Okay, have we all got that out of our system now? Have we had enough fun with the poor, boring people of Ottawa?
Look, I get it. Ashley Madison, the fucking-around website for married people, was hacked last week. The hackers are threatening to put the site’s subscriber data out into the wild. But where’s the Canadian angle? Sure, the site is based in Toronto, but there must be something more.
Ah, here it is! Back in February, a story appeared in the National Post that quoted internal Ashley Madison data showing some 190,000 people with Ottawa addresses used the service.
Now, we’re on to something. In steps the Canadian news machine to take this Post report, strip it for parts, and toss this five-month-old story back on the lot with a fresh coat of wax.
Except for one thing, the numbers are obviously bullshit. Parliament Hill, where a large number of users claimed they lived, is not a residence.* Beyond that, if the numbers were real, it would mean something like half of the capital’s married population had joined a website for some dickery-pokery.
Might there be some other, more plausible explanation for the absurdly high number of Ottawa subscribers? Say, people were using Parliament’s postal code—K1A 0A6—because it’s an easy fake to look up?
Anyhow, the Post’s initial story alludes to how obviously fake that data is, without saying it outright. The story also mentions how the company wouldn’t confirm how many of those accounts were active.
But that was then. Now, Ashley Madison is up to its neck in trouble. Now is the time for everyone else to jump on this thing. Canadian news was awash these past few days with stories about the “alleged cheating capital” of Canada. The “number” of cheaters in the capital seemed to have overshadowed the actual news of the data breach. It spread so far, so fast, and with so little nuance—or god forbid, fun—the obviously hinkey nature of the company’s data seems to have been totally ignored.
If the more recent news reports were to be believed, practically everyone in Ottawa was stepping out on their spouse, probably with your spouse. You got the impression you couldn’t walk through an Ottawa park at night without stumbling across an internet-arranged swingers orgy.
The story was picked up by so many places, the Post’s reporter, Ashley Csanady, re-wrote her initial story so they could have something fresh.
Jesus Christ, even British clapter-factory John Oliver got in on the game, making jokes about Ottawa and the fact it’s a city in Canada. So now, of course, half the news outlets in this country are jumping on that because an American TV host acknowledged we exist.
It’s a predictable cycle in our news culture that puts so much emphasis on matching stories. It’s more important to have the stories everyone else has than to actually do interesting work. Like a herd of demented lemmings, we’re endlessly chasing our butts, too lost to find a cliff to throw ourselves from.
News outlets no longer have the staff, the time, or the money to cover everything that happens in a city, or province, or country. Eventually, we’re going to have to accept that sometimes other places are going to have stories we don’t.
*The Speaker of the House does actually have an apartment in Centre Block, but let's assume he's not the dim sort to have actually used this website with an actual address.