Sunday, August 31, 2008

Did Wikipedia "sikahema" its entry on Joe Biden?

Newbusters reports:

Previous posts (here and here at NewsBusters; here and here at BizzyBlog) noted "interesting" modifications to the main Wikipedia entry of Biden, who Barack Obama selected as his vice-presidential running mate this past weekend.

The first post reported that the detail of Biden's undergraduate grades (generally C's and D's, with two A's in phys ed and an F in ROTC) "strangely" disappeared between Friday and Saturday. The second ultimately noted that a section relating to Biden's involvement in the presidential campaign of 2004 had been deleted, but that its text had inexplicably been moved to before 1988. It was as if the idea that Biden had "campaigned" in 2004 was true before Barack Obama selected him, but no longer true after that.

But to get to the next example of Wiki whitewashing by Obama-Biden's busy bees -- the worst found thus far -- we need to go back 21 years to the New York Times.

Newbusters indicates wikipedia has altered entries -->

Here is what the main Wiki entry about Biden had about the 1987 speech plagiarizing as of Friday (with two relevant footnotes included), followed by what was there as of 9:00 a.m. this morning, followed by what the Wiki entry devoted solely to Biden's 1988 campaign had as of 9:00 a.m.:

Obama people have previously sikahema'd the Obama website as to statements made on the troop surge.


Glenn Reynolds wrote on August 25 on InstaPundit: ACE SAYS I'M WRONG TO DEFEND JOE BIDEN on the plagiarism rap, and cites this David Greenberg piece from Slate. "But the even greater sin was to borrow biographical facts from Kinnock that, although true about Kinnock, didn't apply to Biden. Unlike Kinnock, Biden wasn't the first person in his family history to attend college, as he asserted; nor were his ancestors coal miners, as he claimed when he used Kinnock's words."

Well, that's just plain lying. Perhaps someone will ask him about this.

IPBiz had observed: IPBiz notes that the "specific identifying features" of Kinnock's speech appropriated by Biden make this more than "alleged" plagiarism, but, more importantly, were not factual as to Biden (his father and grandfather were not coal miners, and people in his wife's family had gone to college). Biden did plagiarize and Biden was untruthful.

In passing, Glenn Reynolds had previously written of the Biden matter (in the Idler, 2002):

The real problem with Biden, we were told "is not the alleged sin but the obvious stupidity." Biden hadn't harmed Kinnock by his borrowing nor was Kinnock's commercial all that original itself. As one observer noted, the Kinnock commercial from which Biden took the language was itself rife with images lifted from John F. Kennedy, and even the "thousand generations" language was said to have come from George Lucas' Star Wars. Nor had Biden deceived his audience: few listeners believe that politicians write their own speeches anyway. At worst, said one expert, "Biden purloined piffle." Yet somehow Senator Biden, alone among politicians who had done the same kind of thing, became widely known as a plagiarist because he borrowed the Kinnock language.


The Biden "standard" -- to the extent that any principle emerged -- was this: do not say anything that anyone has said before, unless what you say is so colorless and unoriginal that no one will think it worth stealing. It is no surprise that our political speech has become so uninspiring, or our electorate so uninspired, under such a standard. Candidates now may be original mostly via gimmicks: a national sales tax, "three strikes" criminal legislation, the death penalty for "drug kingpins," or similar twaddle. So long as you repeat over and over again "The one hope for America is adopting my frozen-yogurt tax credit" you can be sure of avoiding plagiarism. Or candidates may adopt standard politicianspeak, using cliches so dead that everyone (or at least everyone able to remain conscious) knows they are in the public domain.

At that time Reynolds said nothing about the fact that what Biden was telling the audience about Biden (through his expropriation of the Kinnock speech) was NOT TRUE at to Biden. Biden was HARMING the AUDIENCE by lying to them.

In his piece, Reynolds also mentions the accusation of plagiarism against Stephen Oates made by Walter Stewart and Ned Feder, who had previously been active in a well-known science fraud matter. In this discussion, Reynolds wrote:

Still another, James McPherson of Princeton, said "I would say the weight of it lies toward an exoneration of Oates."

For those who don't remember, McPherson wrote the forward to the book by Tom Carhart concerning East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, praising the originality of its thesis. Sadly, the thesis had been advanced by Walker in a book published long before Carhart's, and indeed was not original even at that time. In a world wherein opinions are often substituted for facts, McPherson's statements about Carhart's book are problematic.


Blogger Gandydancer said...

The statement "wikipedia has altered entries" indicates a serious misunderstanding of Wikipedia. The transformation you observed in Wikipedia's Joe Biden entry may very well have reflected political bias, but it's the bias of the "editor" who made the change, not of Wikipedia. You can choose to become an "editor" and change it back, something you can accomplish with one click. It is probable that Wikipedia's Joe Biden article has a pro-Democrat bias, but the mechanism is more complicated than you recognize.

1:49 AM  

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