In my experience, Wikipedia is often a good resource, especially for pop culture and computer tech terms. But since it is a fully community-operated enterprise, there are some pratfalls about relying on it for information, especially since some organizations use it as a marketing tool for themselves, attempting to control entries they're interested in.
This type of cybersquatting is quite widespread but up until now, difficult to track. That's changed however, with the creation of Wikiscanner, a search engine that allows you to see what organizations have been editing Wikipedia. You can, for instance, look up to see what Wikipedia users from different political groups, business, churches, and any other organization have been up to on the site. Early results are showing that many employees seem to have a habit of editing the entries of their own company/organization. You can also see that at least one person at the New York Times deliberately defaced Wikipedia's entry for George W. Bush with the words "jerk" inserted into the page repeatedly.
It's not completely foolproof, however, since Wikipedia only reveals your IP address if you edit a page without signing up for an account. Still, the data is interesting. Wikiscanner is being deluged with huge amounts of traffic right now but when things calm down, it should prove to be a very interesting research tool for us here at NB and for everyone in the blogosphere.
The indicted former Newark Mayor and current NJ state Senator Sharpe James sure is mysterious. According to the New York Times, WNBC and via the AP, the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, Philadelphia Inquirer and the UK's Guardian, among others, James seemingly does not belong to a political party. Maybe he belongs to the same non-party as Rep. William Jefferson who was indicted on corruption and bribery charges earlier this year (hat tip to a NewsBusters reader):
Strangely, after a little digging, I discovered that James is a Democrat and that according to the prosecution, some of his alleged expenses included costly trips to Jamaica, Rio de Janeiro and Puerto Rico on the taxpayer's dime, as well as letting a girlfriend buy city property at bargain-basement prices.
Update/Related (16:44 | May 17) P.J. Gladnick of "DUmmie FUnnies" (also an NB blogger) has a blog entry about Democratic Underground worrying about commenter bile over Falwell damaging their "cause."
Update (10:14 EDT | May 17): WikipediaReview.com picked up on this post. The discussion board's slogan: "Now with 100 percent better judgment, care, and sensitivity than Wikipedia itself." Check them out.
(Content warning: Inappropriate, crass comments from left-wing nutjobs excerpted below)
Joking that an elderly religious man died from suffocating on a penis is not my idea of anything "comical." It is to the George Carlin wannabes at Wonkette though, reporting on a vandalized Jerry Falwell page on Wikipedia:
Something happened to somebody famous, so guess what happened on
Wikipedia … that’s right, the person’s page was comically vandalized! Nobody ever gets tired of a really good joke.
You'll recall that in March, MRC's Brent Bozell wrote about Wikipedia's bias against conservatives, but this is ridiculous.
On Wonkette's part, posting such an item served only to provide another comment thread for wingunuts to spew hatred about Falwell and religious conservatives, such as this dirge by commenter "choirboy":
Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali immigrated to the US from Holland in 2006 after her controversial views of Islam (she called it “backwards”) resulted in serious death threats and the eventual murder of a friend. An April 24 Reuters article by Alexandra Hudson (picked up by the Washington Post website) stressed the theme that the Muslim women of Holland were relieved that she left for America. It also engaged in a slick game of “blame-the-victim” and minimized the agonizing childhood violence she experienced by describing her flight from “an arranged marriage and abusive family who had her circumcised as a child.”
“Circumcised.” It may sound similar to male circumcision, but it is not. A more appropriate term is “female genital mutilation” or FGM. “Female circumcision” is what the practitioners call it. Reuters didn’t go into the details of this “circumcision,” but Hirsi Ali did in her most recent book, “Infidel.” Aussie newspaper, the Australian, excerpts the portion that describes what the local “expert,” who was likely a blacksmith, did to her with no anesthetic or disinfectant at the request of her own grandmother (emphasis mine throughout)[editor's note: graphic descriptions ahead]:
Rosie O’Donnell has graduated from outspoken and controversial, to corporate liability and national embarrassment…except in Hollywood, of course. As Bill O’Reilly pointed out (pt. one and two) on his March 29 show, on her blog, Rosie now claims that the Britain is running "(f)alse flag operations," that "the british did it on purpose" (sic) and that the US is building a military presence on the Iranian border, readying for a summer invasion of Iran. This is a continuation of this morning’s "The View," in which Rosie discussed 9/11 and the British hostages held by Iran.
Today’s Internet age is putting an end to the hardcover encyclopedia business. Why spend fortunes on a massive (albeit attractive) World Book set when you can get what you need a mouse click away on the Internet? Any student preparing a research paper and searching Google will probably be handed over quickly to the "Wikipedia" on-line encyclopedia system. What’s more – and here’s an offer that presumably can’t be beat – it’s free!
At Wikipedia you won’t find a distinguished body of tweedy old professors poring over every paragraph on the Hanseatic League. It’s actually on the other end of the credibility spectrum. Wikipedia is an "open-source" encyclopedia, a reference source anyone can create. The danger in this system becomes very obvious, very quickly. Recently the comedian and movie star Sinbad had to announce that he was not, in fact, dead of a heart attack at age 50 as his Wikipedia entry claimed. "Somebody vandalized the page," claimed Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez.
It turns out that the utopian dream, Wikipedia, has a problem. And I don’t just mean the consistent subtle, and at times, blatant leftward tilt. Wikipedia is an “open-source” encyclopedia—an online encyclopedia created by users instead of contributors who are chosen for their expertise. The idea is that “the community” can do just as well or better than the professionals. The anonymity of the Internet and the lack of oversight on Wikipedia means that all contributors may not be who they seem. A prominent and influential editor, “Essjay,” lied about his credentials and education, exposing one of the problems with the open-source encyclopedia model. (A Wikipedia editor isn’t the same as an editor for Encyclopedia Britannica; everyone who contributes material is called an editor) The New York Times describes who this Wikipedia editor said he was, who he really was and what he did:
Everyone remembers how on the day Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy, the MSM was awash with stories of how he is on the "far left" of social issues. Or not.
