The Wikipedia Post — Part 2: The Five Horsemen of WikiBias

So who were these martyrs for the glorious feminist cause? What soldiers of virtue dared to stand up against the Armies of Mordor? Conveniently, they are editors whose histories epitomize the abuse, dysfunction, and corruption that plague’s Wikipedia’s editing community.

*Ryulong was an admin for two years until he was stripped of his position by the Arbitration Committee in 2009 over a range of complaints such as abuse of his admin privileges, privately lobbying other admins to sanction his opponents, and abusing anti-vandalism tools in content disputes, all over articles about Power Rangers and Japanese super-heroes. After losing his title Ryulong was blocked roughly a dozen times mostly for fighting over video games, anime, and more Japanese super-heroes, before entering the GamerGate fray. His worth to the site is made clear when he protested that if Wikipedia banned him the greatest loss would be the use of accurate romanizations on articles related to a Japanese super-hero show instead of the inaccurate Japanese trademark names he supported (I have no doubt that “Condol Legs” is supposed to be “Condor Legs”).

Much of Ryulong’s actions in defaming named GamerGate supporters and trivializing harassment of the same have been detailed in part one, but the extent of his shenanigans during the GamerGate dispute warrant special mention. The community discussion giving admins more leeway in the dispute came hot on the heels of a tremendously bizarre proposal by Ryulong to ban a list of over three dozen editors, including one admin, claiming they “solely used Wikipedia to push the ‘pro-Gamergate’ agenda” though many were long-standing editors with diverse contributions and some had barely even touched the article. He made similar remarks to editors objecting to his proposal. Not long after my request to have the Arbitration Committee review the dispute, moderate anti-GamerGate Slate writer David Auerbach noticed one of Ryulong’s edits misrepresented sources to smear him. Auerbach came on to Wikipedia to ask Ryulong not to write about him again, and Ryulong insisted this was a threat. Since Auerbach had just created an account he was initially not able to edit Ryulong’s talk page, which had been protected to keep out new accounts. When an admin granted him access, Ryulong demanded the admin revoke it.

Once Ryulong’s actions regarding Auerbach were brought to the attention of Jimmy Wales he asked Ryulong to step away from the topic. His response was to go to the anti-GamerGate subreddit GamerGhazi for an AMA where Wales reiterated his request that Ryulong step back from the topic. After following Wales advice, GamerGhazi began promoting a GoFundMe Ryulong created to assist with a move and the goal was achieved in less than a day with $370 provided. Despite his previous pledge and now having received money from one side in the GamerGate controversy, he resumed editing related to GamerGate at the article on 8chan. This prompted another request by Wales for Ryulong to step away from the topic. After Yiannopoulos tweeted about Ryulong’s GoFundMe, Ryulong started a thread on GamerGhazi labeling him “Based Liar” with a few attacks on TechRaptr journalist Georgina Young for writing about the incident, though this didn’t keep him continuing to take shots at Auerbach. When questioned about his behavior in smearing these individuals on Wikipedia his default response was to claim they were mistakes being wrongly painted as malicious, the same defense he ignored when used by his opponents.

Seemingly not satisfied just picking fights with two high-profile journalists and a low-profile female games journalist, Ryulong would then set his sights on the handicapable owner of 8chan at the time, Fredrick Brennan. Though Brennan had been the subject of in-depth stories by The New York Times and Al-Jazeera mainly due to him having brittle bone disease, Ryulong described this as “poor sourcing” and not noteworthy enough to mention at the beginning of his biography. In fact, Ryulong suggested he was only really noteworthy for his involvement in GamerGate and that Brennan’s biography should be removed, making several comments trivializing Brennan’s disability at one point remarking “He’s certainly no Helen Keller.” After LoganMac presented evidence regarding Ryulong’s editing of Brennan’s page, Brennan created an account to comment in the section (he had previously created an account named 8chan.co that was blocked under the site’s username policy). Ryulong immediately objected to his presence and quibbled with him, though Brennan handled it with all the grace the wheeled cherub could muster albeit after having a little fun at Ryulong’s expense.

Amazingly, just as it appeared Ryulong was in the clear and about to avoid being banned from Wikipedia by ArbCom he decided to go after Adland, a site run by female advertising blogger Åsk “Dabitch” Wäppling that had written pieces sympathetic to GamerGate. He proposed deleting Adland’s Wikipedia article claiming numerous English business news outlets were not sufficient sourcing and even claiming that since some of the sources were in Swedish he just didn’t know if they were reliable (they were all major Swedish news outlets). The proposed deletion met with such a rapid and unanimous rejection that he withdrew his request. Within a day the votes completely moved against Ryulong with one arbitrator citing him “continuing the behavior we previously highlighted as problematic” as a reason. Whether it was this, any other number of things he did in the 11th hour, or some combination that served as the final nail in his coffin barely matters as the true source of his demise was undoubtedly himself. Nearly two years later anti-GamerGate chat logs leaked showing that Ryulong had, in at least one case, made an edit in response to a request by Zoe Quinn, then a mod for the same GamerGhazi subreddit whose members gave him $370.

*NorthBySouthBaranof identified himself to ThinkProgress as Travis Mason-Bushman, an employee of a national forest in Alaska. Based off his LinkedIn page and Twitter bio, Bushman specifically was doing Public Relations work for the U.S. Forest Service regarding Tongass National Forest until June 2016. Soon after creating his account in May 2013, he started numerous articles about locations in the Tongass forest, though he apparently was not working there until August of the same year. Upon taking on his job with the Forest Service, Bushman created numerous additional articles on the forest. At no point in creating all these articles about Tongass National Forest did Bushman openly disclose his role as its PR representative.

