond by taking the posts down. Because I’m a liberal, though, I don’t feel as though I have any such leverage to challenge conservative distortions. I did reply to some of the early NRCC emails by challenging the veracity of their claims; but, of course, my replies never got any response other than more of the original emails. Since I am unable to stop them or to respond to them, the daily barrage of emails from the NRCC leave me feeling powerless and like a spy trapped behind enemy lines.

Post Script: As I wrote the first draft of this post, my email messages from the NRCC suddenly stopped; I received only one yesterday and none so far today. Is this just a weird coincidence? Is their IT operation so inefficient that it takes more than a month to catch up with unsubscribe requests? I am relieved to be out from under this negative presence in my life. But I’m also glad to have been educated about how the conservative right presents people like me to their faithful supporters.


12 thoughts on “Trapped Behind Enemy Lines

  1. Donna Donabella says:

    Oh my that is a pain….I am on too many Dem and liberal lists (I am both) and had to unsubscribe to many as they were constantly sending emails….interesting take on the GOP emails as the Dem ones for these special elections spelled disaster constantly….if I cannot get off a list and they are a pain, I have been forced at times to report them to my email provider as spam and that has taken care of them. If yours continue it is worth reporting them; gmail makes it easy with a button at the top. Hopefully you will have some peace!

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I’ve been unsubscribing from email lists ruthlessly for the past year (the people who created the “Constant Contact” system for nonprofits have a lot to answer for!), but this one just wouldn’t let me go. Happily, the emails disappeared from my mailbox as suddenly and mysteriously as they first arrived. And I can always fall back on the teacher’s coping mechanism: “It was a learning experience.” 😉

  2. Charles F. Emmons says:

    Is there anything equivalent to a “do not call list” for emails? I guess one is just expected to block the source on one’s computer, or to label it spam. I have also run across commercial emails that i can’t unsubscribe without downloading something that I don’t want.

    • Jean says:

      Charlie, Wouldn’t it be lovely if there were such a list? Even if it only worked as well as the telephone “Do Not Call” list, it would be an improvement. I once signed up for the snail mail version of the “Do Not Call” list, but I didn’t see any effect on the volume of junk mail delivered to me by the US Postal Service.

  3. GARY says:

    Just flag these e-mails as “junk” and they should end up in your junk e-mail folder. Outlook and Gmail have decent avenues to handle annoyances like this. Hope this helps, contact me if you need more assistance. Gary

    • Jean says:

      Good suggestions, Gary. I have three levels of junk mail protection: my ISP spam filter, a separate junk mail system provided by my ISP as part of its firewall/anti-virus software, and Outlook’s “junk mail” feature, but I struggle with getting the right balance between false positives and false negatives. Outlook is the worst; every day I tell it that my news headlines from the NY Times are not junk and that it should always trust email from this address, and every day it sends them to junk mail (except on occasional random days when it delivers them to my inbox.) I told Outlook to treat my NRCC emails as junk mail early on; on any given day, some of them would go to junk mail and some would go to my inbox. The upshot of all this is that I end up looking at what all my spam filters have blocked each day to catch the important emails that shouldn’t be there.

  4. JeanR says:

    I can identify with your problem. I keep getting emails from someone trying to sell me bowling shirts, of all things. The unsubscribe does no good and the ‘block sender’ link from my email server does no good. Marking something as ‘spam’ does seem to slow down the junk emails, though.

    Glad you found something of value in being ‘behind enemy lines.” LOL

    • Jean says:

      Jean, LOL, I didn’t even know that such an item as “bowling shirts” existed. I get almost daily emails, along with frequent comments on my blog, offering various pharmaceuticals to help me with my Erectile Dysfunction — some confusion there about the gender of our shared name. I consider “unsubscribe” links that don’t work a particularly nasty form of deception. It’s good that I’m a teacher and can almost always find something of value to learn from almost any experience.

  5. Sue McPhee says:

    Oh lordy!

  6. Diana Studer says:

    Something distasteful about being battered with emails you didn’t subscribe to.

    but this made me laugh

    • Jean says:

      Diana, Thank you so much for sharing this; it’s hilarious! I got vicarious satisfaction from the rising panic of Dan, and I loved the ending of the two computers endlessly pinging one another with “case numbers.”

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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