Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Conservapedia makes a splash in LA

Andy Schlafly has made the big-time again with an article written by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times. There is some irony in the fact that coverage of Schlafly's efforts show up in the technology pages.
Andy Schlafly was appalled. He was teaching a history class to home-schooled teens and one student had just turned in an assignment that dated events as "BCE," before the common era — rather than "BC," before Christ. "Where did that come from?" he demanded. Her answer: "Wikipedia." At that, Schlafly knew he had to act. In his mind, the popular online encyclopedia — written and edited by self-appointed experts worldwide — was riddled with liberal bias. Dating events without referring to the New Testament was just one example. How about Wikipedia's entry on golfer Zach Johnson, winner of the 2007 Masters? Not a single word about how Johnson gave credit for his win to Jesus Christ. Thus was born — labeled "a conservative encyclopedia you can trust."
So, that's why! It's Zach Johnson's doing. Now it all makes sense.
Schlafly, 46, started small, urging his students to post brief — often one-sentence — entries on ancient history. He went live with the site in November. In the last six months, it's grown explosively, offering what Schlafly describes as fair, scholarly articles. Many have a distinctly religious-right perspective. Take the Pleistocene Epoch. Most scientists know it as the ice age and date it back at least 1.6 million years. But Conservapedia calls it "a theorized period of time" — a theory contradicted, according to the entry, by "multiple lines of evidence" indicating that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, as described in the Book of Genesis. "We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them," Schlafly writes in his mission statement. "Beyond that we welcome the facts." Conservapedia defines environmentalists as "people who profess concern about the environment" and notes that some would want to impose legal limits on the use of toilet paper.
Brief, because we are talking about the attention span of, well, people who actually take a joke by Sheryl Crow and piss their pants over it.
Femininity? The quality of being "childlike, gentle, pretty, willowy, submissive."
Right. Childlike. Submissive. The attributes expected by the hard-right Christian community. Men are in charge. Women are pretty, gentle, willowy, but most of all, submissive. That, of course would make Andy's mother very happy. That's right, Andy's mom is ultra-conservative, uber-wingnut, anti-feminist, anti-equal rights author and conservative moll, Phyliss Schlafly. High priestess of the religious right-wing, she dislikes Bush and the neocons, but promotes them during an election anyway.
Conservapedia's critics for the most part have no problem with the articles heaping praise on former President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain. But they worry about material presented as fact in science and medicine entries that typically seek to debunk evolution, condemn homosexuality and raise fears about abortion. They're also concerned that children who stumble onto the site will assume everything in it is authoritative. Schlafly says students can always follow the footnotes to get more information, but few links connect to dissenting — or even mainstream — views.
Actually, Conservapedia, aside from being utter crap as a research tool, can be pretty funny. While Schlafly boasts around 10,000 contributors, what he doesn't tell you is that over 3,000 of them are permanently banned... me included. Schlafly isn't interested in facts. If it's in the Christian bible, that's all the provenance he needs to support an idea, theory or, as often appears in Conservapedia, pure myth.

It's also written by the lazy. There is little in the way of research and almost nothing in the way of supporting documentation. Even the Conservapedia entry on God is truncated when compared to the same entry in Wikipedia.
The articles change constantly, as most are open to editing by anyone online; on a recent day, a few showed dissenting views. An entry about kangaroo origins, for instance, stated that most scientists believe in evolution. (It was the last line in the entry, after a lengthy discussion about which marsupials Noah may have brought aboard his ark.) In other cases, a glance at the entry's history — which shows editing over time — makes clear how quickly dissenting views are deleted. Dr. Peter A. Lipson, an internist in Southfield, Mich., repeatedly tried to amend an article on breast cancer to tone down Conservapedia's claim that abortion raises a woman's risk. The site's administrators, including Schlafly, questioned his credentials and shut off debate. After administrators blocked their accounts, Lipson and several other editors quit trying to moderate the articles and instead started their own website, From there, they monitor Conservapedia.
And they're fast too. After submitting an entry which was nothing but factual, public information on a blogger in Seattle, the entry was deleted and I was blocked, all within a few minutes. It's not that the information was wrong, but it was about a progressive liberal site. makes an interesting observation about Conservapedia:
... paying attention to what Conservapedia doesn't say can be just as enlightening as what they do say. For example, various human bodily parts have been permanently banned from having entries on CP, leading to CP having thousands of words about why a woman shouldn't have an abortion, and not one word on the organs involved in getting her pregnant in the first place.
And that would also suit "mommy". The Schlafly's are all about the basic elements of the conservative movement. Phyllis made no secret that her opposition to various groups and progressive activities were to maintain privilege. Her privilege. Part of making that happen is an effort to keep the religious faithful as dumb as possible.

Conservapedia is certainly doing that. Cruising Conservapedia can be a lot of fun for an educated, enlightened person. Watching a wingnut, with a look of seriousness on the face, as they cruise Conservapedia is an absolute riot.

But, before you go, check out You should be armed with facts before you enter Schlafly's deluded world.

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