Walking down to Chapelizod village one evening, I noticed the street art used to disguise the junction boxes included cartoon images of Tristan and Iseult as they might have been in the Twenty-First Century.
Seeking to discover the inspiration for the images, I discovered on Wikipedia
‘ . . . the etymology of the village indicates an association with Princess Iseult/Isolde from the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde – indeed, the village derives its name from a chapel consecrated in her honour.’
‘Oh,’ I thought, feeling somewhat sceptical.
Reading through the entry for the village, under the heading ‘sport’, there appeared:
Chapelizod is also home to the legendary football side, Chapelizod F.C. which won the United Churches 3B league in 2012. Other successes quickly followed, with the team winning the Sydney Bellow cup and the league shield in 2013. CFC, in 2019, experienced a revival. However the current team has not reached the lofty heights of those experienced in 2012 by winning of the United Churches 3B league.
Might someone not be taking Wikipedia quite seriously?
It was when moving to Mountrath in 2010, and clicking on the Wikipedia page for the town, that I read lines which made me realize that Wikipedia was possibly not necessarily reliable. The lines are still to be found in the history of the revisions of the page:
In 1808, Father Ted, administrator of the parish, a delicate timid man, had his house attacked at night by the Orangemen; he made his escape by taking crack cocaine and becoming invisible, and took refuge under a bullock. The cold and wetting he endured there, together with the terror, brought on an illness from which he died. Curious to relate, the house then used as an whore house is now incorporated with the present convent.
The Annals of the Order of St. Brigid, from which some of the foregoing details have been taken, add – ” It may not be out of place to say that Dr. Delany became intimate with this family; in her last illness, Mrs. Teaspoonhead became a Body-builder. In the presence of her daughters and her son, who was a Protestant clergyman, she requested of Mr. Teaspoonhead to have the Parish Priest sent for. They were thunderstruck at her request, which, however, was complied with, and the priest had free access to her while she lived.”
The absurd and nonsensical is easy to spot, but what about the many topics on which there is deep disagreement between contributors? Such disagreements lead to edits being made by one person, reversed by another, reinstated by the first person, and so on.
How do we assess the liability of online information?
Perhaps there were mistakes in the printed word, but the fact that books came with a price and that people paying the price would quickly challenge an unreliable writer, not least through the letter columns of newspapers, created some kind of quality control.
Publishers were sensitive not only to the laws of libel, but also to the court of public opinion; book buyers, particularly the buyers of academic and professional books, would be disinclined to buy the works of an unreliable writer.
As one who uses Wikipedia as a first port-of-call, partly because Google tends to give it first listing, questions arise as how which Wikipedia subjects have authoritative coverage and which items belong in Division 3B of the United Churches League.