At Global Voices we’re excited about cross-cultural encounters, moments where people from different countries start talking to one another on common issues, like the dialog that took place between Chinese and African bloggers at the Hibiscus project meeting this past December in Delhi, or the cooperation between Indian and Pakistani bloggers to evade blog censorship.
But not all cultural encounters are quite so friendly. Millions of internet users around the world have learned about crime in Nigeria through cross-cultural encounters of the spammy kind. The interaction between “yahoo-yahoo boys” – young Nigerian men who make a living by sending 419 scam emails – and their victims in wealthier countries reveals some interesting perspectives on the situation. Some of the people involved with 419 (advance fee fraud) see their victims as deserving their fate due to their greed and their comparative economic advantage. Despite the damage 419 is doing to Nigeria’s international economic reputation, some Nigerian musicians and comedians are finding it fertile group for parody, including Osuofia and his wonderful song, “I Go Chop Your Dollar” (below).
There’s a movement online of “scammer baiters“, who attempt to “fight back” by leading on 419 scammers, attempting to get them to waste their time and engage in humiliating behaviors in the hopes of making money. They argue that this is justified, since the people they’re humiliating are criminals. One could also argue that these scammer baiters are basically tormenting desperate, poor people for their personal enjoyment.
So it’s with mixed emotion that I link to the funniest piece of scammer baiting I’ve seen so far. A scambaiter responded to a 419 email – a scam in which the author claimed to be dying of cancer, wanting to distribute his fortune. The scambaiter told the West African authors that he was a film producer and was offering scholarships for African filmmakers – to be eligible for a scholarship, they’d need to produce their version of a scene from television.
And hence, we now have: the Scam Version of the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” Sketch:
Ah, the communication the internet enables: Nigerian comedians can make fun of greedy Americans and western pranksters can make fun of West Africans. Not all cross-cultural interaction makes you want to sing “Kumbaya”. But I gotta say – these guys do a great Monty Python sketch, and I think they’ve got a future…