William Beutler on Wikipedia

Why WWF’s Earth Hour Gets a Wikipedia Entry But CEI’s Human Achievement Hour Doesn’t

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on March 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm by William Beutler

earth-hour-cei-logos

You may have heard of Earth Hour, an eco-Hallmark holiday for the Twitter age, created by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 and promoted in the media each year since.

You are probably less likely to have heard of Human Achievement Hour, a counter-holiday launched by the Competitive Enterprise Institute this year.

I was unfamiliar until I noticed CEI’s Twitter account acting upset on Friday about the deletion of a Wikipedia article about their new tradition. I responded to @ceidotorg and said I would take a look for myself. Here are the relevant tweets, in descending choronological order:

    ceidotorg: #hah Attempts to ‘delete’ Human Achievement Hour in Wikipedia http://ping.fm/4rABR #fr33 #tcot #liberty #c4 –1:38 PM by CE
    ceidotorg: #hah WIkipedia deletion discussion here http://bit.ly/kZMJ No good reason given for axing entry on HAH -#liberty #tcot –3:22 PM
    ceidotorg: #hah deleted by Wikipedia now banned by Youtube in 1 minute -Human Achievement strikes again http://ping.fm/5wtS4 #liberty #tcot –12:44PM
    williambeutler: Sorry, @ceidotorg, your Wikipedia article was not deleted because editors didn’t like your agenda: http://twurl.nl/ersp1o –1:11 PM
    williambeutler: @ceidotorg Not surprising an event that hasn’t occurred yet and is just getting notice wouldn’t make the cut. Next year may be different. –1:16 PM
    ceidotorg: @williambeutler if you could provide any solid evidence that the same occurred to an entry that agreed with green agenda-I’d believe that –3:34 PM

I said I knew just the place to look, and that was WikiProject Deletion sorting/Environment/archive, which saves past discussions from Wikipedia’s Articles for Deletion process — where entries that just aren’t ready for prime time go to die.

On that page, I counted 36 deliberations over keeping vs. deleting articles on Environmental topics since the archive category was created last year. And after counting twice, I found 14 nominated articles were kept, 13 were deleted and 9 were “other” — sometimes being merged into other articles.

This demonstrates in the aggregate that just any submission of interest to Wikipedia’s many environmentalist-minded contributors won’t stick just for being “politically correct.” The results even looks outwardly fair, although Wikipedia is concerned more with process than outcome.

Meanwhile, there are specific examples of such debates from the past and present we can study:

  • There is no longer an article about an outfit named Carbon Purging, which seems to be one of these “green” companies whose business model depends on an Al Gore-style guilt-trip.
  • Climate conflict, a little-used term apparently referring to some kind of feared global warming-sparked regional confrontation, got the boot.
  • More recently, the neologism Hot Stain (not what it sounds like, whatever you think that may be) is currently the subject of a sustained, as it were, debate on both sides (based on what I’ve seen, I lean “delete”).
  • And a biographical entry about an “eco-feminist” named Leslie Davies is currently headed down to defeat.

The important thing is that all of these decisions — and all of those that resulted in a “keep” — were made by community consensus based on the content guidelines with which anyone can familiarize themselves.

afd-hah-cei

Since I started writing this post, I’ve been following the actions of an editor using the handle Thehondaboy, who had been pressing the CEI case on the “AfD” debate over Human Achievement Hour (aka #hah, if you didn’t catch that) in recent days, has been trying to dramatically expand the “Criticism” section on the Earth Hour page to include substantial details about the campaign, including just about every single mention in the media — over and over again, after being reverted — as if the previously-given explanations (about why they didn’t satisfy the guidelines) never took place.

And it’s not an insignificant point that Human Achievement Hour had in fact already been prominently mentioned on the Earth Hour article. Yet Thehondaboy was apparently not satisfied with that.

I’m a little surprised this account hasn’t been temporarily blocked from editing, although it does look like it’s headed in that direction. I have no idea who Thehondaboy is, though I do certainly hope it is not someone from CEI edit warring on this point. From this editor they’d be wise to keep their distance.

Wikipedia needs conservatives and right-leaners to contribute, especially at the margins where many topics would be lopsided in favor of the left-progressive perspectives of editors from WikiProject Environment. As an economic libertarian myself, it’s especially frustrating to see CEI’s cause reduced to a futile struggle against a set of rules (and a community) that its chief advocate hasn’t taken the time to understand.

I have written elsewhere that many conservatives’ complaints about Wikipedia are misplaced (see here and here, for example) and this seems to be another such case.

Conservatives are not unique in having a weak grasp of how Wikipedia functions, nor are they even alone among political activists. The website is undoubtedly complicated, but it’s hardly incomprehensible. If you learn to edit according to rules, you can figure out which battles are winnable — ahem, which content disputes are likely to be resolved in your favor — and save yourself a real headache.

  1. […] I wrote a relatively lengthy post discussing the circumstances surrounding the deletion of a Wikipedia article about Human Achievement Hour (HAH), a parody holiday created this year by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The title — […]

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