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The mainstream press enjoys a good villain ? a reprehensible target posing an uncomplicated but potent threat. Preferably this will be something inherently new, which lends itself nicely to a subtle hint that basically, modern society is going to pot.

One bad apple

The internet often comes under attack from tabloid zealots, blaming it for all manor of abhorrent behaviour, from terrorism to paedophilia. Attacking the internet as an entity in this sense makes about as much sense as citing an inflammatory propaganda pamphlet as evidence against the use of paper. Video games are also regularly in the spotlight for perceived links between violent titles and real life crimes.

Late last month the wolves came a bit closer to home, when Sky News broadcast an exposé on PC repair shops, secretly filming one store in particular stealing bank information and personal photos. The story spread like wildfire across news networks, with coverage of the report reaching as far afield as Fox News in the US. Headlines like ‘Exposed: Repair Shops Hack Your Laptops’ give a fairly good indication of the tone of most of them.

For a moment, it looked as though it was going to explode. It had all the ingredients for a really damaging tabloid campaign, which could easily have been picked up by one of the more reactionary papers. As wrong as the behaviour exhibited in the report was, it would be erroneous to draw wider conclusions. If there’s one thing the retail sector doesn’t need right now, it’s a public whipped into a frenzy against it. However media campaigns have been built on less.

But it didn’t happen. One possible reason for this was the quick reaction by a coherent representative mouthpiece – in this case the former PCA. By going on television to respond – insisting that this was an isolated incident and that PC shops aren’t full of crooks – the trade body probably did much to curb further, potentially destructive uproar. This highlights the importance of proper industry representation – which looks to be getting a lot more cohesive with the formation of the TCA, and its aim to work closer with other bodies (see page 10). Most people would agree this can only be a good thing.

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