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How Wikipedia screws up an article – the Hannah Anderson Kidnapping

By Cornpone T. McGillicutty

.

Well, folks, it’s time again to see how the sober, competent, and respected editors of the world’s free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, are handling their job—compiling and curating the “sum of human knowledge,” as Mr. Jimmy Wales once put it. As an aside, Jimmy is actually his first name, says so right there on his user page, so it ain’t disrespectful to be calling him that. Jimmy’s just folks.

Back ’round last August I was turning the pages of a newspaper, and read about some terrible goings-on out in California. The LA Times article was well-written enough, but I had a whole bunch of unanswered questions, so I fired up my computer, and visited Wikipedia. It’s durn near my favorite website, it just has so much stuff happening all the time.

Now, Wikipedia has its rules, and its little ways, and its customs. There’s a policy that Wikipedia is not news, but a pillar of Wikipedian belief is that rules should not get in your way if you all are improving the encyclopedia.

Boy howdy, folks were just improving the snot out of our encyclopedia at the Wikipedia article on the Hannah Anderson kidnapping. Just check out that there talk page.

Deep philosophical questions were being addressed, I tell you. The most important one was this conundrum: Are dogs people?

 

That was persistently and passionately argued and campaigned, for and against, fore and aft, on the talk page for this Wikipedia article covering this horrible tragedy in California. You see, folks, in an ‘infobox’ (a box to the right inside the main Wikipedia article, containing what are supposed to be the salient facts about the event), I saw next to the word “Deaths” this declaration: “3 people (including the perpetrator), 1 dog”—a rather head-scratching result, considering one of the fatalities seemed to be canine. The talk page confirms that there were at least two separate wrangles and slap-fights over how to properly eulogize the dog, named ‘Cali,’ who was killed in the murders. Not, in my humble opinion, a respectful way to be editing an article about a double homicide and kidnapping. Well… actually, my friends, according to the article at the time, er, an alleged kidnapping. I admit I took off my glasses, cleaned them, and looked again. It mattered not that the case was closed, and that the only suspect had been shot by the police. The article had these here words of doubt in them:”… 16-year-old Hannah Anderson (born July 22, 1997) was allegedly abducted by 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio.”
“… a week after she was allegedly abducted.” Now, according to often-violated site policy, Wikipedia is not supposed to be a newspaper. But when attention-grabbing news occurs, you will find, often within minutes, a slanted, incorrect, hastily slapped-together Wikipedia article, just like the one we’re discussing, with crazy reasoning calmly included in the article. It’s sorta like folding a handful of nut pieces into your Grandma’s cookie dough, if her cookie dough were made up of someone else’s lives.
Hannah Anderson Kidnapping Infobox from Wikipedia article, August 30, 2013

But I have digressed from the most important news reported in the article at that time, judging by the care and effort spent on it:

The animals involved in the tragedy, however peripherally.

There is some moonshine crazy enshrined in this example of article creation.

Look at the talk page!

the cat

lot of questions, who owned it, why was it with them, who has it now. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.130.168.139 (talk) 01:45, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

Indeed, these questions remain. I saw one report that stated the cat, which was grey in colour, belonged to DiMaggio. The asasinated dog’s ownership was not stated. !!!! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.36.137.217 (talk) 06:47, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

The cat is fine. According to this news story the FBI found it and gave it Hannah Anderson that same day. I don’t know anything about the dog, though. In any case, I don’t know that this information needs to be added to the article. It might have some merit as something to flesh out the reasons why the two riders thought things were peculiar, but it’s not entirely necessary. Tokyogirl79 (。◕‿◕。) 08:30, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

Ah… found it. The dog belonged to the Anderson family, according to this article. Tokyogirl79 (。◕‿◕。) 08:32, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

Does anyone know its name and/or gender yet? The dog, I mean. But also the cat. InedibleHulk (talk) 04:22, August 15, 2013 (UTC)

I decided to search to check just on a lark and supposedly the cat’s name is Princess. ([1]) It looks like it was one of many cats he had. In any case, I did see this Daily Mail article saying that the house was rigged with explosives, which is why she didn’t see the fire. Of course this is the Daily Mail, so anything they post is extremely suspect. ([2]) Tokyogirl79 (。◕‿◕。) 04:55, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

“Princess”…meh. I figured it was Hannah’s cat, by the way your other link said she was “returned” to her. Kind of cool to hear about a murderer saving a life. I wish every writer would stop saying “a number of” to describe things. It kind of sounds like “many”, but could mean three. Maybe three thousand. I’ll guess eight. The Daily Mail is a fine photo site. Other than that, yeah, “suspect” is a fair word. I don’t think they try to be wrong. InedibleHulk (talk) 05:14, August 15, 2013 (UTC)

No mention of the little boy that was murdered. No discussion about the mom and her life.

