Archive - Feb 2007

February 28th

Wingipedia

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Memo to Conservapedia: YOU ARE DUMB.

Oh, you know I gotta. A bunch of right-wingers decide that Wikipedia is a haven for liberal bias, and set up their own gay-bashing, young-earth, tax-cutting alternative? I could spend ages pointing and laughing at the crazy. I could pack a lunch and make a day of it, is what I'm trying to say. Like Dick Cheney in Afghanistan, it's a target-rich environment. Hell, like Dick Cheney in the WOODS, it's a target-rich environment.

There's only one problem. Well, two if you count their server speed, which is slower than a remedial biology class at Bob Jones University. But the other reason is, well, it's a Wikipedia. Which means the provenance of everything posted there is unverifiable.

Sure, you can look at their entry for, say, global warming, and be amazed at quotes like: "It should be noted that these scientists are motivated by a need for grant money in their field of climatology. Therefore, their work can not be considered unbiased, though no more than any scientist in any other field . Also, these scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him." The best part is the way the crazy just leaps out in the occasional sentence amidst the otherwise dull text. They're trying so hard to seem scholarly and "normal", so when the crazy breaks through it's extra funny.

But you don't know how that got up there. With the way Conservapedia's infamy has spread since it launched, and the Wikipedia user-input model, it could just be people fucking with it for shits and/or giggles. The already challenging task of distinguishing actual conservative thought from parody, satire, and sabotage becomes impossible.

Don't get me wrong. I desperately want to believe that a right-wing warrior wrote this hilarious bit in the entry on homosexuality: "Homosexual-like behavior is common. For example, every cattle farmer is familiar with the phenomenon of 'bulling,' cows mounting other cows; in fact, this is one of the standard signs farmers look for when determining that a cow is coming into estrus. However, it does not follow that the cows involved are showing anything analogous to human lesbian orientation." For one thing, cows never have the Indigo Girls on their iCuds.

Luckily, there's one document on the site whose bona fides I can be pretty sure of - it's their Examples Of Bias In Wikipedia, the list of Wikicrimes so heinous, so unforgivable, that it required the creation of a whole new place where conservatives can freely feast on filtered factoids.

Their problems with Wikipedia tend to fall into a few distinct categories. There are, for example, things that Wikipedia doesn't give a shit about, that conservatives do, and thus see Wikipedia's apathy as insidious activism. For example, Wikipedia doesn't insist on Before Christ, Anno Domini, or the American spelling of colour. Ergo, to Conservapedia, they're part of the secular, anti-American left.

Then there are specific articles in Wikipedia they've decided they don't like - whether it's not giving "enough credit" to Christianity for the Renaissance, not citing Piltdown Man as evidence against evolution, some weird anti-vaccination thing, and a strange obsession with labeling any sordid personal details "gossip" as if gossip were a type of information, and not a medium through which information is carried.

And then there's the real crazy. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Wikipedia claims about 1.5 million articles, but what it does not say is that a large number of those articles have zero educational value. For example, Wikipedia has 1075 separate articles about "Moby" and "song". Many hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia articles -- perhaps over half its website -- are about music, Hollywood, and other topics beneath a regular encyclopedia. This reflects a bias towards popular gossip rather than helpful or enlightening information.

Not only does this hold Wikipedia to an interesting standard that nobody, not even Wikipedia, holds itself to, but it displays the attitude of some middle-aged divorcee in a cave who's just learned that the Internet is not a truck. Of course Wikipedia's going to have a lot of pop culture in it. It's ON THE INTERNET and is FULL OF NERDS. Which has its flaws, but when I search Wikipedia for "tree frog", I actually get information on tree frogs. Conservapedia has no tree frogs, and thinks I might instead want to read about the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus, which I can only assume is hawkish on Iran.

And what would Conservapedia be without blatant self-contradiction? Bitching about Wikipedia's biases, Conservapedia quotes a Britannica guy's criticism: "One simple fact that must be accepted as the basis for any intellectual work is that truth – whatever definition of that word you may subscribe to – is not democratically determined."

Fair enough. But earlier, bitching about Wikipedia's bias against creationism, Conservapedia argues: "For example, even though most Americans (and probably most of the world) reject the theory of evolution, Wikipedia editors commenting on the topic are nearly 100% pro-evolution." So I guess truth IS democratically determined after all. Or at least determined by the fake polling result some guy made up.

As untrustworthy as Wikipedia is, at least the reasons it's untrustworthy are noble ones. Using the Internet's natural ability to enable nerds arguing in the hopes of furthering human knowledge. Conservapedia, on the other hand, are just a bunch of boring wankers who need faster servers if they're going to be mocked properly in the future.