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The Colbert Effect (Updated) August 11, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in popculture, The Colbert Report, Wikipedia.

Update (September 11, 2006):

Update (August 24, 2006):

Update (August 22, 2006):

Update (August 11, 2006): Stephen Colbert made more references to his web savvy fans (I would imagine that this is nearly everyone by now). Another call was made to vote for the Stephen Colbert Bridge and this time around, it seems like the servers are holding and votes are going through. I predict victory within 24 hours providing the site doesn’t go down yet again. Check out the current results here. As of now, it seems to be going up at around 5000 Colbert votes every few minutes. I suspect Comedy Central paid for some Hungarian bandwidth to that the experiment can continue. On a side note, if you look up “perl-script“, you’ll find nearly a million votes. This is the far more intriguing story but I probably won’t mention it beyond these few words here. Next up on the agenda, Colbert called onto his fans to rename the mascot of the Saginaw Spirit Hockey team, as a similar vote is taking place. I did notice that during the credits, the Comedy Central MotherLoad Video site was advertised for the first time in a while. This may be a way to fight off the several Youtube videos (see article below), but, maybe I’m just overanalyzing this whole situation like I have been since my first two articles! Beyond this, there is nothing for me to report except that the Samuel L. Jackson interview on the Daily Show was sweeeeeet. Snakes on a mother fuckin’ plane Comes out Friday!

I’ve written two articles (I and II) on Wikipedia and Colbert in the last week and a half and promise to you that this will be the final chapter of my Colbert Report discussion. Pt. III of the trilogy if you will. But there have been some interesting developments since then so here I am yet again. Since the last article, Wikipedia has been brought up briefly by interviewee Wes Boyd, co-creator of Moveon.org (who themselves have a youtube satire about Colbert) and those flying toasters you may have seen on your desktop circa 1994. The brief mention was simply another comment on some false statistics Colbert claimed were true and it didn’t even cause the slightest ripple on the Internet. But Wikipedia on Colbert was so last week. His most recent call on his legions of fans came a few nights ago during his “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger”. It was during this segment that he discussed how an Internet poll was being used to decide the name of a Hungarian bridge that is being built over the Danube. The task at hand was simple, go to the website of the bridge and name the bridge “The Stephen Colbert Bridge”. Shortly after the announcement, the site was overloaded with traffic (as one would imagine) and was no longer accessible. So there you go, Colbert is at it again, the pop culture of Stephen Colbert continues. How much power does this one man have? How large is his army?

I wouldn’t go so far as agreeing with Geraldo on this one, but the power Colbert yields depends more on other information channels than just his show. Flooding a website with traffic is nothing new. The Slashdot or DIGG effect has run several servers to the ground over the last few years. Several times a day to be honest. So what of the Colbert Effect? His Wikiality comments tested the dedication to some of the editors on Wikipedia, but the Colbert Effect died after a few days. The lock on the elephant page has been removed (you still have to have an account) and every sign of a lock on the Latchkey Kids article has been completely removed. Wikipedia isn’t the big bully censor after all. As for “The Stephen Colbert Bridge”, the voting site is still overwhelmed and nearly impossible to reach after two days but that doesn’t mean Colbert has really accomplished anything. Firstly, there’s no reason for a site like that to expect all that many daily visitors, a slight infusion of random traffic will take down the majority of the websites on the Internet. Secondly, according to a comment regarding the Bridge on the No Fact Zone, Colbert had a total of 2187 votes. That pales in comparison to the 156741 votes Chuck Norris already has (who is a distant second to the leader, Zenebutik-Zenehíd which has 260730). Sorry to say, what Colbert has achieved is simply a matter of hype for his television show.

Only hype? I guess that’s the point of television. But it seems to me that this constant call on his fans (who, like myself, are probably sitting at their computer while the show is aired) has undesired consequences as well. Youtube is filling up with more and more clips after every episode (1,2,3,4,5 clips from yesterdays show alone). These clips, of course, are commercial free. Social networking sites like Digg.com send a great amount of traffic to these videos. So what may be happening, is that Colbert’s popularity will go up, but not because there are more viewers watching the show on its intended medium (television). It appears that the Colbert Effect doesn’t stand a chance on its own. It relies too heavily on the web, which can assimilate the shows content and claim it as its own, to make a difference. But I suppose that’s the way things have been going for the last several years, television is losing its power every day. Parents of the world rejoice!




