Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unraveled secrets

Secrets are being unraveled on the internet, often using the internet:

  1. Conrad Black’s trial starts this week.  The Canadian satirical magazine Frank (most content hidden behind a payment wall), which doubles as one of the few sources of truth in what passes for journalism in Canada, published a website purporting to support Black.  It is very well done, given away only by the odd picture of Black, the fact that the quotes of support are from such a motley crew of losers, and the over-the-top vocabulary and blow-hard style, reflecting Black’s use of words.  The site was so effective that it fooled a lot of people, including, for a few hours, Lord Black himself, who actually allowed himself to be tricked into inviting the supposed backers of the website over to his mansion for drinks.  Canadians are torn over Black.  The tiny number who work for the Canadian media think he is a combination of Jesus and a character from a story by Horatio Alger.  Everyone else is evenly split between hoping that the trial results in him being hung by his thumbs and slowly tortured to death, or taken out behind the court house and summarily dispatched like a rabid dog with a shot behind the ear.  It’s a tough choice.  It remains unfortunate that Canadians still have to rely on American courts to keep Canadian streets free of crime.
  2. Intrepid internet sleuthing uncovers the identity of the ‘duclod man’ (for his apparent website, and even more sleuthing, see here).
  3. Joyce Hatto was an English concert pianist who, late in her life when she was supposedly very ill, issued an enormous number of recordings, all of which turned out to be stolen from other pianists.  Hatto was recently described as “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of”.  In fact, her husband, William Barrington-Coupe, picked recordings by semi-obscure but excellent younger artists, sometimes altered them slightly, and issued them under her name (criticisms of the husband’s story are here and here).  The scandal was only discovered – after some suspicions had been expressed on internet discussion groups – when a critic put one of the CDs in his computer and iTunes identified it as being by someone else (to add to the conspiracy, it is possible that a whistleblower put this information in the iTunes database!).  Apart from Hatto and her husband themselves, Hattogate exposes the entire corrupt world of classical reviewing.  One reviewer unfavorably compared a recording by a young pianist to the Hatto recording.  The problem was that they were the same recording, made by the young pianist, and stolen by Hatto and her husband!  The reviewers haven’t a clue:  they review solely on their perception of the reputation of the artist.  Thus, younger artists, the victims of the Hatto scam, are screwed (as are people who buy CDs based on reading the corrupt reviews).
  4. The use of the internet to out Hatto and her husband reminds me of the recent story in Slate (see also here) by Paul Collins describing how Google Book Search is going to reveal plagiarism in the world of publishing.  There must be a lot of plagiarists out there – as well as a few from history – waiting for the other shoe to drop once their source is scanned and on the web.  The odd thing is that plagiarism is being revealed to be such a common crime that some are saying it is not worth worrying about.