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THE MORNING CONSTITUTIONAL, WHERE EVERYONE'S STUPID

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FWD: FWD: FWD: OUR TOP SECRET PLAN TO GET SUED

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The first email in history was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. Tomlinson was also the first recipient, and he recalls the contents of that message being random strings of characters or something equally forgettable. Ray Tomlinson and his colleagues probably thought they were creating a cheap and accessible way for people all over the world to communicate with one another. What they actually did was open up a never-ending vein of gold for lawyers.

Email is so valuable to attorneys because it takes one of mankind's most permanent traits - the willingness to say things that will only backfire on us - and cocoons it against deterioration. Memory fades and disappears. Papers get shredded or thrown away for space reasons, or ruined in basement floods. Email persists nearly forever. Emails are the tardigrades of communications, surviving when we all assume they've long since been killed.

You might think we, the most advanced species on this planet, would have learned the pitfalls of saying dumb things over easily recoverable email long ago and kept our most liability-exposing opinions out of them. The NCAA would like you to know that you are so very wrong, because their committee members were perfectly willing to demonstrate how arbitrary and petty the entity is over email. (There is also a memo in the recently released materials which unblinkingly compares the case against Todd McNair to that against Terry Nichols, part of the Oklahoma City bombing. While the memo itself is not an email, I'll go ahead and say there's a 99% chance it was found attached to one.)

In this stupidity, at least the NCAA is not alone. Whether by CEOs or low-level employees, so many criminal conspiracies or attempts to avoid a contractual obligation or other shady decisions have been sent from and received by corporate email accounts. Every year, organizations tell their people that email is never as private or destructible as they think. Every year, those people still use their email to say things that get them fired or sued or arrested.

But I have no intention of telling you to do otherwise. Keep sending emails within the company with the subject line "Trademark Violation??" Keep having long chains of messages detailing how you're mishandling something that end with email 78 saying "Let's take this offline." Oh, and definitely keep coming up with code phrases you think are a good way to hide what's really going on. That way, once the lawyers figure out that "maple syrup" equals "embezzled funds," you've created an easily searchable term for them. It's like a filter for idiocy.

Besides, have you tried just talking on the phone? That shit is misery.