The Road WarriorSeveral months ago, I chronicled my learning experience on the workings of the Wikipedia and the small-minded ways in which some Christians were trying to make this their new digital battlefield for TruthTM (which should never be confused for truth). Now a grizzled veteran in the ways of Wiki and the TruthTM wars within its pages, more stories have accumulated along the way…

A few will I share today, though I am sure some are not yet complete, and yet others will meet me on the road ahead.

Thin-Skinned-Ninnies

Amazingly, along the road, I’ve met some Christian brothers whose capacity for disagreement sits somewhere below ‘E’ on most reasonable scales.

One of them, a college student was involved in my previous wiki article. Having experienced a complete meltdown back in December, he slunk into the shadows of the Wikipedia to lick his wounds and to only edit pages anonymously from several school-vicinity IP addresses. For instance, the day that the edit-lock was removed from Rob Bell’s page, for instance, he tried multiple times (unsuccessfully, I might add) to re-insert the same garbage he’d tried back in December, doing it this time via anonymous IP addresses. Almost immidately, Virgil Vadua and I were able to have the page locked from anonymous editing.

One of the nice things in Wikipedia is that, except for extreme circumstances, past history of all pages is kept for reference. Additionally, a history of all of the edits made by a particular individual (or IP address) is kept. This makes following vandals a fairly easy thing, and also gives a brief window into their mind and interests…

Something interesting I learned about him is that he has an interest of some sort in a commercial property where a popular movie was filmed. He frequently has gone into Wikipedia to try and insert advertising for this establishment on the Wiki page for the film, despite repeated removal of his ad, which is in violation of Wikipedia policy (Apparently, his fundamentalism does not extend to ethical business dealings). With this little bit of information, I was able to put a watch on that page, which tipped me off to whenever he decided to take a break from learning about the rules of society and engage in circumventing the rules of Wikipedia.

Something else I learned about him this was apparently was of great embarrassment to him. In an effort to “hide” history, he has had all of the pages referencing this event ‘blanked‘. According to Wikipedia policy:

From time to time, a discussion about an article will have a majority of its content that, in the judgment of the community may potentially cause harm to some person or to some organization. This harm can range from invasion of privacy, libel or emotional distress. Due consideration should be given if the person or organization in question requests such blanking. In order to avoid having such text in the most recent version and thus be indexed by search engines, the debate will be blanked out of courtesy. [...] the actual content remains accessible via the edit history. In more serious cases, the entire history of the page may be deleted. Courtesy blanking, history blanking or oversighting should be rare, and should be performed after due consideration is given to fairness issues. [emphasis mine]

While it is unofficial, it seems that he, after trying to blank these on his own and being reprimanded by Wikipedia admins, wrote a threatening communication to Wikipedia, who then instituted a blanking of the pages which documented his past sins, while leaving intact the actual content of the rebukes. Ironically, he is allowed to blank his own talk page, so long as he doesn’t try to alter the content of it prior to blanking. By making a federal case of it, he only increased the misery inflicted upon himself.

Bizarreness.

Hank Hannegraff Isn’t A Calvinist

For some reason, the wiki biography pages of prominent Christians have become the battleground for the discernmentalist crowd. Whether it was Josh Bruken (aka BillieFan2000) trying to insert the New Thought movement into multiple Seeker-Sensitive and Emerging Church figure biographies, or others adding sexual/abusive names/charges to Emerging Church figures, all sorts of Christians can be observed acting in a completly unChristian manner within the pages of wikipedia. Interestingly, only a few Christian biographies within wiki seem to have any vandalism outside the church – almost all of the nastiness comes from within. Go, team!

Probably one of the most persistent cases was that of Firestar777, who felt that it was of utmost importance for people to know that Hank Hannegraff, the “Bible Answer Man” said:

God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces his love on people, nor is he a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love him. Instead God grants us the freedom of choice.

In light of this, Hannegraff was not a Calvinist, and therefore – via Firestar777’s logic, an Armenian (cue ominous music). He then proceeded to insert heresy charges based on Hannegraff’s anti-Calvin comment. Since Hannegraff’s notability has nothing to do with the Calvinist/Amenian debate, and since the argument around such classification was inserted into the article, and since the “proof” of Hank’s wrongdoing was a blog, Firestar777’s edits were in violation of at least four wiki policies. Thus, they were removed. About 4 or 5 times over a three day period. After refusing to discuss the changes on the talk page, and being denied redress for his ignorance of policy by a Wikipedia admin, Firestar777 wrote me a kind, Christian brotherly note, which ended in:

Furthermore, refrain from making false allegations based on your emotions. Emotionalizing is not evidence. You might want to look up the meaning of the word evidence so that you don’t repeatedly forget.

I’m still trying to figure out how citation of four policies with clear notation is not evidence and how ‘please use the Talk page’ is emotionalizing, but I’m sure a lesson from II Opinions is on its way…

Old Jim at New Truth Strikes Again

Armed with a decent bit of knowledge of the targets of the discernmentalist crowd, over time I have perused the pages of many of their favorite Christian whipping-boys. One such page was the one for Willow Creek Church. At the bottom of the page, in the External Links section was this particular item:

Seeker Sensitive related audio messages and articles

Seems pretty innocuous, seekersensitive.com, yes? Well, if you actually click on the link, it redirects you (via his famous fun-n-games) to the Old TruthTM page, which is anything BUT sensitive or truthful to non-Christian ’seekers’ (or most Christians, for that matter). I guess TruthTM in advertising only matters when you’re talking to the elect.

