The '419 Scam': An Unacceptable 'Power of the False'?

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John Scannell


One of the more virulent manifestations of a burgeoning virtual world is the very physical waste that underwrites its proliferation. Illegal e-waste dumping in Western Africa not only wreaks havoc on the ecosystems of its destination countries, but also bolsters the arsenal of the "419 scammers" and 'data miners,' in turn. As the pernicious nature of such online fraud is protested by Western media, and the global economic inequalities that foster such deception is conveniently ignored, the material vestiges of Western privilege are unwittingly recycled into the war machines of the '419 scam.' Wilfully blind to the global conditions that perpetuate the fraud, '419'" vigilantes or 'scambaiters' take it upon themselves to hunt the scammers as a way of 'turning the tables' on their operations. An online sport steeped in colonial tradition, the redoubtable scambaiters proudly display their "trophy" catches on online forums such and In contradistinction to the issues of morality that pervade the commentary on methods of the 419 scammers and scambaiters alike, this paper will focus instead, on the multiple creative possibilities, that are actualised by these encounters. It is argued, that such exchanges, even in their current lamentable state, at least facilitate unforeseen connections between parts of the world that had never once spoken at all. That the successful facilitation of these scams, whether on the part of scammer or scambaiter, require a level of research into their respective subjects, that brings Africa and the West into an unprecedented 'intimacy,' Even if the outcomes are ultimately antagonistic, and the relations produced "false" ones, this paper asks whether they might be identified as the nascent stages of a more productive 'powers of the false.' to make use of a concept by philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. That the forgery and fantasy used to negotiate the scams might actually have the effect of furthering conversation about the global iniquity that inspire them in the first place.

Article Details

The Unacceptable Special Issue July 2014 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

John Scannell, Macquarie University

Lecturer - Department of Media, Music, Communcation and Cultural Studies