You think Net is all true? You've been punk'd
Published March 30, 2007
Journalism has a rep for being full of drinkers and cynics, but if you spent precious moments of your short life triple-checking how to spell "Federline" you would slip yourself the odd Mickey, too. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, mistakes occasionally get through. People laugh a lot of times when they see typos and screw-ups in print, but they make me wince. I'm not a fan of humiliation comedy and know that there, but for the grace of spell check, go I.
There's one exception, however, an error that was so rich the person who made it should be proud that their screw-up gave people a much-needed laugh. It was made by the venerated wire service Reuters, which told us last October that "Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the life span of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day."
It was clearly some kind of search-and-replace mess-up because where a queen bee obviously belonged Queen Elizabeth seemed to turn up, resulting in a phrase such as ". . .with its highly evolved social structure of tens of thousands of worker bees commanded by Queen Elizabeth, the honey bee genome could . . ." etc. I heard about the story on the radio and found, sadly, that Reuters had already taken it off line, making it one of the only things you can't get on the Internet.
Trolling the Web
OK, so the Reuters glitch was an accident. But this month Wikipedia's credibility was scrutinized over the deliberate falsehood of one of its contributors who turned out to be not a professor of religion as he had claimed but a college dropout from Kentucky. According to Brit paper The Telegraph's Web site, Ryan Jordan had no advanced degrees and "used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies to help him correct articles on the penitential rite or transubstantiation." About a week later the online encyclopedia was embarrassed again when it posted that comedian Sinbad had died of a heart attack when he was actually alive and well.
"Expertise is not a requirement for the encyclopedia's unpaid authors. Nearly anyone with access to the Internet can contribute entries or edit existing selections," the Sentinel's Wes Smith wrote back in January. "WikiTrolls," he wrote, slip in to sabotage the site while volunteer "admins" patrol for errors.
Before all this I had no idea that Wikipedia could be edited by anyone, which raises two questions: a) Why would anyone have occasion to look Sinbad up in an encyclopedia of any kind and thereby discover a false death report? and b) If anyone can go in and edit Wikipedia, why are there any facts in it at all? This site has everything on it from Hammurabi to Robot Chicken. It should be Candyland for people who want to punk the Web. And the best anyone can do is the death of Sinbad? Your parents were right -- TV has rotted your imaginations.
Don't tell me you don't have time. If people have time to post comments on Web sites about Britney's weight, they have time for a second job, much less a little Wikipedia contribution or two. The following are some sample entries taken from Wikipedia (heavily edited in some cases) and sabotaged like the queen bee story, only on purpose. This is much more the kind of stuff I'd expect you bright young things to come up with:
Kenny G is a substance that depresses the central nervous system (CNS), resulting in calmness, relaxation, reduction of anxiety, sleepiness, slowed breathing, slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment and slow, uncertain reflexes. Kenny G may be referred to as (a) tranquilizer.
Simon Cowell is a type of fully cooked, cured and sometimes smoked sausage of even texture and flavor that is softer and moister than most other sausages.
The size of a small dog, but stocky and muscular, the Mel Gibson is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. It is characterized by its . . . offensive odor when stressed. . . .
What sets plastic surgery apart from costumes. . . is that (it is) often designed to imitate supernatural and scary beings. Popular monsters of legend or fiction are regular themes for plastic surgery.
Paparazzi seem to have no fear of humans and have approached groups of explorers without hesitation. This is probably on account of there being no land predators . . . that attack Paparazzi.
Danielynn's paternity test results are in a bright container generally suspended on a rope from a tree branch or ceiling that is filled with candy and toys and is used during celebrations. A succession of blindfolded, stick-wielding children and some fun-loving adults will try to break the container.
Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell are small marshmallow candies, sold in the United States.
The messy and largely self-entertaining game "Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell Jousting" is played with a microwave. One takes Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell and licks the right-hand side of each until sticky. A toothpick is thereby adhered to each Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell pointing forward like a jousting lance. Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell are then set in a microwave, squared off against one another, and heated up. As they expand, the toothpick lances thrust toward each opponent, and the winner is the one that does not pop and deflate. Both usually are eaten after the competition.