What Would Jesus Wiki?
By Michael Calore| Feb. 28, 2007
An alternative Wikipedia written by conservative Christians has become a major target of mockery on the web.
Conservapedia, a wiki-based encyclopedia that offers the historical record from a conservative perspective, is attracting lots of derisive comments on blogs and a growing number of phony articles written by mischief makers.
Conservapedia "is a gold mine of unintentional hilarity," wrote Mark Frauenfelder on Boing Boing last Monday.
The Wonkette political blog encouraged its readers to contribute to "this fast-growing, Jeebus-and-America-friendly online resource." So did the ScienceBlogs network, which said, "There's much fun to be had."
Even conservative commentators like Andrew Sullivan are bemused.
Conservapedia brands itself on its main page as "a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American."
"The site is intended as a resource for the general audience, but without the defects of Wikipedia," says Conservapedia's project leader, Andy Schlafly, a conservative writer and attorney.
Schlafly argues that Wikipedia's content displays a liberal bias, and that the site is rife with so much gossip, vulgarity and long-winded writing that it has become unusable as an educational resource.
In fact, creating a conservative-minded online encyclopedia for students was Schlafly's prime motivation for launching Conservapedia. He started the site in late November 2006 in conjunction with 58 high-school-level, home-schooled students from the New Jersey area.
Wikipedia's content, which is maintained and edited by its readership, has spurred a rash of criticism lately for perceived inaccuracies, bias and vandalism. The Wikipedia community polices itself, weeding out inaccurate content whenever possible, but Schlafly contends that's not enough.
"Wikipedia does not poll the views of its editors and administrators," Schlafly says. "They make no effort to retain balance. It ends up having all the neutrality of a lynch mob."
Using the same open-source software as Wikipedia, Conservapedia's entries are written in a manner sympathetic to the views of the religious right, social conservatives and creationists. The Conservapedia entry on homosexuality, for example, begins with four biblical citations decrying same-sex relationships.
"We have clear principles that we display, whereas Wikipedia pretends to be neutral and ends up biased," says Schlafly, who is the son of famous conservative politician and activist Phyllis Schlafly.
Conservapedia's entry on kangaroos says that, "like all modern animals ... kangaroos 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."
The site's entry on George Washington identifies the first U.S. president as "the person other than Jesus who declined enormous worldly power ... by voluntarily stepping aside as the ruler of a prosperous nation."
After it launched, the site quickly found itself picked apart by bloggers of all stripes. Conservapedia was lampooned by conservative blogger Jon Swift for its brash denial of scientific facts in favor of biblical rhetoric.
With all of the attention, vandals quickly followed. The site's entries were edited to include parody-style riffs on topics and bogus source citations. Schlafly says most of the vandalism was edited out or under control within a week, and that the site will continue to thrive.
"All they accomplished was to give us enormous publicity," he says.
Even so, many have pointed out that while the vandalism on the site is easy to spot, some of the parody on the site is more nuanced, and thus more difficult to identify.
Conservapedia isn't the first example of the religious right turning to social software to reach a wider web audience -- there's also CreationWiki, an encyclopedia of creation science written from a Christian perspective.
While CreationWiki remains mostly unscathed by the web's parodists, Conservapedia has fallen victim to countless attacks. One entry in particular has gotten a great deal of attention: the page about a tree-dwelling mollusk called the Pacific Northwest arboreal octopus.
Schlafly is amused by the page and its references to the endangered species falling victim to the ravages of logging and suburban encroachment. He sees it as a parody of environmentalists, and he plans to leave it up.
"Conservatives have a sense of humor, too," he says.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Andrew Sullivan failed to respond to requests for comment for this story.
vendredi, mars 09, 2007
what would jesus wiki?
Apparently, the overly tolerant, anti-American, and anti-Christian Wikipedia is too permissive. Enter Conservapedia, a site that allows wingnuts young and old to maintain a firm grip on ignorance.