The Faith-Based Encyclopedia In Action
Red State's Leon H. Wolf has an excellent post describing how easy it is to fabricate a quote, place it in Wikiquote, an adjunct to Wikipedia, and then use it as a source to smear your opponent:
Having failed to prevent Rush Limbaugh from becoming a successful and wealthy entertainer, the mainstream media has apparently decided that they will attempt the next best thing; attempt to keep Rush Limbaugh from spending his money in the way he desires. In this case, Rush apparently desires to spend his money on a portion of the controlling stock in the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. In the initial stages of this story, the media attempted to thwart Limbaugh’s plans by trumpeting his comments from several years ago to the effect that the media was overrating Donovan McNabb as a quarterback because they were desirous of seeing a black quarterback succeed. Apparently, has at long last realized the self-evident truth that Limbaugh’s comments about McNabb could not be construed as racist by anyone not determined to find racism in any sentence containing the word “black.” Therefore, they have set about with phase two of this story, attacking Limbaugh as racist with completely fabricated and unsourced quotes… from Wiki.
I first became aware of this latest brouhaha when I opened FoxSports.com this morning as I typically do to check and see if anything interesting happened in the previous evening of sports. I was greeted with a huge front-page box featuring this insipid column from the execrable Jason Whitlock. By way of reminder, Jason Whitlock recently wrote this ridiculous column, which somehow passes for insightful commentary while Limbaugh’s comments about McNabb are evil, thoughtless, and racist. But I digress. The newest basis for the assertion that Limbaugh is an eeeeeevil racist is as follows, according to Whitlock:Here are two quotes attributed to Limbaugh in a 2006 book, “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America,” by Jack Huberman.
- “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (Dr. King’s assassin). We miss you, James. Godspeed.”
- “Let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back. I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
The first of these quotes has already been debunked most thoroughly, long before Rush’s bid to buy the Rams. It is self-evidently the complete fabrication of someone with a wiki account, which was then picked up by the unscrupulous Huberman and reported as fact (with no citations at all) in his book. The other, also attributed to Huberman, has never been sourced, and Huberman has never cited any original article, or even given any indication as to when this alleged statement was made. Of course, these facts make it utterly impossible to refute the claim; without any date or context, Rush cannot even call witnesses who were present during the alleged confirmation to confirm or deny that he ever made such a statement. It is literally impossible for Limbaugh (or anyone else) to offer convincing proof that they have never at any time made a given statement (other than their own denial, which Rush has already given). It is preposterous to ask anyone to prove that they did not make a statement if you cannot even so much as offer a time and place where the statement is alleged to have occurred.
And yet, this is the position in which Limbaugh finds himself. And worse, idiots like Whitlock seem to think that it’s entirely appropriate to believe this completely unsourced accusation:Limbaugh claimed on his radio show Monday that his staff could not find any proof that he ever joked about slavery. I’m sorry. Limbaugh doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt on racial matters.
See? In Jason Whitlock’s world, anyone at any time can claim that some unidentified person told them that Rush Limbaugh said [X], at a time and place they can’t identify, and if it touches on anything racial, it is fair to assume that Rush really said it because he doesn’t get “the benefit of the doubt.” This isn’t about the “benefit of the doubt,” it’s about whether the accusation is serious enough to create any doubt at all in the first place.
Of course, this is far from the first political controversy to be ginned up by Wikipedia's "anybody can post" philosophy.
In 2004, Robert McHenry dubbed the site, "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia" at Tech Central Station. A year later, there was a scandal at Wikipedia that actually made a blip on the MSM's radar, as I wrote at the time. Coincidentally, it was built around two other American icons assassinated in the 1960s:
John Seigenthaler, Sr. was the assistant to Robert Kennedy when he was attorney general under JFK. His Wikipedia entry originally read as follows:"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."
Needless to say, Seigenthaler is -- to say the least -- not happy, and has harsh words for the Wiki concept in USA Today.
I always find it fascinating that Limbaugh, who helped expose black libertarian/conservative academicians Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams to a huge new audience through their repeated guest-host slots during Rush's frequent Carson-esque days off, is smeared as a racist. And such attacks have come from the highest realm in the land -- but then, that was an era before the word's massive overuse has caused it to go from being the 21st century equivalent of "commie" in the 1950s, to becoming an increasingly worn-out cliche.
As Jeffrey Lord writes at the American Spectator:
Liberals masquerading as "sports reporters" and "journalists" have been out there repeating this kind of garbage in the last few days. The goal: to keep Rush from buying an ownership stake in the St. Louis Rams.
It doesn't take a wizard to know the reason that this kind of thing (and a lot of other unprintable garbage) is routinely attributed not only to Rush but other conservative talk radio hosts. There is a point to it, as conservatives understand. Instead of engaging on the battlefield of ideas, liberals project a prejudice they picked up from the left's own culture of racism, a "progressive" culture that, as often noted in this space, has ranged over the centuries from support for slavery to segregation to lynching to racial quotas and identity politics. This is frequently noted here in this space, two examples of which can be found here and here.
And make no mistake:
Rush today, some other conservative tomorrow.
In the mid-1990s, Wired magazine coined the phrase "Pierre Salinger Syndrome", named after JFK and LBJ's press secretary, to describe someone taken in by something he found on the still new and novel World Wide Web:
Veteran American newsman Pierre Salinger said today he has a government document saying that Navy gunners accidentally shot down TWA Flight 800 while conducting missile tests, killing all 230 people aboard. . . . Salinger said the document was dated Aug. 22 and was posted on the Internet at the beginning of September.
—Jocelyn Noveck, "Paper On "Test' Offered To FBI," The Associated Press, November 8, 1996
Shortly thereafter, print and television journalists would begin railing against Web-based journalists such as Matt Drudge, and a few years later, the Blogosphere in general. But it's amazing how quickly they'll acquire their own cases of Salinger syndrome when the target is one of their favorite bogeymen.
Related: The Sensitive Side Of The NFL.
Update: Welcome Insta-readers:
Given that Wikipedia once featured a picture of me in an “I had an abortion” t-shirt that was actually an old photoshop from Allahpundit, I wouldn’t place too much reliance in what Wikipedia and its cousins say about people, especially when they’re at the focus of ongoing controversy. . . .
Heh, indeed. And since you made it this far, thanks for reading the whole thing.™
Update: Mark Steyn notes the Epic Fail of the Media-Industrial Complex, which employs not just Media Matters as their de facto in-house stenographers of all things Rush, but also benefits from the "gotcha!" nature of the Blogosphere and YouTube. By 2006, given Rush's 20 million listeners, not all of them supportive, somebody would have clipped off such a damning quote, from either a tape of the show as it aired live, or from the podcast versions that Rush's team has been porting to the Web since mid-2005 and uploaded the audio to YouTube for all to hear. But, the legacy media Wants To Believe, Tim Blair sagely adds.