Friday, February 1, 2008

Wikipedia Continues To Sanitize Bush Content

Wikipedia, the massively popular online encyclopedia, claims that its "content must be written from a neutral point of view."

But after comparing Wikipedia's main articles on Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, you could have fooled us. These days, some of Wikipedia's content looks like it was written by Fox News.

For example, Wikipedia's main Bill Clinton article manages to mention every single fringe right-wing nutcase allegation ever made against the 42nd president.

By contrast, the main Wikipedia article on George W. Bush has been carefully sanitized. It clearly aims to present Bush in the most favorable light possible. Frankly, the Bush article looks like a love letter from Karl Rove.

(Note that we're talking about the main, high-profile Wikipedia Clinton and Bush articles---so this is indeed an apples-to-apples comparison).

I realize that Wikipedia offers fluid, dynamic content and is technically open to edits by anyone and everyone. Right-wing bias in articles is open to correction by progressive contributors (and vice-versa).

But it's clear that in the battle to edit the main Clinton and Bush pages, the right-wing contributors are winning (and have been winning for a long time).

For example, the main Wikipedia article on Clinton includes a massive, seven-part "Controversies" section.

By contrast, no "Controversies" section exists in the Bush article (although there is a two-part "Criticism and public perception" section).

One thing that recently caught my eye in the Clinton "Controversies" section was the "Sexual Misconduct Allegations" headline. The section discusses claims of sexual misconduct made by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. The section also includes links to other Wiki articles that discuss the allegations in great detail.

If Wikipedia was free of bias, one might think that the main Bush article would include at least a mention of the Margie Schoedinger sexual assault allegation against Bush.

And just who is Margie Schoedinger?

She was a 38-year-old Texas woman who filed a sexual assault lawsuit against George W. Bush in December 2002.

Oh, and there's one other interesting detail: the next year, Schoedinger was found dead of a gunshot wound.

Let's imagine for one moment if a woman had filed a sexual assault lawsuit against Clinton---and let's say that woman was found shot to death a year later.

Do you think the mainstream media would ignore such a story?

I think we all know goddamn well the answer to that. The fact is, the media would give such a story around-the-clock, saturation coverage that would make the Monica Lewinsky media frenzy look tame by comparison.

But instead, the Schoedinger case was completely ignored by the U.S. media, with the sole exception of the small local Texas newspaper (The Fort Bend Star) that originally reported the story. Her case remains extremely obscure. To this day, very few people have ever heard of her.

Wikipedia gives coverage to unproven sexual allegations in its main Clinton article. But in the main Wikipedia article on Bush, there is zero mention of the Schoedinger case.

I recently got a taste of just how protective Wikipedia is of Bush, when I tried to raise this issue on the site. (Note that I wasn't even trying to edit the main Wikipedia Bush article--I was merely raising the issue in the "Discussion" forum).

I typed a brief post in the forum, raising this issue.

Within 30 seconds, my text was removed from the discussion forum. I then re-entered the post and it was promptly deleted again.

Bear in mind, all I was asking for was equal treatment in Wikipedia's coverage of Bush and Clinton. I certainly wasn't asking for any special treatment, or even (gasp!) a mention of, say, the Valerie Plame case or the Downing Street memo.

Neither issue, of course, gets the slightest mention in the main Bush article. As I mentioned previously, since Wikipedia's content is fluid and dynamic, the situation may have changed by the time you read this. But if that's the case, you can be assured that such content won't survive long on the Wiki articles before it is deleted by Bush supporters.

I can't say that I'm really surprised by Wikipedia's kid-glove, Fox News-like treatment of Bush. It's clear that the Bush worshiping cultists will do anything to protect the image of their hero. Clearly, these people will stop at nothing to sanitize Wikipedia's content on Bush.

In the aftermath of this episode, I guess the only thing that baffles me is how Wikipedia can continue to claim with a straight face to be a reference resource with a "neutral point of view."