Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Conservapedia: Bringing New Meaning to "Trustworthy"

The other day, I took a little time to browse Conservapedia. In case you aren't aware, this site, founded by Phylis Schlafly's son, regards itself as the conservative right's "answer" to Wikipedia and touts itself as a "Trustworthy Encyclopedia." Wikipedia, meanwhile, regards Conservapedia as "an English-language wiki-based web encyclopedia project written from a young Earth creationist, Americentric, right-wing and Conservative Christian point of view." In my opinion, Conservapedia reads like one of those paranoid conspiracy-theory chain emails that circulate among people my parents' age.

So while I have visited this "source" numerous times before, my hopes for reading reality-based news are never all that high when I visit. Most recently, I decided to check out what these folks were reporting on President Obama's page. Alas, I quickly remembered that "Trustworthy" has a whole different meaning in the Conservapedia universe.

Obama's entry starts off fair enough by reciting his full name (of course) but the entry takes a shady turn when it recites Obama's birthplace:

"Barack Hussein Obama II (allegedly born in Honolulu, August 4, 1961)"

If you follow the cited references in the Obama entry, you will learn that the "allegedly" refers to the ongoing campaign by WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi to cast doubts on Obama's citizenship and birthplace. In the reality-based world, many of the claims that Corsi has written about Obama, including the ones about his "alleged" birthplace, have been found by a nonpartisan fact-checking organization to be "a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods." Further, many lawsuits have been filed by citizens seeking to challenge, on the basis of Obama's "alleged" birthplace, Obama's qualification for the presidency. These lawsuits, however, have been thrown out.

Much of the remaining article's purpose is to suggest that, among other evil things to be, Obama is part of a Secret Muslim Cabal Plotting To Take Over America. In addition to an entire "Obama will likely be the first Muslim President" section, Obama's entry also claims "Obama used his Muslim middle name when sworn in as President, and chose not to use the Bible for his real, private oath."

At this point, I could take the time to rebut each of these claims and show how this Conservapedia entry has failed to rely on credible sources and, worse, has misrepresented credible sources when it actually used them, but other people have already done a superb job of rebutting these claims. So instead of re-inventing the wheel, I want to focus on the more important question: So what if Obama were a Muslim? American Muslims are capable of loving and serving this country too. And secondly, now that the smear campaign season is over and Obama is in office, any further baseless smears on the man are pointless and unpatriotic.

That Conservapedia promotes dishonesty is ironic since the site touts itself as "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" and "a clean and concise resource for those seeking the truth" that is free from "liberal bias." Yet, what we have to remember is that just because a news source is free of a "liberal bias" it does not mean that the source is objective. Faux objectivity is something I've talked about before. We all have a viewpoint, we just like to think that ours is the Real Authentic and Objective One. That's why those who claim to have super special insight into true objectivity are usually doing nothing more than unknowingly distorting truth via their own different partisan lens. Distorting truths in the opposite direction of your adversaries, my friends, is not "trustworthy."

Unless, of course, trustworthy now means "the opposite of liberal."

To end on an upbeat note, check out rationalwiki's response to Conservapedia's Obama page.

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