Interlude: A little Wikipedia tomfoolery [Updated]
Betty’s been covering the BIG Breitbart left-behinders’ desperate and hilarious attempts to recover from being scooped by BuzzFeed with the BIG revelation that President Obama spoke at a demonstration to introduce Professor Derrick Bell back in 1990.
As some commenters both here and on Balloon Juice have noted, since similar footage has appeared in documentaries in recent times, the only “scoop” is the spectacularly blatantly race-baiting spin Joel B. Pollak (“THE VETTING: OBAMA EMBRACES RACIALIST HARVARD PROF”) and Dana Loesch (“Andrea Mitchell Runs Defense for Obama, Derrick Bell”) are trying to feed their readers before Pollak’s appearance on the Hannity show this evening. The righty blogs are in medium cry about it right now (though I detect a hint of “OK, we’re on board. BOMBSHELL!!! Er, but is that all you’ve got?”, reading between the lines).
The whole thing’s as half-assed as you’d expect from this bunch of puffed-up amateur demagogues. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith’s Twitter feed tells some of the story about the day’s developments if you’re interested. He deeply resented the BIG allegation that the video had been “selectively edited,” and since then, as Rumproaster Nellcote let us know on Betty’s last thread, PBS’s Frontline has issued the full video to prove there was no such editing:
Today, the website BuzzFeed published a clip of the speech along with an article explaining some past and current context for Obama’s remarks. The website claimed the clip was “not previously available online.” The editors at Brietbart.com responded that the video on Buzzfeed had been “selectively edited” and said that they would release the full footage tonight on Fox News.
But there’s nothing new about the clip or Obama’s role in the controversy at Harvard Law School. In 2008, as a part of our quadrennial election special The Choice 2008, FRONTLINE ran the same footage of the speech as a part of an exploration of Obama’s time at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1991. It’s been online at our site and on YouTube since then.
As WaPo’s Erik Wemple observes: Breitbart.com hates getting scooped.
Meanwhile, geek that I am, I’ve been checking out the Wikipedia article for Derrick Bell. We’ve caught conservatives desperately and clumsily trying to edit Wikipedia and even Conservapedia to suit their own purposes in the past. I don’t think this episode is quite as comical, but I’ll catalogue it after the fold just to add to the day’s daftness.
On March 7, Wikipedia user Mjbnomad added this passage to Derrick Bell’s Wikipedia entry:
Professor Derrick Bell personally knew Barack Obama while the future president was studying at Harvard. Mr. Obama personally spoke out in defense of Bell during a strike at Harvard in 1991. A speech of Obama defending professor Bell was released on March 7 2012. The speech was uncovered by researchers working with the late [[Andrew Breitbart]], a conservative activist.
[http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/07/Buzzfeeds%20Selectively%20Edited Buzzfeed’s selectively edited Obama race video]
When a Wikipedia editor removed it, he tried again (insertion in bold):
Students held vigils and protests in solidarity with Bell with the support of some faculty. One of these students was U.S. president Barack Obama, who led a protest at Harvard Law School on behalf of Bell.
The article’s Talk page shows this comment:
Tape of Obama Speaking
Why does it matter who uncovered the tape? Was it deliberately hidden or something? What I’m saying is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason to plaster Breitbart’s name onto this.
A Wikipedia editor then finally amended the article as it stands at the moment (“edit for accuracy, change to more neutral source”):
Students held vigils and protests in solidarity with Bell with the support of some faculty. One of these students was future U.S. president [[Barack Obama]], who spoke at a protest at Harvard Law School on behalf of Bell.
[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/07/obama-harvard-video-derrick-bell-protest_n_1327320.html?ref=politics “Obama Harvard Video Released, Shows Young Obama At 1991 Protest For Derrick Bell, Diversity”, [[The Huffington Post]], retrieved Mar. 7, 2012.]
This message then appeared on March 8 on the Talk page:
Please lock to prevent imminent vandalism
The GOP is currently conducting a smear campaign against Professor Bell. I know because I am a deep undercover double agent at a famous Republican’s campaign. This page will be vandalized.
I have to take the “deep undercover double agent” stuff with a sizeable pinch of salt, but you can be sure the editors’ll be keeping a close eye on any more tinkering with that Wikipedia page for the time being.
Of course, if I was writing for a BIG site, I’d be running round with my hair on fire shrieking that this was evidence of a CONSPIRACY!!!! As it is, I’ll just say heh. Move over The Onion, there’s a new comedy site on the Web.
UPDATE: At time of writing, there’s a bit of a revision war at Bell’s Wikipedia page. You can see the revisions in progress here (not too easy to follow unless you’re familiar with Wikipedia). I can’t spend the time describing it all, and you probably wouldn’t have the time or patience to read about it, but the revisions being reverted include such choice additions as:
Racist instructor of hate.
See the videos at Breitbart.com. It is an absolute disgrace that he was given a podium to teach.
Bell is also the author of a number of books and short stories, including “Ethical Ambition” and “The Space Traders,” a fictional story in which white Americans sell black Americans to [[space aliens]] in order to pay off the national debt, and [[jews]] are ok with it. Bell also wrote the book, ‘‘The Faces at the Bottom of the Well’‘, which allegorically tells the story of people who are disenfranchised.
Stay classy, wingnuts.
I’d guess it’s only a matter of time till the entry’s locked for now.