Turning to Wikipedia for Answers?


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I have seen wikipedia used by members of this forum to "prove their point". Or to try and discredit someone else. Heck, I may have done it. Anyway something to think.

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Turning to Wikipedia for Answers?
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Posted by Bobby Eberle
March 10, 2009 at 6:58 am

The Internet has been around for quite a while, but until the spread of web browsers in the 1990s, the collection of computers and networks was primarily used by the government and academia. The web browser brought the power of the Internet to "regular" people, and a whole era was launched. Shopping online? Even the word "online" didn't exist a few years ago.

In addition to shopping, social networking, e-mail checking, and on and on, actual, real work can be performed as well. There are many new sources of information which are quickly replacing the "old school" standbys such as the set of encyclopedias. But... how accurate is this information, and does it come with a "spin?" Rather than "just the facts," are we also getting someone's political ideology? Let's look at the popular Wikipedia as an example...

Wikipedia is an online "encyclopedia" which is produced, edited, and updated by Internet users. Everyday, people turn to Wikipedia for information on every topic under the sun. Of course, since it is written by online users, the facts may not always be accurate, and unfortunately, the left-wing spin comes into play.

As noted in a story by World Net Daily, information critical of Barack Obama has been disappearing from the president's Wikipedia page within minutes of being published.

A perusal through Obama's current Wikipedia entry finds a heavily guarded, mostly glowing biography about the U.S. president. Some of Obama's most controversial past affiliations, including with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weathermen terrorist Bill Ayers, are not once mentioned, even though those associations received much news media attention and served as dominant themes during the presidential elections last year.

Also completely lacking is any mention of the well-publicized concerns surrounding Obama's eligibility to serve as commander-in-chief.

In Obama's presidential campaign, the associations with Ayers and Wright were not only news-worthy, they were an integral part of the campaign. A valid way of getting to know someone who is new to the national scene is to see who his friends and associates are. Despite the fact that Ayers was an acknowledged domestic terrorist and Wright would use the pulpit to spew anti-American hatred, neither is mentioned.

World Net Daily also points out the controversy regarding Obama's proof of citizenship. Whether you believe the stories or not, the issue is certainly legitimate and has been in the news. There have even been several courts cases regarding the citizenship issue. But, as World Net Daily reports:

In one example, one Wikipedia user added the following to Obama's page:

"There have been some doubts about whether Obama was born in the U.S. after the politician refused to release to the public a carbon copy of his birth certificate and amid claims from his relatives he may have been born in Kenya. Numerous lawsuits have been filed petitioning Obama to release his birth certificate, but most suits have been thrown out by the courts."

As is required on the online encyclopedia, that entry was backed up by third-party media articles, citing the Chicago Tribune and WorldNetDaily.com

The entry was posted on Feb. 24, at 6:16 p.m. EST. Just three minutes later, the entry was removed by a Wikipedia administrator, claiming the posting violated the websites rules against "fringe" material.

But according to Wikipedia's own rules, a "fringe theory can be considered notable if it has been referenced extensively, and in a serious manner, in at least one major publication, or by a notable group or individual that is independent of the theory." Numerous stories have filed on the Obama citizenship issue, so it certainly should not have been removed from the site.

Contrast these actions to the information found on the George W. Bush Wikipedia page. Scanning that page you'll read:

# As a college senior, Bush became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones society.

# In May 1968, Bush was commissioned into the Texas Air National Guard.[23] After training, he was assigned to duty in Houston, flying Convair F-102s out of Ellington Air Force Base.[24] Critics allege that Bush was favorably treated due to his father's political standing, citing his selection as a pilot and his irregular attendance.
# Under the "Marriage and Family" section, there is this entry: Prior to his marriage, Bush had multiple episodes of alcohol abuse.[29] In one instance, on September 4, 1976, he was arrested near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty, was fined $150 and had his Maine driver's license suspended until 1978.
# Bush served on the board of directors for Harken.[33] Questions of possible insider trading involving Harken arose, but the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.
# In considering the current economic conditions, Wikipedia produces this entry: In September 2008, the crisis became much more serious beginning with the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac followed by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. and a federal bailout of American International Group for $85 billion. Many economists and world governments determined that the situation became the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. (I guess people forget about the unemployment, inflation, gas lines, etc. of the Carter years)

In my scanning of the Obama page, I did find one entry regarding his acknowledged drug use as a youth, but as WND stated, the bio is rather glowing.

The point to keep in mind is that all information sources must be met with a critical eye. When it comes to talk radio or political commentary, readers generally know that there is a party angle or philosophy associated with the writings. However, many don't bring that same critical review to bear when examining information sources such as Wikipedia or FactCheck. The time to be most vigilant is when sources, such as the main stream media, present information as fact when it is clearly opinion. Unfortunately, as we saw in the last campaign, putting our faith in the main stream media to get it right is like banging your head against a wall.

yes, we all know Wiki Mods pick and choose their content, unless it is irrefutable

Wiki Mods even pick and choose the irrefutable content. Many on the 'net consider Wikipedia an internet-based encyclopedia, but it is actually just a forum of opinions with no requirement or desire to validate. I see it as something that may one day evolve into The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Don't forget your towel.
The article would have a point if Wikipedia were what it has made it out to be. However, it isn't. A review of how Wikipedia articles are actually written and edited should be in order. Apparently those details were left out of the piece. This willingness to criticize but failure to help out sounds a lot like people who complain about the government, yet refuse to get involved in politics. The fault lies more with those who whine and do nothing, than those who they criticize for doing something.

Articles about high-profile and controversial topics (Barack Obama, for example) tend to be heavily guarded and once set, changes are often very slow to come. The most important thing to remember is that Wikipedia is not monolithic, and decisions often hinge on debate. At the top of the page, in pretty big letters, it says (emphasis added):

This page is currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved.
This protection is not an endorsement of the current version. See the protection policy and protection log for more details. Please discuss any changes on the talk page; you may use the {{editprotected}} template to ask an administrator to make the edit if it is supported by consensus. You may also request that this page be unprotected.

There's a very well-visited "talk page" on the Obama article, with a metric ton of discussion. The Ayers topic alone goes on for pages. Whoever wrote that article should have first taken some time to read.

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