Monday, June 27, 2016

Journalism in our modern age

Here's a quick quiz: what publication is this excerpted from:

[...] is not really a man; he is a manifestation of public acclamation, an entity made by technology, and a myth. Old-fashioned journalism might bring you to him, or cause you to miss him altogether - but he was born of relationships that depend on concealment. A reporter was once a person who could rely on visible evidence, recordings, notes, statements of fact, and I gathered these assiduously, but this was a story that challenged the foundations on which reporting depends. I fought to uphold familiar standards of truth, and fought to discover new ways to uncover it in this underworld of companies with a vested interest in disclosing some things but not others, but it felt like the walls of virtual reality were forever pressing in on my notepad. It is standard practice in Silicon Valley for everyone, from bagel boy to research chief, to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This is because every company - Apple or Microsoft or Google or Facebook - has a mission not only to make money but to control the narrative of who they are.

Is this from:

  • A new unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs?
  • An upcoming book on Julian Assange?
  • Larry Ellison's autobiography?
  • A report on Edward Snowden?
  • A new science fiction novel loosely based on the life of Mark Zuckerberg?

Actually, it's none of the above.

Rather, it's a snip from the epic thirty five thousand word article by Andrew O'Hagan on Craig Wright in this summer's London Review of Books: The Satoshi Affair.

It's an essay about Satoshi.

It's an essay about Craig Wright.

And, mostly, it's an essay about our modern age, for, as O'Hagan puts it,

I was a willing stenographer, thinking Wright was something perhaps bigger than Satoshi. He was the internet’s habit of self-dramatisation and self-concealment all at once; its new sort of persona. What he actually did may never be known. Either he’s one of the greatest computer scientists of his generation, or he’s a reckless opportunist, or he’s both. We can’t be sure. But there he was, standing in Old Compton Street in the pouring rain, saying sorry.

A lot of people have expressed frustration with O'Hagan's essay, which tantalizes us with the hope that we'll finally Get The Answer, but in the end deposits us back at the same basic mystery, perhaps knowing more of the details of Wright's strange behavior, yet still in the dark about the Satoshi enigma.

I have a friend, who is in the know about these things, who (last time I saw him) expressed confidence that, eventually, we will know.

But, for now, we still do not know.

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