Sarah Palin & Wikipedia. A Match Made in … ?

More grist for your mill, whichever grist (Palin or Wikipedia) you happen to be milling. And, a cautionary tale (again) for those inclined to rely on Wikipedia as an authoritative resource. Maybe you heard recently about Sarah Palin’s “interpretation” of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. You know, the one in which he stealthily rode to warn the colonists of the presence of British troops? According to Palin, Paul Revere actually was riding his horse at breakneck speed in order to warn the British that the colonists were readying to fight against them. Ringing a bell, no less. Huh? There goes my fourth grade history out the window.

Sad as this lack of education may seem, the fall out has impacted Wikipedia in a negative way. According to Curt Hopkins at ReadWriteWeb, Palin supporters have taken it to the Grand Wiki, specifically Paul Revere’s page, to duke it out as to what really happened more than 200 years before. Apparently, pro-Palin contributors have been changing, while others are reversing, language justifying her comments, as can be seen in the Revisions page for the entry. Here is a discussion centering on the controversy. While Wikipedia’s management assures that measures are being taken to reduce the chances of error – the article is in “protection” status, which means only “experienced” Wikipedians can edit at this time, consider the cautions raised by Mr. Hopkins and what it might mean for your own research results:

Anyone who has written an article or a paper or just done a search in the last few years can tell you how important Wikipedia is as an initial (alas, all too often also an only source) for information. The give-and-take built into the Wiki process seems to be keeping the boat upright, but only just.

Imagine pulling up the entry on deadline for a school paper. Depending on when you tune in, you might be making Paul into a Ninja messenger or a bell-ringing Muppet. Naturally, anyone who accepts a single source as Gospel is not doing the job of a thinking person, but it happens.

Fun, fun, fun. One if by land, two if by sea ….


2 comments on “Sarah Palin & Wikipedia. A Match Made in … ?

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