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Facts are lazy and facts are late
Steve Miller at IGF posts about a conservative answer to Wikipedia called (natch) Conservapedia, started by one of Phyllis Schlafly's sons. The entries on topics such as evolution and homosexuality have some critics up in arms, and Andy Schlafly's own comments give reason for concern. The following paragraph almost gave me a heart attack:

"We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them," Schlafly writes in his mission statement. "Beyond that we welcome the facts."


I liked this gem, too:

But consider the entry on Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (b. 1947). She "may suffer from a psychological condition that would raise questions about her fitness for office" — namely, "clinical narcissism," Conservapedia asserts. Evidence of her instability includes her "ever-changing opinion of the Iraq war." Though Schlafly demands that entries be rigorously footnoted, these sentences are not.

Schlafly calls the armchair psychology "borderline in acceptability" for his site, but he defends the Clinton article on balance as "an objective, bias-free piece from a conservative perspective."


Beyond that we welcome the facts? Good grief. My understanding, both from my own super-conservative Christian upbringing and from commentators, was always that the faithful regarded some beliefs as not susceptible to empirical testing by science--not that certain principles were to be declared off limits to inquiry, with observable reality a secondary consideration. Yes, I'm talking about just one sentence, but Schlafly is a grown-up from a very media-savvy family. I have no doubt that he knows how to choose his words.

As far as the entry on Clinton goes, it certainly sounds more fun to read than what you're likely to see on Wikipedia, but I thought conservatives were against the practice of repairing to "psychological conditions" as an explanation for venal behavior? Is it proposed that we start accusing all waffling politicians of being mentally unstable?

Whatever. No proprietors of websites are obligated to champion the disinterested pursuit of truth, though a little more self-awareness might be seemly for those who don't. Predictably, there are some gays who are up in arms over Conservapedia's entries about sexuality, and their solution is to infiltrate the place:

In recent months, Conservapedia's articles have been hit frequently by interlopers from RationalWiki and elsewhere. The vandals have inserted errors, pornographic photos and satire... The vandalism aims "to cause people to say, 'That Conservapedia is just wacko,'" said Brian Macdonald, 45, a Navy veteran in Murfreesboro, Tenn., who puts in several hours a day on the site fending off malicious editing.


Miller's take is the right one:

The cost of living in a free society is to suffer being offended—without trying to silence those you find offensive (another example: campus "progressives" who steal conservative student newspapers from their distribution sites and destroy them). Conservatives have a right to their media; and the answer to arguments we find appalling is to criticize them. After all, it's not as if gay-supportive information isn't also easily available online.


One thing he doesn't mention is how stupid the RationalWiki people are being in tactical terms. I happen to think the jabber about a "war on Christianity" is overheated and, in many cases, disingenuous. Nevertheless, a lot of well-meaning, ordinary Americans have a sense that anyone who agitates for "gay rights" is trying to impinge on their ability to practice their religion and rear their children as they see fit. Gay advocacy has a few decades of ACT-UP-style demonstrations and public shenanigans at pride parades to counteract, and new rounds of guerrila warfare are hardly helpful.

Added on 24 June: Thanks to Andrea Harris for the link. She appears to believe it's wrong for men to think conservative commentators get a bad rap because the women among them are so shrewish. Fortunately, Andrea, is that Conservapedia is here to set you straight!

Femininity builds a woman's esteem by enhancing her own interpersonal relationships rather than building confidence through the task-orientation of masculinity. Traditionally feminine traits include being emotional, demure, affectionate, sympathetic, sensitive, soft-spoken, warm, tender, childlike, gentle, pretty, willowy, submissive, understanding and compassionate.


Clearly, Ann Coulter's problem is she's not willowy enough.
Posted by Sean on 2007-06-22 13:51:30
Fenneke (mail):
I noticed that they changed it now, but one of conservapedia's editing guide lines used to be "everything you post must be true and verifyable". pretty ironic as most of conservapedia's articles are written from a point of view based on a religious belief that is impossible to verify...

a related wiki, creationwiki.org, has this to say in their seemingly neutral article on homosexuality:

"The following have been proposed as causes of homosexuality:
(...)
* Socialization: the view that early childhood experiences predispose people to homosexuality. Very few would deny this is at least a contributor. The Bible states, "Raise a child in the ways of the Lord and he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV). In short, creationists recognize that parents play an important role in influencing their children's choices. However, despite the effect of parents on their children, children are still responsible for their own actions. The fact that a child is socialized to be homosexual (...)"

which completely ignores (or accuses a lot of christians of very bad parenting) all the homosexuals raised in conservative christian families. and they defenitely exist; you're one, and I married one...
6.22.2007 9:24pm
Sean Kinsell (mail) (www):
I know, Fenneke. There are certainly atheists who do the same thing, and it's just as annoying then. But either you believe in the disinterested pursuit of truth and accept the results, or you're not and you want to cook them to prop up what you'd prefer to believe. No fair picking and choosing.
6.23.2007 1:08pm
Andrea Harris (mail) (www):
"She appears to believe it's wrong for men to think conservative commentators get a bad rap because the women among them are so shrewish."

I think you misunderstood me. I was being somewhat (though not entirely) facetious when I slammed Dennis the Peasant, Steve H, et al for blaming the unpopularity of conservative pundits on the unattractive qualities of those conservatives who happen to be female. I am actually pretty sure that male conservative pundits come in for an equal amount if not the lion's share of dislike. For instance, many of them had a reputation, whether deserved or not, for being obnoxious and have had so for longer than Ann Coulter has been around. I think the real reason conservatives piss most people, even other "conservatives," off, is because at the end of the day they are the ones perceived as saying "don't do that." That is not the way to be popular in the world today. Americans and people in general prefer to be told that they are a-okay people and should be allowed to do anything they want.
6.28.2007 11:08am
Sean Kinsell (mail) (www):
Oh, I did get that you were basically joking--my response was supposed to be mostly jokey right back. (I hope you didn't think I was seriously taking you to task for undervaluing femininity!)

What you say seriously about conservatives is very interesting. I'm inclined to agree that a censorious William Bennett-ish image clings to them. But in real terms, it's not as if many leftists and liberals weren't scolds in their own way: "Stop being racist!" "Stop buying SUVs!" "Stop wrecking the environment!" "Stop eating too much and exercising too little!"
6.28.2007 12:49pm

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