Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Problem with Wikipedia

Representative Michele Bachmann is wonderfully ignorant - which is fine and dandy.  I'm wonderfully ignorant of so many things.  The big difference?  I'm not pretending to run for President of the United States.

Her gaffes are numerous - and again, this would be tolerable if she weren't masquerading as a contender for the highest job in the land.  We laugh when she alleges John Wayne was born in her hometown - Waterloo, Iowa.  The kind of spirit the Duke had, she said, is the kind of spirit I have!

The only problem, of course, is that it was John Wayne Gacy - notorious serial killer, not thespian - who actually hailed from Waterloo.


If this were the only flub, you could laugh.  But her mistakes are sundry.  The first battles of the Revolutionary War?  Lexington and Concord?  She professed they were fought in New Hampshire.  Citizens of Massachusetts are grabbing maps, trying to figure that out.  And John Quincy Adams?  She swears he was a Founding Father.  Which is impressive, considering that, during the Revolution, he was nine.

Years old. 

The reason these flubs are especially ironic is that Ms. Bachmann cloaks herself in the mantle of the Tea Party.  If there's any bit of US history, then, that she should bone up on before opening her mouth, it's Revolutionary history.

And if she doesn't have time for study, then really - just shut up.

When pressed, Bachmann doesn't back down.  She's stubborn about John Quincy Adams because she mentioned him in support of her claim that the Founders didn't rest until they had eradicated slavery.  Which, you know, wasn't something the Founders tackled (that whole three-fifths clause muddies her assertion just a bit).

Because Bachmann's pronouncement concerning the Founders and their attitudes toward slavery was untrue, she wants to hold onto Quincy Adams because he eventually did become a strong opponent of our curious institution.  So she continues to insist - erroneously - that Adams was a Founding Father.  Because, see, if true, that would make her earlier contention kind of not completely moronic.

Our sixth President, Bachmann protests, was, like, secretary to his daddy in 1776.  You can, um, Wiki it.  So that, you know, makes him, like, a Founding Father.

Are you getting all this?

Here's the deal - if you make a mistake, admit it.  Don't dig in - especially if you're wrong.

Which brings me to Wikipedia.  We don't do research anymore.  Reference Librarians?  Pshaw.  We all Wiki everything.  And the problem with that is, if you Wiki Founding Fathers, you'll get a brief introduction to the Founders.  You'll be told that most historians agree that the Founders were those who signed the Declaration of Independence, or who worked on framing the Constitution of the United States, or who played major roles in fighting the Revolutionary War.

That's it.

In "their" words, in other words, someone who made a "key contribution" to founding our nation - and gosh, that might leave out nine-year-olds.

You're then invited (if you're still reading the Wikipedia article) to check out Richard Morris' 1973 book, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries.  Morris points to seven men as the main Founders, and Wikipedia lists them.  But wait.  Today, the list doesn't stop with seven - it's been expanded.  An eighth name has taken up residence with those others.

Yes - for all to read, for all to recite from, the page now reads:

Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Quincy Adams (in embryonic listening mode)

Wikipedia!  That's where Bachmann's been getting her history lessons.

Just a joke, of course.  Someone having a little fun.  But that's the problem.  Because when Bachmann, or Palin, make ridiculously incorrect statements about the founding of this country (I never knew Paul Revere warned the British - what a fun tidbit) "editors" of Wikipedia can change the content of the site to support the stupid claims.

Am I getting my panties in a bunch over a little buffoonery?  Sure.  But lord, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is suddenly a major player and her supporters - hell, all supporters of any politician - get their news from this World Wide Web thing, because, you know, newspapers are so unwieldy and who wants to pay reporters to, you know, report?

I need a drink.

And don't tell me that Wikipedia is a masterwork because someone will quickly correct the listing I just described.  I read it.  Others read it.  And if you're not the kidding type, you just might believe it.


  1. Matt Taibi in the Rolling Stone has written an excellent article on this topic. (Bachmann, not Wikipedia).

  2. I need a drink too every time I see her pop up on TV. Brain cells start flowing from my ears! Seems like everything is being dumbed down to a ridiculous degree! Did I tell you I can see Russia from my house? You betcha!

  3. Marie - the article Randy references is great. Taibbi writes about her, only much better. For example: "In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you've always got a puncher's chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she's living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she's built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies."

    See? Better. And funny. Who could ask for anything more?

  4. What about the latest Wiki scandal? See -

  5. Good Information share for Wikipedia. great job