Therapeutic Wikipedia Vandalism

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘nevermindtheend’

The Post’s Dan Steinberg brings us this screenshot of some kicking-them-when-they’re-down-style vandalism to the Redskins’ Wikipedia entry. The comparison of the Redskins’ on-field performance to certain sex acts has been repeatedly wiped out by automatic Wikipedia processes designed to thwart just such types of editing, and the IP address responsible for the edits, belonging to Comcast in Michigan, has been blocked from further edits, but it got me thinking about the cathartic value of slamming somebody on their Wikipedia page. DC is such a target-rich environment, full of high-profile types who have pissed off no small number of tech savvy users.

Without endorsing the sexist and homophobic nature of the slurs posted to the Redskins page, I have to admire the effort the vandal put into it. The most the Washington Nationals’ entry gets is the occasional assertion that they’re not a very good baseball team. Albert Haynesworth at least manages to get a fairly steady stream of vitriol- the editors there are constantly reverting little insults out of his entry.

Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Wikipedia page is edited frequently, most of which are fairly standard updates of statistics, addition of references, etc. But it also gets vadalized by both supporters and detractors. On September 27th, Fenty was “the best effin mayor fuck vince gray,” while on December 11th, he was “a lowe [sic] life bitch fuck him.”

And what of Fenty’s successor, Vince Gray? His Wikipedia entry is relatively sedate- most of the edits are Wikipedians correcting gun-jumping contributors by reminding them that he wasn’t technically mayor-elect until the November election, that he’s still Chairman of the Council and not Mayor of DC, etc.  I can’t believe Ron Moten hasn’t found this page yet.

I expected Council Member Marion Barry’s Wikipedia revision history to be fairly entertaining. And it is, simply because of the straight-faced debate Wikipedia contributors must have around Barry’s more colorful public behavior. (Like whether to characterize one incident as being about “stalking” or about “personal benefit from contract to girlfriend“) Of course, the best stuff is obscured somewhat by the extremely diligent and attentive Wikipedian updating the entry regularly. But in terms of straight-up digital vandalism, my favorite is the one that lists his religion as “crack.” It was quickly changed back to Baptist.

What about you? Ever shared your opinion of a public figure on Wikipedia? How long did it last until the editors took it down?

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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2 thoughts on “Therapeutic Wikipedia Vandalism

  1. Really? Please don’t. You’re not hurting the person the article’s about. You are frustrating the people who tried to write the article, who usually have nothing to do with that person and may not even like them,and you’re frustrating the people who want to look things up. (Imagine if I could edit one of your blog entries on some topic that had frustrated me just because it felt good.) Sure, it can be changed back quickly and easily. Sometimes people miss it and vandalism stays there for a while, so everyone knows that someone wanted to leave some childish insult there, but not everyone knows how to look in the article history to find the real version.

    Write a blog entry, write an editorial, write the object of your frustration a nasty email, but don’t crap on other people’s work.

  2. The difference of course being that not everyone releases their work in a publicly and anonymously editable format. It seems like an odd medium for someone motivated by the integrity of their specific contribution.

    And people crap on my work all the time. It’s called “comments.” And yet I keep at it, because such things are insufficient to sap my motivation.