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Rush Limbaugh, Siri, and the wrath of the technocrati

Talk show host sparks new frenzy by describing an iPhone glitch

By , Network World
April 19, 2012 06:39 PM ET
Rush Limbaugh

Network World - On his Tuesday radio broadcast, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh described a technical problem with his iPhone and Apple's Siri voice assistant, encountered on his drive to work that morning.

Since then, he's been abused, mocked, and disbelieved on many of Apple techsites and online forums for purportedly claiming to have been hacked, and blaming the hack on either the Obama administration or, to paraphrase former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy. Many of the bloggers and commenters outright say he's simply a liar, having made up the story out of whole cloth.

Limbaugh posted on his website the next day a brief update about his follow-up experience Tuesday afternoon, which clearly put the event into the "unexplained glitch" category: "But I got in the car yesterday afternoon and headed to the airport....So I tried some dictation, and it was perfect. That stuff that happened yesterday morning has not happened since. It was flawless yesterday afternoon in the car, same setup, Verizon hot spot with my Bluetooth phone system in the car, perfect."

A typical response to Limbaugh's original account is that of MacGasm's Corey Tamas, a self-described "tech journalist," who gave his post the headline "Limbaugh As Clueless About Siri As He Is About Most Things." 

The headline clearly implies that Limbaugh knows little or nothing about Siri and that, presumably, Tamas can fill in this yawning knowledge gap and account for the technical problem that Limbaugh says he encountered.

"In a story I feel like I've waited my entire professional life to cover, Rush Limbaugh has decided to take aim at Siri and continues to entrench his legendary posture of saying things which take a gigantic, steaming dump on simple logic," Tama writes.

Yet nowhere in his post does Tamas explain how Limbaugh is wrong, technically un-informed or illogical. And he actually concedes two points, apparently unaware that he's doing so, that would support the idea that Limbaugh could have been targeted. "[I]t's a tricky hack to mess with someone's phone in that way... but far from impossible," Tomas writes, without giving the slightest technical explanation of just how it could be done. And secondly, "With the Old-Testament-Level of ill-will Rush has created for himself among many minorities (and among women, who are not exactly what you'd call a "minority"), it's not hard to imagine someone might make it their little OCD project to mess with Rush's iPhone," Tamas writes.

"Despite how tempting it would be to enter into a long-winded diatribe about Rush's politics, we are still just a tech blog and that discussion falls outside the parameters of what we want to be known for," he concludes, still without ever engaging in any technical analysis of Limbaugh's account. "I'm not a political analyst, but I am a writer with a decade and a half of professional tenure behind me... and I can say that rants are both the easiest to write and are the most popular among readers, but are almost always the hallmark of a writer with poor analytical skills."

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