A classic drama of the modern age played out this week when a man called Dorian S Nakamoto denied he was the Satoshi Nakamoto sought by the world’s media. It was a hypester’s wet dream, with old media salivating over the creators of the new. Newsweek relaunched its print edition on the back of the tale. Nakamoto the Denier is a modest looking 64 year old living in California. Accused of being the creator of bitcoin, he played his part in the theatre beautifully, declaring,
“I’m not involved in bitcoin. Wait a minute, I want my free lunch first. I’m going with this guy, I’m not in bitcoin, I don’t know anything about it.”
Then he off to lunch with a Japanese speaking journalist, with all the pack in pursuit. Then it turned out the whole thing was a misunderstanding, that something had been added in translation.
Who gives a toss who invented bitcoin? The point is that it exists. Anyone who wants to know about it has ample opportunity to read up on its history, discover its implications and pore over its recent headline grabbing moments. Like any new currency, its had its fair share of issues. Whether it will survive or prove to be fatally flawed, codally speaking, remains to be seen.
How long will we have to suffer these pointless reports? How long before old media accepts that we don’t want to watch a tv report which begins with a headline, followed by the headline repeated once by a newsreader, then twice by a reporter at some random location and a fourth time by the newsreader. How long will we have to endure established news corporations reporting the relevant hashtags on social media as if they somehow have a working relationship?
Mistakes occur with both old and new media. What new media gives us is detail and up to the moment reportage. If you want a blow by blow live account of the latest terrorist mass shooting in America, you turn to Twitter. CNN will be at least one hour behind. If you want to listen to the turn of the genuine political debate on the streets of Bejing, you turn to Weibo, which will tell you stuff that China Daily News won’t even acknowledge. Only you’d better be quick because that state’s censors will catch up within about an hour and delete the taboo conversations.
The idea that dozens of press people cold-calling on an elderly man and pursuing him down the street, without even a sliver of a suggestion that he has done anything wrong, is somehow morally acceptable by old media. None of the old titles are exempt, even the immaculately smug Guardian, now breaking into the US market, gleefully presented a video of Nakamoto the Denier locking up his front door and having to struggle for space to plant his feet on the pavement. Journalists even have a self-deprecating name for that behaviour: monstering. When the monster sets off flash guns in their victim’s face so as to swifly afterwards obtain a picture of someone looking disorientated and ugly, that is called “hosing them down“. In any other context, these people would likely find themselves on charges of harassment and, very likely, worse. Conspiracy to assault springs to mind. Yet this is their stock in trade.
We’ll have to suffer these non-stories, these public outrages and the general delay so long as our population retains its current older generation. The people who will not or cannot use computers. We cannot cut off their news service just yet. It’s just not fair. However, one day we’ll realise that the only people offline are the genuine refuseniks. Will new media then romanticise the old and speak of it fondly? Our memories are short. Perhaps in a decade or two, we’ll be making dramas about the noble work conducted under fire in places like Murdoch’s propaganda factories. I hope not. It’s a nasty business, dedicated to abuse, and we’re better off without it.