The many fish tales of Jimbo Wales
Over the past month, dozens of volunteers have joined together to assemble a staggering amount of evidence backing up one of the central claims of AntiSocialMedia.net: that former financial journalist Gary Weiss is possibly the most profoundly conflicted Wikipedia editor in the history of that website.
By all accounts, the resulting mass of evidence vastly exceeded any previous effort and produced a â€œcaseâ€ supporting the claim that Gary Weiss has, in extreme violation of Wikipedia policy, deceitfully operated multiple accounts in an effort to skew the articles relating to naked short selling, Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, and Gary Weiss himself.
Those unfamiliar with Wikipedia policy might not appreciate just how big a deal this really is.
Itâ€™s very satisfying to see so much support for the claim that has, over the past year, created so much misery for the few who have believed it.
That misery was occasioned, in large part, by the inexplicable obstructionism of Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales, who intervened on multiple occasions to halt efforts threatening to tie Weiss to his many wiki sockpuppet identities.
Initially, it seemed reasonable to assume that Walesâ€™s unreasonable behavior was based on bad information, and that he was otherwise acting in good faith.
That changed, however, when several of Walesâ€™s contributions to a very small and private email list were recently leaked to me.
Of these, the most interesting, dated September 15, 2007, reads as follows:
From: email@example.com (Jimbo Wales)
I just want to go on record as saying that I believe the reason for this is that Mantanmoreland is in fact Gary Weiss.
Before lauding Walesâ€™s apparent enlightenment on this topic, note the comment he made one month later, in reference to his support of an effort to block model Wikipedia editor Cla68 from making the most reasonable changes to the Gary Weiss
â€œCla68, I fear that you have been manipulated by lying stalkers and trolls…â€
In case itâ€™s not clear, this is one of Walesâ€™s many references to me as â€œlying stalkerâ€ and â€œtroll.â€
Kindly re-read the previous few paragraphs in case the following point is not made crystal clear to you: in private, Wales admitted knowing that I was correct about Gary Weiss, and yet in public, continued protecting Weiss, defaming me and castigating those who recognized and acted upon the truth as reported here.
What could possibly motivate someone to be not only deceitful, but deeply, irresponsibly and libelously deceitful?
Before you answer, consider the insights we can glean from the examples of Rachel Marsden and Jeff Merkey.
Marsden is a controversial Canadian media personality and political consultant whose Wikipedia article has consistently tended toward the disproportionately negative.
While the full extent of their relationship is unknown, the emergence of a series of IM chat transcripts between Marsden and Wales makes it clear that in early February of this year, the relationship wasâ€¦shall we sayâ€¦a physical one.
Confronted with an overwhelming body of evidence, Wales conceded to a single â€œmeetingâ€ with Marsden, which took place on February 9, 2008.
While other evidence would suggest Wales isnâ€™t telling the truth here, let us none-the-less focus on the circumstances surrounding that meeting.
In the following excerpted IM chat exchange between Wales and Marsden leading up to the February 9 meeting (originally published in Valleywag.com), the two discuss a specific point of inaccuracy in her article.
Wales: I wrote an email to the internal editors list about your entry recommending some changes, etc. I said that I would run it by you for clarification/comment and email again if there were any updates I think we have two major problems right now first, the timeline is wrong about the recent cop case… that is the worst error and easy to fix
Wales: right so the way it is told now, hang on a second letâ€™s actually do this right now because the last thing I want to do is take a break from f**king your brains out all night to work on your wikipedia entry
"In September 2007, on her blog Marsden wrote about and posted a picture of a counterterrorism officer for the Ontario Provincial Police with whom she had an affair. She claimed that he had leaked secret anti-terrorism documents to her, then posted email messages from him as evidence that he had been pursuing her, and sent to the National Post these along with sexually explicit pictures of him that she had received. She was investigated for criminal harassment for this behaviour, but was not charged. The OPP’s criminal investigations branch cleared the officer of any wrongdoing."
so our timeline is wrong we say
(1) wrote about him on your blog
(2) posted email messages from him
(3) as a result he files harassment charges
Marsden: exactly. it was a retaliatory complaint on his part that was launched 2 months after they initiated their investigation into his stuff.
