One thing I’ve learnt from watching (and working on) Conservapedia is that they never fail to amaze me. Just when you think they’ve reached new levels of paranoia, hate-speech or plain insanity, they manage to crank it up another notch. Here’s a prime example… one that should be one of the best parody ploys ever, but probably isn’t.
A user, calling himself Mark Gallagher, signed up in June of this year and has been pottering around the site ever since. He almost made the mistake of trying to edit the various mathematics articles, which as we all know is the easiest way to step on one of Ed “If I don’t know it I delete it” Poor’s crazy toes. He did have a brief run in with manchild administrator, John Patti, over CP’s use of the US flag in their logo, calling it a “flagrant show of disrespect… somewhat appalling for a site of this nature.” Amazingly, he escaped with a simple “Ridiculous statements” and no blocking from lil’ Johnny boy.
Maybe he was heartened by all this and decided to move on to bigger things. He turned to Andrew Schlafly, the bastion of conservadom, with a request to run a bot on CP (something that has always been anathema, because they don’t know how to program a bot and they can’t control it) which would essentially “detect liberal wordiness and other recognized traits of liberal style.” I kid you not.
Schlafly, of course, having developed a massive messianic complex since starting his Conservative Bible (and ironically can see no wrong in putting his politics before his religion) , thinks this is the best thing since sliced bread and goes on to say, “I can recognize a liberal simply by his style, such as his high word-to-substance ratio.” Clearly, something like this is music to his ears, because, even though he has no idea how it works, now he has another tool that will allow him to call people by his favourite snarl-word, “Liberal”. blogsurfer.us
Mark then toddles off and comes up with a formula to determine just how liberal people are, by measuring their “liberality quotient” or something. I’m reminded at this point about the Roald Dahl story where somebody invents a writing machine that eventually puts all authors out of work. It almost seems as if this little bit of insanity is designed to develop ‘conservatives-by-numbers’. But I digress. Let’s look at the formula in question:
- MainPst = number of posts to mainspace pages.
- TalkPst = number of posts to talk pages.
- TalkWd = number of words posted to talk pages.
- LibWd = number of uses of liberal words from reference list
- ConWd = number of uses of conservative words from reference list
- λ = (number of conservative words in reference list)/(number of liberal words in reference list).
- LibPhr = number of uses of liberal favorite phrases identified in Liberal style, such as “silence speaks volumes” and “reflects poorly on the site”
- LastWdProp = proportion of Talk page discussions in which a user makes the last post in a section. Values greater than 1/2 indicate a tendency towards last-wordism. When the value inside the square root is negative this should be understood as 0. N.B.: since this number is less than 1, taking the square root serves to increase the penalty.
Ok, looks all very scientific so far – not to mention batshit insane. No, not even batshit – we’re talking Japanese game show insane here. However, good old Mark throws the whole lot away by assigning random constants to the C values – C0 = 35, C1 = 1, C2 = 150, C3 = 300, C4 = 500. he goes on to say, “The final score as well as all of the constants are unitless, and the values simply reflect a scale of liberalism rather than an estimate of thoughts/word.”
What does Andrew think about this? “Your work is brilliant, Mark!!!! This could become a powerful tool for analyzing people who pretend to be conservative but are actually liberal, as many politicians do. Does your bot consider verbosity? I find that a high word-to-substance ratio is a reliable indicator of a liberal.”
That last sentence is a favourite of Andrew, who is too lazy (or too dim) to read anything longer than a few sentences – including Richard Lenski’s research papers. Sadly, people who do argue with Schalfly, feel the need to at least have the courtesy to explain and back up their statements, which means that their replies are longer than Andy’s typical unfounded and unsourced “All Liberal eat babies” type comment. Maybe he would be happier with people saying, “You wrong.” and leaving it like that. Hell, maybe he should just move CP to Twitter and be done with it.
Still, between the minefield of “liberal multi-culturism”, Terry Koeckritz’s obsessive use of checkuser, Brian MacDonald’s epic mood swings and “Uncle” Ed Poor’s paedophile-like requests for personal information, editing at CP is not a safe place – even less so, now that your very writing style is going to be subject to scrutiny by the Conservabot (which has already claimed its first victim). Maybe in a few years (Ha! Assuming CP lasts that long, of course) conversations there will look like this (vocab courtesy of the “Best” New Conservative Words):
Mark: Boondoggle decrypt father figure.
Andy: Exculpatory godsend!
Mark: Intellectual property. Kowtow! Kowtow!
Andy: Proactive open mind.
Mark: Takeover! Godspeed.
Actually, that makes more sense than most of the other drivel they write.