Archive for the 'News' Category

Leifr Eiriksson is not amused!

As you may or may not be aware, early August witnessed a curious incident – to briefly summarize, Andrew Schlafly stumbled across an obscure article that mentioned there was no evidence that the Vikings who reached North America in the early 10th century had ever sailed as far south as New England – a fairly uncontroversial statement. However, in Mr Schlafly’s mind – and in Conservapedia’s News column – this got turned into the more unusual claim that the Vikings had never been to North America at all. Instead, the whole story about Leifr Eiriksson and his intrepid crew who landed in Vinland is merely a liberal myth intended to downplay the “Christian achievement” of Christopher Columbus.

As might be expected, certain CP editors, including your author, took a careful exception to this interpretation, pointing out particularly that there is ample historical and archaeological evidence for a brief Viking presence in North America, that Leifr Eiriksson was just as much a Christian as Columbus, making the whole discussion somewhat pointless, and that the freaking article didn’t even say what he claimed it said. As might be expected, Mr Schlafly refused to budge an inch, even going so far as to claim that the Viking artifacts excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows was planted there by the archaeologists who discovered the site. For interesting parts of the discussion, see especially Talk:Main Page and Talk:Leif Erikson.

Now, it is well-known to regular readers – to the extent that a blog on de facto hiatus can have regular readers at all – that the CP Column has never been known to mince its words, so I will be unapologetically frank here. While perhaps the question of Vikings in North America may seem less immediately important by comparison, I believe that what we have witnessed in this situation is in essence of the same species as Holocaust denial – the gross distortion, or even attempted falsification of history to serve a political agenda.

For that reason, following these events, I have decided that I will waste no further of my limited and precious time on that piece of group delusion. You just don’t mess with Leifr Eiriksson.┬áThere has to be a limit somewhere.

Besides, RationalWiki‘s What is Going on at Conservapedia now does a usually excellent job at documenting and discussing the various inanities that happen at CP, so this blog has really outlived its usefulness. We thus consign it to history.

In other news, you might or might not be interested in my other, newly-launched blog, Vox in Deserto, which will feature all sorts of interesting commentary about medieval subjects and other things. For instance, the very first post contains a quote by the Venerable Bede. For those who might be in doubt, I can inform you that this fact in se shows that this blog will be not just great – this is practically a given thing – but truly sublime.

As for Conservapedia, I may mention them at Vox from time to time. In the meantime, I wish those poor souls a good night and good luck.

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A most surprising development

Dear readers! We interrupt your regularly scheduled hiatus to bring you this important update: Your author, yours truly, has recently been unblocked on Conservapedia, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Our favourite sysop Bohdan/Henry/SHahB/Oscar/Olaf/etc. claims that I have been “begging and whining to be unblocked.” I must admit this is news to me, so either someone has been impersonating me, or this is a manifestation of Henry’s somewhat ideosyncratic sense of humour. Or maybe I’m just suffering from amnesia.

Now what was I talking about again?

Seriously though, whatever the cause, I must admit this is an unsual situation, and that I find myself at a bit of a loss about what to do with this. On the one hand, I have serious moral issues about contributing meaningfully to a project whose only reason for existence is to push a political agenda that I fundamentally disagree with. On the other hand, while others might see this as a prime opportunity for vandalizing and/or parodying, I’m not going to do such things either. On the third (!) hand, this is far too unsual to just ignore it.

So this is a bit of a dilemma. I may let you know if I ever solve it.

In the meantime, as always, good night and good luck.

Another newsflash!

The Burma debacle on Conservapedia is changing almost by the minute here, and we are seeing some very interesting developments. For what is probably the first time ever, a discussion on RationalWiki seems to have led directly to a change in a news item on the Conservapedia Main Page.

I’m glad to see a slight bit of improvement here. Of course, the story is still racist crap, but at least now it isn’t an outright lie. Also, as an editor on RationalWiki, and a former editor on Conservapedia, I must say that I am happy to see that we can help in improving the material on Conservapedia in this way, and I am looking forward to much more valuable and fruitful collaboration in the future. Godspeed!

Newsflash!

We interrupt our regular hiatus to bring you this important announcement, fresh from the presses at Conservapedia:

Myanmar monk mobs attack police.

