@LukeHellier’s Lie of Omission Regarding Wikipedia Vandalism

Back on June 22nd, Luke Hellier hyperventilated about a series of edits made to the Wikipedia page of Jim Meffert. As Luke tells the story, an intern from the Meffert campaign was caught editing out unflattering pieces of information from Meffert’s page. However, a closer investigation shows that Luke Hellier severely mislead his readers with that post, which I suppose is par for the course. I left the following comment on his site at the time:

Luke Hellier's Lie of Omission

Three days later, Luke ignored the free advice and stuck with his lies.

Below is an explanation of how Luke mislead his readers. If you’re interested in how Wikipedia pages are updated, and how you too can find out who and when pages are updated, this may interest you.

Luke’s Misleading Post

Here is Luke Hellier’s misleading post. In that post, Hellier gives examples of text that could be found on Jim Meffert’s Wikipedia page earlier in the day . . . but was now gone! He also links to the edit history for Meffert’s Wikipedia page. Every page of Wikipedia includes an edit history sub-page where you can look up what edits have been made, when they were made, and by whom (kind of).

A glance at the edit history of Meffert’s Wikipedia page do indeed show that someone going by the name wildgopher47 made a handful of edits to this page:

Edits to Jim Meffert's Wikipedia Page

So, Luke was right.

Or was he?

What Luke failed to mention to his readers was that Jim Meffert’s Wikipedia page had been vandalized 3.5 hours earlier by someone using the name Prairieson. Luke could see that if he scrolled down even one more line on the edit history page:

Edits to Jim Meffert's Wikipedia Page

A person living in the reality based community who reviewed ALL of the data, rather than cherry picking like Luke did, could easily conclude that wildgopher47’s Wikipedia edits on the 22nd were aimed at removing Prairieson’s vandalism.

Additionally, Luke made no mention of the fact that wildgopher47 has made many other edits to Meffert’s Wikipedia page, starting on the 16th:

Edits to Jim Meffert's Wikipedia Page

We know that Luke knows this (I’m assuming that if Luke’s stupid, it’s stupidity through ideology rather than a lack of intelligence.), since he linked to Meffert’s Wikipedia page from within his post on MDE. Based on that, I can only assume that Luke chose to run with a lie of omission. It also seems clear that Luke didn’t have a problem with the content wildgopher47 was publishing to Jim Meffert’s page. He only freaked out when wildgopher47 had the gall to remove the right-wing vandalism of Meffert’s page. Prairieson didn’t seem to have much of an issue with Meffert’s pre-vandalized content either, since the majority of the vandalism revolved around plugging the Paulsen campaign rather than correcting/enhancing any of the content that already existed.

Editing Wikipedia Can Lead to Problems

Editing the Wikipedia pages of politicians you’re working for or with is bound to blow up in your face. Even if you’re creating completely objective content from a neutral point of view, you opponents will use the fact that you published it to attack you. Fortunately, most people, unlike Luke Hellier, have the decency to only do this when it’s warranted.

In the wildgopher47 / Meffert case, it looks like wildgopher47’s edits were designed to flesh out and update the content on Meffert’s page. She added a photo of Meffert and additional information about his professional and political background. At first, it did read a bit too much like it came from the campaign’s website, but it was toned down over time. This problem is not unique to the Meffert campaign. In fact, the exact same problem happened in 2008 to Paulsen’s site on Wikipedia.1.

The Vandalism

If you click on the image below (or here to see the originals on Wikipedia), you can see the edits made by Prairieson to Meffert’s page. These are the changes that wildgopher47 reverted 3.5 hours after they went live:

Vandalism of Jim Meffert's Wikipedia Page

The attempt to turn Meffert’s Wikipedia page into a campaign ad for Meffert’s GOP opponent didn’t go unnoticed, was reversed, end of story. That is, unless you’re Luke Hellier and are shocked to see that not everyone has a MN GOP perspective on the world.

Who is Prairieson?

Prairieson is the wikipedia username used by the person who vandalized Jim Meffert’s page. Looking through Prairison’s contribution history on wikipedia, we see that the only edits this user has ever made were done over 14 minutes on June 22nd:

Prairieson Contribution History

I don’t know who Prairieson is, but here’s something that I find interesting. If I search Google for mentions of Jim Meffert and cash on hand (a term used by Prairieson within his edits), I see three types of sites using it:

1. Left wing blogs
2. News sites like MPR and
3. Minnesota Democrats Exposed

I’m just sayin’ that left-wing blogs and mainstream media sites aren’t in the business of defacing Wikipedia pages of DFL candidates.

Was Luke Hellier the Wikipedia Vandal?

While I can’t prove it, a commenter at Minnesota Democrats Exposed going by the name Bob Smith is willing to point at Luke as the vandal:

Bob Smith's Calling out of Luke Hellier over Wikipedia Edits

Bob did indeed have a previous comment posted on MDE that said something similar, but was actually a bit toned down compared to his second effort. It makes for an interesting scenario. Luke may have vandalized a political opponent’s Wikipedia page, waited for someone from the Meffert campaign to clean up the vandalism, then publish an extraordinarily misleading story that SOUNDS like a case of getting caught being self-promotional on Wikipedia when the reality (as Luke knows, but chose to ignore) is something entirely different.

