Saturday, February 28, 2015

This was a test . . .

Now that the all the hoo-hah may be over, I still keep waiting for the "all clear" to sound and the announcement that "this was a test of the Emergency Sherlock Verification System."  I'd find real comfort in that.

Not because I'm living in a fifties-era mindset where I love such official government announcements, mind you. I'd just feel really good in knowing that we didn't just have Sherlockiana's best and brightest all running to answer the alarm and slide down the firehouse pole for something as purely silly as a Scottish event pamphlet being passed off as original Sherlock.

Modern journalism has become so shoddy that news items are selected for headline value, judged by what their potential for sensationalism is without any real investigation, and quickly thrown at the public in hopes of getting the much-desired "viral" effect. And that's what we saw in the case of "Scottish amateur historian discovers long-lost Sherlock Holmes story."

So a retired guy (and retired guys are mostly amateur historians, if you hadn't noticed) found a pamphlet with Conan Doyle's name somewhere in it, and Sherlock Holmes's name somewhere in it. He hopefully jumped to a "wishful thinking" conclusion. What passes for news media these days excitedly jumped at the chance to publish more photos of Benedict Cumberbatch, and ran his wishful thinking, along with the "story."

And before all the analysis by experts and commentary by name Sherlockians, thousands of us just took one look at the thing and went, "Yeah, right, this is crap." 

But we live in an era where the public is fed the "news" it wants and not the news it needs. In the days that followed, we saw the story evolve through sort of a "Wikipedia" model. The media passed on what it was told and then people who actually knew something made their own changes to the story and the media passed along that as well. No experts were sought when the original discovery was made, as people would love to see a new Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle, so they were given one . . . even if that wasn't what it truly was at all.

While it was nice to see everything the Sherlockian community would bring to the table were a new Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story to actually be discovered, it was also a bit disheartening to see all that energy wasted on such a silly little fraud. So the best way I can frame it all to feel a little better about it is to think of it as a test, and only a test, of our Emergency Sherlock Verification System.

Because this certainly won't be the last time it gets used, I'll wager.

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