So last night I was watching The Colbert Report
, y'know, as you do. Stephen Colbert aired a segment about Wikipedia "[that] you can read about on Wikipedia in 15 minutes." He checked the online encyclopedia to determine whether he had previously insulted Oregon by calling it "California's Canada" or "Washington's Mexico," before going with "Idaho's Portugal" instead, and pretending to update his Wikipedia entry with the new insult. Of course, this information is already on Wikipedia.
He then urged Americans fight the liberal Inconvenient Truth
-esque brainwashing about the environment by logging on to Wikipedia and changing the entry on elephants to include the made up fact that Africa's elephant population has tripled in the past six months*. Colbert wanted to replace the liberals' "reality" with something called "wikiality" ֠the notion that something is true if enough people believe it. I watched this segment while sitting on the couch, my laptop only an arm reach away on the coffee table, and I just had to do it. I had to look it up. I knew the information would probably be there already ֠I'd missed the 10 pm Colbert Report
and was two hours late with my midnight rerun ֠but I wanted to see what people had written. So I opened up Wikipedia's elephant entry, and what did I see at the top of the screen but a little box with the words: "This page has been temporarily protected from editing to deal with vandalism."
Good job, Stephen Colbert. You have roused your geeky, Internet minions (of which I might be one, what with the laptop always an arm reach away) to edit a free online encyclopedia with such speed and dexterity
that two hours later, their operation has already been shut down. I am reminded of the good ol' days when teenage boys could hack into AOL's "keywords" and direct users to scandalous websites, or when kids changed the school library's screen savers to show something pornographic. The ability of the Internet to bring together millions of people with too much time on their hands never ceases to amaze me.
*I forget if he said six months or a year. But if he can make up a time frame, then I can make up another time frame to represent the one he already made up, right? Right.