Ever vigilant in their dedication to bring us the latest trusworthy news and analyses, Conservapedia – courtesy of sysop Ed Poor – bravely goes in the complete opposite direction of virtually every other news service out there in order to bring us this groundbreaking story of violent Buddhist monks attacking the police forces of the pro-American government of Myanmar.

In the following debate on Talk:Main Page, Ed provides a further elaboration of his views, including such stellar insights as “…to profess outrage that an attempt to overthrow a government resulted in a few deaths seems odd to me…” and “I think if an American tried to take a cop’s gun in New York, he’d face a “violent” police response.” These are interesting views. Frankly, I’m surprised that none of the major networks have decided to cover that angle of the story, preferring instead the touchy-feely stuff like how the evil police soldiers are shooting at unarmed demonstrators or the utter lack of democracy in Burma for the last 45 years. But of course, they aren’t trusworthy encyclopedias, are they?

Seriously, though: Isn’t Conservapedia amazing? Every time you think you’ve seen the worst their collective reactionary hive mind could possibly come up with, just wait a few days and they’ll spring the next surprise on you.

Other than that, I don’t really think there’s anything I can say that will add significantly to this story, crystal clear as it is. Follow the discussion on RationalWiki at Ed’s talk page or Talk:What is going on at CP?. Or at Talk:Main Page at CP, should you be in the mood for a… less frank discussion.

UPDATE: This just in before the deadline! Andrew Schlafly gives the seal of approval to Ed’s interpretation of events, presumably making it the official opinion of Conservapedia that violent Buddhist monks are behind the whole thing, and also noting that those who have a problem with that are liberals who “protest too much” (one must assume the dead people in Burma protest too much, as well.) Meanwhile, Ed heads over to RationalWiki to suggest “collaborating on a true version of the story”. Yeah.

Conservapedia on the Daily Show

As some of you may already know, Conservapedia got a mention on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart yesterday on June 28th. For those of you who did not have the opportunity to see this, the Column has laboriously managed to track it down, brought to you courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

Now, one thing I couldn’t help notice is that while Conservapedia will usually proudly parade any piece of news coverage they get around on the front page (seriously, that LA Times article was over a week ago), they seem to have missed this particular event completely. That’s sort of surprising, since I’d guess on average, the Daily Show has at least a few more viewers than the L.A. Times has readers. National television, too, definitely not bad. I’d say this is probably their best media appearance so far, so one would think they’d be proud. Someone should really run over and point it out to them, I think. I’m sure they’ll be happy.

Comparison of Conservapedia and Wikipedia

Aaron Sherman of AJS.com has been attempting to track the relative quality of Conservapedia vs. Wikipedia, applying a consistent set of metric criteria to random pages from both sites. He’s been measuring about once a month since early March, and there are already some interesting data available.

I must say I’m a little uncertain about his statistical methodology – the size of his samples in particular seems a little on the small side, but it’s an interesting project nonetheless. I’m looking forward to seeing what results he comes up with in the long run.

On the Recent L.A. Times Article

Conservapedia got into the news again, this time through an article in today’s (June 19) L.A. Times by Stephanie Simon.

I’d say the article is about as can be expected, considering the limited resources the journalist probably had. The really good thing about the article in my opinion is that it rises a bit above the “Haha, look at the wacky conservatives and their article on Kangaroos” type of analysis that has characterized the typical press coverage of Conservapedia so far. There’s a bit of that, of course, but we also get an at least somewhat critical look at the people behind the site. Of particular interest is the mention of Dr. Lipson’s epic conflict with mr. Schlafly over breast cancer, which is referenced on page 2. It’s stories like these that we need to get out in the open.

Obviously, there’s a lot of things that the article doesn’t say. That’s unfortunate, since there’s much that I would have liked to see, such as the question of Conservapedia’s close ties to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and its role in their activities. A larger newspaper would have the necessary resources to delve into such questions that are well outside the scope of smaller operations like RationalWiki.com or this blog. Maybe that’ll come in the future, though.

The article is also noteworthy for featuring the first mention of RationalWiki.com in the mainstream media. Not bad for a small website that’s hardly a month old. Granted, the mention is not exactly flattering, but I guess that anything is better than nothing at this point.

Overall, a good, though not great article, which does cover some aspects of Conservapedia in greater detail than we have seen before in the media.


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