It am de Fail, they be at it again. With the world’s longest and least coherent headline1: The making of a Wiki-Lie: Chilling story of one twisted oddball and a handful of anonymous activists who appointed themselves as censors to promote their own warped agenda on a website that’s a byword for inaccuracy. The key here is their first bullet point, Wikipedia’s editors decided that the Mail’s journalism cannot be trusted. This is of course old news; the Graun reported it in early February which was when the vote itself was closed. But it seems like the Fail can’t stop picking at the scab. Presumably, they’ve spend a month digging up dirt on wiki, so let’s read on and see what they’ve found.

After some introductory blather we come to the first claim: Neither did Wikipedia, nor The Guardian, bother to shed much light on how this decision was reached. Well, for people who purport to be journalists they are showing a distinct lack of initiative because the decision is out there in plain public view in exactly the place you’d expect it: wiki’s “reliable sources noticeboard” which is, as it says, for posting questions regarding whether particular sources are reliable in context. Since the Fail is having such a hard time reading, I’ll quote the overall summary:

Consensus has determined that the Daily Mail (including its online version, dailymail.co.uk) is generally unreliable, and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. As a result, the Daily Mail should not be used for determining notability, nor should it be used as a source in articles. An edit filter should be put in place going forward to warn editors attempting to use the Daily Mail as a reference.
The general themes of the support !votes centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism, and flat-out fabrication. Examples were provided to back up these claims. The oppose !votes made three main arguments:
The Daily Mail is actually reliable for some subjects. This appears to have been adequately addressed by the support !voters: if there are topics where it might be a reliable source, then better sources (without its disadvantages) should also exist and can be used instead.
The Daily Mail may have been more reliable historically, and it could make sense to cite it as a primary source if it is the subject of discussion. These seem to be good points, but should come up very rarely. Editors are encouraged to discuss with each other and apply common sense in these cases.
Singling out one source does not deal with the other poor sources that are currently permitted. This point is outside the scope of this RFC, which concerns only the Daily Mail. However, the discussion is closed without prejudice towards future discussions on such sources.
There are multiple thousands of existing citations to the Daily Mail. Volunteers are encouraged to review them, and remove/replace them as appropriate.

And it’s signed by the closer, Yunshui and countersigned by Primefac, Sunrise, Jo-Jo Eumerus, Tazerdadog.

The Fail’s next whinge is supposed exercise in democracy took place in virtual secrecy. This is nonsense; RSN is public, and not just in-theory-public-but-actually-a-dusty-corner; it’s a high-traffic well watched noticeboard. Nor is it an exercise in democracy, which is what the possibly-puzzling “!” in “!votes” is about, above. “!” means “not” in this context; it is conventional wiki-ese for “remember, we aren’t really voting”. This being wiki, there’s even a little policy section about it. The point being that while weight of numbers has some role, it is weight of sensible argument that matters. Generally, but not always, the two go together.

Having not even made the slightest attempt to rebut any of the charges of inaccuracy made against it, the Fail switches to attack mode: Wikipedia has not, for example, banned the Chinese government’s Xinhua news agency. And indeed they are correct. Clearly they regard this as a killer argument: but why? AFAIK Xinhua may well be the mouthpiece of a repressive dictatorship, but that’s beside the point: the point is, is it accurate enough to be useable? Since not even the Fail asserts otherwise, we can assume it is. More attack: Wikipedia even heralds Exaro, the now-defunct British website notorious for…. Well, wiki has an article on Exaro but I don’t think it “heralds” it. Exaro itself was subject to a question on the RSN and the answer was caution.

After that we get the traditional “but wikipedia is inaccurate, and we can prove it because <minor article> was once vandalised to say <silly thing>”. Which is dull, so I’ll ignore it. The Fail try to ratchet up the sympathy vote with Blacklisting is a term which in its modern context was popularised by the Nazis. Which is about as coherent as “Hitler liked dogs so dogs are bad”. As it happens, it’s also bollox; blacklisting has been a perfectly good term in use well before the Nazis; and anyway, Godwin. Incidentally, wiki does have rigourously defined areas of doubt and uncertainty, but they tend to be obscure. The Fail might have liked Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Jagged 85 had they bothered reading all the words to get at the substance; but it is an awful lot of words and the Mail’s journo’s are on tight deadlines.

