William Beutler on Wikipedia

Posts Tagged ‘The Hill’

Who’s The Idiot?

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on November 30, 2009 at 9:28 pm

wikipedia-iggy-pop-idiotSo I’d thought that Stephen Colbert had finally quenched the national and political media’s thirst for amusement derived from Wikipedia vandalism, but The Hill newspaper has proved me wrong. If you are not following the 2012 presidential campaign three years out, you may have missed the storm today surrounding 2008 Republican dark horse (and arguable Romney spoiler) Mike Huckabee.

In 2000, serving in his capacity as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee granted clemency to a convicted felon who is currently a suspect in the murder of four police officers in a suburb of Tacoma, Washington. [Update: Was at the time. Hours later, Maurice Clemmons, the aforementioned felon, was killed by Seattle police.] Being a national news event, perhaps the best source of reported information is Wikipedia’s Lakewood police officer shooting article.

But it’s the article about Huckabee that caught The Hill’s attention, because earlier today, this was added to the lead paragraph:

WILL FOREVER BE KNOWN AS THE IDIOT WHO RELEASED THE COP KILLER MAURICE CLEMMONS HE WAS SERVING A 35 YEAR SENTENCE FOR ARMED ROBBERY THE IDIOT RELEASED HIM AFTER 9 YEARS

In addition, next to Huckabee’s name in the infobox sidebar, the following clarification was noted thusly:

THE IDIOT

Yep, that sure is Wikipedia vandalism. And The Hill had quite the hot scoop, because the vandalism was gone within 10 minutes, and The Hill’s date stamp is just three minutes before it was reverted.

The Hill’s Jordan Fabian commented:

Any Internet user can edit or write Wikipedia entries, it is not clear who edited the page under the site’s revision history.

Well, in fact we can know that the vandal is in Seattle, simply because that IP address traces to that area. We can also look at the IP user’s previous edits, which include the clumsy expansion / temporary vandalism of the article about South Puget Sound Community College (his alma mater?) and editing the article of Golden Girls actress Betty White (?) to note something clearly heard on Seattle radio.

And then, as Wikipedia would hope, it was removed by a user just as anonymous as the one who added it. Or to quote the first commenter on The Hill’s breakthrough story:

Non-story, welcome to Wikipedia.