Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heathen Fornicators and America-Haters Made Wikipedia; Home Schoolers Fight Back

I desperately wanted to believe this was a hoax: Conservapedia, a conservative alternative to Wikipedia, that notoriously liberal online encyclopedia.

At first one might think that something called Conservapedia would be a conservative guide, that is, a guide to all things conservative. Alas, it's actually something else altogether -- "Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America," says the website. There's more:
Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American. On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian "C.E." instead of "A.D.", which Conservapedia uses. Christianity receives no credit for the great advances and discoveries it inspired, such as those of the Renaissance.
The website has a page of examples of bias in Wikipedia, which include, oddly, complaints about British spellings in definitions, like Habsburg for Hapsburg, and labour, favour, and specialisation. Who cares? Their number one bias example: "Wikipedia allows the use of B.C.E. instead of B.C. and C.E. instead of A.D. The dates are based on the birth of Jesus, so why pretend otherwise? Conservapedia is Christian-friendly and exposes the CE deception." Sound a little shrill?

There's another problem here. The whole point of Wikipedia is for the public to edit definitions. That means conservatives, too. Conservapedia's remedy for liberal bias? Equal and opposite bias in a ghetto (read: bad real estate in a poor part of the Web) version of the real thing.

Conservapedia's most valid complaint about Wikipedia may be its accusations of gossip mongering, but the example given doesn't really fit the bill.

The idea of an encyclopedia edited by angry conservatives who feel left out of mainstream culture should horrify all of us, right and left. If Wikipedia's dubious experiment in collective (ooh, sounds like communism, don't it?) editing is ever going to work, both liberals and conservatives must work to temper each other's worst tendencies. Apparently, some conservatives have given up the fight and decided to invent their own bizarro universe in which America is at the very center and non-Christians have no opinions.

Conservapedia was started by -- Andy Schlafly, the son of arch conservative Phyllis Schlafly (an "antifeminist," according to Wikipedia -- gasp!). With a little help from 58 New Jersey home school kids. At least according to Mediabistro, which is probably liberal and therefore not to be trusted.

Gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who now works for the left-leaning Atlantic Monthly, calls it a "Christianist version of Wikipedia," and proposes a contest to find its most ridiculous definition.

Matt Weaver, blogging for the U.K.'s Guardian, wrote: "Despite suspicions that it is a parody, the site is apparently deadly serious. It has become the laughing stock of the internet, as bloggers compete to find the most ludicrous entries." Damn those anti-American Brits! Bobbie Johnson, blogging for the Guardian's Technology Blog today wondered if Conservapedia had been taken down in shame. Founder Andy Schlafly wrote in to say they were forced to upgrade their systems, presumably from all the traffic.

So what's Conservapedia like? No Walter Mondale entry, that's for sure. But then there's no Barry Goldwater entry, either. Maybe it's because Christian zealotry freaked him out -- at least according to Wikipedia. So who knows, right? There is, praise Jesus, an entry for Ronald Reagan ("Considered by many to be the greatest American President"). When I searched for "Jesus Christ," I kept getting an error message.

It's all a wash anyway. Want to know what liberals think of Wikipedia? Read The Onion's article "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence". Here's a sample:
"On July 25, 1256, delegates gathered at Comerica Park to sign the Declaration Of Independence, which rejected the rule of the British over its 15 coastal North American colonies," reads an excerpt from the entry. "Little did such founding fathers as George Washington, George Jefferson, and ***ERIC IS A FAG*** know that their small, querulous republic would later become the most powerful and prosperous nation in history, the Unified States Of America."



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