Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Time to tell....

I made an initial response at the Pro-Porn Activism blog to the defamatory statements about my activities on Wikipedia made by Ann Bartow on Feminist Law professors. I encourage readers to have a look at both the initial post on PPA and the subsequent commentary, because I think its a good introduction to Ann Bartow's agenda and some of the fucked-up things she's done to other bloggers (feminist women bloggers, I might add) over the past several years.

(Addendum: here is a link to a blog post about her threats of outing several years back toward Zuzu, one of the bloggers at Feministe. This person actually stopped blogging temporarily because of it. Another target was Bitch|Lab (who later re-emerged as Shag Carpet Bomb of Wear Clean Drawers) who was targeted with outing and intimations of a lawsuit for making unfavorable comments about Catherine MacKinnon. B|L is now a dead blog, so this has gone down the memory hole. Also, Eugene Volokh writes here about Bartow's wonderfully professional discourse in legal circles.)

Due to the proliferation of Bartow's post over several other blogs (none of whom seem to ever question Bartow's agenda), I think its high time I wrote about my Wikipedia activities and set the record straight.

As Bartow make's a big to-do about, yes, I am a Wikipedia editor, and have contributed quite a bit to that project. I contribute both under my real name and the name I use here. Under the former, I contribute articles mostly scientific articles (notably, I am the proud founder of WikiProject Fungi), as well as articles on food, wine, art, and San Francisco Bay Area history and culture. As Iamcuriousblue, I contribute to articles on sexuality, sex work, pornography, and erotic art. As an all around geek and somebody with a great deal of knowledge and no small amount of education on obscure topics, this suits me well.

Contrary to what Bartow has to say about me, it is actually not my goal on Wikipedia to push a particular slant or agenda. I have no problems writing about a point of view that is totally opposed to mine and attempting to do so fairly. Nonethless, when I see somebody pushing an agenda, particularly the all-too-common sex-phobic and anti-sex-work agendas, I have no qualms about making corrections to the article and calling other editors on it. Since I and most other editors on Wikipedia respect rules about editing toward a neutral point of view, there's usually very little problem negotiating the shape of an article, even with somebody who's actual views are the very opposite of mine.

The problem comes when a Wikipedia editor has no respect for this rule or Wikipedia's process for consensus building. And this is where the "heavy edits" to the Melissa Farely article that Bartow refers to come from.

The actual situation is a great deal more nuanced than Ann Bartow lets on. There series of arguments is long and complicated and I don't have time to go into a blow-by-blow here, but I think its quite clear that the main argument was between myself and two other editors, both of whom are what might be called, using the turgid prose of Bartow's post, rabid proponents of Melissa Farley's views. (And I'll also point out that Ann Bartow is pretty far from non-partisn on the subject of Melissa Farley, or pornography, which doesn't exactly make her the most trustworthy source.)

The first conflict was Nikki Craft, the text of which can be found here:

She had written a clearly biased article and had the additional problem of being Melissa Farley's political mentor, and therefore clearly in violation of some of Wikipedia's guidelines about conflict of interest. Nikki Craft eventually left Wikipedia, unable to put up with Wikipedia's rules about editing toward a neutral point of view, as well as a conflict of interest battle of her own that started when she wrote her own biography on Wikipedia, in express violation of Wikipedia's rules against autobiography.

Some months after this died down, another editor going by the name of Axiomatica got involved with the Melissa Farley article. This conflict is long and involved, and the text of it can be found here:

If one reads far enough through the above-linked archives, it is quite clear that Axiomatica had a similar agenda to Nikki Craft and was not about to tolerate an article reporting critical views of Farley's work, nor any description of her history of anti-pornography and radical feminist activism prior to becoming an "expert" on prostitution. For my part, I wasn't about to back down.

I maintain, and continue to maintain, that my only goal was to maintain a balanced article on the subject and struggle for over a year to do precisely that. If you read through the archives, you'll also note my continuing attempts to bring the larger Wikipedia community into this controversy so that it would not simply remain a pissing contest between myself and Axiomatica. I also repeatedly and in good faith tried to enter into the Wikipedia mediation process with the other editor, a process that was continually sabotaged by Axiomatica, who on two occasions simply walked out on the entire process and restarted the edit war from scractch some months later when the mediation processes had closed. The larger Wikipedia community did not step in, unfortunately, and that, to my mind, represents the real failure of Wikipedia's process. Contrary to the portrait painted by Bartow, I wanted other people to get involved and help edit the article, since having a large number of people editing would have been the best antidote to one-sidedness and agendas on either side.

Finally, I want to point to one of my most recent edits that involved reverting another editors writing. It can be found here :
(in the section titled "Removed section per WP:SYN")

This was removal of a couple sentences that were critical of Farley's research, but represented novel ides on the part of that editor (what, in Wikipedia terms, is called "original research") and was therefore in violation of one of Wikipedia's core rules. This was written by somebody on my side of the issue and was a statement I more or less agreed with, by the way of my own opinion. I nevertheless removed it in good faith because I recognized this as pushing a point of view in violation of Wikipedia's rules. How does this square with portrait painted of me by Ann Bartow? And what, then, does such a shoddy and inaccurate hit piece say about Feminist Law Professors as a blog and Bartow as a scholar?

(Addendum, May 25, 2010: Oh look, Ms. Bartow has both outed and libeled me in no less a highfalutin academic source than the Michigan Law Review! (See p. 1093 of the PDF linked to.) I guess I even get doc-dropped in better places than most bloggers. :)