Citations? We don’ need no steenkin’ citations…


It’s fairly common knowledge that Conservapedia, that bastion of nuttiness that even the right-wing shuns, has always had a passing acquaintance with things like “facts” and “truth.” They’ve also had a very strange policy when it comes to providing citations for the crap they spout.

It basically boiled down to the fact that whatever Andrew Schlafly and his hand-picked goons said, was true. Not just true, but Unquestionably True. You see, even though mediawiki comes with handy {{fact}} and {{citation needed}} templates, these were in effect verboten, as they implied that people like Schlafly, Ed Poor, Brian Macdonald or Terry Hurlbut were being… shall we say… economical with the truth.

Needless to say, in most cases, they were being economical with the truth, which meant that any such questioning had to be suppressed. And they did it in a truly magnificent way.

You see, if you queried a “fact” inserted by one of the Chosen, then by merely adding a {{fact}} tag, you were being a troublesome liberal. No, it was your job to provide citations that proved that the statement being made was incorrect. Of course, chances were pretty good that even if you did do that, your edits would be reverted and you’d be banned for “vandalism.”

However, the opposite didn’t apply. If they queried your edits, then the onus was on you to back up your material, not for them to do what they insisted you do. Needless to say, this resulted in some hysterical responses as the waves of power went to the sysops’ heads. Such an example is resident swabbie, Brian Macdonald responding to somebody saying that Noah’s ark didn’t exist:

You, Jamesmackenzie, are going to scour the area once known as the Kingdom of Urartu, which now is occupied by eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran, and I don’t care how you do it. You can use Google-Earth or take a jet to do some hiking, but you are going to go over every square foot of that ground before you carry on with your opinion in this website. That is the only way I will accept from you the proof needed that the ark doesn’t exist.

Then again, it seems as if Schlafly himself has only the barest grasp of what constitutes a citation, as evidenced by his footnote on CP’s “Lemon Test” article:

Dinner conversation between the late Chief Justice Warren Burger and Andrew Schlafly in late 1991.

That’s the basis for expressing something as fact on Conservapedia. Even that’s good compared to many of Schlafly’s articles – especially the “Counter-examples to…” horror shows, in which he makes many wild comments, supporting his worldview, but without a single fact to back them up.

Where this gets really interesting is when you realise that Schlafly has bought into the bizarre concept that citations are a form of hearsay. You have to remember that this is a Harvard educated lawyer we’re talking about… ok, admittedly, one who does more teaching in a church basement than actual lawyering (both equally inefficiently, however)… who doesn’t seem to have a grasp on what “hearsay” is.

It all started when long-term parodist CPalmer, in response to yet another request by an editor for Schlafly to provide some proof of his statements, created the “Nohearsay” template. This would insert a text box at the top of a page, which would state:

To insist on finding a reference elsewhere for every statement made, as Wikipedia does, is to be a slave to hearsay. The authors of this page have enough confidence in their own insight not to lean on the opinions and assertions of others.

Remember, we’re talking about something that is supposed to be an encyclopaedia here (although I seriously doubt if even Schlafly believes that anymore), all you need to write an article is to have “enough confidence in your own insight.” Of course, I’d like to see what happens to the editor who says that to creepy Ed Poor when he comes sniffing around. of course, Schlafly found this concept “interesting” and soon bought into the whole “Hearsay society” article, which only he and CPalmer have worked on.

To give you an example, here’s the opening lines:

The hearsay society is a term used to describe a prevailing current of thought, stemming in large part from the popularity of Wikipedia, that discourages making statements unless a reference can be found to others having said them already; and if a reference is found, then the statements are considered true regardless of whether the reference consists of unreliable hearsay. This is a form of intellectual cowardice, and can lead to the propagation of misleading, incorrect or deliberately untrue information, while some individuals abandon even the attempt at using their own logic or thinking for themselves. In the hearsay society the use of hearsay is so rampant that participants can lose the ability to recognize the difference between what is hearsay, and what is not.

Compare this with Schlafly’s own citation above, or any of Ken Demyer’s bizarre articles, all of which seem to follow the format of “so-and-so said this.” Here’s a few examples from his godawful article on Evolution (read the whole thing at your peril, you’ll likely headdesk yourself to death):

  • In January 2006, the BBC reported concerning Britain:
  • Swedish geneticist Dr. Nils Heribert-Nilsson, Professor of Botany at the University of Lund in Sweden, stated:
  • Dr. Jonathan Sarfati states concerning the diluted definition of the word “evolution”:
  • Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, a scientist who works for Creation Ministries International, wrote:

and so on, ad nauseum. Schlafly went on to say:

An additional point is that Wikipedia does not distinguish between citation to speculation or hearsay in references, which would be inadmissible in court, as opposed to citations to legitimate factual content which might be admissible in court.  Wikipedia hopelessly mixes the two categories, while Conservapedia does not.

As we’ve seen, this is clearly not true.

However, it’s Schlafly’s latest comments that have raised my eyebrows. When once again asked to back up a bullshit statement (in this case that premature graying of the hair is proof of a 6,000 year old universe) he came up with the following gem:

Your request for references is unpersuasive, as evidence is abundant in daily life.  Would anyone ask Jesus for a reference after telling the parable of the Prodigal Son?

Even by Schlafly’s standards it’s bizarre. Firstly, if he’s starting to compare himself to Jesus, then it’s pretty clear his megalomania is getting out of hand. Secondly, there might be plenty of gray hair out there, but how the fuck does it explain a 6,000 year old universe? We’ll never know.

And thirdly – and the fact that I’m even explaining this to a Harvard man is worrying – Jesus was telling stories. They are no more factual than Aesop’s fables. He wasn’t making statements of fact, nor was he writing an encyclopaedia.

If you can’t understand the difference, then you must be of a stupidity level that requires frequent reminders to continue breathing, or you’re a barefaced liar. With Schlafly, it’s too close to call.

Update:

When Schlafly gets on a roll, he’s the gift that keeps on giving. He clearly subscribes to the notion that “if I repeat crap often enough, it will become true.” And as he did with the Bible, if he can change enough articles to reflect his new insight, then they will become true too. latest examples include:

  • The Hearsay Society is the ultimate haven for anyone who denies logic and, in this case, the increasingly premature graying apparent all around in daily life.  Pharisees used the same escape hatch to avoid the accepting compelling parables and indisputable reasoning.
  • The ”’Pharisees”’ were liberal intellectuals at the time of Jesus, who opposed His logic and insisted twisted Biblical law to defend their authority. The modern-day equivalent to the Pharisees is adherence to hearsay based on liberal authorities.

About PsyGremlin

PsyGremlin is a former Conservapedia sysop (although the position was earned nefariously), stand up comedian, DJ, and is currently a self-employed financial adviser, who impersonates a responsible adult at least 5 days a week. However, highlighting and poking fun at the crazies out there remains his first love. Well besides pork crackling. And custard. And cricket.
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2 Responses to Citations? We don’ need no steenkin’ citations…

  1. Robbert says:

    Well, if Schafly’s mutterings are in fact parables, rather than supposed to be taken as literally true, that would certainly explain a lot.

  2. Norseman says:

    Andy comparing himself to Jesus is such a gem. Even the most craziest of crazy right-wing sites or people would think twice of speaking in favor of Conservapedia if they saw that comment.

    Also, where are the sysops in this mess? Oh, that’s right, they’re much too cowardly to say or do anything about it. Can’t hurt their status quo since they know what’ll happen (i.e. Rob, Hoji, Greg, etc.).

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