And so, the offensive and misleading link was quickly removed, as it was in violation of Wikipedia’s policy on blog-sourced material.

The Cedarville Situation

To avoid too much rehashing what Tim already covered in last week’s excellent podcast on the situation at Cedarville University, here are the basics:

One. Last year, Cedarville U dismissed some professors for violations of the proffesional code of conduct (basically, inciting students against other professors at the University).

Two. After the dismissals, some additional faculty and students suggested that the firings were because of theological differences, and that the school administration was leading it down a path of liberalism (trying to re-cast the firings as being the result of a debate on ‘truth and certainty’).

Three. Unrelated third parties, primarily Christian ‘discernmentalist’ bloggers acting in an anti-Christian manner, decided to inject themselves into a situation they knew nothing about, and to promulgate gossip, slander and lies about the situation. (Blessed are the peacemakers? Bah, who needs that when there’s fame and money to be made fanning the flames of fear…)

Four. The board of directors, upon reviewing all documentation and actions at Cedarville, affirmed that the initial dismissals were justified and completely unrelated to theology.

In the wake of this localized, but blog-fueled nastiness, the wiki page for Cedarville U became a war-zone for about 3-4 different viewpoints, fighting over whether or not to include the current turmoil, the school’s ‘no-dancing’ policy, and other school-related items into the page. As it stands today, the Wiki situation has localized the discussion to the talk page and removed it from the main article (since it’s primarily fed by hearsay and blog-sourced articles), though it’s sad to see how Christians have been interacting in this particular space.

So What?

As of this writing, I’ve got about 30+ pages on my ‘watchlist’, and each week I end up correcting 2-4 bits of vandalism instigated by Christians against Christians. With folks like this within the church, Satan doesn’t need the world to attack the church – it’s doing a fine job all on its own.

However, since Wikipedia is becoming more-and-more a key source for information on the web, it is important that information about the church, its denominations, movements and members be accurate and free of lies, slander and discernmentalist TruthTM. The blogosphere is full enough of such lies as spread by ODM’s and their spiritually-stunted, yet still Christian, lackeys. When people go to a trusted source of information (which, like it or not, Wiki is more accurate than a simple web-search), they should receive an objective picture of the subject they’re searching on and not be subjected to the poisonous pens of the ODM’s and their sycophants.

Update (6/17/2011): One of the individuals mentioned in the previous version of this article sent me a very gracious apology, along with a request that I remove his name (and, I would also assume, some specific identifying links) from the article for the sake of his future progeny. I think it is reasonable to do so, and so I have.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 5:30 pm and is filed under Church and Society, Humor, Original Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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22 Comments(+Add)

1   Dave Muller    http://blog.thewebsiteguy.com.au
April 15th, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I always enjoy your article Chris. I’m not sure if it’s the writing style or content, but I find them the least subjective and informative here. Thanks.

2   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 15th, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Thanks, Dave!

3   Coop    http://whileromeburns.blogspot.com
April 15th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for fighting the good fight at Wikipedia, Chris. I must admit, I didn’t dig into the “situation” at Cedarville, and find it more of the same that Slice/AM/CRN/etc were simply making a mountain out of an anthill.

4   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 15th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

I must admit, I didn’t dig into the “situation” at Cedarville, and find it more of the same that Slice/AM/CRN/etc were simply making a mountain out of an anthill.

The problem with this is, though, that their gossipmongering impacts real people in real ways – manifesting hell on earth…

5   TimB    http://castironskillet-timb.blogspot.com
April 15th, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Chris L,

When you were having the disagreement with [REDACTED] I looked at his web page.

Wow.

I predict he will end up as a mid-level bureaucrat in some unfortunate agency where he will make his underlings and the public miserable. His melt-down was very entertaining.

Grace and peace.

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 12:20 am

Grace and peace to you!

7   shammah ben agee    http://endtheapostasy.blogspot.com
April 16th, 2008 at 8:22 am

Someone has way too much time on their hands and thinks way too much of himself.

8   Joe Martino    http://joemartino.name
April 16th, 2008 at 8:26 am

That’s OK Ben, we forgive you and if you ask Him, God will too.

9   anonymousjane    http://anonymousjane.wordpress.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 9:26 am

I hate point it out, but people under the title of “Christian” have always done this sort of thing. Trying to fool people into hearing the “truth” or trick the public into joining a cause using falsities have come back to bite them many times over.

10   andy    
April 16th, 2008 at 11:20 am

Hahaha that tickled me..

Geezee seems a awful lot of effort to be constantly rechanging stuff, must drive [REDACTED] and you nutsssss..

How does it all work…Say i wasn’t a fan of Bell’s (i’m indifferent in real life) and i posted a fact, but put a crappy tone/slant to it…

Do you then discuss it or does it just get deleted? Whos watching the watchers so to speak lol

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 10:53 am

AJ – I’m missing your point, honestly – can you be a little clearer?

