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.
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!
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.