Wikipedia’s founder asks for “civility” even as it’s revealed that “Wikipedia’s Green Doctor rewrote 5248 climate articles.”
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal drawing attention to the rise of “online hostility” and the “degeneration of online civility.” He (and coauthor Andrea Weckerle) suggested ways in which we can “prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us.”
I agree with just about everything that they say. But there is one problem that Mr. Wales does not go near. That is the use of Wikipedia itself to inflame the political debate by permitting activists to rewrite the contributions of others. All by itself, that surely is a contributor to online incivility.
The issue that I am particularly thinking about is “climate change” — or global warming as it was once called (until the globe stopped warming, about a decade ago). Recently the Financial Post in Canada published an article by Lawrence Solomon, with this remarkable headline:
How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles.
Solomon draws attention to the online labors of one William M. Connolley, a Green Party activist and software engineer in Britain. Starting in February 2003, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. I continue with a two-paragraph direct quote from Mr. Solomon’s article:
[Connolley] rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug. 11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band [of climatologist activists]. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band [of activists] especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.
All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.
Online replies to this article included the following, appearing about 24 hours after Solomon’s article went on line:
Recently, the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee determined that “William M. Connolley has, on a number of occasions misused his administrator tools by acting while involved” and, as a consequence, “William M. Connolley’s administrative privileges are revoked.”
But three days later, on December 23, a follow-up article by Solomon said this:
How do Connolley and his co-conspirators exercise control? Take Wikipedia’s page for Medieval Warm Period, as an example. In the three days following my column’s appearance, this page alone was changed some 50 times in battles between Connolley’s crew and those who want a fair presentation of history.
So he is still at it, apparently. Connolley has for years been involved with a website called RealClimate.org. It broadcasts the views of a group of warmist ideologues, otherwise known as “working climate scientists.” (Among them is Penn State’s Michael Mann, the inventor of the “hockey stick.”) My guess is that even if Connolley’s Wiki privileges have been revoked, his RealClimate allies continue to labor on his behalf.
The interesting paragraph below comes from Connolley’s own Wiki entry, and I suppose was written by him:
His work was also the subject of hearings by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee after a complaint was filed claiming that Connolley was pushing his own point of view in an article by removing material with opposing viewpoints. A “humiliating one-revert-a-day” editing restriction was imposed on Connolley, and he told The New Yorker that Wikipedia “gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about.” The restriction was later revoked, and Connolley served as a Wikipedia administrator from January 2006. [The New Yorker article was by Stacy Schiff, July 31, 2006]
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?