Saturday, February 24, 2007

Conservapedia: A Big Win for Conservatives

Via Sadly, No! I’ve discovered yet another entry into Crazyass Conservative Land:  Lordy, lordy.  Apparently, reality’s liberal bias has extended to Wikipedia too.  

And how is Wikipedia biased?  According to the first five entries on Conservapedia’s Examples of Bias in Wikipedia page (as summarized by me):
  1. It allows people to use terminology that isn’t pro-Christian

  2. It allows entries which aren’t pro-Christian

  3. It allows anti-conservative rants

  4. It allows anti-American and anti-capitalism entries

  5. It allows people to use British spellings

And it’s like that on and on.  Another repeated “bias” is that they allow gossip and pop culture references that have “zero educational value”.  Overall, the main bias of Wikipedia is apparently that they aren’t authoritarian, but rather allow people to write what they want to write.  And call me crazy, but I thought that was the whole point of Wikipedia.  I quote from their homepage: the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

And that seems pretty straight forward.  This isn’t supposed to be Wikipedia giving permission to write things.  It’s about a community of people writing things, and they’re allowed to have their own community standards for what is written.  It’s the free-market system at its best: If Wikipedia’s standards were too low, then nobody would use it and it would eventually cease to exist.  And we’ll see good proof of this once Conservapedia collapses; which will happen once conservatives realize they’re the only ones who use it and they already know everything it says.

But just as conservatives denounce the free-market system whenever it goes against their beliefs (eg, porn, drugs, pop culture), Wikipedia’s democratic style is clearly anathema to conservatives, who prefer an authoritarian, top-down approach to life.  The big boss tells people what they can write, and those people gladly write that.  How else can they all be in agreement on everything?

And they give all this away with the 15th proof of Wikipedia bias:
Unlike most encyclopedias and news outlets, Wikipedia does not exert any centralized authority to take steps to reduce bias or provide balance; it has a "neutral point of view" policy but the policy is followed only to the extent that individual editors acting in social groups choose to follow it.

That’s right.  Wikipedia is biased because it doesn’t exert centralized authority.  You see, democracy is biased against conservatives, and things can only be made fair if we’re told what to write and if they enforce a policy of allowing every point of view to be represented.  But does this mean that we can expect a liberal balance from the people who run Conservapedia?   Of course not.  Because the liberal POV is obviously represented by Wikipedia, so they’re free to present their own bias.  How convenient.

Six Simple Rules for Dating my Truth

Oddly enough, their 9th proof of bias states:
On Conservapedia, contributions that meet simple rules are respected to the maximum extent possible.

Yet nowhere in those six simple rules does it mention a centralized authority that regulates bias or provides balance.  Of course, of those six rules, four of them represent outright censorship, while the other two are likely sources of censorship.  Nor do they say how disputes will be handled.

And even with those loose standards, their entry on The Theory of Evolution violates three of those rules.  Specifically, in that they present untrue, unverified statements, gave personal opinion, and failed to provide any citations.  But they hide that personal opinion behind a façade of factualness, so it’s possible they’d argue it only violates two rules.

And beyond that, the article was crap.  They never actually said what the theory of evolution is, beyond a few basic labels of “change over time”.  And compared with Wikipedia’s entry on Evolution, it’s clearly a joke.   It’s obvious that whoever wrote it doesn’t actually understand what evolution is, beyond the labels.   Where Wikipedia has in-depth discussions of DNA, mutations, and gene transfers that go way over my head; Conservapedia’s sounds more like a lazy sixth-grader’s book report.  I would have given it a gentlemen’s C.

Another example was George Washington’s hilarious entry, which was cited by one Sadly, No! reader.  Again, while Wikipedia’s entry gives an in-depth survey of Washington’s life and accomplishments; Conservapedia’s entry focuses almost entirely on Washington’s religion, with the few non-religious sentences describing him as if he was an authoritarian who single-handedly led the revolution and our country.

