How the Left Conquered Wikipedia, Part II: Coddling Progressives

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In a previous article in this series on Wikipedia’s leftist bias I discussed briefly the friendly treatment the online encyclopedia gave such influential figures as Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, and Noam Chomsky. These entries featured muted criticism if any at all and little embarrassing “personal life” content (which, as I noted, is the primary way in which bias is conveyed on the site.) Progressives continually receive the benefit of the doubt. Wikipedia does not have to be overtly biased in favor of leftism; it is simply the site’s default option, synonymous with a sophisticated and humane worldview. When considering people on the Left, Wikipedia assumes the best; if there are blemishes on their records, it tends to explain and exculpate, whereas with conservatives what it regards as failings are subjected to unforgiving analysis.

There are three unwritten rules that pervade the treatment of most leftists on Wikipedia:

[1] Quote feeble critics only so they can be rebutted.

Al Gore’s entry is 8984 words, a reasonable length for a Vice President active in politics for more than 30 years. None of Gore’s political decisions or positions receives criticism from opponents, nor does he have a “personal life” section (thus eliminating the need to mention his allegedly forcing himself on a Portland masseuse in 2006—a story that would have likely been included in the entry of a conservative political figure.) The 465 words of criticism in the Gore profile is reserved for Gore the environmental activist and  raises five different objections – including a particularly trivial one from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) — each of which also allows Gore or one of his supporters to get in the last word. For example, in response to critics noting the Gore family’s increased energy usage (multiple homes, private jet trips) an official spokesman claims that the mansions run on more expensive “renewable energy” and philosopher A.C. Grayling claims the whole matter of Gore’s “footprint” is irrelevant and an example of fallacious ad hominem reasoning.

Similarly, comedian Bill Maher has a thorough 3095-word entry with a single inconsequential criticism (51 words from Alabama Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus claiming that Maher’s 2005 comments highlighting the military’s failure to reach its recruiting goals were demeaning) that is included only so Maher can refute it.  Flaunting his supposedly “pro-military” politics, Maher claims that he supported the military and challenges Bachus to fix the problem.

[2] Give the Benefit of the Doubt to the Jew-Haters.

More troubling than the way Wikipedians set up straw men for their leftist heroes to knock over is the way they minimize their bigotry.

The Rev. Al Sharpton has the unique distinction of being the only cable news host to have provoked an anti-Semitic pogrom in New York City. But one will not know this from reading Sharpton’s 3979-word Wikipedia page profile, in spite of its larger-than-usual criticism section.

Sharpton’s career is filled with episodes illustrating his commitment to inflaming racial conflict. In 1987 one of his lowest points came in his support for Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who claimed to have been gang raped by white police officers. (A grand journey would find that these charges were wholly fabricated.) Sharpton furthered these allegations, and was later successfully sued for defamation by one of the prosecutors he claimed participated in the rape. Refusing to pay the $345,000 judgment against him, he relied on his wealthy supporters to pick  up the tab. Even as late as 2007, Sharpton was still on record supporting Brawley’s lies.

At least with the Brawley case, Sharpton’s demagoguery did not result in violence. That was decidedly what happened in 1991 when Sharpton’s most nakedly anti-Semitic actions inspired riots in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. Sharpton’s DiscoverTheNetworks profile gives the story as it should be told:

That same year, anti-Semitic riots erupted in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section after a Hasidic Jewish driver accidentally ran over and killed a 7-year-old black boy. Within three hours, a black mob had hunted down and slain an innocent rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, in retribution. Sharpton declared that it was not merely a car accident that had killed the black child, but rather the “social accident” of “apartheid.” He organized angry demonstrations and challenged local Jews––whom he derisively called “diamond merchants“––to “pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” to settle the score. Stirred in part by such rhetoric, hundreds of Crown Heights blacks took violently to the streets for three days and nights of rioting. Sharpton reacted to the chaos by stating, “We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system.”

In contrast, this event earns Sharpton only 61 words of criticism at Wikipedia for his use of the “diamond merchants” and “pin their yarmulkes back” slurs. No criticism is presented for Sharpton’s actions, and the Wikipedia entry devoted to the riots similarly omits Sharpton’s role.

While Sharpton can threaten Jews with violence and rely on Wikipedia to sanitize the episode, radio show host Don Imus’s “nappy-headed ho’s” comment draws 1273 words from Wikipedia, more than all of Sharpton’s controversies combined. And who appears in Imus’ entry to label his words “abominable”, “racist”, and “sexist” and to demand his termination? Sharpton the anti-Semite.

Wikipedia cannot even bring itself to use the word “anti-Semite” anywhere within Sharpton’s entry. So of course there is not a quote provided from critics who regard Sharpton as such. More time is spent on a very mild homophobic remark (80 words,) and Sharpton’s anti-Mormon comments with his apology (231 words.)

How did Sharpton’s entry earn such a thorough clean-up? Examining the Al Sharpton “talk” page provides the answers and reveals the page’s leftist protector. Casual Wikipedia users might not notice that at the top of every Wikipedia entry is a secondary page labeled “Discussion.” It’s here where editors are encouraged to discuss significant changes to the articles and try to achieve the Wikipedia utopia of “consensus.” Visit these pages and you’ll find the ideas which are excluded from entries and – occasionally – justifications why.

When one frustrated contributor links several conservatives who describe Sharpton as a “race hustler” and demands to know why such criticism is not permitted, he is mocked by an administrator-level user (a veteran Wikipedia editor with the extra ability to “protect” pages from other editors changing them and also to block specific editors from contributing.) The administrator has the Malcolm X-inspired handle Malik Shabazz and responds sarcastically: “Wow. Four race hustlers accuse Sharpton of being a race hustler. Film at 11.”

