Getting an error fixed on the main page of Conservapedia

Conservapedia is an alternative to Wikipedia set up by conservative educator and activist Andrew Schlafly in late 2006, after Schlafly experienced difficulties editing Wikipedia from a conservative viewpoint.  Schlafly says Wikipedia is full of errors (I agree) and that it censors the conservative viewpoint.  A few weeks ago I had some interactions with the Conservapedia administrators, summarized here, after an inflammatory article was placed into Conservapedia by a vandal or parodist.

Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia has a main page that introduces the encyclopedia.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia carries news on its front page.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia protects the main page content, meaning that you need special privileges to edit it.

How does Conservapedia handle serious errors of fact?  There has been some talk in the news media about Conservapedia’s authoritarian and heavy-handed spproach to those who disagree with the opinions of Andrew Schlafly, but how does Conservapedia handle a simple error of fact?

The other day, Conservapedia’s main page carried the following news item:

Showing that promising anything to get elected is everything, the White House says Obama is against ‘Fairness Doctrine‘ revival. In a major blow to his radical leftist supporters, a White House spokesman says President Obama opposes any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine. [11]

As it stands,this item is inaccurate because of the implication that Barack Obama had won the 2008 election campaigning on a promise to restore the ancient, long abolished, Fairness Doctrine, a FCC regulation that required coverage of politics to present opposing viewpoints.  On the contrary, Obama’s spokesman in July had said Obama had no interest in restoring the Fairness Doctrine.

I happen to have a user account on Conservapedia, so I used it to make the following comment on the discussion page for the main page of Conservapedia.

Obama and Fairness Doctrine

Today’s comment on the Fairness Doctrine is particularly egregious because it implies that President Obama won the election campaigning on restoring the Fairness Doctrine. On the contrary, last summar his spokesman Michael Ortiz said:

“Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 13, 2008

One could say that it may be that Obama secretly harbored a wish to restore that regulatory policy, but to state or imply that it is something he said he would do is factually incorrect. —TonySidaway 07:59, 20 February 2009 (EST)

Retrieved from “http://www.conservapedia.com/Talk:Main_Page

Andrew Schlafly responded quite promptly.  The statement was supported by a cited source (a Fox News item titled “White House: Obama Opposes ‘Fairness Doctrine’ Revival”), Obama is going to ‘try to censor popular talk radio under the guise of having “as many diverse viewpoints as possible,”‘ and I had misspelled the word “summer”. And ‘censorship of opponents is the ”sine qua non” of atheism.’

Ignoring the irrelevant comments, I responded as follows:

The source does not support the implication, on the main page of Conservapedia, that Obama made such promises. Please correct your copy. —TonySidaway 12:39, 20 February 2009 (EST)

And Schlafly duly gave it his best shot.  The item now reads:

After top Obama aide David Axelrod left open the possibility of reinstatement of Fairness Doctrine on Sunday, the Obama camp now denies it will reinstate it. Instead, as Obama campaigned, the liberal attempt to censor critics will probably take the form of FCC regulations mandating displacement of the truth by “opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 13, 2008;Fox News Feb. 18, 2009

So there we have it.  Conservapedia now no longer implies that Barack Obama won the election on a promise to restore the Fairness Doctrine.  Instead it now states as a fact that “opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible” is a form of censorship.

See what a little polite persuasion can achieve?

And Andrew Schlafly couldn’t resist a final repetition of his slur:

Tony, we know how atheists love to censor everything from classroom prayer to criticism of evolution. Just look at Wikipedia entries on the related topics. You won’t admit that atheists censor, but you’re not going to censor anything here. I’ve strengthened the headline per your information. Thanks and Godspeed.–Andy Schlafly 13:19, 20 February 2009 (EST)

Conserrvapedia administrator TK, who wrote the news item, disagrees with us both!

