msnbc: Gross generalizations + sterotypes + pandering to the disabled = Good Journalism

msnbc, font of unbiased knowledge and fair reporting, had the following story:

Hackers try to cause seizures on epilepsy site
Web forum bombarded with links to pages with rapidly flashing images

This story is offensive to me on quite a few levels. Let’s look at some of their ‘facts’ and how they present them:

  • Computer hackers are criminals, motivated by greed, who are thieves and extortionists.
  • Hackers used an exploit to deface the Epilepsy Foundations web site and insert malicious graphics that could cause seizures and migraines.
  • Either enough people have placed cats into bags and thrown them over clotheslines to have created an adage that Paul Ferguson, a security researcher at antivirus software maker Trend Micro Inc., heard and casually used it in conversation or Paul Ferguson is a sick mother fucker.
  • A similar hacker attack disabled text reader software for some blind and visually impaired people.

Lets break down some of these items and see exactly what’s underneath this bullshit they call journalism.

Computer hackers are criminals, motivated by greed, who are thieves and extortionists.

First, let’s define the term hacker. There are many forms of hacking, including a lot of legitimate and beneficial uses of the word. In both golf and jounalism you can be called a hack or hacker, as in “That Arnold Palmer is quite a hacker in the rough” and “That reporter Jordan Robertson sure is a hack“. Suggesting everyone who ‘hacks’ or considers themselves a hacker is a criminal or thief is wrong. If a Republican senator was arrested for trying to get homosexual sex from a male prostitute in an airport bathroom, you wouldn’t write a headline declaring “Conservatives love the illegal gay sex“. If you are describing someone who is breaking the law, why not label them a criminal. Although all criminals may have been judged as law breakers not all hackers are criminals, just like not all Republicans are closeted, homosexual, greedy, sleaze-ball liar ass-bags. Mind you, in both cases, the majority may possibly conform to the stereotype, but it’s not very PC to judge the group.

Hackers used an exploit to deface the Epilepsy Foundations web site and insert malicious graphics that could cause seizures and migraines.

If the article is correct, then someone used an exploit to post a lot of crap on some message boards. That’s it. This is not hacking, it’s taking advantage of a situation. This board was obviously un-moderated and may have had outdated software. I would use the old ‘if you leave your door unlocked, you can’t look down on the thief’ analogy, but it’s not even enough to justify using that stupid saw. This is more like if you were giving out Halloween candy and walked away from the bowl for an hour and someone in a ninja costume came over and put rabbit shit in the Raisinettes. Yes, they were wrong and took advantage of you, but that doesn’t make them a god-damn ninja. On a lighter note I did hear that the FBI, after finishing this case, will be going on to investigate a report from Fisherville, TN where an unknown man, possibly a drunken ex-lover, wrote ‘Billie Anne is a fat bitch’ in the guestbook at a local wedding. Fourteen field agents have been pulled off of a serial rapist-murder case to investigate.

Either enough people have placed cats into bags and thrown them over clotheslines to have created an adage that Paul Ferguson, a security researcher at antivirus software maker Trend Micro Inc., heard and casually used it in conversation or Paul Ferguson is a sick mother fucker.

Ok, really… has anyone heard this one before? I’ve never, in over a trio of decades of swearing like a drunken, syphilitic sailor, heard of anyone doing this. I agree that it’s an immature thing to do, like inserting flashing graphics onto a message board filled with people who could have a debilitating and life threatening seizure after looking at flashing images. These kids obviously didn’t know how serious it could be or are severely mentally or emotionally disabled themselves. But I also assume they did it more for bragging rights and putting a comparison to a relatively unknown method of animal torture in the article that is guaranteed to be printed out and show to these punks’ impressionable and upstaging friends is probably not the best idea Mr. Ferguson has had this week.

A similar hacker attack disabled text reader software for some blind and visually impaired people.

They close this wonderful piece with a note about yet another assault on disabled Americans by letting everyone know a similar attack on a piece of software which disabled screen readers used by blind and visually impaired people. First, this is not a similar attack – one group posted offensive comments on a web based message board, the other disabled a piece of software that runs on a personal computer. This would be like comparing calling someone a douche in a blog with breaking into his house and replacing the Splenda with Nutrasweet in his Koolaid.

A quick aside: the article (barely) makes mention of the fact that this last one was targeted at pirated software. This means that hackers targeted blind and visually impaired users by disabling their illegally pirated screen reader software.

The ‘hackers’ are labeled criminals for disabling illegal software? I may be misunderstanding the Constitution but I though there was some kind of equality under the law thing around these parts. I didn’t think you could escape being labeled a criminal by being labeled as disabled.

I guess that researched, unbiased truth don’t make very good news but fear mongering, stereotypes and pandering for emotional effect does, eh msnbc?

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