Everyone knows that Wikipedia is unreliable, though it’s not clear where the evidence for that knowledge comes from – maybe it’s on the internet somewhere – and a study in Nature a few years ago found that a random selection of science articles on Wikipedia sent out for peer review were nearly as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But maybe that simply means that the Britannica isn’t as reliable as we used to think. So where to turn? Where else but Conservapedia, ‘the trustworthy encyclopedia’, started in 2006 by Andy Schlafly – according to Wikipedia, he’s a ‘lawyer, conservative political activist’ and ‘teacher of homeschooling classes’ – as a corrective to the ‘liberal bias’ of Wikipedia. Its list of ‘popular articles’ on the homepage include:
Greatest Conservative Songs (top of the list, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ by the Beach Boys, because it’s ‘pro-marriage’)
Jesus Christ (‘the person who changed the world forever with teachings of love and faith, using logical parables like the Prodigal Son that flow from the existence of God’)
The Tea Party Movement (‘an ongoing, nationwide mainstream movement of grassroots protesters, encompassing millions of individuals and thousands of self-organizing groups, all united in accomplishing a single goal: returning fiscal responsibility and limited government to the United States through the exercise of political activism’)
Barack Obama (‘President Obama is the first person having ties to a known former terrorist to gain control over America’s nuclear weapons’)
Homeschooling (‘Homeschooled students make up many of the top college and graduate students in mathematics today’)
Homosexuality (‘Given the many diseases associated with homosexuality, the biblical prohibition against homosexuality is arguably one of the many examples where the Bible exhibited knowledge that was ahead of its time’)
Abortion (‘Abortion always ends the life of the unborn child, typically by dismemberment. Abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, future premature birth, and other long-term health problems for the mother, as detailed below. Sometimes women die from abortion’)
Examples of Bias in Wikipedia (‘Wikipedia does not mention until after 600 words that Jared Loughner, like many Wikipedia editors, is an atheist’)
For some reason the good folks behind Conservapedia are nervous about being hijacked by ‘liberal’ hackers. A couple of years ago the site blamed such ‘political terrorists’ for posting a list of Democratic senators in states with Republican governors and the observation that
If these Senators were unable to complete their terms and were replaced by qualified Republicans by their Republican governors, the Republican Party would regain a commanding majority in the Senate.
The satirical blog Wonkette glossed this as ‘Conservative Wiki Offers Helpful List of Senate Democrats To Assassinate’, but surely only a godless liberal could interpret it that way, and besides the whole thing was a set-up by a liberal conspiracy ‘intent upon, dedicated to, mocking our conservative, Christian-friendly encyclopedia’.
These days, Conservapedia is more careful about who it lets in, not only to edit its pages but even to read them. I don’t know what’s so suspiciously liberal about my browsing behaviour – maybe I shouldn’t have called Conservapedia ‘hilarious yet terrifying’ on Twitter – but I keep being locked out of the site: the only way I can sneak back in is by disguising myself using Tor, but even that doesn’t always work. It seems I’ll just have to go back to homeschooling myself with Wikipedia.