What's Your Hidden Agenda?

In July 1997, the Issaquah Press printed an article with the headline "Man Shoots Computer in Frustration." Now realize that Issaquah is just south of Redmond, so it's not surprising that this story was picked up nationally. It rapidly became a fun to cite piece of odd news, the fodder of morning radio shows. Google News has a scan of one version of the story, so you can read it for yourself.

A week later, the Issaquah Press ran a correction to the original story. It turns out that not only was the PC powered down at the time of the shooting, but the man wasn't even in the same with it room when he fired his gun. The bullets went through a wall and hit the computer more or less by accident. I'm not denying that this guy had issues, but one of them wasn't anger stemming from computer trouble.

So how did the original story manage to get into print?

Somehow the few facts were lined up, and from an objective point of view there were gaps between them. A distraught man. A discharged gun. Bullet holes in a no longer functioning PC. I have no way of knowing who mentally pieced together the sequence of events, but to someone the conclusion was blindingly obvious: computers are frustrating, wouldn't we all like to shoot one? Perhaps the unknown detective recently lost hours of work when a word processor crashed? Perhaps it was the influence of all the overheard and repeated comments about Windows 95 stability?

When I read forum postings and news articles, I'm wary of behind the scenes agendas. Sometimes they're obvious, sometimes not. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that this is a guy with a beef about Apple, this other person will only say good things about free-as-in-freedom software, this kid endlessly defends the honor of the PlayStation 3 because that's what his parents got him for Christmas, and he can't afford to also have an Xbox. And then I realize these people are unable to present me with a clear vision of what happened in that house in Issaquah in 1997.