Well I certainly disagree with both of you! The fact of the matter, as my news item said, was that Obama allowed his surrogates, Pelosi and Reid, and a dozen others, to call for the reinstatement, for over a year during the campaign. His now saying he is against it, is deceit and others, like Tony saying “prove he was for it” is nothing but wiki lawyering. The FACT he allowed his surrogates to pander to the leftists, (and all surrogates are tightly controlled, and often used for Red Herrings and Trial Balloons) was his trying to have his cake and eat it to. The item, as it now reads is accurate, as far as it goes, however. —₮K/Admin/Talk 18:32, 20 February 2009 (EST)

The fact that Obama’s campaign publicly disavowed interest in the Fairness Doctrine as long ago as last summer seems to have zoomed over TK’s head.  The difference between the known facts and his own interpolations also seems to have escaped him.  TK is one of those entrusted with editing the main page of Conservapedia.

17 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that senior users at CP, such as TK are more interested in stroking their own egos, bullying other users and lying, than little things such as “facts”. Andy, on the other hand, is suffering from a combination of wild anti-Obama delusions (possibly fuelled by jealousy over their time together at the HLR) and an inability to admit that he might have made a mistake.
    It’s a good receipe for lauhgs, but not if you’re trying to manage a so-called educational resource.

  2. Interestingly, the Main Page of Conservapedia now carries this related news item, which may shed light on Schlafly’s statement that diversity of content is censorshop:

    Rush Limbaugh: Mr. President, Keep the Airwaves Free. “You’ve said you’re against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you’ve not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.

    Of course ensuring that the broadcast media are used in the public interest and that no single viewpoint monopolizes them, is one of the main functions of a regulator. One may presume that Obama would be in favor of the FCC doing its job.

  3. Tony, you can often find contradictory stories at Conservapedia. However, most of them have passed under the Schlafly radar and will only get reverted when Schlafly himself reads the article. There have been several instances where Schlafly removes “liberal bias” which had been inserted by his trusted administrators. Quite recently the admin known as Karajou rewrote the Barack “Hussein” Obama article (they insisted on making his middle name prominent in order to cast aspersions of him being a Muslim). Schlafly reverted all of the edits because it didn’t vilify him enough. As littleone says (and there is a photograph to prove it) Andy was a member of the Harvard Law review at the same time as Barack Obama. While the latter is the current president of the United States, Schlafly is a former ATT lawyer reduced to teaching home-schoolers in a church basement.

  4. Tony, don’t forget that their main page still suggests that “Pravda” has an article on Conservapedia. Regardless of the fact that the article in question isn’t actually about CP (which is mostly irrelevant), the story links to Pravmir, which is not the same as Pravda, as pointed out on Talk:Main Page here: http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Talk:Main_Page&diff=prev&oldid=626187

    He was reverted by TK, and blocked ( http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Special:Log&type=block&page=User:DennetDan ), with part of the reasoning being that he was supposedly a member of a “vandal/parodist site” (RW, presumably), even though, according to their “Differences from Wikipedia” page, they don’t block people for activities elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, the story remains on their front page unchanged.

  5. Thanks. DennettDan points out that Pravda did mention Conservapedia in 2007. Unfortunately it is not very flattering. Translated by Google, the entry reads:

    “New dictionaries, called Conservapedia and CreationWiki, intended to refute the modern scientific understanding. For example, Creationists argue that the age of the earth is not four billion, and about six thousand years.

    “WELT ONLINE cites a characteristic passage from Conservapedia: «Like all modern animals, the kangaroo came from the Middle East. They come from two kangaroo rescued on Noah’s ark during the Flood»”.

  6. Do you see what we were talking about now? You bring up something that’s objectively false, and you’re accused of meddling or seeking to “censor” “conservative thought.” Don’t worry, though; it gets worse. Keep it up.

  7. I’ve had some success, despite the accusations of dishonesty and censorship, which Andrew Schlafly apparently believes is a necessary qualification for atheism.