1. DB Ferguson - August 11, 2006

Thank you – I appreciate the link!

I do want to respond to you on my blog, but not in a negative way. I, too, have been pondering the thought of what I’ve dubbed the “Dance, Monkey, Dance!” effect of Colbert on his throngs of fans (self included). When I have some time to put thought into it this weekend, I’ll come back on it and chew for a bit. You do bring some very interesting insights into the phenomenons mentioned in your post.

I will say this, however. I’m not too worried about the “damage” inflicted by votes for Colbert with the exception of the bandwidth crash we gave that poor Hungarian government server. In the end, a panel of judges will review the winner and top selections and pick the most worthy name for the bridge. It’s just a bit of fun for the throngs, that’s all.

2. CorrosionX - August 12, 2006

If the site had held up, the bridge would’ve been called The Stephen Colbert Bridge by now.

3. The first guy doesn't know what he's talkin' about!!!!!! - August 17, 2006

It’s uh really high now, you’re wrong and Colbert is beating Chuck Norris…. The site is down but in 20 days, we definitely have a chance at renaming the Bridge after Colbert! (again, you’re wrong first guy and you have no life doing all of this analyzing, do you really care that much!? Colbert is awesome, however I hate when people like you overidolize the guy)

4. KarenRei - August 17, 2006

By the way: it’s 10:14 on the 17th, and “Elephants” has already been vandalized 4 times to say that the population has tripled.

Weak, short-lived effect? I think not.

I can’t wait to see the latest bridge numbers. It hasn’t updated since yesterday morning; I expect the numbers to be… impressive 😉

5. Tom Ritchford - August 18, 2006

Why are you so proud of vandalizing websites? Grow up already! Don’t you have better things to do?

6. Alex T - August 18, 2006

I checked the website for the bridge voting, How come the vote tally stayed the same. The Hungarian government is not accepting Colbert Votes, That bull!!! I loved 500 times for the Stephen Colbert Bridge (Downloaded the Script and cleared out my cookies) We need the votes, I will boycott the hungarian goverment if i had to

7. Anano Miss - August 23, 2006

I was searching for the Stephen Colbert Bridge, and I found something interesting. He now has over 30% of the tally. That is over 6 million votes!

8. Krisztina from Hungary - August 24, 2006

hello all from Hungary,
I am writing this message to you on behalf of Hungarians.
The whole voting process started because our goverment wanted to find the best name (Hungarian – historical figure mainly) for the new MO bridge. We have never heard Colbert’s name before, but now it is sure that we will keep an eye on him! 🙂 Also, Chuck Norris’ name was because of the internet jokes going around – and the votings came probably with the help of an automatic program. However, I can assure you – although it is really funny – that the bridge will have a Hungarian historical figure’s name at the end, not Chuck and not Colbert.Just think, how would it be if they would name a bridge in the US after Benny Hill? 🙂 and not Benjamin Frenklin? Quite rediculous, not? We are also proud of our heroes and heroins and would like to capture them.
Hope that still you will come and visit us, maybe also our bridge! 🙂
best regards

9. Dutch Hedrick - August 25, 2006

Frankly, I would love it if a US bridge were named after Benny Hill. Even better — Monty Python! I’m sure we have enough bridges named after Franklin, anyway.

Colbert should have a bridge named after him, too. He’s probably done more to help this world in the name of satire than most of the ‘serious’ politicians out there have done in the name of politics!

10. Krisztina from Hungary - August 25, 2006

You must be a Benny Hill fan, I suppose, I must admit that I also enjoyed his jokes and also Monty Python flying circus is really special.
Nowadays with lots of stress and and many sad things in the world I know that jokes are important.
But… we do not have so many new bridges in Hungary unfortunately, as our country is quite small. Not so many possibilities to name a bridge 🙂 So let’s name a bridge after ‘Colbert’ in the U.S., then 🙂

11. HH from Hungary, Europe - September 8, 2006

The voting is over today. Colbert won the race, Steward is second, but the gov’t won’t name the bridge after him. Because now they say it musn’t be a living person. What an asshole government we have in Hungary!

12. Maximus - December 20, 2007

I would like to see a continuation of the topic

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