Colbert then urged his audience to find the Wikipedia entry on elephants and create an entry that stated their population had tripled in the last six months, a fact he freely stated to not know if it was “actually true,” with his sidebar stating “it isn’t.”
Guess what happened next? Scores of internet users took Colbert’s bait, repeatedly vandalizing approximately 20 articles on elephants before all being placed under a lock. The move also subsequently caused Wikipedia administrator Tawker to block Stephen Colbert from the website, reportedly to verify his identity [source].
The truthiness finally got to Stephen Colbert as he virtually promoted Wikipedia vandalism on his show. He actually logged on Wikipedia during his show and insert his personal view on an entry on his show. Thus, he shows how easily it is to vandalize public space and anonymity that the net offers you gives people just the incentive to do so. Wikipedia, according to me, is an amazing Internet creation; even one of the best. It has almost proven that adage about million monkeys and Shakespeare. But then, it takes only one ass to make a mess. Censoring or restricting the access might not be the solution but instead making the identity public might prove to be a disincentive to the vandals.
“wikiality,” the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you – it becomes reality, as Colbert put it perfectly is a fine example of truthiness. After all, if Fox News claims to provide a ‘fair and balanced’ view of the news, anything is game in the world of truth.
Update: One of the better articles on the Wikipedia phenomenon, it is pretty neutral on the ultimate authority of Wikipedia but I choose to believe that right now, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities. I loved the following quote by its founder, Jimmy Wales:
“Wikipedia is to Britannica as rock and roll is to easy listening,” he suggested. “It may not be as smooth, but it scares the parents and is a lot smarter in the end.”