Bintel Blog

Michael Lerner: The Case for Spam

By Daniel Treiman

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Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine and author of frequent (and lengthy) e-mail missives, makes the case that efforts to prohibit e-mail spam could hurt “social change organizations.”

To those who would argue that they have a sweeping right not to have their inboxes invaded by spam (even from nonprofits), Lerner retorts:

The real question here is: do we have a right “not to know?” What if our government is killing hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq with our tax money, or the corporations from whom we buy products are destroying the environment so that our community’s rate of cancer is rising dramatically?

Why do we have a “right” to not know about all this? And, conversely, if some organization finds a way to get our email addresses, why do we have a right to not receive their communications? Is this kind of information really “spam” that should be prevented, made illegal, or stopped by having the service provider sued for allowing non-profits to send this kind of information to people who didn’t request it? How could they have requested it when they never even heard about the issues until the social movements started raising them?

I would go one step further than Rabbi Lerner: Do we have the right to not know we don’t know?

In all seriousness though, Lerner’s larger point is a valid one: There is a good case to be made that mass e-mails from nonprofits should be treated differently than those from for-profits. And if they are succinct and sent sparingly, so much the better.

Michael Brochstein Thu. Jul 5, 2007

After the first 100 worthwhile non-profits put you on their daily email spam list to tell you how great and important their work is then you might change your mind and want more control or at least be paid for having to wade through your daily 100+ pieces of spam everyday from these worthwhile non-profits.

David Sternlight Thu. Jul 5, 2007

Lerner's argument is a stupid one in pursuit of his ideology. If we don't have a "right not to know" then people advocating "good causes" (by whose definition, Lerner's?) have the right to invade our homes, even our bedrooms, to argue their causes. Just because Lerner thinks something is a good cause does not give him the right to invade the confines of my computer unbidden. David Sternlight, Ph.D. Los Angeles

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