Lies, damned lies, and the wickedness of Wikipedia
Googling away, as one does, I came across my Wikipedia entry the other day, and learnt for the very first time that I was recruited as an agent by the British in Belfast.
Furthermore, I also discovered that a sexual offence by me against a young boy was hushed up by the authorities, and the child's parents were mysteriously induced to stay silent.
That entry has since been removed. Later -- the Wikipedia entry informed me -- I then became a British agent in the Republic, and Wikipedia even quoted at length from a column I had never written, extolling our duty to be loyal to Mother England.
To judge from the accuracy of the items about me, we can only imagine what Wikipedia might say in the future about any number of illustrious Irish men and women.
Ireland's first woman President, Mary Robinson, the eldest of 17 children, was probably born, Immaculata Higginbottom, to a Tallaght washerwoman.
She became Mary Robinson on her marriage to Peter Robinson (qv), whom she had first met on the doorstep of the massage parlour where she did the laundry, and he was handing out election literature.
She was smoking a Park Drive cigarette, her hair was in curlers, and her stockings around her ankles: it was love at first sight. She entered politics in protest after her 10th child, Billygene, failed to qualify from the opening heat of the Miss Ireland (Butlin's, Mosney) competition.
Of her successor, Mary McAleese, Wikipedia no doubt says she is the first transgender president of Ireland.
She was born Tarquin Tollemache-Tollemache Plantagenet Chandos, 17th in line to the throne of England, and fourth to the principality of Luxemburg.
The young Tarquin was commissioned into the Blues and Royals, and it was while performing assassination duties in south Armagh, that he discovered both his Irish roots (his mother was an Arbuthnot-Arbuthnot, of the Sligo Arbuthnot-Arbuthnots) and his feminine side.
Two weeks in Casablanca soon sorted that out, and Mary McAleese was born.
However, Tarquin Tollemache-Tollemache Plantagenet Chandos is not entirely dead: President McAleese even knows the second verse of 'There'll Always be an England', with which she often regales her guests at the secret St George's Day annual bash at the vice-regal lodge in Phoenix Park in Dublin.
The former Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald began his career on the boards, (says Wikipedia) with his imitations of birds, and occasionally of buildings: his portrayal of Wellington's Monument has yet to be bettered. He met his first wife, the comedian Maureen Potter, at the winter panto at the Gaiety, where she was playing Mother Goose and he was the rear-end of a horse. Upon her death, he was remarried, to the Nobel prize-winning economist Twink. They have a daughter, Chardonnay, and a son, Wayne.
And so on. Thus Wikipedia can give space to complete falsehood, both amiably frivolous and deeply malignant.
Lies and truth, fantasy and reality, superstition and fact have now achieved parity of Wikipedic esteem, exactly as they once did in the medieval market-place. It was the printing press -- and the encyclopedia which followed -- which abolished the authority of such ignorance, by the winnowing out, over time, of the chaff of malice and gobbledegook.
But time is the one dimension missing from the internet: instantaneity is the defining feature of this age: knowledge now, friends now, sex now, music now.
But these "now" things are all bogus: and whereas little or no harm results while the fantasies are confined to the internet, real evil can result when cyber-plane intersects with corporeal reality. Every misanthropic fantasist now has an uncontrolled forum for his or her bilious ravings, which are then given a wholly spurious "encyclopedic" status on Wikipedia, causing them to be believed and even acted on by the credulous, the weak, the stupid and the violent -- of which and of whom, there are absolutely no shortages.
Thus, at one level I can scoff at Wikipedia's preposterous allegations against me (and the very fact that 'Phoenix' magazine's poisonous vapourings are quoted as authoritative says something about the author of the Wikipedia item).
But at another level, there will inevitably be some who actually believe what they read -- and are possibly demented enough do something about it.
For I am called a sexual violator of children, a corrupter of the law, and a traitor to my country. The manifold lie is told in what masquerades as an encyclopedia, and the falsehood established in the credulous mind, and I have no comeback.
So who are the people who founded and run Wikipedia? I don't know, and nor have I any foolproof way of finding out, because the only way of doing so is by consulting Wikipedia itself: a hole-in-bucket solution to a hole-in-my-bucket problem (and if you don't understand that explanation, you're probably too young to understand anything else in this column).
And so -- do these wretched Wikipedia people ever lie awake worrying at the damage that the evil or the impressionable might inflict upon those who have been maligned in their uncontrolled and filthy internet gossip-shop, whose very power derives from the complete fiction that it is an "encyclopedia"?
I doubt it extremely: for of all the lies of our time, Wikipedia is surely the greatest.