Blogger William Beutler (“Blog P.I.”) accuses Barack Obama supporter Stephen Ewen of encouraging fellow activists to vandalize the Wikipedia entry on Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Wikipedia is the open-source (meaning anyone can edit it) online encyclopedia that was the site of a vicious battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters earlier this year.
Beutler notes that Ewen wrote on an Obama campaign listserv called Obama Rapid Response that the section of the Palin entry dealing with her political positions needed reworking.
If anyone is so inclined to tussle at Wikipedia, the following article is in need of some friendly attention:
This article be highly read [sic] since Google favors Wikipedia pages when people search the Internet.
Given that to tussle is “to struggle or fight roughly or vigorously; wrestle; scuffle,” and that the invitation to act was posted on a campaign site and is directed at someone on the opposing ticket, it seems reasonable to conclude that Ewen is indeed encouraging vandalism of the entry. At the bottom of the blog post, Ewen denies it, calling the accusation “outrageous and slanderous” and arguing he’s only seeking balance because “the overwhelming preponderance of authors at the article appeared to be Palin supporters.”
Was the Palin Wikipedia entry a puff piece? It’s hard to say, but one thing that’s clear is that Wikipedia is one of the favorite playgrounds of the online left, the Netroots (or Nutroots as some have dubbed them). These unhinged Stalinist gatekeepers routinely cleanse Wikipedia of factually accurate information that happens to cast their heroes and ideals in a bad light.
Balance and fairness, while often difficult to define, are important, and to achieve them, Matthew Sheffield of NewsBusters argues that conservatives should be more involved in editing articles on Wikipedia:
…liberal bias at Wikipedia isn’t like bias at ABC or CBS. These institutions are dominated by liberals, true, but their systematic structure is such that the ability for people on the right to push for fairness is severely limited…. That is not the case with Wikipedia, a participatory medium in which those who are most active enjoy the most influence. It’s time for the right to dust off its hands and engage in some old-fashioned activism.
Sheffield makes the same argument in “Inside the Disinformation Machine: A Look at the Left’s New Media Operation,” an article he co-wrote with Noel Sheppard (Foundation Watch, September 2008):
Conservatives and libertarians must take their activism to the web. They should participate in mainstream online communities like the video website YouTube, the open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia, and social bookmarking services such as Delicious (formerly del.icio.us) and StumbleUpon where readers share stories with other community members. These services offer a tremendous opportunity to present freedom and free markets to uncommitted voters and citizens.
The institutional innovations of the conservative movement that attracted the admiration of left-wing donors like George Soros and political strategists like Rob Stein are starting to lose ground. That’s because the left is forging ahead online. It’s learned how to leverage the power of technology and smart marketing. The only question remains: Will the right realize what it’s up against before it’s too late?