It’s not clear why Luke decided to delete Bob Smith’s accusation of Luke being the vandal rather than just leaving a comment that it’s not him (assuming it’s not him).

It’s a shame to see Luke Hellier continue to mislead his readers with crap like this. There is certainly a role to be played by political junkies in support of their preferred candidates, but to make up stuff about your opponent’s interns should be an embarrassment for the MN GOP. At least I hope it is. I think it would be for most Republicans in the state of Minnesota.

I’ve mentioned before that Luke Hellier should fire himself from his role running the Minnesota Democrats Exposed blog. I’m sticking by that. Behavior like this hurts his credibility and that of the MN GOP. Surely, there is someone in the State of Minnesota who could do a better job of framing the news of the day into GOP talking points than Luke?

Luke, making an apology to Meffert’s intern would be nice. Apologizing to your readers for misleading them would be a decent thing to do as well. I won’t hold my breath.

1. Here’s an example of the reaction Wikipedia editors had to the MN GOP turning Erik Paulsen’s Wikipedia page into a campaign commercial in 2008:

This page appears to be subject to systematic content cleansing in order to position Rep. Paulsen favorably for re-election. I call upon partisans favorable to him to resist the urge to delete contributions simply because they contain facts that might not appear in a campaign brochure. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Truthteller52 (talk • contribs) 15:20, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Here is another example:

MNGOP, You can’t just copy and paste his campaign bio into wikipedia. It’s not only copyright infringement, but it also violates the spirit (and presumably the rules) behind wikipedia.

This is a source for unbiased and well-sourced information on candidates. Where they were born, where they went to school, their families, their life experience: all of that is appropriate. What is not appropriate is to use that information to paint a picture. Any picture. Nobody here cares what “the driving force in Paulsen’s distinguished career” is. They just want to know the offices that career has consisted of, how he got into those offices and what he’s done in those offices.

I’m too lazy to take the relevant _FACTUAL_ information from a campaign bio and rearrange it into a Wikipedia appropriate fashion, but if whoever posted the campaign bio (assuming their not a campaign staffer for Paulsen or the GOP, which it appears you are) wants to do that, go ahead. We’d all appreciate it.

I don’t have the time either, but this is perhaps the worst POV violation I’ve seen in my years at Wikipedia. FIX IT or I’ll report it, and then you’ll get lots of other people editing the POV out of it. Moncrief (talk) 17:58, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

How about a little consistency, MN GOP?

8 thoughts on “@LukeHellier’s Lie of Omission Regarding Wikipedia Vandalism”

  1. Great work…..I especially like the no-follow on the article to Luke’s page. Priceless

  2. There is nothing conservative about lying about others. That is a distinct feature of Dixie style populist politics. This is simply more proof that the ignorance-loving culture of Dixie has taken over the Republican party, turning a once conservative party into the party of shilling for big business, racism, and ignorance.

    I’m sure Hellier sees nothing wrong in stripping facts of their context and then misleading people into a conclusion 180° removed from the truth. That’s the politics of Dixie where you can lose an election after being accused of being a practicing heterosexual.

  3. Btw, whatever you think of Wikipedia, last night I googled Lazar Hayward minutes after he was drafted and his Wikipedia page had already been updated to show him as a professional basketball player employed by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Wikipedia is the greatest thing online next to Google. It’s no wonder the right hates it so.

  4. Dang this pales compared to the minor uproar caused by my inclusion of the mustache on Carl Pavano’s page.

  5. @Mark, Wikipedia continually impresses me with the breadth, depth, citations, and transparency the service offers. I think you’re right, that it must be a pain for people who’re offended by reality.

    @Luke, the nofollow tag makes sense to me at times like this. Provide value to my readers by linking to the original source, while explaining to search engines that it should not be considered an endorsement of the site I’ve linked to. Considering how often MDE gets hacked, I’d hate to be considered a linker to a pharmaceutical spam site – or the other poor quality content they publish.

  6. I’m curious about the timing of the posts.
    “Prairieson” made the changes from 13:33 to 13:47 on June 22. “wildgopher47” edited these changes from 17:13 to 17:29 on June 22. (I think that would be 5:13 pm to 5:29 pm, but I don’t know the time zone Wikipedia is in.)
    Luke Hellier posted his story at 4:12 pm June 22. How did Luke know when the changes were being made so quickly? Was he watching the page for hours just to catch the changes being made?

  7. C.L.,

    The server time is based upon Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which itself is very closely matched to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) [or, more technically, UT1 – the solar time at the British royal observatory in Greenwich].

    That means that it is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) [or 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) for the summer when Daylight Savings Time is used].

    You can adjust appropriately for Minnesota’s presence in the Central time zone, or whichever time zone you happen to inhabit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *