The Twitter bot @CongressEdits has, since July 9, gleefully collected the Wikipedia edits of anonymous congressional staffers. Some of the edits are funny; some serious; some mundane. But surely none has enchanted the cynical public more than the entry for Choco Taco, which has been edited six times by staffers at either the House of Representatives and the State Department, during the workday (!!), since the page was opened in January 2007.
On the first occasion (November 10, 2010), a staffer kindly edited in a (fake) reference to former Speaker Sam Rayburn, (not actually) quoted in this paper. That edit was promptly removed, literally within hours, by an editing bot that helps Wikipedians push back against vandalism.
That was enough to scare Congress off Choco Tacos for a few years, it would appear — at least until July 14, when an enterprising staffer tried to sneak Speaker Rayburn in again. A second time, the reference was deleted. (“Sam Rayburn died in 1961; Choco Taco was introduced in the 80s,” that editor explained. That editor was, for what it’s worth, right.)
Apparently peeved, someone on a State Department computer vandalized the page two days later, on July 16, changing “Choco Taco” to “S*** Taco.” (Mature!) A Wikipedian promptly fixed the mistake — but only a minute later, our State Department friend edited another profanity in, which we won’t reprint. This went on for a while.
At long last, cooler heads prevailed, the State Department IP was served a sternly worded warning, and our final congressional editor acted a bit more responsibly: He or she merely added Choco Tacos to the “American brands” category.
And so, there you have it: one novelty dessert, five explanatory paragraphs, and six edits from the fine people in the U.S. State Department and the House of Representatives.
What, precisely, does any of this tell us — besides the fact that, somewhere in the House of Representatives, someone’s enjoying an esoteric inside joke about Senator Rayburn and Choco Tacos? Well, as The Atlantic’s Megan Garber put it earlier this month, it’s a “win” for @CongressEdits and “ambient accountability.” It’s also a sign, perhaps, that some of our brightest bureaucratic minds have a little too much time on their hands.
Your tax dollars at work!