Guy Macon who has said: ‘Kill it. Kill it with fire…’ Yet they failed to cite any data to back up their contention. This is, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, not true. There are indeed links in the RFC to the Fail lying. Most people there seem to take the context for given and so don’t bother provide links; but some do.

I know, I know, it wasn’t worth it. But I quite like writing about wiki; I blame Guy for putting it on his fb page. And yes, you are going to get a post about Lents very soon.

Notes

1. Not literally, I assume.

Refs

* Paul Dacre Pisses Down His Leg

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk again
    2017/03/04

    > has not, for example, banned the
    > Chinese government’s Xinhua

    And are they doing anything about assessing the reliability of the US government’s twitter feed?

  2. #2 Steve Bloom
    SF Bay Area
    2017/03/05

    Fail on Sunday?

  3. #3 numerobis
    2017/03/05

    Blacklisting is a term which in its modern context was popularised by the Nazis

    This is where I got confused. Doesn’t that mean the Daily Mail is in favour?

  4. #4 Dunc
    2017/03/06

    So what you’re saying is that the Mail’s complaints about Wiki saying it’s an unreliable source are themselves unreliable? I’m shocked, shocked, etc…

  5. #5 Eric Lund
    2017/03/06

    Blacklisting is a term which in its modern context was popularised by the Nazis

    The Daily Fail seem to be unaware of certain internet traditions, particularly the one where the first side to resort to argumentum ad Hitleram is considered to have lost the argument.

  6. #6 Mal Adapted
    Where the Hollywood blacklist is in living memory
    2017/03/06

    Eric Lund:

    Blacklisting is a term which in its modern context was popularised by the Nazis

    The Daily Fail seem to be unaware of certain internet traditions, particularly the one where the first side to resort to argumentum ad Hitleram is considered to have lost the argument.

    Either that, or they expect “blacklisting” henceforth and forevermore to be used exclusively in a Nazi context. Like “denial”.

  7. #7 dave s
    2017/03/06

    Those sneaky Nazis! If the Daily Mail has it right, they cunningly popularised the term “blacklisting” by sekritly printing what they wittily called the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. (Special Search List GB) … and, according to history book[s], “After the war was over, this list …. became known in tabloid-speak as the’Black Book’.”

    So, the Daily Mail obliquely refers to unknown tabloids renaming the list as Black Book, and jumps to the conclusion that this was the Nazis popularising the term blacklisting?
    Even though the term apparently goes back to a 17th century list King Charles II had made, and was rather more obviously popularised shortly after WW2 by the Hollywood blacklist?

    Next you’ll be telling me that the DM isn’t a reliable source!

  8. #8 Russell
    Safe ashore
    2017/03/06

    For once Charles II & The Daily Mail are not the culprits of first resort: The Black Book Of Admiralty began as Elanor of Aquitaine’s Rolls of Oléron , circa 1160, and the Black Book itself states that the eponymous High Court was established during the reign of Edward I (1272–1307),

    The Black Book remains of relevance to the Science Wars in that it authorizes any crew run agound by an incompetant pilot ( as they called ye systems programmer in days of olde) to drag him before the mast and strike off his head on the sampson post.

  9. #9 Michael 2
    2017/03/07

    Wikipedia is reasonably reliable on non-controversial topics. Where a topic is controversial, as the author well knows, it becomes a mirror of its most recent editor’s opinion.

    But it is still a pretty good starting place. Better in my opinion than Encyclopedia Britannica, which was very expensive but still its editor’s opinions.

    In the case of controversial topics I suspect it is impossible to obtain fully truthful, unbiased information so the next best thing is to dive into the mire and try to sort it out each for himself.

  10. #10 dave s
    2017/03/07

    Actually, Wikipedia can be very dodgy on uncontroversial topics which get few views. Editors can add rubbish without it being noticed.

    It can be good at thrashing out a reasonable majority view on controversial topics, the danger arises when partisans are numerous and persistent, and take the time to learn how wiki works. Unsurprisingly, politics is particularly bad that way.

    With the Daily Mail, Brexiteers, the Trump and the Bannon at the forefront of truthiness, future coverage may be interesting.

    [Agreed. I think that on the whole wiki does a better job on controversial topics, where views from both sides get melded -W]

  11. #11 Eli Rabett
    https://rabett.blogspot.com
    2017/03/08

    The Weasel falls right out of the Overton Window

    [I should hope so -W]

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    Enemies, all around, they're everywhere, talking in code ....
    2017/03/10