By Kyle | July 16, 2007
Today the Wall Street Journal celebrates the tenth anniversary of Blogworld. It quotes Tom Wolfe (who, “weary of narcissistic shrieks and baseless ‘information,’” says he no longer reads blogs), thus:
One by one, Marshall McLuhan’s wackiest-seeming predictions come true. Forty years ago, he said that modern communications technology would turn the young into tribal primitives who pay attention not to objective “news” reports but only to what the drums say, i.e., rumors.
And there you have blogs. The universe of blogs is a universe of rumors, and the tribe likes it that way. Blogs are an advance guard to the rear. For example, only a primitive would believe a word of Wikipedia (which, though not strictly a blog, shares the characteristics of the genre). The entry under my name says that in 2003 “major news media” broadcast reports of my death and that I telephoned Larry King and said, “I ain’t dead yet, give me a little more time and no doubt it will become true.”
Oddly, this news supposedly broadcast never reached my ears in any form whatsoever prior to the Wikipedia entry, and I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to telephone Larry King. I wouldn’t have called him, in any case. I would have called my internist. I don’t so much mind Wikipedia’s recording of news that nobody ever disseminated in the first place as I do the lame comment attributed to me. I wouldn’t say “I ain’t” even if I were singing a country music song. In fact, I have posted a $5,000 reward for anyone who can write a song containing the verb forms “am not,” “doesn’t,” or “isn’t” that makes the Billboard Top Twenty.
Here’s the great thing about Wikipedia: not that it’s 100 percent accurate, but that it is a terrific aggregator and it gives you a starting point. Anyone who knows nothing about Tom Wolfe–where he went to college, what his first job was, etc.–can start with Wikipedia and proceed to check whatever it says. Often this is easily done–by clicking on a footnote. The Wolfe entry doesn’t cite its sources, so it’s less valuable than some, but still there are a lot of interesting, checkable facts all gathered in one easy place. (As far as I can tell, the current Wolfe entry is accurate.) Wikipedia is a massive contribution to humanity, which is why it has become so important so fast.