    Here, for instance, Schlafly has withdrawn a front page story with the summary “removed headline pending further developments in case; link was not to a recent story.” The headline, in effect, gave credence to an allegation against a former Congressman, that he had paid someone to commit murder.

  8. He’s handling you with kid gloves, and an unusual amount of tolerance, because you were anti-RW (at least anti your idea of what RW was), and so he thinks you’re something approximating an ally. Don’t expect that to last.

  9. I’m with Ames. Obviously I haven’t been following CP for anywhere near as long as he has, but in the time that I have, it’s quite a regular occurrence for people to be blocked simply for having a different opinion, despite their claims otherwise.

    I must say I was a little upset when I saw your recent comments about RW. I’m a recent member there (less than 50 edits), and, like yourself, an established WP member (though nowhere near to the same extent obviously). I’m not a big fan of vandalising CP, and I did try editing at CP once. Much like yourself, I used it primarily to raise issue with things I objected to, and to fix minor typos. Unlike yourself, they had very little to gain by leaving me unblocked, so I was blocked.

    I also feel my blocking might have had something to do with both my final edit and my edits to Talk:Barack Hussein Obama, which were carried out by my fiancée, an devout American Christian who doesn’t approve of much of Conserapedia’s content, style, or methods.

    http://conservapedia.com/Special:Contributions/DRuss

    That was my contributions log. If you look through all the edits bar the aforementioned three edits, they’re simply raising issues primarily with what I saw as inaccuracies.

    Nothing was done about any of the issues I raised, if I remember correctly.

  10. Tony,

    Your experiences are normal. Reliable ‘facts’ are not necessary in CP articles, as what is much more important than factual accuracy is the strength with which liberals are attacked. A cursory glance at the “ Mystery:Young Hollywood Breast Cancer Victims” article, and it’s accompanying talk page, can tell you everything you need to know about how debates over factual accuracy, statistical analysis, and citations tend to go at Conservapedia. Again, the real problem with Conservapedia is not their opinions, to which they are clearly welcome (as if that needs saying) – the real problem is that Andrew Schlafly has appointed himself an educator of children, who’s mind he fills not only with a bitter and twisted view of the world, blatant falsehoods. It’s the falsehoods that are the problem. Your readers might consider reading our article on Andrew Schalfy, the educator – it’s pretty revealing, fully cited and sourced, and presents a very worrying vista of an unregulated educator let loose upon the minds of the young. One would hope that the State of New Jersey will take a good look at Mr.Schalfly’s homsechool program, as they may well do if he succeeds in applying for a teacher’s permit, a proposal he’s currently considering.

  11. Sorry, bad link on that ‘Mystery’. Here’s the correct URL:

    http://www.conservapedia.com/Mystery:Young_Hollywood_Breast_Cancer_Victims

  12. Aaaaaaaand you’re out of there…!

    Tony this diff – http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Talk:Main_Page&curid=67467&diff=632192&oldid=632189 – is the last thing many “liberal” CP editors see.

  13. Fair enough. I wrote on my user page that I had come to comment, did a bit of editing, and was done. I really don’t intend to spend time contributing content, and if Schlafly is going to take that tack on my comments I see no point in making them. I’ll continue to make comments on the more egregious errors on the thread I started on Guardian Unlimited Talk or else on this thread (which is more permanent).

  14. Bizarrely, my straightforward statements were interpreted as “snide” and I’ve been blocked for two weeks. Perhaps I should have made it more plain that I was not going to edit any more.

  15. Oh Tony. In case you were wondering how things turn out for dissenters you might get a kick out of your final edit on Conservapedia no longer existing. Someone oversighted it, or permanently removed it from the database. So much for Trusworthy and so much for even feigning tolerance of even reasonably presented suggestions.

  16. If true, that’s rather alarming. I don’t recall the edit in detail, but there was nothing at all objectionable or nasty about it.

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