Wales: but the correct timeline is
(1) wrote about him on the blog
(2) he files harassment charges
(3) you post email messages to show how his harassment charges are bullshit
Marsden: you’re a sh*tdisturber. right I only posted the emails after he went public trying to create trouble. NOT before that.
Wales: so we can get that sorted and then this makes the story clearer
Marsden: that’s good of you to do. really.
Comparing the substance of this chat session with the edit history of the Rachel Marsden article in the days leading up to February 9, 2008, we see something rather striking: On February 7, wikipedian Guy Chapman (aka â€œJzGâ€) commits two changes (1)(2) which have the net effect of making precisely the content alterations Marsden requested.
Merkey is a computer scientist and entrepreneur whose Wikipedia article came under attack by several editors critical of his professional associations.
According to Merkey, in 2006, Wales told him that in exchange for a substantial donation, Wales could use his influence to make Merkeyâ€™s article more agreeable, and to place Merkey himself under Wales’s “special protection” as an editor.
Merkey made a $5,000 donation and hinted at the possibility of something much larger in the future.
Merkey claims, and the record confirms, that following his donation, Wales personally made several edits to the Merkey article, including a complete blanking of the article and destruction of its edit history (extreme steps to take under any circumstances, and doubly so considering it happened without any effort at reaching consensus, which is supposedly the coin of the Wikipedia realm).
When he announced his unilateral â€œstart-overâ€ on the article, Wales offered:
I have deleted the old discussion because of the unpleasantness of it. Please be extra careful here to be courteous and assume good faith. We are nearing a resolution of this longstanding conflict. Play nice, everyone.
â€œâ€¦Have you been making secret dealings behind everyone’s back? So much for Wikipedia’s openness.â€
To which Wales nervously responded:
â€œSecret dealings? What on earth are you talking about?â€
Whether or not the original article was a mess, you did use the phrase ‘nearing a restitution of this longstanding conflict’, which suggests, despite the complete lack of evidence available in public, that there is an actual conflict going on, as opposed to one which had been completely dormant for ages now. After all, suddenly and with no warning, wiping out an article and ordering everyone to start again over some sourcing problems is rather heavy-handed and drastic. The normal WP procedure is to stick some tags on it and telling everyone to change the bad bits. The ‘secret deals’ phrase was of course total speculation, and sorry about that, but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t something happening in private that sparked off this wholesale deletion of yours, either a deal or a threatened lawsuit. After all, pretty much the last thing Merkey said on this whole stupid subject was that he had been trying, in private, to throw $2 million at you and/or Wikipedia and threatening his usual bag of lawsuits. Well, whatever…
If this exchange seems familiar, it may be because it roughly resembles this one, which followed Jimbo Walesâ€™ unilateral blanking of the debate over the proposed deletion of the
article autobiography on Gary Weiss:
The page contained wildly inappropriate speculation that a notable author was sockpuppeting. As I am sure you are aware, many authors have had their careers badly damaged by being caught sockpuppeting at Amazon, etc., and it is deeply wrong for people to ask me to restore a page with such speculations in Wikipedia after the claims have already been investigated and dismissed. If there are further problems in the future, there will be no problem restoring the article at that time.
As an aside, based on Walesâ€™s promise that â€œIf there are further problems in the future, there will be no problem restoring the article at that time,â€ wikipedian Cool Hand Luke asked Jimbo for permission to un-delete the deletion debate in order to reference it during the present ArbCom case relating directly to the matter of Gary Weiss and his conflict of interest on Wikipedia.
Jimboâ€™s response: â€œI see no benefit in doing so.â€
As the Rachel Marsden example demonstrates, when heâ€™s â€œgetting somethingâ€ in return, Jimbo Wales is willing to use his position to influence Wikipedia article content.
As the Jeff Merkey example demonstrates, in addition to female companionship, that â€œsomethingâ€ can also come in the form of donations to the Wikimedia Foundation.
As the Gary Weiss example demonstrates, Jimbo Wales is willing to use Wikipedia as a tool of libel and disinformation when doing so suits him.
Only one question remains: what exactly is Jimbo Wales getting in return for continuing to publicly defame me and shield Gary Weiss from accountability for his two-year campaign of malice and disinformation, in support of illegal stock market manipulation?