The selection over the weekend of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's Republican running mate touched off a wave of pro and con commentary. None was more pitched than a series of edits and counter-edits to Paul Ryan's Wikipedia page.
The focus of the Wikipedia Wars quickly zeroed in on a 1988 reference in Ryan's high school yearbook that listed him as the "Biggest Brown-Noser."
Ryan sympathizers swept in to scrub the reference as irrelevant, but the vigilant opposition countered and put back the brown-nose reference, declaring it was relevant. The battle waged on with hundreds of revisions, including mention that Ryan was prom king his senior year.
Actually, a spate of Wikipedia edits in a politician's profile has now become a semi-official perch to judge whether a vice presidential candidate's stock is rising or falling.
Writing for The Atlantic, Megan Garber said reporters staked out the various Wikipedia pages of leading vice presidential candidates to see which one had the most editorial activity, a clue to who might get the nod. She noted that short-listers Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Ryan each had about the same amount of pre-announcement editing.
This was in sharp contrast, Garber said, to 2008 when Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was edited 68 times the day before John McCain's surprise announcement of her as his running mate.
Political mischief-maker Stephen Colbert, perhaps miffed because he wasn't on anyone's short list, openly encouraged people to "go on Wikipedia and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender." Wikipedia locked down the pages of the short-listers, which sucked the air out of Colbert's party.
However, once the Ryan selection was made, computer keyboards received a pounding as people warred over the color of Ryan's nose and his royal credentials in high school.
Size of government? Entitlement reform? Tax cuts for the wealthy? Go away and don't bother me. We have smaller things to debate in this election.