Will Sarah Palin Denounce Joseph Farah and the Birthers?

Earlier this week, I wrote about my refusal to link to Wikipedia because it uses “verifiability, not truth” as a standard for assessing the value of information.  But as untrustworthy as I find Wikipedia, it’s infinitely more credible than supposed news site WorldNetDaily, the unofficial online headquarters of the birther movement.

Masquerading as a news organization, WND peddles conspiracy theory as fact.  The company has sponsored Where’s the Birth Certificate? billboards and published hundreds of articles questioning Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president.

WND founder and editor-in-chief Joseph Farah is essentially a cult leader, encouraging his followers in their crazy-eyed obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate and furnishing them with whatever tinder he can manufacture to fuel the birther fire.  Farah’s nagging demands for Obama to produce his “long-form” birth certificate have destroyed any credibility he may have once had.

Friday night, Farah serenaded his cult of birthers during a dinnertime speech at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville.

Farah started fine — heaping praise on the constitution, and urging America’s leaders to be faithful to it. He ended well, too, with a stirring exhortation to “take the offence in this struggle.”

But these flourishes were merely the bread in a lunacy sandwich — the filling of which were 10 solid minutes implicitly questioning whether Barack Obama is an American citizen. In 2012, he declared, every single election lawn sign should say: Show me the birth certificate.

Seen in the best possible light (and I’m being very generous), birthers are a group of people who simply cannot reconcile Barack Obama’s American citizenship with policies and beliefs they perceive as fundamentally un-American.  The cognitive dissonance is too much to bear, causing them to become unhinged eligibility truthers.

Or they’re guano crazy. Take your pick.

Either way, the culture of conspiracy promoted by the birthers should be unequivocally rejected by every mainstream conservative.  And right now, the best woman for the job is Sarah Palin.

Palin is delivering the keynote address at the Tea Party Convention Saturday night.   This is a perfect opportunity to put principle before politics. With just a few carefully chosen words, she can distance herself and the tea party movement from Joseph Farah’s distracting cult of birtherism, once and for all.

A chance like this won’t come again. Will she take it?

Why I Don’t Link To Wikipedia

Do you trust Wikipedia enough to link to it as a reliable, authoritative source of information?  Jimmie Bise at Sundries Shack got me thinking about this yesterday when he linked to a criticism of the leftist bias found throughout Wikipedia.

When I launched this blog in 2008, I mentioned Wikipedia on my About page:

If you use a link to Wikipedia to “prove” something, there’s a strong possibility you will not be taken seriously.  By anyone.

That was wishful thinking on my part. Plenty of people will still take you seriously because they take Wikipedia seriously. But should they?

There are two main reasons I don’t link to Wikipedia:

Verifiability, not truth

According to Wikipedia policy (my first and last link to Wikipedia!), “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.” Objectivity be damned! If a piece of information has appeared somewhere at some time, that’s good enough for Wikipedia.

Granted, Wikipedia policy suggests citing reputable sources, but a quick search tonight turned up numerous entries that referenced conspiracy Web sites like Infowars and Prison Planet.  Apparently “reputable” is in the eye of the beholder.


Wikipedia is a punchline. Literally:

I’ve said it before: Who is [Encyclopaedia] Britannica to tell me George Washington had slaves? If I want to say George Washington didn’t have slaves, that’s my right. And now, thanks to Wikipedia, it’s also a fact.”

That was Stephen Colbert speaking truthiness to power.  Here’s a screen capture of some truthiness I found on the Wikipedia entry for “Islamic Sexual Jurisprudence.”

Islamic sexual jurisprudence entry on Wikipedia

“There are no slaves nowadays in any islamic country.” No bias there, huh? Since when is it even controversial to suggest there’s a problem with slavery in Darfur?  It seems that the requirement for “verifiability” can be fulfilled with a quick “citation needed” note when inconvenient facts diverge from opinion or propaganda.

That’s not to say that Wikipedia isn’t useful. If you’re a careful reader with a firm grasp of how to evaluate information, Wikipedia is a great point of departure for Internet research.

But ultimately, it comes down to an epistemological question: how do we know what we know?  With Wikipedia, in some cases we know what we know simply because some other guy said he knows what he knows.

Is that good enough for you?

← Previous Page