Eric D. Snider

Something Wiki This Way Comes

Snide Remarks #534

"Something Wiki This Way Comes"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on March 5, 2007

Did you know that Wikipedia is full of anti-Christian and anti-American bias? Well, it is! For example, if you go to the Wikipedia page for "United States of America," you'll find this as the very first sentence: "The United States of America is a country of the western hemisphere, comprising fifty states and numerous territories." Oh, our territories are NUMEROUS, are they? We're just big ol' TERRITORY HOGS, aren't we? Well, excuse us, Mr. Wikipedia!

And the anti-Christian bias is obvious: First sentence about America, and no mention of Christianity, the religion embraced by every single one of the Founding Fathers? Your atheist roots are showing, Mr. Wikipedia!

Luckily, we have an alternate source for fast, reliable information without having to wade through Wikipedia's biases. That source? Books. Your library is full of them.

I am kidding, of course. If we go back to reading books instead of looking things up on the Internet, then the terrorists have won, just like the liberals always wanted them to. No, the alternate to Wikipedia that I refer to is a new project called Conservapedia. Conservapedia is, in its own words, "a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American." As the first example of Wikipedia's bias, the Conservapedia front page then says this: "On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian 'C.E.' instead of 'A.D.'" The horror!

Conservapedia does not claim to be unbiased. Instead, it openly admits its bias -- "Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America" -- unlike Wikipedia, which claims to be striving for neutrality while still sometimes using Christian-hating abbreviations such as "C.E." instead of "A.D."

(For the record, Wikipedia has no official policy on which you should use. Most articles use the traditional "B.C." and "A.D.," but there are some that use "B.C.E." and "C.E." -- "Before the Common Era" and "Common Era." I agree that "B.C.E." and "C.E." are needless variants, and that it's silly to remove a reference to Christ from the nomenclature when the dates themselves are still reckoned according to the year of his birth, i.e., 1492 A.D. is the same as 1492 C.E., for example. But I'm also pretty sure that, even as a Christian, I don't care which one people use, and hardly anyone uses the non-Christian one anyway.)

And so Conservapedia offers up tasty articles such as the one on Richard Nixon, which is two paragraphs long and begins by calling him "the 37th President of the Christian United States." (Coincidentally, he was also the 37th president of the regular United States. I guess "Christian United States" and "United States" use the same numbering system, like B.C. and B.C.E.) He was also, we are told, "the 36th Christian Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, in the administration of Christian Dwight D. Eisenhower." This is vital information. Watergate is barely mentioned, though at only two paragraphs, even Nixon himself is barely mentioned.

Or here's the Bill Clinton entry, which begins: "William J. ('Bill') Clinton served as president of the United States from 1993-2001. Clinton never won a majority of the popular vote." The entry on George W. Bush doesn't mention that he didn't win a majority of the popular vote in his first election, either, though it does mention that "in 2004, George W. Bush won reelection by a popular margin of millions of votes [3 million, specifically], including a landslide victory in the State of Florida where the outcome had been so close in 2000." That "landslide" in Florida was 3,964,522 votes for Bush over 3,583,544 votes for John Kerry -- a difference of 380,978, or 5 percent of the total votes cast. I suspect that if the outcome had been the other way around, Conservapedia would call it a narrow victory, not a landslide. But that's just the liberal fact-monger in me talking.

The global warming page, as you might expect, is delightful. It acknowledges the recent international report from 113 countries asserting that global climate changes are very likely "not due to known natural causes alone" -- but then it points out this fact, which may not have occurred to you: "These scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him."

Now, pointing out the misspelling of "atheists" would be petty, so we won't. But even if it's true that most scientists are liberal atheists -- and no source for that is cited, despite Conservapedia's frequent insistence that users cite sources -- I'm not sure how it's relevant. It's hubristic (i.e., arrogant) to think that mankind can destroy the Earth that God gave them? That doesn't make sense, logically or theologically. God gave us our physical bodies, too, yet we manage to destroy those pretty regularly. Are the Conservapedians saying that even if mankind joined together and TRIED to destroy the Earth, they wouldn't be able to? Call me a liberal athiest, but I don't think "it's hubris to think man can destroy the Earth" constitutes a valid argument against global warming.

Conservapedia has a few sworn enemies. The first, of course, is Wikipedia. The Conservapedia homepage recommends you read the page called "Examples of Bias in Wikipedia." There are 31 examples listed here. I counted eight that could actually be interpreted as evidence of bias (one of which has since been corrected at Wikipedia), 14 that simply refer to errors in fact in Wikipedia entries or limitations inherent to the Wikipedia system (and if we're counting THOSE, we could find hundreds of similar examples at Conservapedia), and nine that are neither bias nor mistake but are simply irrelevant.

My favorite example in that last category is #7: "Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English-speaking users are American." If spelling words the British way ("colour, "humour," etc.) constitutes an anti-American bias, just think how anti-American it would be to actually speak a foreign language!

But then, for some reason, Conservapedia also has a bizarre hatred for Merriam-Webster. Yes, the dictionary. Conservapedia has a page devoted to Merriam-Webster's "errors and biases." To wit:

"The date for 'eminent domain' is incorrect: 1883. The term was used as early as 1125." (No source for this is cited.) Now, actually, M-W says 1783, not 1883. But more to the point: There's no way the term "eminent domain" was being used in 1125. The concept may have existed, and people may have had a term for it, but whatever that term was, it could have borne no more than a passing resembling to "eminent domain." The English being spoken in 1125 was vastly different from the English of today (which would make it anti-American, of course). The words "eminent" and "domain" separately didn't appear in English until the 1400s, so it's not likely a combination of them popped up 300 years before that.

