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BLOG: Rush Limbaugh, Siri, and the wrath of the technocrati

John Cox | April 20, 2012
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.

When his iPhone is paired to the car's Bluetooth setup, "if I'm listening to the radio, for example -- the moment I hit the microphone [the Siri icon] on the iPhone, the radio is muted, because a phone call is being made, essentially. The phone system via Bluetooth is used to send my voice transcription out to Apple and back [based on his network description, this is probably not the case: via Bluetooth, the car's radio is being automatically muted, but the iPhone itself is presumably connecting via Wi-Fi to the LTE hotspot]. When it comes back [presumably meaning 'when the dictation text is displayed'] and the connection is finished, then the audio from the radio resumes."

He's used the entire arrangement, and Siri dictation, for some time and "Up until today, it worked flawlessly."

On Tuesday morning in the car, Limbaugh tries to reply to "some stuff" sent by Kathryn (presumably his wife). "I attempt dictation, and nothing happens. I hit the microphone button and I get the three beeps and no connection. It's not working. So I say, 'Ah, damn it, the system's down. Something's wrong with the servers,' but I keep trying," he tells his listeners.

On his third attempt, his spoken words are sent off, but what then appears on his iPhone screen - the "translation" of his speech into text - is "Obama's minions are taking over and there's nothing you can do about it," he recounts. "And I hadn't said anything like that!"

He notices that the "audio on the radio did not un-mute. The audio on the radio never came back." He switches the radio from satellite to standard AM and finds the radio is working fine. "I thought, 'Man, something's really not right,'" he says.

Using Siri, he repeats the reply to his wife. "What came back to me the second time was totally unrelated to anything I had said. It was talking about wind power and Obama and, 'You don't have a chance.'" It's at this point, that he suspects that Apple's backend system may have been hacked. "And I said to myself, 'You know, somebody's hacked Apple's servers. I'm gonna get in there [to the office].' I said, 'I can't wait to get to work and fire up some of these Apple blogs because I'll bet you this has been going on all morning and I'll betcha it's a big story that Apple's servers have been hacked.'"

He tries yet again to reply to his wife. "The third thing [transcription] which came back had nothing to do with politics," he says. But it also had nothing to do with his spoken reply.


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