For years, the primary critique of Wikipedia was that it was subject to the whims and obsessions of its users. The robustness of the end product has been the best argument against that concern; a study (a few years ago) found that its articles were are accurate as Britannica’s. (Kids, ask your parents about Britannica.)
Sometimes, though, a rogue idiot can still hold sway over the truth. From PopSci:
In an unpaid but frenzied fit of news consumption, editing, correction, aggregation, and citation, [Ken] Mampel has established himself as by far the most active contributor to the Wikipedia page on Hurricane Sandy, with more than twice the number of edits as the next-most-active contributor at the time this article was written.
And Mampel made sure that the Hurricane Sandy article, for four days after the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey, had no mention of “global warming” or “climate change” whatsoever.
A PopSci reporter talked to Mampel about his views.
Ken Mampel does not believe in climate change. (He referred to himself as a libertarian, by my count, six separate times during one phone call. I never asked about his political leanings.) Without my prompting, Ken mentioned that New York City’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg had endorsed Obama for president based on his handling of the hurricane. This is true, and Mampel planned to add this to the Wikipedia entry. “But I don’t believe that climate change bullcrap,” he said. Bloomberg had specifically mentioned climate change in his endorsement speech, but Mampel wouldn’t add that to the Wikipedia entry. That’s despite dozens of articles pointing out the connection — not a causation, necessarily, but certainly a connection worth exploring. I myself spoke to a hurricane expert about three hours before I spoke to Mampel who told me that the roughly two-degree increase in the water temperature in the Atlantic could have had a major effect on Hurricane Sandy’s strength in the northeast. Mampel doesn’t care. He wasn’t going to mention climate change.
The full PopSci article sheds a lot of light on both climate change denialism and the inner workings of the world’s most robust encyclopedia of information. As with any information outlet, it’s always worth taking Wikipedia with a dose of skepticism — and perhaps a little more intellectual rigor than seems to have been demonstrated by Ken Mampel.
Hat tip: Digg
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