Wallace, Flatley and a flaming rooster

The internet, with its billions of dials, levers and pulleys, is a truly undiscerning archive of information—a place for everything, whether legal or illegal, uplifting or horrifying, valid or manufactured. It’s a bit like a sinkhole in that regard: providing a seemingly limitless capacity for any old shit that people fancy throwing in. Unlike a sinkhole though, this junk doesn’t just disappear into a murky mud-slop like an old lawn-mower, instead it’s stored and replicated for public consumption in the most effective and expansive digital archive ever created. Add to this the fact that the internet is, by and large, unregulated, and you have the perfect conditions in which to propagate, distribute and historicise some of the most wonderful nonsense.

As a very minor and inconsequential example, take my last post, which suggested, in an entirely fictional alter-reality, that I had been involved in a sex-scandal with Gregg Wallace, the bald Masterchef judge. Implausible, perhaps, but not beyond the realms of all that is possible. (I’d like to think I stood a chance, at least. I churn an impressive hummus.)

The good folks at Google then rewarded me for this misdemeanour with number four in the Gregg Wallace sex-scandal rundown (I have, by the way, checked the top three search results, and they’re conspicuously scandal-free):

And thus a Gregg Wallace sex-scandal is born, albeit a scandal that no-one will ever notice or care about. Or, for that matter, search for.

A much more impressive example of internet cheekiness comes courtesy of some friends back in the UK, who a few years ago doctored the Wikipedia entry for Michael Flatley (back in the day when such vandalism was much more easily achieved) with the addition of the following sentence:

In September 2000, Flatley was awarded the prestigious ‘Coq Flambee’ by the Sorbonne, Paris, for his commitment to the furtherance of Franco-Irish ‘relations’.

Brilliant.

I’m not exactly sure how long this piece of perfection lasted on Wikipedia, but certainly time enough for several lazy researchers to copy-paste Flatley’s Wiki entry onto their own websites. It even made it onto michaelflatley.com for a short time, which when it comes to acts of internet vandalism, has to be the apex of achievement.

Type the words ‘Michael Flatley Coq Flambee‘ into Google today and you are still rewarded with a whole host of positive returns, some of which span linguistic divides.

Im September 2000 wurde Flatley das prestigevolle „Coq Flambee“ durch das Sorbonne, Paris, für seine Verpflichtung zur Unterstützung der Franco-Irischen „Relationion“ zugesprochen.

En septiembre de 2000, Flatley fue concedido el “Coq prestigioso Flambee” por el Sorbonne, París, para su comisn al formento de relaciones Franco-Irlandesas.

Again, just brilliant.

In fact, this little bit of nonsense has made it onto search.com, reference.com, enciclopediaespana.com and statemaster.com, not to mention several blogs and forums that mention the accolade. And from what? An inspired decision by a couple of drunk students to tamper with the Lord of the Dance.

Of course, there’s always one smart-arse know-it-all who tries to ruin everyone’s fun, but to the man who wrote the following comment on stateuniversity.com, I say that you are a despicable killjoy of the highest order, and I’ve a good mind to fabricate a sex-scandal with you, just to teach you a lesson:

The “Coq Flambee” reference is completely bogus—probably a lame attempt to suggest that Flatley is gay. Obviously, this piece has been largely copied from Wikipedia, where the reference first emerged (and has been deleted. It has been edited out. Internet searches for “Coq Flambee” turns up nothing outside of this reference).

Just as a point of order, the inferred homosexuality of Flatley is far from lame. It is an expertly interwoven subtext that plays on the French for rooster, ‘coq’, and its homophone in English, ‘cock’—an inference that is then developed though the use of ‘flambee’, which is indicative of heat, frictional or otherwise. The quote marks around the word ‘relations’ is the cherry atop of the inference cake …

But whatever the legal or moral verdict on such vandalism, Flatley has now, on certain websites, an additional and prestigious award to his name. Something else to put on his mantelpiece; another bauble for his tree.

And surely if the internet’s for anything, it’s for creating fictional awards for Irish dancers.

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2 comments

  1. Brian Ault · February 4, 2011

    Hi,

    Mr. smart-arse know-it-all here. I was checking out of curiousity to see how far the “coq flambee” thing had run, and ran across your column(s). You’re a good writer; I hope you know that.

    No, I wasn’t Googling myself – not that I haven’t.

    I guess that one of my personal demons is I can be waaaaay over-serious. I just wrote that note because I’ve had friends who had really crummy treatment from life because they were gay, so when I saw that entry I took it as a kind of gay-bashing. (I’m also an engineer’s kid and hate misinformation.)

    Really sorry I wrecked your friends’ fun. I think that’s the only note like that I’ve written. I’m a protect-the-underdog type, though, and only a part-time pain in the butt. It’s not as good as “Coq Flambee”, but a searc reveals that “Driveldance” isn’t taken yet.

    You listened to your old record? You’re brave. I haven’t listened to my single for years. Fortunately it’s on a 45 which gives me an excuse.

    Thanks for not doing the sex-scandal thing. It would probably never die either.

    Love hummus but prefer baba ghanouj.

    Is it just me or does baba ghanouj sound like a sheep dip would sound?

    God Bless,

    S-A K-I-A

  2. lefolly · February 10, 2011

    well, hello! and thank-you for your kind words … i, like you, check on this particular piece of internet wizardry from time to time. i think it’s probably reached maximum exposure now though (my blog certainly doesn’t get the readership to see a resurgence). i’m also with you on misinformation, although my defences are lowered when a delightfully risible (and eminently wealthy) individual such as the Lord of the Dance is in the frame. sometimes you’ve just to let go. i’m not sure, though, whether awarding the Lord with a fictional “Coq Flambee” trophy could constitute gay bashing; i hadn’t even thought of it as inferring homosexuality until you mentioned it. i merely had it down as an expert bit of capery and swashbuckling fun. what i can assure you of, however, is that my friends’ fun was not doused by your criticism; if anything it enhanced it. sadly i don’t live in the same city (or continent) as the fellows in question anymore, but i can certainly imagine them still jibbering about the streets of London, grabbing hold of the nearest stranger, and recounting, in full, the time that they doctored Michael Flatley’s Wiki page. the only sad thing about the whole affair is that i fear they may have peaked too soon. it’s probably like when Martina Hingis won Wimbledon when she was just 15. nothing more to drive at. anyway, thanks again for stopping by to my oft-neglected blog. have a simply wonderful day. x

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