The funniest line: Washington is perhaps the person other than Jesus who declined enormous worldly power…

I’m sure Wikipedia is shaking in its boots.  The one surprise I found was when they acknowledged that “many modern scholars” think that Washington was a deist, rather than a Christian.  I’m sure it won’t take long for that slip-up to get scrubbed.  Oh, and for whatever reason, I was unable to locate one citation that was referenced twice for this entry, which would seem to again violate one of their six simple rules.

Disagreement Bias

And for me, one of the most obvious problems for conservatives is their limited means of discussion; due to their overriding bias for making things fit into their general narrative.

In this case, their “Bias in Wikipedia” page would be far more accurately described as “Disagreements with Wikipedia’s Style”.  While a small number of their complaints involve a form of bias, the majority of them involve disagreements as to how an online encyclopedia should be run.  For example, they don’t think pop culture references belong in an encyclopedia.  And while I can understand that disagreement, I fail to see how it involves any sort of bias whatsoever.

But conservatives don’t do “disagreements”.  Bias fits so much better into their narrative, so that’s the only way they can describe their disagreements.  They’re not establishing an encyclopedia according to their own methods.  No, they’re fixing bias.  But that’s not just part of their narrative, but also their entire purpose for being.  You see, if this is merely about a disagreement over styles, than Wikipedia wins.  I mean, if you’re setting up a user-edited encyclopedia, then Wikipedia’s non-centralized, low-censorship idea makes far more sense than Conservapedia’s authoritarian censorship.  

So Conservapedia clearly loses.  Especially once one considers that the name itself tells us that the site has a clear conservative bias.  So they’ve used these style disagreements as an excuse to promote their bias.  But if Conservapedia was established to combat Wikipedia’s liberal bias…then it just makes sense.  And in that regard, Conservapedia’s very purpose for existing should theoretically undermine the very reason for having such an encyclopedia.  

After all, if they want an authoritarian, top-down based encyclopedia, there are already plenty of those.  They’re called Encyclopedias.  In fact, the 23rd “example of bias” against Wikipedia is nothing but a complaint by a former Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  And the “bias” he cites is one that every user-edited encyclopedia would have: That truth is not democratically determined.  And that should theoretically apply to Conservapedia too.

But seeing as how the real purpose for Conservapedia’s existence is merely to provide more cyclical validation of each conservative’s belief system, as well as being a stick-in-the-eye to Wikipedia’s true knowledge base, I guess for conservatives, Conservapedia is a big win.  And now it’s simply a matter of time before they insist that anti-conservative biased killed Conservapedia; which I’m sure will be yet another feather in their cap.


Fledermaus said...

I have to say I think I'm really looking forward to the coming meltdown on the right side of the aisle.

In just the last week they've put out a bogus poll to confirm for them that the rest of the nation is with them on Iraq, now they are setting up their own encylopedia and websites for victory.

I'm amazed they've been able to keep it up thus far but the '08 primary and general election are going to be the ultimate test of will and denial vs. reality for many of these people

whig said...

Right lane must turn right.

whig said...

All other traffic keep left.

J. Mumphrey Bibblesnæð said...

Well, what the hell? I've never seen anything like these people when it comes to topping themselves. Or maybe that should be "bottoming" themselves.
They're only proving what Stephen Colbert said last year, "Truth has a well nown liberal bias." Only they don't understand that Colbert was mocking them.
One big problem with writing about these people is that the name "conservative" doesn't really fit them. I have quite a few conservative friends. But most of them won't vote for Republicans any more because Republicans are not conservative any more.
So we need to figure out just what the hell these people are. Crypto-fascists? Quasi-fascists? Spanish Inquisitionarians? NeoStalinists?
For all their ranting about "conservative values" and "being a patriotic American", neoStalininst seems to come nearer than anything else to what these people are. No matter what Tovarich Bush says, they swallow it. If Tovarich Bush says a, b, c! one day, they dutifully fall in line. If, the next day, he spins right around and says x, y, z! instead, and x, y and z happen to be mutually exclusive of a, b and c, they fall in line all over again and say that instead, never seeing the contradiction.
I think they're neoStalinists with highly charged Spanish Inquisitionarian tendencies. But we'll have to come up with something a little catchier as far as style goes...

Doctor Biobrain said...

How about Authoritarian A-Holes?