(April 8, 2016) “Wikipedia has emerged as an influential tool used by climate alarmists against climate change realists, who are unwilling to accept political proclamations there is an indisputable consensus humans are causing catastrophic climate change.” Ron Arnold for the Heartland Institute draws on Lawrence Solomon’s experience with ‘Wikibullies’ for this commentary.
Wikipedia, known as the “people’s encyclopedia,” has proven to be anything but a reliable source in regards to the debate concerning the causes and possible consequences of climate change.
Wikipedia is written and edited “by the people who read it,” and it receives than 400 million unique visitors every month worldwide, according to GuideStar. The massive website has about 80,000 volunteers, a substantial number of whom are devoted enough to earn the unpaid rank of “editor.” Editors are provided with a fat book of rules to follow and a code of civility to honor.
Wikipedia has emerged as an influential tool used by climate alarmists against climate change realists, who are unwilling to accept political proclamations there is an indisputable consensus humans are causing catastrophic climate change. Dogmatic climate doomsters ignore Wikipedia’s rules and spend days plowing through reams of Wikipedia pages to track down and purge or alter any entry daring to challenge the view humans are responsible for global warming.
‘Snuffing Out’ Dissent, Smearing Scientists
Kim Dabelstein Petersen is one editor who has been singled out by National Review (NR) for “seeing any dissent, or even someone correcting an obvious slander against a dissenter, and immediately snuffing them out.” NR says another editor “tore down scientists of great accomplishment such as S. Fred Singer, the first director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service. … Several editors relentlessly smear Singer as a kook who believes in Martians and a hack in the pay of the oil industry.”
Trying to fix these smears often does no good. Lawrence Solomon, executive director of the Canadian organization Energy Probe, recently made important corrections to a Wikipedia page, but they vanished.
“I made the changes again, and this time confirmed that the changes had been saved, but then, in a twinkle, they were gone again,” said Solomon. “I made other changes, and then others. They all disappeared shortly after they were made.”
On another Wikipedia page, titled “Climate Change Denial,” a shameless screed of scurrilous insults and alarmist rants brings to mind the observation of Atlantic magazine journalist David H. Freedman: “[Alarmists] seem constitutionally incapable of giving fair consideration to, or in some cases even acknowledging, expert evidence and arguments (even if in the minority) that question whether we are really in the midst of a man-made global climate crisis.”
The truly vicious “Wikibullies” are the site’s “administrators.” Wikipedia grants administrators the authority to block and unblock user accounts from editing and to edit fully protected pages. They also have the power to delete and undelete entire entries without restriction.
One Wikipedia editor, who was eventually discredited and fired for abusive edits, was former software engineer, one-time climate modeler, and perennial Green Party candidate William M. Connolley. His most notable credential is as a contributor to RealClimate.org, a vanity climate science commentary website that’s written by a small number of self-aggrandizing climate alarmists.
Connolley acted as a Wikipedia administrator from 2006 to 2009. During this period, Connolley rifled through more than 5,000 Wikipedia pages, falsifying numerous skeptic biographies and credible climate science postings. His actions were so egregious, Wikipedia banned Connolley from touching climate change pages and eventually permanently banned him from editing or posting on Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s steady climate march to the left did not end when Connolley was fired, raising questions about whether he was the cause or a symptom of a larger problem.
In 2008, Solomon concluded Wikipedia’s ideological biases are not limited to global warming.
“As an environmentalist I find myself with allies and adversaries on both sides of the aisle, Left and Right,” Solomon wrote in National Review. “But there is no doubt where Wikipedia stands: firmly on the Left. Try out Wikipedia’s entries on say, Roe v. Wade or Intelligent Design, and you will see that Wikipedia is the people’s encyclopedia only if those people are not conservatives.”
‘Follow the Money’
Wikipedia is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit funding and control center. If you follow the trail of money that’s used to keep the Wikimedia Foundation doors open, it’s not difficult to see why Wikipedia has made a sharp leftward turn on climate-related topics.
Wikimedia’s income from grants between 2009 and 2013 alone amounted to $178.5 million. Most of this money comes from left-wing foundations that have a history of giving to anti-capitalist environmental groups that promote climate alarmism and government restrictions on fossil fuel use.
For example, the Tides Foundation donated $2 million to the Wikimedia Foundation from 2009 to 2013 and gave another $1.4 million to promote the theory of human-caused climate change to 12 leftist climate groups, including 350.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Hewlett Foundation gave Wikimedia $1.3 million between 2009 and 2013 and an astronomical $209.8 million to more than 20 climate change groups, such as the Climateworks Foundation and the Energy Foundation, during the same period.
All this should be incredibly troubling to climate change realists, especially now that the Wikimedia Foundation is working to create a search engine it believes will be able to compete with Google. Wikimedia’s Knowledge Engine is “a system for discovering reliable and trustworthy public information on the Internet.”
In today’s world, where climate skeptics are threatened with criminal investigations for speaking truth to power, the words “reliable” and “trustworthy” help to provide a perfect excuse to expand Wiki-censorship around the world.
Ron Arnold (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a free-enterprise activist, author, and commentator.