Not Saussure

February 24, 2007

Truthiness

Filed under: Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 7:49 pm

Via Jon Swift, America’s most reasonable conservative, I discover what looks like a spoof on the lines of Uncyclopedia, but probably isn’t.

Tired of the LIBERAL BIAS every time you search on Google and a Wikipedia page appears? Now it’s time for the Conservatives to get our voice out on the internet! Conservapedia began in November 2006, as the class project for a World History class of 58 advanced homeschooled and college-bound students meeting in New Jersey.

Conservapedia has since grown enormously, including contributors nationwide. Conservapedia already has over one-half the number of entries as the Oxford Dictionary of World History. Conservapedia is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind.

Since anyone can edit the Conservapedia, it’s not completely clear how many of their entries are placed there by well-intentioned editors. I am not personally convinced of the reliability of the entry for the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, for example:

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America. Their habitat lies on the eastern side of the Olympic mountain range, adjacent to Hood Canal. These solitary cephalopods reach an average size (measured from arm-tip to mantle-tip,) of 30-33 cm. Unlike most other cephalopods, tree octopuses are Amphibian, spending only their earliest life stages and mating seasons in their aquatic environment. Because of the moistness of the rainforests and their well designed skin adaptations, they are able to keep from becoming dried out for prolonged periods of time.

Of others I’m less sure; for instance, it contains the following useful information about Kangaroos:

Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah’s Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined whether kangaroos form a holobarmin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land — as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart — or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.

Of Albert Einstein, we learn that

Nothing useful has even been built based on the theory of relativity. Only one Nobel Prize (in 1993 and not to Einstein) has ever been given that even remotely relates to the theory of relativity. Many things predicted by the theory of relativity, such as gravitons, have never been found despite much searching for them. Many observed phenomenon, such as the bending of light passing near the sun or the advance of the perihelion in the orbit of Mercury, can be also predicted by Newton’s theory.

And of the Scopes Trial, we discover:

Thanks to Bryan’s victory in the Scopes trial, Tennessee voters have been educated without oppressive evolution theory for 75 years. Free from the liberal indoctrination, Tennessee voted against native son Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential election – probably the only time a candidate has lost the Presidency due to losing his home state. If Tennessee had a high level of belief in evolution comparable to that of East Germany, then you can bet Gore would have won his state and the Presidency.

As I say, it’s wholly possible that some of these entries have been place there by ill-intentioned editors, possibly alerted by the numerous hostile references in American blogs as cited by Mr Swift.

The basic idea, though, seems perfectly genuine, as evidenced by their explanation of Examples of Bias in Wikipedia. One of these (number 5) is the sinister fact that

Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American. Look up “Most Favored Nation” on Wikipedia and it automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling “Most Favoured Nation”, even there there are far more American than British users. Look up “Division of labor” on Wikipedia and it automatically converts to the British spelling “Division of labour,” then insists on the British spelling for “specialization” also.[3]. Enter “Hapsburg” (the European ruling family) and Wikipedia automatically changes the spelling to Habsburg, even though the American spelling has always been “Hapsburg”. Within entries British spellings appear in the silliest of places, even when the topic is American. Conservapedia favors American spellings of words.

This point is reinforced by their Conservapedia Commandments, guidelines for contributors which are ‘kept simple in order to avoid the arbitrary and biased enforcement that is rampant on many other websites. ‘ These include commandment number 5,

As much as is possible, American spelling of words must be used,

clarified by the note that

You will only be blocked for violating command 5 if you repeatedly change words from American spelling to another spelling.

One place where the American spelling of words was — for obvious reasons — not possible is in this article about World History, by the main editor of the Conservapedia, with specific reference to ‘England, the land of free enterprise and Adam Smith’ (as Mr Eugenides will doubtless be pleased to learn):

during the reign of Charles II the first political parties developed, known as the Whigs (liberals) and Tories (conservatives). Today those same political parties exist in England, although the Whigs are now the Labour Party (the English spelling of “labor”, which represents common or union workers).

So now we know.
UPDATE:   Salon’s cartoonist, Tom Tomorrow, has an apposite and amusing comment on this sort of nonsense.

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6 Comments »

  1. I regret to say that some liberals have indeed been committing mischief at Conservapedia. However, all of the entries I cited in my piece link to versions of the articles written by Conservapedia’s most trusted writers. You can find links to older versions of the articles at the History tab. You can also be fairly certain that any entries written by Aschlafley, that is, Andrew Schlafly, the founder of Conservapedia and the son of renowned anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, represent genuine conservative views.

    Comment by Jon Swift — February 24, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  2. Thank for the clarification, Mr Swift. And I was delighted to note that you have an entry there.

    I see that the entry on Kangaroos that you cite is by a Rich P, who must, from what you say, be one of their trusted writers. He’s certainly written several articles for them on biological topics, including a very informative piece on Unicorns:

    The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times, which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence.

    He concludes his article with the observation

    Post-Noachian references to unicorns have led some researchers to argue that unicorns are still alive today. At the very least, it is likely that they were taken aboard the Ark prior to the Great Flood

    You learn something every day. At least, I do.

    Comment by notsaussure — February 24, 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  3. […] Not Saussure (a linguistics reference, maybe?) brought to my attention a few entries in Conservapedia, an online encyclopedia apparently intended to counter the liberal bias of such sources as Wikipedia. […]

    Pingback by hell’s handmaiden » Blog Archive » Conservapedia: Correcting the Wrongs — February 25, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  4. I’m not a Labour (sic) supporter, but even I think it’s a bit harsh to say they only represent those sections of the working class who are particularly “common”.

    Comment by alabastercodify — February 25, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  5. At last my 15 minutes of internet fame seems to be on the way!

    I’ repsonsible for the tree octopus entry. I’m hesitant to admit it on the bigger blogs, as I’m afraid that the admins at Conservapedia will block me and remove my entries.

    Yes, the site is for real, and yes, it has been invaded by hordes of folks spoofing articles. The obvious ones get removed fairly quickly. But frankly, even the “real” articles are almost a spoof of themselves.

    For most of the articles I submit, I simply find (or make up from memory) the absolute stupidest right wing anti-ACLU and/or creationist crap that I can come up with.

    This gives cred with the site owner and most of the admins. Then the occasional spoof article or edit flies by under the radar.

    Ken L

    Comment by Ken — February 26, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  6. […] continues at some length, in similar vein. I am very tempted to cross-post it to Conservapedia, but I fear they’d ban me because it’s a non-USA […]

    Pingback by UKIP « Not Saussure — March 5, 2007 @ 8:36 pm


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