Probing a mysterious network of dropshippers, evangelicals, crapgadgets, and semi-vacant Manhattan department stores

Originally published at:


Man, i’d love a reinterpretation of this in the style of Fear & Loathing, Scanner Darkly, or John Dies At The End. Just really ramp up the weirdness to 11.


Hmmmm. We’ve recently been receiving mysterious Amazon returns at our office, somehow connected to a Chinese company we did some printing with. Boxes of off-brand skin creme and health supplements have been arriving for a few weeks now with no explanation, addressed to “returns” and a weird jumbled mish-mash of my boss’s name.


An attempt to flood channels with white noise shipments in an effort to conceal money laundering / gift card fraud / or similar?


I’ve heard of similar things happening to random people, perhaps even mentioned previously on BB. But i vaguely remember it… might’ve been connected to some kind of money laundering or scam. I think there were even instances of people getting in trouble for “accepting” packages they never ordered, but i’d be fascinated to know how deep the rabbit hole goes.


This sounds like one of Gibson’s.

Maybe some script kiddies started playing around with machine learning and e-commerce, and inadvertently created a deep-dreaming, profit maximising AI spinning out of control which… sells stuff?


(BTW I must have made that comment a reply to your comment by accident. However thanks for the info.)


Is this commerce evolving into the most efficient form for the system we’ve built? It seems so weird but it’s becoming pervasive, something must be working. If so it seems we’ve built a system with extensive flaws, if endlessly cloned stores selling cheap junk is the best adaptation.

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It almost looks like someone used machine learning to build online stores. If there weren’t a handful of real humans involved I’d say it was all an AI’s dream.

I could see how it could make money by selling overpriced crap. There have long been gift stores in NYC that specialized in “gift” items for travelers wanting to bring home gifts for friends and family. According a 1930s travel guide, they were usually near train stations. I remember them from the 1960s as being mainly in midtown. There were still one or two of them in midtown when I was in NYC a few months ago.

I think the real money was in the corporate fraud. The indictment is for loan fraud, but there was also the conversion of Newsweek assets. Granted, whoever or whatever set this up has been working to make it hard to follow the money.


Obviously a guaranteed employment plan for manufacturing robots created by a god-like AI. It chose this bargain-basement Rev. Moon human to gather a cult of other humans who will serve It in various ways.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost time for one of my Queasy Pops, followed by an Ulcer Ease mouth rinse (which, let me tell you, you need after having a Queasy Pop).

“Sendai Book Store”? Yeah, it really does.


Reading that entire piece two things kept coming back to me: my mistrust of religious organizations, and how the internet and global commerce is still a “wild west” kind of mystery zone where you can invent an online presence or store and use ones-and-zeroes to make it all seem real, with bots and aggregators and such.


Don’t forget that David Jang isn’t just some “evangelical pastor” - he was originally a Moonie before striking out on his own, and for years he gladly accepted his followers acclamation as a “second Christ”.

He’s not so much a fundamentalist or evangelical as a cult leader.


The whole thing has made me emit distressed mewing sounds of ontological confusion. The linked article seems to be published through a customised content platform, but it’s not interactive “scrollytelling” or anything, it’s just a faux-nineties page design that made me wonder quite hard if it was some kind of art exhibit.


If the e-commerce racket serves the same ends as Newsweek and the media entities (enriching Jang and his cronies via the “school”), you called it:

in October, the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged IBT Media and a number of co-conspirators with defrauding lenders. A month later, the office announced that Olivet University would be indicted, too. The charges — which include falsifying records, conspiracy and criminal contempt — revolve around money laundering that prosecutors say was carried out to fund Olivet’s operations and real estate acquisitions.

Jesus would be so proud!


I feel William Gibson is somehow responsible…


Well, Jesus kicked out the money lenders, but the good book never mentions a problem with money launderers. /s


Makes me think a little of Sterling’s “Maneki Neko”, except that was inherently benevolent.


This is right out of a William Gibson novel. I honestly can’t decide if that makes me happy or incredibly depressed.

ETA: obviously not the only one who thought this


I’ve talked about this before in the BBS but… I think its fascinating that historically all major religions had a hardline stance against money lending, and predatory financial practices and how that was eventually ignored by Christian faiths. I do know Muslim practices still goes against it and i think there are a few others that do too. I’m not very well versed in my knowledge on that but if anyone can fill in the gaps for me i wouldn’t mind


“Mostly empty department store” pretty much screams money laundering.