Wikipedia removes self-promotion; vandal cries foul

December 8, 2006

Judith Reisman, the controversial critic of various sexual viewpoints that provided a US Government funded content analysis of Playboy and other magazines in the early 1980s, doesn’t like Wikipedia — and I can see why. As Matt Abbott explains in a story at OpinionEditorial.com (a project of Frontiers of Freedom), Reisman had a recent run-in with the online encyclopedia that would certain have left her with a bitter after-taste.

From the article:

Author and researcher Dr. Judith A. Reisman takes issue with large portions of the Wikipedia entry about her. She says that her fully cited corrections made to the entry were immediately deleted.

This editorial was published yesterday, on the seventh of December, so the edits referred to above appear to be this group and this one — as well as a host of others — written mostly from the 71.98.xxx.xxx IP range. I point to these edits because they matche the profile provided above as well as I can find:

  • They were made recently enough to be considered vaguely topical;
  • They changed the text substantially;
  • They are the only edits to have been reverted in the last two months or so.

How do Reisman’s claims stand up to analysis?

Well, firstly, I should note that her edit not only violated a basic piece of common sense — that editing one’s own biography in an encyclopedia is a major conflict of interest — but also a guideline at Wikipedia. Editing her own article, rather than suggesting the changes on the talk pag, was the first mistake.

Second was the fact that Reisman’s edit was rightly reverted to remove the profound bias it introduced. She adds the assertion that:

What is expressed by Dr. Reisman’s term “erototoxin,” is a logical extension of the social concerns expressed by the reknown media ecology scholar, educator, and writer Marshall McLuhan; McLuhan taught and wrote of the potentially dangerous effect of certain media images especially upon immature minds.

The above provided no citation, and attempts to use McLuhan’s name to further her own. It was removed within four minutes because it violated Wikipedia’s “no original research” policy. In her next edit, she added some more content that took a similarly non-neutral stance (as well as the original statement, still lacking a citation of any kind):

Dr. Reisman is not alone in her concerns. In part due to the warnings of Dr. Reisman and other pro-family voices such as Dr. Douglas Weiss and Dr. James Dobson, Gary Smalley, many parents choose from a plethora of Internet filters in attempt to protect their children from sexualized media images. Today there are many men and women, including sexual preditors, seeking relief for sexual addiction, many of them personally testifying that their lives and those of their families and/or victims have been severely damaged as a result of pornography.

This statement, too, lacked citations. She provides no evidence for the following claims:

  1. That there are “many” (read: a signficant number) parents that use Internet filters to protect their children;
  2. That they do it because of the work of those individuals;
  3. That there are “many” people — including “sexual preditors[sic]” — that currently seek relief for sexual addiction (… and so on).

Without citations, the above statements are worded so generally that their meaning is utterly diminished. A hundred people can be considered “many”, from a certain perspective, and it’s that kind of vagueness that Reisman relies upon for her assertions to be upheld — not evidence.
Her third edit, a major reorganisation of the page, did more of the same. Ho hum. Nobody should be surprised that Reisman’s contibutions were removed, although they should be surprised that she described them as “fully cited”. The article continues:

Also, Wikipedia has chosen not to correct the many blatant falsehoods in its entry, says Dr. Reisman.

I’d like to extend an open invitation to Judith, to make her concerns known on the talk page of the article, rather than complaining in an open forum.
Problems of method

Another of the problems she raises is explained by Matt’s article:

The following are some of the “corrected” portions of the entry Dr. Reisman has provided to me:

“Wikipedia deliberately ignored the data on Playboy’s use of children, focusing only on Hustler. The systemic findings of child sexual abuse cartoons and illustrations were directly purged by Wikipedia from its pages. In fact, Playboy averaged eight child images per issue (five percent of its cartoons and visuals) and 16 such images per issue during 1971. Most of these images portrayed children in sexual scenarios.

Reisman claims inaccurately that the above information was “purged directly” from the website — the edits persist in the page history, and are available to anyone — but that’s not the major problem. Rather, she needs to first demonstrate her own credibility in the light of statements from academics such as Dr Robert Figlio, who told the press:

The term child used in the aggregate sense in this report is so inclusive and general as to be meaningless. […] I wondered what kind of mind would consider the love scene from Romeo and Juliet to be child porn.

At best, Reisman can claim that sixteen images which she considers to have been child porn were published per issue, but as Dr Figlio remarks, her definition appears to have been wildly different from the norm.

Dr Reisman has an interesting way of rebutting this statement, though:

But as Figlio was paid by the U.S. Department of Justice, as one of the peer reviewers, to oversee each methodological step of the two-year study, his tardy charge that ‘[t]he term child used in the aggregate sense in this report is so inclusive and general as to be meaningless’ is false—as he well knew.

Reisman claims here that despite the fact that Figlio was in a unique position of overseeing the research in full and as an outside observer, he is not entitled to express his opinion on the report – because his charge was “tardy”. I’d have thought that someone in such a position would be extremely well qualified to make such a claim, but I’m just a bystander.

The idea that a statement is automatically invalidated by the passing of time is a strange one, and Reisman needs to demonstrate why his charge is false. She calls it “tardy”, as if it were never expressed at any point during the two-year study — a claim that I see no reason to believe, without some supporting evidence (unfortunately, she appears to be allergic to actually citing her sources…) — and as if all bets are off once the report is published. Even if Figlio had never expressed discontent with her method, Reisman dismisses the possibility that Figlio could have re-considered the evidence after-the-fact.

Moving on:

“Wikipedia also wholly distorts the facts regarding my lawsuit against the Kinsey Institute for ‘defamation of character’ and ‘slander.’ Go to my Web site at drjudithreisman.com and see ‘The Coverup’ for full documentation.

I’d have preferred Reisman to be a little more specific here, and tell us exactly how Wikipedia distorts the facts of the matter, but I suppose we’ll all just have to go to her site in order to check her perspective on the matter. Then again, I’m extremely hesitant to trust a publication entitled “The Coverup” — particularly one that cites such profoundly biased sources as this little (illegible) tidbit.

“Wikipedia asserts that a reviewer of my book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud, called it ‘at best an inflated political pamphlet.’ The reviewer further noted that the arguments in the book were based on ‘innuendo, distortion, and selective representation of decontextualised ‘facts’.’ The source of that citation is William Simon, Kinsey Institute researcher and long time apologist for adult sex with children who also revealed that Kinsey ‘used only about a quarter of the [18,000] cases in his two reports.’”

The funny thing is, Simon was also a well-respected researcher and long-time professor of sociology at the University of Houston. She also neglects to rebut the comments of Dr Loretta Haroian, another expert on childhood sexuality, who states:

This is not science, it’s vigilantism: paranoid, pseudoscientific hyperbole with a thinly veiled hidden agenda. This kind of thing doesn’t help children at all..

And so on, and so forth, through more than just a few critics of her work. As a researcher with a strongly — near myopic — anti-pornographic bent, Reisman really needs to think twice before claiming that one of her many critics is biased because he worked for the insitute she wishes to attack. Instead, I think she’d be better of trying to rebut the claims against her as a whole, including those from Dr Haroian, to avoid looking foolish.

Dr. Reisman says the entire Wikipedia entry is riddled with such falsehoods in order to protect Big Pornography and the tax-funded Kinsey Institute.

As a great man once said, “prove it.” The burden of proof is on you, Reisman, to support such a claim with that thing you keep avoiding like the plague — evidence. In the meantime, I suggest you avoid chastising the “tax-funded” Kinsey Insitute in a publication of Frontiers of Freedom, which is funded by oil and tobacco companies.

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