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In Challenging Wikipedia‘s Masked Mob, It’s Not Just Intelligent Design Proponents

David Klinghoffer

Wikipedia

I admit I wasn’t familiar with the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), but one of the non-profit’s signature issues, challenging voter fraud, isn’t something I have followed carefully. Whatever the case, a Senior Fellow with the ACRU, Robert Knight, describes an experience wrangling with Wikipedia editors over content that sounds remarkably like what we’ve noted in recent days.

As a Wikipedia editor, I’ve made many edits and updates over the years to the American Civil Rights Union’s Wikipedia page without interference.

So, imagine my shock when I was alerted this past Monday that someone had made the page revert to a very old version with content deleted and outright errors inserted. I went online and corrected a couple of things, but my corrections were instantly undone. Then, it got worse.

On Wednesday, another editor removed a lion’s share of the content describing the ACRU’s activities and issues. Gone were entire sections on election law, environmental regulation, gun laws and religious freedom.

Some of the worst damage was done to the personnel section. Judge Robert Bork, who died in December 2012, was updated as a current ACRU Policy Board member. So was James Q. Wilson, the celebrated political scientist who died in March 2012.

On Friday, another editor restored the severely outdated issue sections but left the personnel errors. Earlier, an editor “nominated” the entire ACRU page for “deletion.”

What might seem at first like a trivial nuisance is indicative of the power those hostile to liberty have over those who defend it. To a new generation, Wikipedia is Britannica, but without factual safeguards.

Yes. He’s goes on, and you can read the rest.

The point here, I think, is about standards that are unevenly applied. Is that evidence of axe-grinding? You decide. Wikipedia editors don’t come out and say, “We’re going after you because we don’t like your views on politics or science.” There are always, as far I’m aware, ostensibly objective reasons for deleting, severely editing, or otherwise mangling the truth about you.

In the case of German paleontologist Günter Bechly, masked editor Jo-Jo Eumerus ruled:

On balance, it seems like the case that the sources do not establish GNG notability is more thoroughly argued than the case that they do (which is mostly assertions) and there is no indication that any other PROF notability criterium [sic] is met.

On the discussion page, “Articles for deletion/Günter Bechly,” Bechly offered “dozens of more secondary sources from the print press, TV and radio,” but it was to no avail. The “criterium” had not been met.

If you honestly think this was about “sources” or “notability,” then consider the most telling point made by Dr. Bechly. It is that “intellectual nobodies like Richard Carrier and Matt Dillahunty” enjoy generous Wikipedia entries. What do those two have in common? They’re both atheist activists, the first even more obscure than the second. At least I had heard of Dillahunty.

So a thoroughly non-notable person like Carrier has a sprawling, absurdly indulgent 9,000-word Wikipedia entry, including a solemn statement about his being interested in polyamory. (“I have, and will continue to have, multiple girlfriends,” he explains in the footnoted link to his blog.) The entry was flagged for “too many or too-lengthy quotations” back in January and it’s still around.

In fact, I noticed that one individual involved in editing Carrier’s entry also participated in editing the disemboweled Wikipedia entry of another ID advocate, Walter Bradley. This editor goes by the pseudonym “Apollo the Logician.” Apollo objected to categorizing Carrier as an “American philosopher,” observing that the subject of the profile is “clearly not a philosopher.” Otherwise Apollo (since blocked) had no evident objection to the ridiculous length of the entry, which is more than 19 times that of Dr. Bradley’s.

Günter Bechly’s entry, meanwhile, was nominated for deletion on September 29. It was promptly deleted one week later, on October 6.

Photo credit: Tit Bonač [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.