Not only does Obama support partial birth abortion, as an Illinois state senator he twice voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Read the disturbing details here. Though Obama's record clearly puts him to the extreme port side of the political spectrum on social issues, I challenge readers to cite any MSM description of Obama as "far left."
But it's a whole different MSM ball-game when it comes to labelling Republicans. Literally within minutes of his official announcement this morning, MNSBC applied the "far right" tag to Mitt Romney. MSNBC host Chip Reid's had as his guest to kibitz on the announcement former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox, who according to her Wikipedia entry was once an editor of an online Marxist magazine.
Wikipedia habitually delivers unflattering content about conservative media figures while giving liberals a much lighter treatment. That's the result of an informal survey of the site. According to alexa.com, Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia project that can be edited by just about anyone, is currently number 12 in worldwide traffic rankings on the Web.
When one thinks of a conventional encyclopedia entry, one expects to find rudimentary information: full name, birth date, birthplace, family, education, and career highlights. Wikipedia takes it one step further - especially with conservatives.
Unflattering personal episodes, embarrassing revelations, and factual missteps are frequently a major staple in entries about conservative figures; they are most often filed under the heading of "Controversy" or "Criticism." Meanwhile, entries on liberal personalities rarely contain such headings; unflattering episodes by liberals are often non-existent or downplayed.
Those not fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area might find it hard to believe that this liberal community sports an extremely conservative radio station. Conceivably less shocking is that in recent weeks, it has come under attack from liberal bloggers unhappy with its content.
For those unfamiliar, KSFO is a Northern California broadcaster of radio programs hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura, and Mark Levin. In the Netroots’ crosshairs are local conservative personalities such as Melanie Morgan (who should be familiar to Fox News watchers), Lee Rodgers, and Tom Benner (AKA Officer Vic), all of the drive-time “Morning Show.” Also under attack is Brian Sussman, a former local weatherman turned radio host.
The troubles for KSFO began in 2006 when a fifth-tier liberal blogger from San Francisco, hiding behind the pseudonym “Spocko’s Brain,” started sending the station’s advertisers complaint letters. Such correspondence included cherry-picked audio clips and mini-transcripts from previous broadcasts. One such letter, as posted by Daily Kos contributor Mike Stark on January 3, began:
With many internet companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft knuckling under pressure from the rulers of China to censor their content, it's refreshing to see it when one takes a stand against political censorship (h/t: Caine Starfire):
The founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its
users, has defied the Chinese government by refusing to bow to
censorship of politically sensitive entries.
Jimmy Wales, one of the
100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine,
challenged other internet companies, including Google, to justify their
claim that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with
Wikipedia, a hugely popular reference tool in the West,
has been banned from China since last October. Whereas Google,
Microsoft and Yahoo went into the country accepting some restrictions
on their online content, Wales believes it must be all or nothing for
The death of Ken Lay, the founder of the now-defunct energy company
Enron, aroused a lot more passions than a typical CEO's passing would.
Apparently, many liberals out there are letting their anger out in the
strangest place, Lay's entry in the online community encyclopedia,
Wikipedia. Frank Ahrens reports:
10:11 a.m., the Lay article concluded, "The guilt of ruining so many
lives finaly [sic] led him to his suicide." (Is it the speed with which
flamers type that inevitably leads to typos? Or is it a political
statement, a willful rebellion against the bourgeoisie strictures of
so-called conventional spelling? Or are they just idiots? Discuss.)
one minute later, actual news managed to elbow its way into Wikipedia:
"According to Lay's pastor the cause was a 'massive coronary' heart
But the sanity was short-lived. At 10:39 a.m., a
self-styled medical expert opined: "Speculation as to the cause of the
heart attack lead many people to believe it was due to the amount of
stress put on him by the Enron trial."
Finally, by Wednesday
afternoon, the Wikipedia entry about Lay said that he was pronounced
dead at an Aspen, Colo., hospital and had died of a heart attack,
citing news sources.
What does all of this tell us?
That Wikipedia's greatest strength is its greatest weakness.
the statement that "history is written by the winners" is too gross, it
does speak to an underlying truth: All definitive encyclopedia
authorship comes with the point of view of its times. It is
As oft-documented by MRC - NewsBusters' parent organization - the MSM is quick to label people 'conservative', 'right-wing' and various 'ultra' variations thereon. But the MSM typically turn shy when it comes to the 'liberal' label. In a surprising twist, not only did Katie Couric speak of George Clooney as a liberal this morning, but the Hollywood star didn't hesitate to pin himself as a liberal, and an old one at that. What's more, Katie even suggested that Clooney's advocacy of countless liberal causes might be diluting the brand.
The topic was Clooney's advocacy of international involvement to end the humanitarian disaster in Darfur in the Sudan. Wikipedia entry on the Darfur conflict here. It is notable that although the conflict largely pits Arabs against non-Arabs, the populations on both sides are Muslim. This seems, by the way, to have been something of Celebrity Advocacy Week at Today. As noted here, yesterday it was Angelina Jolie's opportunity to tout her support for universal childhood education [courtesy the American taxpayer].
The discussion revolves around Cox's attempts to edit Wikipedia's entry on MSNBC host Keith Olbermann to make it more politically neutral (a stated goal of the site) and to include facts that were left out. Cox contends that his changes were continually discarded by fans of Olbermann who monitor the article, seeking to ensure that it reflects their liberal views, something he believes has happened to Wikipedia articles about partial-birth abortion, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.