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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liberal Bias at Wikipedia? Could Be.

posted by on July 25 at 8:07 AM

There’s been some debate lately about whether Wikipedia has a liberal bias.

I don’t have an opinion on that. But I did find an unsubstantiated (and controversial) claim in their entry on Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.

Wikipedia writes:

April 23, 2004: He says his opposition to abortion stems from his belief that the Christian Bible is literally true, and that American law should reflect Christian values. When it comes to pregnancy prevention, he favors abstinence-only education. Reichert believes he has an answer for unwanted children. His family adopted, and his daughter continued the tradition [5].

Click on that footnote and it takes you here, where it says:

Church and State

He says his opposition to abortion stems from retrieving around 200 dead bodies in his career. When it comes to pregnancy prevention, he favors abstinence only education. Reichert believes he has an answer for unwanted children. His family adopted, and his daughter continued the tradition.

He doesn’t believe in formal recognition of any kind for gay relationships. To correct some of the legal hurdles this can create for gay couples, he favors changing the law so that “everyone has the same rights.”

He says that while he lives his own Christian beliefs, everyone has a right to free choice in religion, and that it’s very important to keep government and religion separate.

I’ve rooted around a little for an April 23, 2004 Reichert quote about American law and Christian values, and I haven’t turned up anything. Maybe it exists, but Wikipedia is pretty blase about providing any source for such a charged assertion.

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That is why I use Conservapedia for all of my knowledge needs! It provides a ..... right winged focused perspective on reality. Just check out the entry on George Bush! Then prepare to puke.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | July 25, 2007 8:18 AM

Conservapedia is 100% bias. Wikipedia is 99.9% neutral. You'll only be offended if you're a Conservative who truly believes that the entire fucking world should be thinking like you do. Conservapedia was started because a student used BCE instead of BC. That's how ridiculous Conservatives are.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 25, 2007 8:20 AM

Okay, so tag that section with "unverified assertions," detail that a bit on the talk page, and some fine upstanding member of the Wikipedia community will either delete that section or verify it. That's how Wikipedia works.

Posted by Gitai | July 25, 2007 8:24 AM

I don't think Feit understands how wikipedia works. One small anecdote is in no way a demonstration of bias, especially on a site with millions of authors.

Posted by thank you, gitai | July 25, 2007 8:26 AM

What #3 & #4 said.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 25, 2007 8:30 AM

It's a wiki Feit, if you find an error, the onus is on you to fix it or report it to someone not as lazy to fix it for you.

Posted by seattle98104 | July 25, 2007 8:51 AM

Changing to "BCE" does seems silly to me (though apparently a favorite amongst other seattleites).

Posted by infrequent | July 25, 2007 8:56 AM

It wouldn't surprise me if an American found Wikipedia, in the aggregate, to be somewhat left of center, as the centerpoint of world opinion is to the left of the American center.

This is even true (though less so), for the English-speaking world.

That said, the powers that be at Wikipedia are pretty scrupulous about sourcing and accuracy for their facts; to the extent there's any systematic "bias", it's in the facts they emphasize.

Posted by MHD | July 25, 2007 9:09 AM

In the words of renowned philosopher Steven Colbert:

"The truth has a liberal bias"

Posted by Nattering Nabob of Negativism | July 25, 2007 9:22 AM

Turns out that the citation mentioned is invalid - from a political blog. Another citation in that section was a broken link. There were actually no properly referenced claims in the abortion rights section. So I deleted it.

Wikipedia has very clear standards when it comes to biographies of living persons. Improperly referenced claims are subject to immediate and permanent deletion (i.e. not subject to the three-revert rule that generally applies). Any Wikipedia user can edit a page. You could have done this just as easily.

My guess is that the claims have lasted this long simply because no one is really interested in Mr Reichert.

Posted by kinaidos | July 25, 2007 9:27 AM

@9, I think the quote was "reality has a well known liberal bias" :)

Posted by Giffy | July 25, 2007 9:30 AM

Your mistake is in expecting reliable information on anything from Wikipedia. It's kind of handy as a source of fun pop culture factoids, but I wouldn't use it as a source for anything else, no matter how high its Google pagerank is.

Posted by Orv | July 25, 2007 9:52 AM


That's entirely wrong, but whatever.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 25, 2007 9:54 AM

The only way in which wikipedia has a liberal bias is in how the structure of power mods there (and yes, there is a laughably large and complex political hierarchy among wiki editors) believe in micromanaging the site and its content to their own ends whenever the opportunity arises... which is consistent with the liberal mindset.

Otherwise, not really. I've seen a variety of articles with a conservative slant and several that seemed neutral. It's a matter of who gets their hands on the topic.

Posted by Gomez | July 25, 2007 9:57 AM

Josh - Stop whining. You have the power to correct any factual errors at Wikipedia. So if you see one, login and make a correction.

Posted by Daniel K | July 25, 2007 9:59 AM

Shorter Josh Feit: I am an ignorant fool.

Anyone else starting to see a pattern? Really, now, Josh, just run along and play now and let the grownups deal with it.

Posted by Tlazolteotl | July 25, 2007 10:15 AM

@10 Thank you for doing that. If my daily Slog excursions weren't excuses to delay work, I'd have done it myself. Anyone wanna contribute to the article I wrote yesterday about The Eagle?

Posted by Gitai | July 25, 2007 10:16 AM

How many of those dead bodies were his victims?

You have to ask yourself that.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 25, 2007 10:28 AM

Congrats Josh, you (and the Stranger) now join the ranks of the media's most knee-jerk blowhards.

This within hours of a post about how Bill O'Reilly cherry-picks incidents from DailyKos to prove it is a hate site. Made only worse by the fact that, unlike a privately run blog, Josh could have removed this material himself, and in less time than it took to bitch about it on Slog.

BTW it's already gone from WP -- in fact the entire section on abortion is gone.

Posted by K | July 25, 2007 10:51 AM

You really can't talk about how "Wikipedia" is blase about providing sources, as if it's an institution. Conservatives don't yet seem to have grasped the concept of community publishing (e.g. DailyKos, per O'Reilly's Luddite rant cited above) so maybe the liberal slant comes from a liberal majority of web-literate people.

Posted by anners | July 25, 2007 11:17 AM

For years I thought I knew one of his daughters in high school, but looking at the Wikipedia page, I find she's not listed with his children. They probably are related (How many Reicherts are there in the Kent-Auburn valley area?), but it's kinda disappointing to not be able to tell my anecdotes about her dumb ass and have it mean anything now.

Posted by christopher | July 25, 2007 11:36 AM


I'm glad the quote is gone. Looks like my post worked.

Posted by Josh Feit | July 25, 2007 11:46 AM

Feit, stop being such an arrogant douche and admit that you didn't understand wikis and that you were not trying to get the post changed.

Posted by stupid | July 25, 2007 4:19 PM


I love how Wikipedia works. Check out the Bill Russell, Mary Shelley, or Stokely Carmichael entries!

Posted by Josh Feit | July 26, 2007 5:03 AM

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