A Blog of Very Little Brain

'What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?' said Pooh. 'For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.'

Holy recursive references, Batman!

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Pointing towards the Lowell Sun, a post already risen to fame concerning over 1000 edits to Wikipedia made from US government IP addresses. Most of these were made by interns working for congresspersons, and didn’t involve much more than padding up relevant entries, however, the bigger spiel refers to one U.S. Rep Marty Meehan, who’s staff edited his bio in the following way: Instead of “Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 … As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts.”
The edited entry read: “Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004.”
Lovely, even thought they forgot to add “God bless America”.

A quick jump to said Wikipedia entry reveals that indeed the damage has been undone: “Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 … Meehan made a pledge not to serve more than four terms. He won the 1992 election and was re-elected to Congress every two years since, including the latest election (2004). On the House floor in 1995 he scolded members who might go back on their promise to limit their tenure in office. “The best test of any politicians’ credibility on term limits,” he said, “is whether they are willing to put their careers where their mouths are and limit their own service.” Despite this peldge (sic), he again ran for Congress in the year 2000, exceeding four terms. [2]”

Nice one. See if they dare remove it. But, what’s the [2] in the article stands for? It’s actually referenced to an article in a site called the US Term Limit about politicians running on the promise to quit after X terms, but have some issues with actually keeping that promise. However, unless you click or hover over the link, there is no indication that this is a link to an outside article and not an inner link to a note or referendum (unless you’re familiar with Wikipedia’s system of placing links to notes and references in superscript). If you do check the “item [2]” in the articles notes, lo and behold, you’ll find:
Lehmann, Evan. “Rewriting history under the dome”. Lowell Sun Online. January 27, 2006.

This got me thinking. The Lowell Sun wrote about the change in Wikipedia’s entry, which, after returning the original content “linked” to the Lowell Sun as a source! Isn’t that like anything said in a Libel suit can be published as “quotes from the trial” despite being libel?

Of course, I’m just taking it too far, as the real paragraph linking to the Lowell Sun article was the one where the Wikipedia incident was mentioned (emphasises mine): “On 18 July 2005, U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan’s staff made controversial changes to his Wikipedia article. These edits consisted of, among other things, removing verified facts that portrayed him in a bad light. On January 27, 2006, Matt Vogel, Meehan’s chief of staff, admitted to authorizing a replacement article on Meehan published on Wikipedia, with a staff-written biography.[2] This ran afoul of internal Wikipedia guidelines and possibly federal law.”

Oh my. Let’s start with the simpler ones, “Controversial” is in the eye of the beholder. You’d expect that the writer would use this, taking Wikipedia’s side, but keep in mind that Wikipedia, according to the Lowell Sun ‘promotes a “neutral point of view” policy.’ Hehe. sorry. Low blow.
Nos. 2, is the “his” reference. I assume the writer meant “this” (actually I don’t assume it, but let’s get on with it), as the Wikipedia entry about Rep Meehan is not exactly “his”. “About him” yes, “of him”, could be. “His”? Nope. Of course, Wikipedia writers tend to see themselves as the definitive article. In this way of thinking, writing an entry regarding person X is “the entry to end all entries”. And as such should be treated with all respect and integrity.

Which brings us to “possibly federal law.”
In a nutshell, WHAT?
Did I fell asleep or did someone hinted that Meehan’s staff actions are against Federal Law? I truly hope whoever did this didn’t log from home, as this goes way beyond libel.
Just to further clarify matters, here is the correlating paragraph from the Lowell Sun article (emphasises mine): “The changes by Meehan’s staff are not as “reprehensible” as inserting derogatory comments in someone else’s entry, said Stephen Potts, former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, which establishes conduct standards for the executive branch.”

Still with me? Ethics, not law. Conduct standards, not law. OTHER PEOPLE, not Meehan’s staff.
After all the brouhaha about Meehan’s staff editing this and editing that, there goes annonymous poster X and just, based on what apparently is nothing more than a customary glance at the original article, hints that the editing goes against Federal law. I would love to know which law that would be.

(Update: Going through the editing made to the Wikipedia article, it seems that the original text was “changes to the Wikipedia article about him” which was changed to “his wikipedia article” by Wikipedia user Achille for reasons of “Grammar”. Feh.
The “possible federal law” bit was added by a user named Sukiari, no basis for this was given.
In both cases, this was the only change made, removing the possibility of a slip-up)


Written by Erez

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 12:52

Posted in Comics, Internet, Politics

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