Back in 2004, when I posted the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition on eBay, I wasn’t really surprised by the attention it attracted online, but I was surprised by how the facts got shaved down as the idea spread. It’s a fairly complex idea, I’ll admit—to explain it you’ve got to bring in U2 and Negativland and iPods and Island Records and Kasey Casem and Downhill Battle—and more than one entry said that the iPod was a project of Negativland or of Downhill Battle. I wasn’t personally upset by these misattributions, but it did serve as a personal reminder of the way that the accuracy of many blogs is probably a little closer to that of office gossip than of high-quality journalism.
Recently I noticed a different sort of mistake: One of the iPod images was being swiped for a Chinese blog, for an entry on a new edition of the U2 iPod that had nothing to do with Negativland:
It’s easy to imagine how this happened: This blogger wanted to pass on an Apple press release but also wanted to spruce it up with some pictures, so she entered “U2 iPod” into an image search engine and stumbled upon this photo. Not knowing anything about the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition—if there’s been anything written about it in the Chinese language, I’m not aware of it—she blithely included it in her blog post and never gave it a second thought.
I find it amusing to imagine some random reader of this blog seeing the unfamiliar band name in the iPod display and maybe doing a little Googling on the subject. And since discovering this, I’ve been trying to figure out if this dynamic can be exploited more generally, to dupe image-swiping bloggers into carrying subtle political messages on their own blogs … nothing comes to mind, alas. But maybe I’ll come up with something.