Wikipedia: Reliable Resource?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on January 13, 2010

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-Read the excerpt below from the Tom Bethell's special report published at Spectator.org, published on Dec. 20, 2009.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal drawing attention to the rise of “online hostility” and the “degeneration of online civility.” He … suggested ways in which we can “prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us.”

I agree with just about everything [he says]. But there is one problem that Mr. Wales does not go near. That is the use of Wikipedia itself to inflame the political debate by permitting activists to rewrite the contributions of others. …

The issue that I am particularly thinking about is “climate change” — or global warming as it was once called…. Recently the Financial Post in Canada published an article by Lawrence Solomon, with this remarkable headline:

How Wikipedia’s Green Doctor Rewrote 5,428 Climate Articles.

Solomon draws attention to the online labors of one William M. Connolley, a Green Party activist and software engineer in Britain. Starting in February 2003, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site.  I continue with a two-paragraph direct quote from Mr. Solomon’s article:

[Connolley] rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug. 11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band [of climatologist activists]. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band [of activists] especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

Online replies to this article included the following, appearing about 24 hours after Solomon’s article went on line:

Recently, the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee determined that “William M. Connolley has, on a number of occasions misused his administrator tools by acting while involved” and, as a consequence, “William M. Connolley’s administrative privileges are revoked.”  [Link: en.wikipedia.org/…/Abd-William_M._Connolley]

But three days later, on December 23, a follow-up article by Solomon said this:

How do Connolley and his co-conspirators exercise control? Take Wikipedia’s page for Medieval Warm Period, as an example. In the three days following my column’s appearance, this page alone was changed some 50 times in battles between Connolley’s crew and those who want a fair presentation of history.

So he is still at it, apparently. Connolley has for years been involved with a website called RealClimate.org. It broadcasts the views of a group of warmist ideologues, otherwise known as “working climate scientists.” … My guess is that even if Connolley’s Wiki privileges have been revoked, his RealClimate allies continue to labor on his behalf.

………………

…with the leaked emails known as Climategate more people are beginning to see that deception, not science, has been [the] principal weapon [of those who believe man is causing catastrophic global warming]. And we see also that Wikipedia has lent itself to that deception. …

Read the original post at spectator.org.

Questions

1.  Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. Anyone can submit information on any topic. Some of the material on Wikipedia has been known to be inaccurate or biased.  
How might William M. Connolley’s control over and manipulation of Global Warming entries posted at wikipedia affect a student’s viewpoint of this theory?

2.  The blurbs below are reader responses to the Financial Post article about Mr. Connolley’s deceptive manipulation of global warming entries at wikipedia.  What do you think of these responses?

  • Wikipedia has done a great disservice in not policing its own “editors”. With Wikipedia it appears it’s impossible to predict the past!
  • It’s a real eye-opener to see how one single propagandist/activist has been allowed to act as a commissar of truth on such a massive – and putatively neutral – public information resource.
  • Wikipedia can be used as a tool of misinformation
  • [this was a] manipulation of information

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1.  Opinion question.  Answers vary.

2.  Opinion question.  Answers vary.