Note: Stephen Ewen responds; see the end of this post.
If you’re like me, you’re a member of Barack Obama’s social network my.barackobama.com mostly for informational purposes. That is, to see what they’re saying. Today on a semi-public (anyone is free to join) listserv associated with a group called “Obama Rapid Response”, I found this curious suggestion from one member:
But Ewen appears to be not so much a loyal Citizendium user as a loyal Wikipedia critic, because it seems he also took a considerable amount of time last month to write a page for Google’s recently launched semi-competitor, Knol, about Barack Obama’s Trinity United Church. The article is very long and appears to be quite informative, except for its one-sided account of the Jeremiah Wright controversy:
News and political commentary outlets repeatedly broadcast brief excerpts from several sermons by Trinity’s thirty-six-year former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, which especially conservative political commentators interpreted as anti-American and supportive of several conspiracy theories. The repeated airings brought the Obama campaign into crisis until, days later, Obama responded by delivering a speech, A More Perfect Union, that was widely lauded across the political spectrum. Obama later completely severed his ties with Wright and Trinity, although some of his political opponents have continued to try to use the matter as a political wedge.
So there you have it: Stephen Ewen is a sometime critic of both Wikipedia and Sarah Palin, as of recently an active opponent of the governor on Wikipedia and, as of today at least, an activist using tools provided by the Obama campaign to suggest that fellow supporters make life difficult for the dozens of editors doing real work to improve the article. One can’t hold the Obama campaign responsible for Mr. Ewen’s actions, but one hopes they agree that his advice should not be followed.
Update, Tuesday: Stephen Ewen responds in the comments:
The above is outrageous and slanderous. Since the overwhelming preponderance of authors at the article appeared to be Palin supporters, I sent out a few email requests for people to go and collaborate at the article, if they were so inclined to deal with the back and forth debate at Wikipedia, so as to hopefully produce a more neutral outcome. This is routinely done at Wikipedia, and in fact, there would be few quality science articles there without users doing such. Wikipedia’s fundamental philosophy is that balancing viewpoints produce better and more neutral articles. That’s the point. I am requesting you kindly take down this blog post in this light.
Naturally, I won’t be removing the post. Without getting into the details of his edits, all it takes is a glance at Ewen’s recent contributions to determine that his edit summaries are highly uncivil, which is always a red flag. He is right insofar that balancing viewpoints are supposed to produce a better Wikipedia. But if he really believes that inviting partisans unfamiliar with the customs, to say nothing of guidelines, at Wikipedia is the way to accomplish this, then he really is better off focusing his attentions elsewhere.
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