Thursday, March 01, 2007

Never Underestimate the Power of Denial

In following up on my previous XODP Blog post about the fraud perpetrated by the Wikipedian known pseudonymously as "Essjay," I came upon a post at Kelly Martin's Nonbovine Ruminations blog entitled, Larry Sanger proven right about Wikipedia. I followed a link to the post from Google Blogsearch expecting to find a cheap shot leveled against Wikipedia by a Langer Sanger-esque Citizendium-loving credentialist, but that's not what I found:
"Larry Sanger has long argued that Wikipedia is anti-intellectual. And, sadly, he has been proven right, by Jimbo's recent fiat appointment of Essjay to the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee. . . ."
While I agree with most of what Kelly has to say about Essjay, I don't agree with her characterization of Jimbo's misguided loyalty to Essjay as being proof of Wikipedia's alleged anti-intellectual bias. Rather, I see it as being motivated by recalcitrant denial on the part of Jimbo in re Essjay's recalcitrant denial of his [Essjay's] culpability in perpetrating such a fraud. On this note, an update at the end of Kelly's blog post points to a recent "apology" on Essjay's user talk page at enwiki:
"I would like to clear up an oversight on my part. I was, until this morning, under the impression that in my initial post on this subject (in response to a question from Dev920 made some weeks ago) I had made an apology for anyone who felt they were hurt by my decision to use misinformation. In speaking to various different people, including Jimbo, I did make it known that I was sorry that anyone felt hurt by my actions, and I believed I had done so in my initial statement. On re-reading that, I find I did not; it was a rather lengthy statement I had been thinking about for some time, and I seem to have left out a rather critical element of it. So, I rectify that now, with further apologies that it was not included originally, as I pointed people back to that statement in the belief it was complete.

"I *am* sorry if anyone in the Wikipedia community has been hurt by my decision to use disinformation to protect myself. I'm not sorry that I protected myself; I believed, and continue to believe, that I was right to protect myself, in light of the problems encountered on the internet in these trying times. I have spoken to all of my close friends here about this, and have heard resoundingly that they understand my position, and they support me. . . . I'm also sorry the New Yorker chose to print what they did about me; there seems to be a belief that I knew they were going to print it, and that is not the case. . . .

"For two years, I have poured my life into making this site a better place. That many people feel hurt by my decision pains me greatly, and to them I am genuinely sorry. To the stalkers, the trolls, and the vandals, I am not sorry; they are abusive, hateful people, and they have done far worse things than those whole of the Wikipeida Community, myself included, have ever thought about doing. . . . I have no intention of going anywhere, because to do so would be to let the vandals, trolls, and stalkers win."
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Essjay is paranoid and delusional, but this "apology" makes it quite clear that Essjay is unapologetic about perpetrating this fraud. He even goes so far as to blame two of his victims (i.e., Stacy Schiff and her fact checker from The New Yorker) for not being more skeptical about his credentials, credentials to which he frequently averred when attempting to boost his credibility as an expert in theology. Essjay's earlier statements on this matter left some room for reasonable doubt as to whether he was actually bragging about being able to perpetrate this fraud, but what he just doesn't get is that his earlier excuse that such a fraud was necessary, justifiable and/or excusable as a way of protecting himself from online stalkers just does not hold water.


Anonymous lawrence said...

I don't think Essjay should really be the focus. Jimmy Wales should be in the spotlight. The fact is, after Essjay's compulsive lying, Jimmy Wales promoted him AFTER Essjay was found out. Wales REWARDED Essjay for his fraud. JImmy Wales is just not the right sort of character to run the Wikipedia project. Only scum will rise to the top under his "benevolent rule". I think it's to late to change Wikipedia, and I hope someone can "fork" the Wikipedia so serious editors can start editing again.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 3:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

I am loving "I didn't know the New Yorker would print it". This implies they didn't even ask him about his professorship. Yet he claims that he had a long chat with a fact checker.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 9:11:00 PM  

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