UPDATE: My speculation was incorrect. TK does think the editor was a parodist, particularly because of the choice of username, and the user has been blocked. The site really did have a normal early Wikipedia-style crash, and TK says that QWest will again be blocked when Conservapedia sorts out its systems issues. How many Conservapedia editors are real?
A few days ago the political satirist Wonkette noticed a very odd article on Conservapedia. It said:
The Constitution provides that if a senator is unable to complete his or her term then the governor of the state will appoint a replacement Senator. Below is a list of Senate Democrats from States with Republican Governors. Currently the Democrats hold a 58 seat majority in the Senate. If these Senators were unable to complete their terms and were replaced by qualified Republicans by their Republican governors, the Republican Party would regain a commanding majority in the Senate sufficient to prevent Barack Hussein Obama from socializing medicine, nationalizing the financial and auto industries, and creating a socialist wealth redistribution scheme.
There followed a list of about 14 Democratic Senators. Wonkette remarked on the peculiar wording, calling it a “Helpful List of Senate Democrats To Assassinate, So Republican Governors Can Appoint GOP Replacements”.
A few days after that the article was replaced with a message from an administrator called “TK”:
This “Article” Was The Work Of An Internet Parodist/Vandal
Conservapedia in no way sanctioned it, and cannot, because of the wiki format, completely stop the work of political terrorists, who are intent upon, dedicated to, mocking our conservative, Christian-friendly encyclopedia
–₮KAdmin/Talk Here 16:34, 24 January 2009 (EST)
Here, TK states outright that the article was created by an internet parodist or vandal.
Well sure, wikis are prone to unwanted text, often malicious, and creating spoof articles has even become a minor sport. But was this such a case? I decided to find out, so I looked at the history of the article. I found that the article had actually been created by a user called QWest, an established user who has contributed much content to Conservapedia. He alerted Conservapedia to Obama’s “My Muslim faith” gaffe, he contributed “Abstinence only sex education doesn’t work” to “Liberal Myths About Education”, he added items about the bacterial flagellum, consciousness, symbiosis and the bat to “Counterexamples to evolution”. He repeatedly tried to add Barack Obama to a list of prominent Muslims in the “Islam” article. He started the “Obama and socialism” section in the article on Barack Obama.
Now to some people, these may sound like crazy things to do, and so accordingly they may suspect that QWest was a parodist. I’m really not so sure. In fact, knowing the site, I’m pretty secure in the opinion that QWest is a real person and those are his real opinions. Site founder Andrew Schlafly himself believes Obama is covertly a Muslim, and the article on Obama still says that he “may be the first Muslim President”. The additions to “Counterexamples to evolution” are mostly absurd, but seem to be based on typical creationist misconceptions about evolution. And most people on the religious right still cling to the belief that abstinence-only education works.
I also noticed that TK had neither blocked QWest from editing, nor approached him on the wiki to communicate with him about his creation of inappropriate content.
I left a message on TK’s user talk page, informing him of his apparent error in blaming the creation of the article on a vandal or parodist, and outlined my findings about QWest’s history of good faith editing.
Shortly afterwards, the Conservapedia website started showing the following error message to all visitors, and refused to display any articles.
MediaWiki internal error.
Original exception: exception ‘DBQueryError’ with message ‘A database error has occurred Query: SELECT page_id,page_namespace,page_title,page_restrictions, page_counter,page_is_redirect,page_is_new,page_random,page_touched, page_latest,page_len FROM `page` WHERE page_namespace = ’0′ AND page_title = ‘Main_Page’ LIMIT 1 Function: Article::pageData Error: 1033 Table ‘./conserv8_media/page’ was created with a different version of MySQL and cannot be read (localhost) ‘ in /home/conserv8/public_html/includes/db/Database.php:606
As I write this, the Conservapedia site is back up, but not for editing. It appears to be redirecting to http://www.conservativeencyclopedia.com, which is running the wki from a locked copy of the Conservapedia database dated 19 January, 2009, shortly before the “hit list” article appeared. The most recent edit on the site is 22:13 GMT, or 17:13 EST.
At first I thought they had simply messed up a planned dbms upgrade, but there seems a little too much coincidence here.