They didn't do it, nobody saw them do it, you can't prove anything

Remember when the Sydney Morning Herald published that article saying how awesome the Moletech (or possibly MTECH) Fuel Saver was, when that device was of course actually just another useless magic talisman?

And then the online version of the article was erased, in a rather weird way?

And then the paper favoured me with a ten-word non-explanation about what had happened?

(I'm still waiting for Asher Moses, the author of the Moletech article, to reply to my e-mail about it. It's been almost three years now.)

Well, that's how newspaper Web sites work these days, apparently. 'Cos, a couple of days ago, the Daily Telegraph (another Australian paper) published that paean to the all-round gosh-darned fabulousness of the "Q-Link Mini" self-adhesive radiation-absorbing tiger-repelling antigravity eternal-life cure for the common cold.

And now they've... unpublished it again.

Ze page, she is not found.

It was foolish of me to think that a major publication wouldn't be so shameless as to do this, after I'd already seen a different major publication do it. Next time, I'm keeping a backup of the page. (Google still indexes umpteen traces of the article on other pages, but the text of the article itself is lost.)

This is the normal way in which defamatory or otherwise objectionable material is dealt with on the Web. We all know about the Streisand Effect vastly increasing the readership of any material that someone unlikable wants kept secret. But in situations when someone has valid grounds for objection to something on the Web, the outraged party usually just shouts at the offender a bit, whereupon the offender takes down the page full of lies about the sexual habits of Joe Bloggs, or the review that was copied wholesale from someone else's site, or whatever. There often isn't even a legal nastygram involved.

But this is not how it should work for major publishers. Even if the Q-Link Mini piece was never published on paper (I don't read the Telegraph - anybody see it on the actual fishwrap?), the greater public respect that "proper" publishers are meant to have (I'll wait for the laughter to die down...) means that, at the very least, they should do one of those one-square-inch-on-page-19 retraction/apologies. Not just silently delete the Web page.

I wonder, as a commenter on the last post pointed out, whether attention from the Mirror Universe evil twin of Media Watch had anything to do with this unannounced retraction.

[Update: As pointed out in the comments, Media Watch has covered the story now as well!]

As that Crikey piece points out at the end and as this Crikey piece explains in detail, it turns out that Stephen Fenech's footballer brother Mario is paid to promote Q-Link products. Which, to be fair, Mario probably sincerely believes are effective. This continues the great tradition of incisive critical thinking we've come to expect from sports stars.

(The second Crikey article also links to this page, where someone wades through the alleged scientific support for Q-Link claims, so you don't have to.)

Entertainingly, a search for the names of the two brothers currently turns up rather a lot of people talking about this Q-Link nonsense. You could probably piece the whole article back together from the sections of it quoted on blogs and Twitter.

While I waited for an apology from Stephen Fenech and/or the Daily Telegraph (or Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, for that matter, because that seems about as likely), I was wondering what the heck Stephen was thinking when he wrote that piece. Did he, I wondered, imagine that the preposterousness of the product would distract people from the giant conflict of interest? Perhaps Mario's the smart one in that family?

But no, that wasn't it. Stephen actually thought he'd get away with this because he's done it twice before.

Here and here, courtesy of the Australian Q-Link site's "In The Media" page, are Mr Fenech's two previous proud declarations of belief in the incredible powers of Sympathetic Resonance Technology. Both published in the Telegraph.

How often do you have to do this to be eligible for a Lifetime Achievement Bent Spoon Award?

6 Responses to “They didn't do it, nobody saw them do it, you can't prove anything”

  1. Joseph Says:

    For some reason, I felt the need to go searching for the text of the article.

    The only real potential I came across is this. The title is different, and it doesn't mention the Daily Telegraph or Stephen Fenech, but it contains every quote from the article that I can find. I'm guessing that the site it's on now just happens to "borrow" articles from other sources. I never saw the original, but perhaps someone who did remembers it well enough to determine whether or not this is the same thing?

  2. bbot Says:

    Webcitation is your friend, Dan. They don't make it entirely obvious what link you click on to archive a page, though. (It's this one.)

    I've been using it for a couple months now to securely document various things that people might regret publishing, and then try to memory hole. It's neat, and doesn't seem likely to vanish unexpectedly.

  3. stopthatastronaut Says:

    @HappySinger twitpic'd the page here

    I have a copy in MHT format. A few others have copies. The internet never forgets.

  4. topdeck Says:

    An update: Media Watch did cover this, and pretty well:

  5. FeRD Says:

    Honestly, you'd think any halfway-sane person would be suspicious of the "techno--"... er, "devi--"... um, "doodad" the moment they noticed that the company offering it is named after the 1980's Commodore 64 BBS service from which AOL would eventually be born.

    @bbot: For stuff I actually want to archive, I prefer the Scrapbook Plus addon (presuming you're using the One True Browser), which stores an entirely-local, offline copy of the content in question.

  6. burkey Says:

    I find it rather awesome that Asher Moses was the person that wrote the original article - he has always been one to write first, research later.
    I've crossed paths with him before back when he worked for PCPowerPlay. He was selling some PC parts, which after receiving them, ended up being 'review parts not to be sold' and 'engineering sample' according to the stickers. They did work, for a time, but he never replied back to me after I questioned that either...
    I found a rather amusing forum post with hate directed at him here:

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