One of my regular readers (thank you π!) refered me to another post about Conservapedia, which as fate would have it, was also written by me, back in March 2008. I’d posted it on another blog of mine, which subsequently changed focus and so it was left there to gather dust. Now that he’s reminded me about it, I thought I’d repost it here.
Rereading it, I still sound so wide-eyed and innocent (albeit greatly disenchanted, even at that early stage) and even comparing the Conservapedia of today with the few examples I use below, it’s amazing just how nutty they’ve all become over there. And I had to chuckle at my last two lines… who would have thought just where a “few neutral edits” would eventually land me.
Anyway, here’s me from a year-and-a-half ago:
I must confess to feeling a little bit guilty as I write this, on two counts. Firstly, because I’ve been using something that some people take very, very seriously as a form of mild entertainment, and secondly because I have the nasty feeling that I’m watching something akin to seeing a favourite old auntie slip from mildly amusing senility into full-blown Alzheimer’s… and yet I keep hanging around out of morbid curiosity.
I’m talking about the online encyclopedia for conservatives (read: right wing, Christian-fundamentalists) – Conservapedia. Ironically, it was a year ago today that I first became aware of Conservapedia (CP for short from now on), thanks to a combination of this interview on NPR and me having a very late night. Despite not being a conservative myself and certainly not being religious (which immediately labels me as a Liberal according to The Powers That Be on CP… and all this time I thought I was a Pisces) I headed over to read the kangaroo article for myself. blogsurfer.us
I like to think I have an open mind about most things, and people can believe whatever they want to (actually I think I’m pretty much apathetic when it comes to that – do what you like as long as it doesn’t affect me). I found CP an interesting read, especially the arguments around Young Earth Creationism (for those who don’t know, the belief that Earth is only 6000 years old, as per the Bible). However, I was also becoming aware of a darker side to the site. The joy of a wiki is that you can go behind the scenes and see the actual talk between members – and that was the first real eye-opener.
I can understand that their ideas and beliefs do come under attack (especially from RationalWiki) and I’d also be annoyed at constant vandalism of articles by so-called liberals. I’m also not entirely convinced that what the liberals are doing is right (again, being apathetic allows me to sit in the middle and shrug my shoulders). However, over the past few months there has been an increasing intolerance of anything that isn’t according the party line, coupled with a raging paranoia about Atheism, Liberals and Homosexuality that is starting to reach epic proportions.
It worries me to a degree, especially given that the site touts itself as a resource for baby-conservatives who are being home schooled (seemingly because of the whole prayer at school thing). Far from being an encyclopedia, CP is becoming more and more the mouthpiece of one man’s conservative agenda, with the support of a few (5 at last count) acolytes, who’s response to any query, criticism or attempt to clarify one of the many increasingly bizarre entries is to block the user concerned – often with an indefinite expiry period. Given the tone of a couple of these online thugs, if this wasn’t an internet-based product, I could almost picture them appearing on your front doorstep, clad in brown shirts, to point out the error of your ways. Blunt instruments would be involved.
At one point, I thought I’d get involved myself, and play Devil’s advocate concerning the article on Liberal Deceit. I thought to myself that surely there must be some examples of Conservative Deceit that could be quoted, in the name of balanced writing. Oh boy, was I wrong. I’ll quote the exchange verbatim:
It started out with this heading: “Embraced deceit is deceit that is knowingly allowed, defended, or even promoted for ideological purposes. Not only did the perpetrator of the deceit promote it, but his allies were complicit also. Embraced deceit is common among liberals, but non-existent among conservatives.”
When other contributors mentioned Nixon and Enron, Aschlafly (CP’s owner by the way) came up with the following gem: “The deceit in this list is typically embraced deceit, and run-of-the-mill political lies or fraud are not included.” What?!
