On Monday night's episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert addressed the online resource Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can read or edit. Colbert praised Wikipedia for "wikiality," the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you - it becomes reality. Colbert's subsequent examples to prove "wikiality" would cause chaos on the site, and lead an administrator to subsequently block his account.
In the segment, 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 goes on to declare that he doesn't believe George Washington had slaves.
If I want to say he didn't that's my right, and now, thanks to Wikipedia *taps keyboard* it's also a fact.
Here's the fun part - Colbert actually did this. The Wikipedia articles on his show and George Washington were both edited by the user Stephencolbert to reflect the changes he declared on air as he tapped at his computer around 23:35 UTC - which is 6:35pm on the East Coast, during the taping of his show, hours before it aired.
It gets better.
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. Either Tawker is incapable of checking the above log times that corroborate Colbert, or, more likely, he just wants to be mentioned on Stephen's show (as evidenced by his notes on the block and blog entry).
All this trouble over a man who, as his user page noted, is a 'defender of truth.'