A day later another unregistered user (one who has not created a Wikipedia name and instead is identified only by his computer’s IP address) responded to this abuse of authority. Venting his frustration at Shabazz’s dictatorial behavior in securing the page, knows he is one of Wikipedia’s “second class citizens” when he writes:

One does not need to resort to conservative commentators, as the person above does, to see that Al Sharpton has done more to harm race relations in New York City than to help. In fact, in my own attempt to solicit revision to the misleading and inaccurate current narrative describing Al Sharpton’s divisive, destructive, and unjust (prosecute the driver for murder?) “contributions” to the Howard Beach attack and the Bensonhurst attack, I cited two very fair minded, objective, and reliable sources whose credentials are beyond reproach. Yet my request for any editor to make these changes to the semi protected article [ “semi-protected” is the status for all biographies of living people – they require an administrator’s okay before changes go live] has resulted in no result. Apparantly [sic] you, Mr. Malik Shabazz, are “in charge” of the Al Sharpton Wikipedia page, and I concede defeat to you. Anonymous users, however fair minded and however much they follow Wikipedia rules, are impotent when faced with someone dedicated to being guardian of entrenched fluff pieces that hide inconvenient facts. You win. I now see that I have to become a registered user to even hope to have a chance of getting the Wikipedia Al Sharpton entries for Howard Beach and Bensonhurst to reflect the truth…. It seems as though the entire raison detre of the Howard Beach and Bensonhurst Al Sharpton Wikipedia entries is for the single minded purpose of sanitizing the Sharpton role there, and to tar and feather these entire communities. In Howard Beach, who called 911 during the attack, and said please send the police some teens are beating a Black man? Yup, the White residents of Howard Beach, whose houses the mob of thugs passed by. But you wouldn’t know it from Wikipedia. (talk) 02:19, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

Who is Shabazz? His user page tells the whole story in uncomfortable detail. He claims to be a secular, African-American Jew who identifies as a feminist and an anarchist. Strangely, his feminism does not prevent him from boasting on his page that he “enjoys pornography” and that he’s a member of Wikiproject Pornography, the team that creates Wikipedia’s obsessive database of adult film stars.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    Excellent journalism, David. This piece was sorely needed.

    Malik Shabbaz's false persona as "an African-American Jew" is laughable. It's obviously camouflage for his anti-Semitic views.

  • StephenD

    Notwithstanding the exposure of Wikepedia itself, exposure of the Al Sharptons of the world in their true light can be as a tonic to the soul. Good job with this.
    I'd love to see these folks on live television responding to the charges. Talk about Americas got Talent! I bet we'd see some pretty good dancing then!

  • Flipside

    Wingnut. Wikipedia is run by a bunch of gay nerds with aspergers who meticulously prune and cultivate pet articles on Rainbow Brite, female circumcision, and The Boondock Saints. It’s not a vast conspiracy to make Al Sharpton look good. Al Sharpton can never look good. Wikipedia has a MASSIVE section on Jews, Judaica, antisemitism, etc and it is obsequious and jam packed with extraneous boring facts. They do, however, treat Chip Berlet as an authority.

  • Ben

    Wiki is not only the leftists` megaphone, it`s Europocentrist,veild racist,antisemitic and pseudo-scientific.It`s scientific articles are twisted ,simplified, patriotic anf often wrong.
    Its hate of citation sources is well-known.So it`s the real voice of the people(mediocre and active)

  • Nathan

    One small point of fact: Semi-protection is certainly not “the status for all biographies of living people”. Only a tiny fraction of them have that status, which must be applied on a case by case basis.
    Wikipedia as a whole doesn’t have positions on anything. It’s all over the map. Whatever appears in an article is determined by who shows up to write it. And frequently that introduces all sorts of bias and other flaws. But none of it is permanent. Everyone is invited to help make improvements.

  • angel

    Wikipedia is a public encyclopedia. Anyone can add content to it. At least that's what I remember. I have not used it in four years. Because I do not trust their information. It was not because of political reason just the plain fact that anyone can actually change the content. Maybe we should rename it to "Wackypedia".

    What do you think Dan?

  • Sarah

    The best friend of porno lover Malik Shabazz is Israeli hater Nableezy who is sad that he mostly speaks English… .

    I have never been able to figure out why Wikipedia leftist including wikipedia lesbians and gays support radical Islam. Don't they realize how they would be treated if Radical Islam is to win? Really as Krauthammer would have said it wikipedia is full of "useful idiots and terror sympathizers", and there are many terror sympathizers in wikipedia. See how one of them Lihaas is talking about the crash of helicopter in which Navy Seals were killed: [ "Wo ho ho! I was just about to say 1 old cripple vs. 31 competent, solid soldiers…who wins now? on that logic this is more notable. What goes aroind come around…we dont censor stuff we dot like here especially when loads of stuff thats unproductive by a multitide of editors stays here; we dothn refactor other people comments without explanation (which would be ban -worthy when a nin-admin does it); there was not a comment on the toasting of bin ladens death…just because one doesnt like this doesntmean its shouldnt be here. ]

  • Lamont Cranston

    Maybe its the facts that have a left wing bias?

  • Tonda Mcconville

    I wish more people would write sites like this that are actually fun to read. With all the garbage floating around on the internet, it is refreshing to read a site like yours instead.

  • thekohser2

    I think you mean "grand jury", not "grand journey".