Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wikipedia Censorship?

A month or so after creating Spitzer Watch I noticed that someone had taken the time to add me to the wikipedia entry for Eliot Spitzer. While I wasn't responsible for this addition, I do feel it was a nice source for readers of the otherwise almost exclusively pro-Spitzer wikipedia entry.

After checking my referrals recently I discovered that the link to Spitzer Watch had been deleted by wiki user: Daniel Tasripin. Mr. Tasripin, in the spirit of Wikipedia, posted his reasons and then waited one week before deleting the link. His 4 (often X-files-ish conspiratorial) reasons given for the edits are discussed later in this post.

(At this point I should apologize for what will be a long, sort of off topic post...)

As for Tasripin, he describes himself as a "unrepentant leftist" (that's in itself certainly is no reason for assuming ulterior motives to his edits) and he also has edited out criticisms of Spitzer in the past. Slightly more suspicious is the fact that a quick google search reveals that Tasripin, a student at Hunter College may be understating his partisan credentials.

It seems that this self-appointed editor of Spitzer critics was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer at a 2003 anti-war demonstration. (I have no idea if he is guilty but I would propose that one is at least a little extreme to put himself in a situation to be charged with assualting a police officer and that isn't some minor "nuissance charge" like disturbing the peace.)

Let me first give the 4 "reasons" he lists for deleting the link and then repond to them in italics one at a time:
  1. Spitzer Watch is anonymous. Or in the words of Taspripin "The owner of the Spitzer Watch blog does not make any disclosure of his name (only goes by the nom de plume "Patrick"), his credentials/background, his motives, or backers."

    A quick look at this charge shows the deep rooted suspicion behind his decision to delete Spitzer Watch from the links. First my pen name, "Patrick" is derived from from my first name: also "Patrick."

    Second, if one really wanted to know my background/credentials (even my full name) a quick technorati search would reveal my old blog Colby and Beyond! where there are plenty of personal details, if one was so inclined to read through it all. But here's a short summary: Government Major Grad, Colby College and now I work in a PR office for a charity in DC. (Of course I always will be a New Yorker.)


    Furthermore
    I have no "backers". (The site costs nothing to run but some free time a few times a week. That being said I can, and will, accept donations here.) As for motives, while I clearly am a critic of Spitzer, that in itself doesn't make what I write anyless true. (Sort of like how Taspirin admitting to being "leftist" does not make his edits text in the spitzer post false.) And I as a blogger know that even a blog like this that isn't widely read can be fisked at anytime to expose someone who doesn't base accusations in fact. Finally as others who have email can attest to, I do check my email and if Tasripin was really concerned about my background, backers, name or motives he could have tried that first.

  2. "Despite the anonymity of Spitzer Watch's owner/author, it's pretty clearly an amateurish blog. The news-to-rant ratio is pretty low. In my opinion, we could probably do a lot better at linking the source materials Spitzer Watch draws from, and not Spitzer Watch itself."

    This critique is amusing considering that it comes from someone who puts considerable time and effort in to editing, what could only be called the ultimate amature project. Certainly, wikipedia should not be discredited just because it was/is created by amateurs, so why should this blog? This is just an ad-hominem attack. Additionally, because Spitzer Watch is constantly being updated with factually based critiques of Spitzer this should be the perfect link for the "Critics" section of the Spitzer wikipedia entry.

    As for the "news-to-rant ratio" Maybe my recollection of what a "rant" is is off, but I would suggest that my favorite way of criticizing Spitzer - simply holding him up to the standards that he sets for others - is not at all ranting because it is based in fact. Additionally, I often feel I should spend more time, not less, doing analysis of news, rather than just providing links to it.

  3. "I've kept Spitzer Watch to one link, in an area on critics. Over the past several weeks, various anonymous IPs have come in to put in extra links (usually when there's an update on the blog). It should raise at least some suspicion that someone's putting links on here simply drive up hits to the site (which doesn't have many, according to its own site stats)."

    Ahh yes, more scary anonymous editors! Again I will repeat that I don't know who added my site to the entry, but it seems likely that the same person who added it in the first place. I do agree that there should not be more than one link to Spitzer Watch on the wiki entry.

    More importantly is the "I've kept..." aspect of this complaint. Wikipedia is a cooperative effort and no one entry should be edited by only one person. At least when Spizer Watch was completely deleted an effort was made to consult with the wiki-community. Tasripin seems to be implying some kind of ownership over the page by this comment: Very un-Wiki!

  4. "Related to points 2 and 3, an anonymous IP decided to put up a link to The Spitzer Report. Comparing the two websites, there's not much material on Spitzer Report that isn't already on Spitzer Watch; the authors of both is Patrick. Having the same reports, with the same author/editor, on two different blogs raises the question of whether Patrick is trying to "corroborate" questionable reports simply by simply repeating them."

    More of the x-files stuff here: In response to the anonymous aspect just see point 3.

    As for the idea that having two separate sources will somehow fool people into thinking that that these are independently corroborated, that might be plausible if it wasn't so clear that the sites were linked. Notice this sentence in the post announcing the launch of Spitzer Report:
    The same great Spitzer Watch content with a Drudge Report spin.
    Spitzer Report is just another way of accessing Spitzer Watch content and that should be clear to anyone interested in facts. Also reinforcing that fact is that it says "visit our other site: SPITZER REPORT" on each page of Spitzer Watch.

Finally, I would like to say that I find the other "critic" links are lacking. Clearly Tasripin and the only other user to recently comment on the spitzer wiki entry - Aquillion - are not themselves critics of Spitzer and therfore might have difficulty knowing what would constitue a well done critique. Spitzer Watch is meant as a source to provide (anyone who wants it) a place to find many different ways to critique Spitzer, whether it be through original analysis I provide, or by simply sharing links I find.

I find the Alan Reynolds article and the Bloomberg article both to be very well done, but they are quite limited in scope and length. Also, the AG Watch blog by AEI that "replaced" Spitzer Watch is updated so seldomly (and even less so about Spitzer) that it gives those wanting a real critical view of Spitzer very little.

Meanwhile, Spitzer's approval rating has never gone much higher than 60%, so where on the wiki entry are the views of these other 40% of New Yorkers?

If I had more time I would do some exensive edits to expand upon the Criticisms of Spitzer as Attorney General section myself. But since I don't, until that section of the entry is greatly improved and expanded upon, I will just replace the link to Spitzer Watch that was deleted.

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