Or this example: "The definition of 'group theory' uses 'group' to define itself!" ("Group theory: A branch of mathematics concerned with finding all mathematical groups and determining their properties.") That is bad form indeed. Of course, Conservapedia's entry for group theory does the same thing: "Group theory is the study of mathematical groups, including their symmetries and permutations."

What Conservapedians have against Merriam-Webster, I don't know. It seems like an odd target, especially when that thesaurus bastard Roget gets off scot-free.

I've spent a lot of time this past week browsing Conservapedia, and I've narrowed down my favorite pages to these two. First, the page for Fox News, which reads as follows:

Fox News was started in 1996 in response to the other cable news channels which all had obvious liberal biases. Because of this, Rupert Murdoch decided to start a real new channel which would tell the truth. The success of Fox news over every other news channel is because it is fair and balanced. [1] It has many people on it who work to spread truth such as Sean Hannity who is a great American. [2]. Fox News is best because instead of just telling you what to think, they only report the news unbiased and then allow the viewer to decide. [3].

In 2005 the White House selected Tony Snow from Fox News to be the new White House press secretary which was a great honor for Fox because it showed how well it was presenting the real truth instead of the fake liberal version. [4]


You read that, and you think a lot of it is preposterous, and you're stunned to think that any adult human actually thinks Fox News is "fair and balanced," but then you see that there are footnotes. Surely these footnotes will cite sources. And they do! Footnote [1] takes you to a page on Fox's site where you can apply for employment at Fox News; [2] takes you to a defunct General Motors contest called "The Sean Hannity You're a Great American Car Giveaway"; [3] goes to an image of the Fox News logo; and [4] is the Fox News story about Tony Snow's appointment. So everything in the Fox News Conservapedia article is well-documented and verifiable.

But my very favorite page on Conservapedia is the one on dinosaurs. Sadly, it was edited within the past couple days, so the version I fell in love with is no longer there. Luckily, I took a snapshot of it before it went away. It looks like this:

Alt text

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, that is a picture of Jesus riding a dinosaur. He is also holding a baby alligator, or possibly an iguana, or possibly a baby dinosaur, which I guess would fit the theme more. My only question is how the artist got them all to pose for it.

Alt text

(By the way, when the page was edited, not only was the Jesus picture removed, but so was the quote from Pope John Paul II about evolution not being incompatible with Christianity. Apparently, though evolution may be compatible with Christianity, it is not compatible with Conservapedia.)

Conservapedia has begun to get some attention over the last several days, and they even got their own entry on Wikipedia. But the article was tagged for possible deletion due to Conservapedia being, so far, an un-noteworthy site with few outside media references to it. Hopefully this edition of "Snide Remarks" can be a drop in the Internet bucket as the Conservapedians seek notoriety.

Here's the real problem with Conservapedia: It's completely useless as an encyclopedia, i.e., a source of actual information. The idea of a compendium of knowledge having open, declared biases is oxymoronic. By definition, a compendium of knowledge should contain ALL available facts, not just the ones that make certain subjects look good. It is impossible to browse Conservapedia and learn anything you didn't already know. Instead, it's a way for conservative, home-schooling, fundamentalist Christians to find reinforcement of the things they already think. Bias may creep in to Wikipedia here and there, just as it will any time humans are involved in a project, but at least the governors of that site have neutrality as their goal. Conservapedia baldly announces its biases up front, thus guaranteeing that no one will ever be able to take it seriously as a reliable information source.

The scary thing is, there are a lot of people for whom that's perfectly OK. As long as it doesn't challenge their beliefs, bring up unpleasant facts, or suggest their heroes have flaws or their villains have merits, Conservapedia has all the truth they need. And really, what's more American than that?

[Note: All the Wikipedia and Conservapedia quotes in this column were accurate when the column was posted. Owing to the nature of those sites, it's entirely possible things have been changed since then. The point is, I didn't make anything up.]

Stumble It!

Notes:

Not every column has to be a gut-buster, you know. With this one, I was just hoping to spread some amusement around at the expense of some goofballs. My thanks to an alert reader named Matt who pointed out the site to me, and in particular the dinosaur page, which is one of the best things I've ever seen in my life.

Conservapedia was founded by Andy Schlafly, son of famed conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. Andy seems to have done a lot of the editing on Conservapedia himself, as his handle ("Aschlafly") appears frequently in the edit histories. According to the site's "About" page, it began as a project for 58 home-schooled teens in New Jersey. Glad to see the kids are learning.

On March 7, this column was linked at Fark.com. I was delighted by this, not just because it resulted in several thousand extra visitors to the site, but because I love Fark and I think it's cool to be mentioned there. (It happened once before, too, with the junket whore column.)

Oh, and a third reason to be glad for the Fark mention: Within that influx of new readers were several people who didn't grasp the whole "sarcasm" thing and took a couple things seriously. See comments #76, #83, #89, and #103 posted below for examples. A couple people who posted comments on Fark itself seemed to miss the point, too. Of course, the column is kind of awkward, the way I start out pretending to agree with Conservapedia before turning around and openly mocking it. So maybe it's my fault.

Add your comment:

The following HTML elements are allowed: <span class="spoiler">content</span>, <strong>, <em>, <a>, and <img>.

Before posting, please read the rules.

Subscription Center

Eric D. Snider's "Snide Remarks"

This is to join the mailing list for Eric's weekly humor column, "Snide Remarks." For more information, go here.

Subscribe

Eric D. Snider's "In the Dark"

This is to join the mailing list for Eric's weekly movie-review e-zine. For more information on it, go here.

Subscribe
 
Come read about baseball and web development at www.jeffjsnider.com | Diamond Clarity Chart