I'm not sure how I feel about Stephen Colbert's new call to arms. He is fucking with internet democracy. Join me, on a journey through my head as I try to reason this out. Don't be scared. The cobwebs are harmless.
First of all, yes. I think I just coined a term: internet democracy. I'm talking about the relatively new phenomenon of user input on the internet. Colbert is exploiting the fact that this new idea has many uses, many of them counter-productive.
He has asked his viewers to go to a Hungarian website where voting is taking place in order to name a bridge. As of Tuesday night, the Stephen Colbert Bridge had around 2,400 votes. After mentioning it on the show Tuesday (along with detailed instructions navigating around the confusion of another language), the count on Wednesday night was around 438,000. These are rough numbers, I'm just trying to get into the debate (with my "formidable opponent"). For a little more detail, click here.
First - the good stuff, which bleeds into the bad stuff:
- Colbert is simply bringing to light a completely flawed process. The voting caught the eyes of the people at the Report because votes for the Chuck Norris Bridge were climbing into the 300,000 range. Ridiculous and interesting=perfect for the Report.
- After such a huge response, Colbert is now urging viewers to go to another site to vote on a name for a sports team's mascot which happens to be . . . an eagle. He wants us to name it the Colbeagle. I think they could have found a funnier name, but the concept, the connections - all funny.
- But where is this going to stop? The real reason I'm so wary is the way Colbert started. First, he saw his power when a huge fansite was started for him(see above link). He mentions the website on his show frequently and at the beginning he was (or seemed to me, at least) to be genuinly grateful and surprised at the amount of time and hard work people were willing to spend on him.
- Colbert next used his power on Wikipedia. In what became a pretty big story, Colbert changed the online encyclopedia whose content can be written or edited by anyone on the site. Here's a good summary of the events from Slashdot.org:
"The champion of 'truthiness' couldn't resist making fun of a website where facts, it seems, are endlessly malleable. But after making fun of Wikipedia on Monday night's "Colbert Report," Colbert learned some hard truths about Wikipedia's strength in resisting vandalism. Here's how the segment started: 'Colbert logs on to the Wikipedia article about his show to find out whether he usually refers to Oregon as "California's Canada or Washington's Mexico." Upon learning that he has referred to Oregon as both, he demonstrates how easy it is to disregard both references and put in a completely new one (Oregon is Idaho's Portugal), declaring it "the opinion I've always held, you can look it up."' Colbert then called on users to go to the site and falsify the entry on elephants. But Wikipedia's volunteer administrators were among those watching Colbert, and they responded swiftly to correct the entry, block further mischievous editing, and ban user StephenColbert from the website."
Yes. Wikipedia blocked him. Yes. This event was hilarious. And Yes: again, Colbert exploited a flawed internet tool.
Okay . . . so why am I not voting? Why am I not interested in helping Colbert show how ridiculous internet democracy is?
So, the bad stuff (for me, personally):
- I've never been one to follow a leader blindly.
- I've never enjoyed being one of the crowd.
- I don't like seeing humble people get cocky. Yes, I realize Colbert's character is cocky, but it's funny because it's false.
That's it. That's my main problem with this. Colbert is testing his power. He was shocked at the huge overnight increase in his numbers for the Hungarian bridge or "hid." It floored him. But after awhile, it stops being funny and ends up depressing and sad. Sad for our country (we're seriously looking things up through a resource which was written by people like me?), sad for the world (if Hungary's bridge is named after someone who has nothing to do with their culture, what does that mean? Yes, I realize the Chuck Norris vote was there first. So what does that mean?), and sad for Colbert (I don't want to see that head grow. I fear it would be bad for everyone).
Please feel free to add your ideas, criticism, and comments. Though I've pinpointed my main problem, I'd love your input.
In other news, from Broadsheet at Salon.com:
- Pharmacists are now refusing to refill birth control presecriptions. REFILLS, people.
- Gel bras can be used to trigger an explosion. I knew they were good for something. Kidding! Don't come arrest me.
- An abstinence-only education program in Canton, Ohio goes 'belly-up' when the results came in: 13% of the Timken High School population became pregnant last year. After 65 of the 490 female students at Timken turned up preggers, the board decided to include safe-sex education in their schools. Is this what it takes?