If you own a telephone it's highly likely that you have been bombarded by political robocalls over the past several months. And as the election nears, you may be noticing that you are quite popular, as your robocall frequency increases with each passing day. But it's not the sort of prom queen popularity with ostensibly positive connotations. This type of popularity is more akin to having your own personal stalker.
Robocalls have been around for multiple elections, and they remain as obnoxious and unrelenting as ever. I took a non-scientific poll of a dozen friends and asked them if they received robocalls on a regular basis, and whether they considered them to be any more charming than an infestation of bed bugs.
The results were unanimous: They all receive robocalls, and they all dislike them greatly (a much-censored version of their literal descriptions that included words and phrases such as "hate," "despise," "makes me want to kill someone," "vomitous excrement," and numerous others that would be inappropriate for print). So why do robocalls still exist?
Apart from serving as a United States congressman, there aren't many jobs where you can be entirely ineffective (who actually casts their vote on the basis of information acquired via a robocall?), insufferably irritating with an approval rating of zero (does anyone enjoy receiving a robocall?), sexually harass those around you (robocalls may not be a form of sexual harassment, but you certainly feel violated afterward), and still remain gainfully employed. And yet, the robocall continues doing its job and auto-dials with impunity.
If the robocall were a person, it would be your boss's degenerate son who, despite being inept and feckless, still occupies the corner office and receives an annual salary increase. He drives you mental, but you're absolutely powerless to enact any change. Such sentiments regarding robocalls seem to be universal.
Whenever I receive a robocall my first instinct is to reenact the scene from In Bruges (if you haven't seen it, shame on you) where Ralph Fiennes explodes in an expletive-laden rage and turns his phone into dandelion spores. It's a shame there isn't a data center keeping track of the thousands of phones destroyed each election over robocall rage.
The Undecided Voter
Anyone who decides their vote on account of a robocall should lose all voting privileges and be banished from society. You should be forced to wear a red 'RC' on your forehead as a scarlet letter, so everyone knows you're the guy who essentially took political advice from a telemarketer. Indeed, voting is a sacred bastion of our democracy, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and it starts and ends with gullible robocall listeners.
I can only fathom that the reason someone might decide their vote due to a robocall is because they're under the delusion that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is actually calling their home for an intimate chat (I actually received a message from Sarah Palin the other day, which was nice, because for awhile there she wasn't returning my calls). Being oblivious to reality must be nice, and I would imagine it's a family affair. "Honey, grab the kids, Mitt's on the line! I'm going to put it on speakerphone. Aw, isn't that nice of him, taking time out of his schedule to call us directly? You've got my vote, governor! Thanks for calling!"
The FTC's Robocall Bounty
The Federal Trade Commission announced last month that they are offering a $50,000 award for the inventor of the best technological solution to thwart illegal robocalls. $50,000? This isn't like winning a scratch-off lottery ticket your grandmother stuck in a birthday card. People who make it to Final Jeopardy walk away with more than that in their pocket, for god's sake. We're talking about a true national hero. He (or she) should get to spend the remainder of his life living like the Sultan of Brunei. This is the sort of invention that is on par with the E-ZPass, and the payout should befit the genius.
Of course, the FTC excludes political robocalls under the definition of an illegal telemarketer, but that can only be because, as incomprehensible as it may seem, nobody at the FTC has received a robocall while sitting down to dinner. As soon as that occurs the FTC will invariably contact the FBI, and political robocalls will suddenly be considered illegal, and as dangerous as the Unabomber.
Unite the Nation
Regardless of which political poll you subscribe to, the presidential election appears to be in a virtual tie. And because our nation is so divided, I will impart my astounding lack of political savvy and submit the following to both candidates: If you're serious about winning this election, it's quite simple...ban robocalls. Put it at the top of your next stump speech:
"Robocalls have been interrupting our family dinners for too long. We're already a very angry people, and robocalls are not simply an issue of logic, but also health and safety. I vow to never again subject you to my pre-recorded voice, and I'll ensure that all candidates, from the local school board to the presidency of the United States, cease and desist forthwith."
Barack, Mitt, are you familiar with the word 'landslide'? Because this is the November surprise that will compensate for the October surprises that died on the table. And as a final gesture of goodwill, you might want to consider taking the remaining funds earmarked for robocalls and buy everyone in America a taco.