Sunday, January 29, 2006

Truthiness and the people's encyclopedia

Oh, and that reference to the pederasty conviction, you might want to change that too—What do Congressional staffers do in their spare time? They go into Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia and alter the entries for their employers to get rid of anything negative. So far, the Lowell Sun reports, more than 1,000 changes in Wikipedia have been traced to Congressional staffers, mostly those working in the House of Representatives. [Click headline or here]. That’s in six months! Wikipedia has had some troubles because it is sort of a people’s encyclopedia: anyone who thinks they are an expert can go in and make entries or changes. The problem, of course, is that there are a lot of people who think they are experts and aren’t, and there are a number of “contributors” whose work cannot be described as for the edification of the masses.

According to the Sun, the staff of Rep. Marty Meehan (D. Mass), erased references to his broken term-limits promise (he promised to serve only eight years maximum but power got too much for him) as well as information about his huge campaign war chest. The Congressman’ chief of staff said he told an intern to go wash the entry.

Before the editing:
Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform. As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts.

After the intern got at the entry:

Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004.
Steven Colbert, on Comedy Central, coined the word “truthiness” to describe the current state of truth in American life. I suspect that word will wind up in the dictionaries.

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