AMITIAE - Friday 18 October 2013

Cassandra: A Roll of the Cybernetic Eye - TechDirt reports on the Sun's Dalliance with Truth

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By Graham K. Rogers

When I was a child in London, my maternal grandparents always took two morning newspapers (there was another in the evening as well): The Daily Herald and The Daily Mirror. The Daily Mirror had been a tabloid since its earliest days and had been established as a left wing newspaper aimed at the ladies, while The Daily Herald was a broadsheet, also to the left of centre.

The Daily Herald changed its name to The Sun and - still a broadsheet - was sold to Rupert Murdoch in the late 1960s. He cut it down to tabloid size, added a Page 3 girl every day and instead of left wing ideas, moved the newspaper to the philosophy of "tits and bums sell newspapers." He was of course right.

The descent to what is called the "gutter press" (not a Murdoch innovation) was fairly swift and was coupled with the refreshing approach that spelling and grammar were optional, not seen since before the days of Dr. Johnson (although The Guardian might raise a smile occasionally), while at the same time sports coverage was greatly enlarged (as were the fonts used).

The circulation of The Sun' increased - although it is unclear of this was due to Page 3 or the Sport - and so did its influence: both on other newspapers who were in a rush for the bottom; and politically, when jingoism became a renewed fashion. The newspaper also became known for its crusades, for example targeting a number of the rich and famous for no more reason than that they were rich and famous.

One of its most famous mistakes occurred at the time the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield was the scene of a disaster when almost 100 people were crushed. The Sun's outrageous headlines concerning the behaviour of fans were based on hearsay and were later found to be entirely false.

The Sun and the Truth do not always sit well with each other as Timothy Geigner on TechDirt reports this week. Without proper checking - a problem common with many who would call themselves journalists these days - the Sun included in a recent edition a story about an augmented mechanical eyeball.

As the article in TechDirt points out, the problem is that The Sun refers to Sarif Industries' as developer of these cybernetic implants. Geigner writes, "Sarif Industries is a fictitious company from a cyberpunk video game, Deus Ex, set in a future Detroit."

Doubtless many readers of the Sun will be citing this as real science, while we roll our (real) eyes in dismay.

For the full information and more background on this, see Timothy Geigner on TechDirt.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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