The Scientific Activist (Archives)


May 17, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the BBC the Other Day…

…Or, at least it did to various people named Guy. On May 8th, Guy Kewney—who runs the technology website–was waiting to be interviewed by the BBC about a recent ruling in the Apple v. Apple case when he saw himself, or rather not himself, being introduced on the TV. The man on TV was actually Guy Goma, who had been mistaken by the BBC for Kewney. The reason for the mix-up was probably a combination of the BBC’s rush to get Kewney on the air and a communication barrier due to Goma having only recently learned English after moving to London from the Congo.

Goma—who was visibly surprised by the questions being hurled at him, as seen in the video–was actually at the BBC to interview for, ironically enough, an IT job. Regardless, his composure was impressive, and he later told reporters that he would be “happy to speak about any situation” in the future. It was a pretty funny incident, but in the end it wasn’t all that interesting.

The same can’t be said for the aftermath, though, which turned out to be very telling. Not surprisingly, Kewney was fairly upset by what happened. He had just missed out on an appearance on national television, and anyone who watched the segment probably thought he really didn’t know very much about the Apple case. Although he has definitely earned the right to vent, some of his reaction on his blog comes off as a little… well… you judge for yourself:
There were several surprising things about my interview. We'll ignore the fact that I wasn't giving it, and had not given it. We'll even gloss over the fact that, judging by my performance, English wasn't my first language, and that I didn't seem to know much about Apple Computer, online music, or the Beatles. People have accused me of all those things, at various stages of my career.

But let's admit it: of all the things you can say about me, one word that really has to be deleted from the list is this one: "Black." We're talking biometrics, here. We're talking about "twins separated at birth, only their mother could tell them apart"... NOT!

I'm not black. I'm not black on a startling scale; I'm fair-haired, blue-eyed, prominent-nosed, and with the sort of pale skin that makes my dermatologist wince each time I complain about an itchy mole. I'm a walking candidate for chronic sunburn damage. I’m really, really not black.

But the guy on screen - sorry, the "Guy Kewney" live, on screen, definitely was. Black. Also, he spoke with a French-sounding accent, and he seemed as baffled as I felt. At first, he seemed puzzled that anybody might imagine that the lawsuit had consequences, and suggested that people would still be able to download music from Internet cafes. But what about Apple? "I don't know. I’m not at all sure what I'm doing here," he admitted sadly, as they finally twigged that something was going badly wrong, and hustled him off the set.

Kewney focuses extensively on one aspect of Goma that doesn’t seem particularly relevant here. I think the comments are a bit off-color, but I’m still inclined to give Kewney the benefit of the doubt here anyway and chalk it all up to a disastrous failed attempt at humor.

The other issue making things interesting here also appears to involve a bit of latent racism. For a reason that’s still unclear to me, all of the early news reports described the “fake” Guy Kewney as a cab driver. Apparently, the media believes that driving a taxi is a perfectly reasonable occupation for someone who’s foreign (specifically a black African) and speaks with a heavy accent. There’s no way he could have been an IT specialist with a business degree. Right? That’s what one would have gathered reading the media coverage, anyway.

The fact that all of the media outlets repeated the same nonsense, and didn’t realize the error until a week after the event happened, is somewhat disturbing. Once again, it seems that the media isn’t really doing its homework all that well.


  • Laziness is pervasive among even the biggest media outlets.
    I know. I've been in the business - military and civilian - for 31 years. The problem is particularly bad - and obnoxious - among the electronic media representatives. Who, let's face it, are largely show business types anyway, not serious journalists.
    And those that do declare themselves to be serious E journalists are usually partisan hacks and talking heds and shouting mouths.

    By Blogger Alan, at Thu May 18, 02:48:00 AM  

  • "And those that do declare themselves to be serious E journalists are usually partisan hacks and talking heds and shouting mouths."

    Myself included? Ha, ha.

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Thu May 18, 09:07:00 AM  

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