12   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 11:34 am

Andy,

It depends… If the ‘fact’ is material to Bell’s notability, then someone would likely reword your addition to give it a “Neutral Point of View” and include it in the proper place. That assumes that your ‘fact’ has reliable documentation/citation via verifiable sources…

Most of the time, anything negative about an individual, if just slammed onto their bio page w/o discussion, is typically removed and (if notable) discussed on the discussion page prior to moving it to the body of the article.

13   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 11:37 am

Geezee seems a awful lot of effort to be constantly rechanging stuff,

Actually, there’s a thing called a “watchlist”, where you can tag articles you want to “watch”. It gives you a dashboard showing you all the recent changes to “watched” articles. There are also ways of using bots to email you when changes occur.

Anyhoo – once you’ve got the hang of it, the wiki system does the work for you, and a quick glance will tell you if you need to revert a change (which takes the click of a button and a quick, short explanation), or if you can ignore a change.

14   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Yes, I remember that case…

When you two get into it,who decides what’s posted and what;s not? Is it decided by who as the most reputable source?

Part of it is source reputability (blogs are completely out, and professional publications are usually acceptable), and part of it is relevancy.

With biographies, the items need to be deemed relevant in some way to the person’s notability. In general ‘trivia’ is frowned upon, though innocuous trivial items are often allowed. For criticism in a biography (particularly that of a living person), there is a much higher bar of ‘proof’ of source and notability of the criticism. Additionally, Guilt-by-Association is highly frowned upon and stripped from biographies when found.

For instance, noting that Hank Hannegraff isn’t a Calvinist is not really relevant, because he’s not notable for being an anti-Calvin crusader. On the other hand, noting that Mark Driscoll is a Calvinist would be notable, as it is part of his ’street-cred’ that he hangs his hat on.

If the two editors cannot agree, they can ask for a “third opinion” in which an uninterested low-level admin examines the case at hand and renders an opinion on what to include. If the disagreement continues, one can request arbitration – which brings in multiple high-level admins to render opinions. In the [REDACTED] case last year, he skipped step 1 (discuss on the ‘talk’ page) and step 2 (get a third opinion) and jumped to step 3 (arbitration), and got smacked down. In the mean time, the opposing editors requested (and received) a third opinion in their favor.

15   andy    
April 16th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Ok tks interesting…

I vaguely remember a guy (politician i think) having to resign because of a comment he made on Wiki..He implied his boss was a suspect in the Kennedy assassination, it was meant as a joke, but back fired..

When you two get into it,who decides what’s posted and what;s not? Is it decided by who as the most reputable source?

16   andy    
April 16th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Cool thks Chris sounds like it as a pretty strict standard !!

17   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 16th, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Yeah – some folks get the idea that wiki displays whatever you want it to say, but there are enough folks that take it seriously, that most articles consistently ‘have it right’ – or fix vandalism pretty quickly…

18   anonymousjane    http://anonymousjane.wordpress.com/
April 17th, 2008 at 7:55 am

Chris L,

There are many forums which christian groups have used to skewer statistics or exaggerate the truth in order to win people over to their side. Sometimes it is to scare people into getting saved, like Hagee using a story about a woman being possessed by a demon in which she could hear the demon coming down the hall toward her, getting closer and closer and closer (it really was something to be told by campfire). Other times it is to win support for a political cause. As you probably know, there are websites galore of exaggerated christian claims, sometimes downright lies.

Your article sighted certain christians adding claims of sexual or other abusive behavior to the Wiki profiles of emergent leaders they didn’t like and Jim at Old Truth being a bit deceitful in hopes of bringing readers to his site. My point is that lying/exaggerating/duping in this way isn’t anything new.

I should add that, of course, christian groups aren’t the only agenda-driven organized groups to use these tactics. It is okay, in my opinion, to push one’s agenda using rhetoric, but not to be dishonest or attempt to hoodwink the public. Christians shouldn’t knowingly lie.

19   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 17th, 2008 at 11:02 am

Ah – I understand… Excellent insight…

20   Jim from SeekerSensitive.com    http://www.SeekerSensitive.com
April 17th, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Hi Chris:

Another blogger notified me of your mention of my SeekerSensitive.com site today, and I must say – I agree with you on the false advertising appearance that you pointed out, as it relates to posting links on pro-seeker listings.

I was given the website domain that you mentioned, by a previous owner who apparently set up whatever it is that you saw. If I find my site falsely listed under wrong directory categories in the future I will pursue having the link delisted.

I probably won’t be back to talk further on this thread. You know how I feel about your site, and we are bound to simply disagree on everything other than the fact that we both feel that each other’s sites end up doing more harm than good. But I wanted to answer to your concern about my site’s advertising, and also say that I think your point in mentioning me on your site was valid this time. Thanks for allowing me to respond to your charges.

21   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
April 17th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Thank you for the explanation, Jim…

22   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
April 17th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

It makes sense… I mean Jim would never do anything like that… ; )

iggy

Yes I believe him…