But the cat! The cat is fine. Goldarn.

Are these people really the ones who should be creating this article? Should this article even have been created in the cusp of this horror?

.

This article talk page has a few Wikipedia editor-types we’ve grown to know and loathe.

  • The rebels with a cause: IP editors and editor Slipdrive44 (“allegedly abducted”)
  • Article Owner: InedibleHulk (skillfully persisting until the article is compromised their way)
  • Original Research Director: InedibleHulk (‘dog as a homicide victim’) Hulk smash policy!

Inedible Hulk gets an Emmy in a dual role here.

Folks, this article is a jolly romp over the well-gnawed bones of often-ignored and flouted policy:

  • WP:OR – No original research or synthesis of facts.
  • WP:OWN – No matter how much time or effort you put into a Wikipedia article, it’s not yours. You can’t tell people what can or cannot be in the article.
  • WP:BLP – take care in discussing living people, don’t insert poorly sourced negative material into the article, or even into its talk page.

Let me throw out one more line in the talk page, from the RfC (Request for Comments) section, where they finally decided to remove Cali the dog from the article infobox:

“Please note also that an editor has created two redirects to this article, Murder of Cali Anderson and Murder of Cali the Dog.”

I originally pondered posting this feckless abomination at the time I first tripped over its shambling, misshapen, and chaotic bulk, but decided to do so would be capitalizing on a recent tragedy.

That’s not a decent thing to do, I reckon. Wikipedia however does it all the time.

It’s a shame, folks.

 

Image credits: Flickr/istolethetv, Wikimedia, Flickr/istolethetv ~ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.

6 comments to How Wikipedia screws up an article – the Hannah Anderson Kidnapping

  • metasonix

    And “InedibleHulk” was a major contributor to the Luka Magnotta WP article, after it was recreated in 2012. He and (especially) another editor who is fond of violent subjects, “Skullers”, basically did Magnotta’s bidding and created a massive article about the serial killer. InedibleHulk is otherwise very, very fond of “ultimate fighting”.

    Is this the kind of person one wants writing reference works, with no supervision?

    • InedibleHulk

      No, without the supervision, it just feels like thankless work.

      I seriously can’t tell you guys how honoured I am to accept this Emmy, but like I said on the Talk Page, couldn’t have done it without the dogs.

      And cats. Geese, hamsters, trout, hyenas and storks. All great people. The more who wake up to realize this (or at least sarcastically ponder it), the merrier.

      Only very fond of “ultimate fighting”. I don’t like to see Pitbull Arlovski lose. Or Pitbull Alves. Or Pitbull Correia or the Pitbull brothers, Patricky and Patricio. Hell of a dog in that picture, by the way, appreciate it.

      Stay on drugs, kids!

  • Ross McPherson

    Are dogs people? Good question. Here is a better one: are people dogs? Wikipedia offers some evidence of it, especially if we consider articles as bones. Original research? Ownership? Of course. You can’t chew a bone without claiming ownership or making some unique changes to it. Granted that packs of dogs have proprietorial instincts then every article at Wikipedia is owned, so beware! There is a lot of fun in being a dog. I used to be one myself. An anonymous account is the collar you wear and basic social interactions are the only behaviours you can exhibit. It was only when the pack turned on me that I discovered I was human after all.

    Wikipedia? Glad to be outa there!

  • Jest wanted to stop by and thank y’all for giving this old man an upturned peach basket to stand on for a while and speak.
    I consider it a privilege, and encourage other readers of this fine web site to step forward with an article.

  • Jim

    Yeah,
    They have this site, Wikinews, which is where “news” is supposed to go – but of course, nobody looks at that, so nobody writes there.
    Wikipedia’s where it’s at for the cool kiddies – where the gossip you copy and paste from ‘The Daily Truth’ and ‘The Enquiring Eye’ go live to millions instantly.
    So the ‘author’ gets his gratification – ‘hey, I iz a published author, look mom !1!!’, and any harm to the subject of the gossip is done.
    This kind of story appears every day, and damage is done every day.

    What can we do? Well this. for one – keep shining the light on the broken behemoth. Thanks for doing that.

  • Ah course there were bigger messes. Check out the Murder of Meredith Kercher talk page archives…

    Or poor Natalee Holloway…

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