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When is a Story not About a Kid, a Clock, or a Bomb?

When is a Story Not About a Kid, a Clock, or a Bomb?

On the afternoon of September 17, Artvoice System Administrator Anthony DiPasquale posted a story on the Artvoice blog entitled “Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock...and Ourselves.” It’s a thoughtful piece in which he follows his own curiosity as an electronics tinkerer, and pieces together a convincing narrative to demonstrate how 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed likely cobbled together the “invention” that triggered an international debate.

In the week since DiPasquale put up that blog post, it received 537,000 page views, 5,681 Tweets, 2,900 other shares, and over 10,000 comments on the AV website. It was enough to cause our server to crash a few times.

In the interim, the Daily Beast, Maxim magazine, the Washington Post and others approached him for interviews. Stories in Huffington Post, the Guardian, FOX News and others linked back to his post. A high profile Tweet from Richard Dawkins created it’s own controversy, and spawned another branch of stories.

Two trends emerged in the websites that were linking back to his post—one were those sites that deal with science and technology, and the other were far right like Breitbart, Young Conservatives,, as well as conspiracy theory sites like Godlike Productions and InfoWars.

In short, the story blew up, or exploded, if you prefer.

And yet, as DiPasquale pointed out in his story, he didn’t just want to dissect the clock—which he did quickly and handily—but he “wanted to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation.”

DiPasquale was not picking on a 14-year-old kid, as many of the 10,000 commenters maintained he was, but rather, he was picking on a society that is so quick to form opinions on situations they know little about, up to and including the President of the United States. His story was about how the media, and we as consumers of media often prefer not to let facts get in the way of a good narrative.

The irony is that his common sense blog post—which was arguing that without all the facts it’s impossible to know the full story—instead became part of the runaway story.

We received two requests to take down the blog post entirely. One writer felt that some of the 10,000 comments amounted to the cyberbullying of a 14-year-old.

In any case, we don’t plan to do so. His post is an example of a lone voice noticing that the emperor has no clothes. It’s exactly the kind of reporting that should give us all pause to realize we’re not necessarily as smart as we assume we are.

For those who missed all the hubbub, visit the blog post here:

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