Cheney, Dicked

While the Bush campaign works overtime to associate the Gore-Lieberman ticket with Hollywood smut peddlers, it is overlooking its own assault on civility within the public square: The name of its vice-presidential candidate. A Chatterbox investigation reveals that the name “Dick Cheney” sets off the “Moodwatch” anti-flaming filter on the Eudora e-mail system!

According to the Eudora Web page, “MoodWatch” is a feature on Eudora 5.0

that acts as an emotion monitor for your email that flags aggressive language and calls it to your attention. MoodWatch can detect aggressive, demeaning or rude language in the email you send and receive by looking at both individual words and complete phrases.

Moodwatch gauges the nastiness of an incoming message and, if it concludes the material is offensive, attaches one to three red chili pepper icons. One chili pepper means “Better hope you know the person.” Two means “Watch out, you’re playin’ with fire chilies here.” Three means “Whoa, this is the kind of thing that might get your keyboard washed out with soap.”

Eudora user and Slate reader Betty Wheeler was very taken with Republican media consultant Timothy Ireland’s comments in the July 24 “Breakfast Table” regarding George W. Bush’s veep selection. She copied the following passage and e-mailed it to a friend:

My heart’s broken. Dick Cheney is assuredly a grown-up, but not an exciting one. He’s the sort of neighbor you don’t really notice–until he complains to the police that your party is too loud.

It’s no fun being in the party that wanted Colin Powell, the Hero of Desert Storm, but got Dick Cheney–the Head Bureaucrat in Charge of Procurement and Support Mechanisms Relating Directly but Not Exclusively to the Execution and Successful Completion of Operation Desert Storm. Now, Jack Danforth is interesting. He’s a lawyer, former senator, special counsel, Episcopal priest, and heir to the Ralston Purina fortune. This guy is personally responsible for litigation, legislation, investigation, transubstantiation, and Puppy Chow. He’s my man.

Immediately after Wheeler pushed the “send” button, she got the following message from Eudora, accompanied by two chili peppers:

Your message is likely to offend the average reader. You might consider toning it down.

Stunned at this response, Wheeler e-mailed Eudora’s help desk and asked what was up. She received the following response from employee Judi Vaughn:

Yes it would appear if you type [Cheney’s] first name more than once the moodwatch sees it as possibly offensive. You can turn the Moodwatch off if you want to–Tools\Options\Moodwatch–Uncheck Enable MoodWatch.

Should Dick Cheney apologize for sullying public discourse? Possibly. But perhaps it would be better if Qualcomm, which owns Eudora (and apparently doesn’t know dick about slang usage) tinkered with its Moodwatch program.

[Update, 10:15 p.m.: Although Judi Vaughn didn’t respond to Chatterbox’s e-mail and phone messages, late today Chatterbox received an e-mail from Valerie Enes at Porter Novelli, Qualcomm’s public relations firm. Here is what she had to say:

There are approximately 2.7 million words and phrases Eudora’s MoodWatch feature checks for and the capitalized diminutive of Richard should not set it off, but it does indeed, upon repetition, garner two chilies.  We continue to tweak the dictionaries (will perpetually) and this will change in the next rev.

2.7 million? Chatterbox recommends that Qualcomm hire George Carlin to pare that down a bit.]