There's nothing the mainstream media likes more than a good scare story involving new technology. If it's expensive personal new technology, so much the better. You may remember that Walkmen made you deaf, videogames gave you RSI, mobile phones gave you brain cancer and Rolexes encouraged people with machetes to give you a wrist manicure -- thus obviating the problem with the Nintendonitis, at least.
Much the same sense of enjoyable outrage is now attaching itself to the lucky owners of iPods, and in particular the honky headphones that come with it. One outraged chap from Manchester -- presumably standing out like a beacon in the smoke from the tunnel due to his alabaster attachments -- described how a bloke came across the street, looked at his chalky cables and said "You listening to an iPod then?" "Why, yes. Yes I am" said the iPod person, at which point the interrogator pulled out a knife and relieved him of his portable property.
The police have used this in their advice to iPod owners not to use the supplied wan wires, but instead to buy a pair of something less gaudy. I think it's possibly more advisable, when confronted by a stranger enquiring after your personal possessions, to lie.
Nonetheless, I do see the public flaunting of those ivory integuments as a sign of base stupidity. Although I can't believe Apple really said -- as reported -- that "our users would rather show off their iPod than not be mugged", there is no doubt that were I to wander through Kings Cross on a Friday evening waving my 'Pod about like they do in the adverts, I would last around three minutes.
But the real reason the sane should junk the pearly plugs is that they're not very good. Even a fifteen-quid pair of Sony in-ear jobbies sounds better (and don't fall out), and for twice that you can get some that are not only anonymous and black but give much better results than your collection of dodgily ripped MP3s deserve.
The truly paranoid can thread the remote control -- and its giveaway colourless connection -- under the shirt like a radio mike, clipping it to an inside edge beneath a button. It does mean you get to stab worryingly at your own chest from time to time when you need to change track or up the volume, but if you combine this with some angry muttering you'll find you're given a very wide berth by all. And you won't get better advice than that.