Now, I just had to throw my hat into the ring (and I was probably being a little malicious at this point): “So by your own definition (“The deceit in this list is typically embraced deceit, and run-of-the-mill political lies or fraud are not included.”) Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell et al are guilty of deceit, given the way they fervently embraced (and haven’t repented for) the deceit surrounding Weapons of Mass Destruction? It’s a bit disingenuous to tweak the definition every time a name crops up that you wouldn’t like to see in the list. Likewise, I can’t see how Reagan’s deceit surrounding Iran-Contra can be classed as run-of-the-mill political lies. That also seems to imply that you’re willing to accept a politician who lies to you, in a ‘run of the mill’ way? Welshman 15:28, 8 March 2008 (EST)”
Of course, it was silly of me to expect a direct reply – instead I was about to fall foul of what has become known as the Schlafly Reversal: “Perhaps you also think it was deceit for Bush to claim to have won the 2000 election?–Aschlafly 15:35, 8 March 2008 (EST)”
Ouch! That hurt. Notice how not only was my original question not answered, but suddenly I’m being attacked for something totally unrelated. Still, idiot that I am, I waded in again: “Why would I think that? True, it did get messy before the final result was announced, but that was as much Gore’s fault as anything. At the end of the day, the candidate with the most votes won, fair and square. Now, snide remarks aside, shall we get back on topic? Welshman 15:51, 8 March 2008 (EST)”
“Snide remarks aside” – what was I thinking and stupidly I’d mixed up votes with delegates (hey, it’s not my fault they have a strange voting system – they should have a system like ours – if you vote for the ruling party, you put your paper in the small box. If you don’t vote for the ruling party, they put you in the big box…), which once again let them off the hook: “Uh oh, you’d better watch yourself, or you won’t have any liberal friends any more. Gore won the most votes, not Bush!–Aschlafly 16:03, 8 March 2008 (EST)”
Damn, so now not only have I lost all my Liberal Friends (of which I didn’t know I had any to start with, I’ll have to interrogate them later…) but I’ve let them wriggle off the hook again. I was going to respond, but faced with that kind of logic, I honestly couldn’t be bothered.
There’s a couple more examples I’d like to quote, that highlight the sad degeneration of what could have been a worthwhile resource for its target market. Given the small number of active brown shirt contributors left and the increasing paranoia, CP now resembles more a right-wing blog than “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia.” This not only is sad… but the intolerance and ignorance is also a damning indictment of Christian fundamentalism. One only hopes they speak for a small percentage of the whole (they did seem to support Huckabee, so maybe there’s hope after all). Even though the site proclaims 52 million page hits, the cynic within me has a feeling that 51 990 000 of those are from people like myself, wondering just what new lunacy the (possibly) well-meaning, but (definitely) misguided authors are getting up to next.
Here’s a few more examples:
If somebody can see the logic behind this news story, please let me know, because I’m still in a state of jaw-dropping disbelief:
“”Elliot Spitzer is the pro-abortion governor of New York. Now we can understand why: he was involved in a prostitution ring…”
When a well-meaning contributor queried the relevance of this, the reply was:
“That’s not clear? The connection is between his involvement in the prostitution ring and being pro-abortion. Surely I don’t have to spell all that out in a headline!–Aschlafly 15:56, 10 March 2008 (EDT)”
I’m still not sure if being pro-abortion means I have to be in a prostitution ring, or if being in a prostitution ring means I have to be pro-abortion? Maybe I do need another headline…
This is probably the most classic (and probably the saddest) example of just how much of a parody of itself CP is becoming. Bear in mind that the user in question first deleted a picture of Michelangelo’s David, he then wrote:
“Revision as of 08:07, 12 March 2008
(can’t we find a G-rated picture?)”
Then again, the nameless one is behind the countless Homosexuality articles, so maybe there’s a link there… but who am I to say. Maybe I should go and track down a G-rated picture for him, after all, we can’t have all this pornographic fine art scattered around. The homeschoolers might actually ask things like, “Mummy, what is a penis?”
One of the scariest entries, under the heading “US POWs in Vietnam” says, “US POWs in Vietnam were routinely beaten and tortured, receiving far worse treatment from their North Vietnamese captors than any indignities suffered by terror suspects in Abu Ghraib.” This once again illustrates that we’re moving beyond an encyclopedia here, into the realms of personal opinion and bias, not mention the frightening logic behind it… somebody did it to us, so that means we’re allowed to do it to somebody else. Ouch.
As I said before, it’s sad to watch CP degenerating into a mish-mash of pseudo-science, religion, politics and dare I say racism and sexism too. I also think it’s sad that by doing so, they’ve opened themselves up to more attacks from the (actual and perceived) Liberals, with belittles one and demeans the other (I’ll let you choose which). I’m still a regular visitor to CP, but now it is literally out of morbid curiosity rather than interest, as I find myself wondering if I’m watching the death throes of what was either one man’s (and his peons’) misguided attempt to spread his gospel, or a very cleverly crafted internet hoax, that we haven’t cottoned on to yet. Only time will tell… in the meantime, for my sins, I’m even contributing a few neutral edits. Hmmm… I wonder if conservatives watch anime…