More troubling are the edits Bushman made regarding the 2014 standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over his cattle grazing on federal land without a permit. On Twitter Bushman made his opinion of Bundy and his supporters perfectly clear and his editing history on the Bundy standoff is just as clear. Bushman extensively cites court cases that ruled against Bundy’s claims that he has grazing rights to the land, while removing information about him attempting to pay his grazing fees through the county as “irrelevant” even as Bushman added material attacking Bundy as a dead-beat who wouldn’t pay his bills. He sought to emphasize Bundy as voluntarily declining to renew his grazing permit in protest of changes made to the permits in the 90’s only to remove as “irrelevant” some of the less appealing aspects of those changes.

Bushman was also concerned with mitigating or removing negative coverage of the BLM’s handling of the Bundy standoff, including by attempting to discredit any source criticizing the agency’s controversial use of no fly zones and “free speech zones” to restrain protesters sympathetic to Bundy and portraying the aggressive actions of agents as justified. After Bundy made remarks on race relations that were used to paint him as racist, Bushman strongly emphasized the resulting condemnation and simultaneously removed statements that Bundy’s words had been distorted by the media.

What was not well-known regarding the Bundy standoff is its connection with a peculiar boondoggle involving the economic exploitation of federally-protected land. A BLM page laying out the reasons for its actions regarding Bundy cited his cattle as an impediment to a solar energy project by FirstSolar, a company whose investors and executives make significant contributions to the Democratic Party. Another item mentioned on the since-deleted BLM page is the withdrawal of a $400,000 grant by the Walton Family Foundation for restoring the Southwest Willow Flycatcher habitat, and the Walton family happen to be major investors in FirstSolar (full disclosure: I have family members who work or have worked at the Walton family’s Wal*Mart chain and its competitors). Such investment projects as the one with FirstSolar are legally dependent on enhancing protection efforts elsewhere and Bundy’s cattle were grazing right where those enhanced protections were needed. As it turns out, Tongass National Forest was also being slated for economic development under a similar arrangement favored by the Juneau Economic Development Council where Bushman collaborated and in January of 2015 Bushman himself submitted an analysis suggesting opening Tongass up to renewable energy projects. Suffice to say, Bushman may have had ulterior motives for smearing Bundy on Wikipedia and downplaying government actions towards the Nevada rancher.

Yet the above is not the end of Bushman’s shenanigans as he himself stated to ThinkProgress that he had been editing Wikipedia for ten years, but his Baranof account had only been active for two years at the time. Prior to being NorthBySouthBaranof, Bushman was known as Polarscribe, which matches his Twitter handle, and before that he was FCYTravis. His rename to Polarscribe was fraught with controversy as it was a separate account that Bushman was using in an edit war with other users. Bushman also made use of an IP address and his old account in such a way that he exceeded the red line allowance of three reverts in a 24-hour period yet neatly avoided doing so with any one of his accounts. More controversial was that as FCYTravis, Bushman had been an admin who lost his position due to inactivity and requested it back at the same time as his questionable use of multiple accounts in an editing dispute. In spite of these concerns, Bushman’s admin privileges were restored, prompting a request for the Arbitration Committee to review the restoration of his position. This was rendered moot when Bushman resigned as an admin.

Similar impropriety was involved when Bushman switched to his NorthBySouthBaranof account as at the time he began using the account his Polarscribe account was blocked for edit-warring with messages being left suggesting he was leaving Wikipedia in protest. As Baranof, Bushman would be blocked another three times for edit-warring before getting involved in the GamerGate dispute, for a total of six such blocks. I first learned of Bushman’s past account history as a result of an 8chan digging thread created during the arbitration case. Not long after informing the Arbitration Committee of Bushman’s checkered past, I was told by senior Committee member Roger Davies that this was all irrelevant to the case despite the past of many editors, including myself, being cited in support of severe sanctions.

*Tarc has long had a reputation for being abusive and crude. Due to Tarc’s behavior on Wikipediocracy’s predecessor Wikipedia Review, fellow Wikipedia Review member Daniel Brandt documented some of his most aggressive comments. This included Tarc calling another user “nigger” and claiming it was okay because he was an “Oreo” or a black man who was white inside. Brandt, however, had found that Tarc was, in fact, a completely white New England progressive by the name of Jay Herlihy. In retaliation, Tarc went over to Encyclopedia Dramatica and proceeded to smear Brandt as a misogynist with “shit dox skillz” and a “closet pedo” in addition to engaging in more racially offensive commentary.

Undeterred by exposure, Tarc took his ruse one step further on Wikipediocracy by identifying as a Black Republican and changing his profile image on the forum to that of Representative Allen West. He then brought his Black Republican persona onto Wikipedia itself, granting other editors his permission “as an American black man” to use racially offensive terminology. After famous WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning came out as a transgendered woman and adopted the name Chelsea Manning, Tarc stepped into the ensuing controversy on Wikipedia engaging in his usual offensive commentary by likening Manning’s gender identification to a pig wearing lipstrick. During the ArbCom case reviewing the conduct of editors in the Manning name dispute, Tarc finally confessed to the ruse, acknowledged being Jay Herlihy with a full apology to all he had mistreated, and later noting the “black thing” was just a troll. His prior use of a Black Republican persona for offensive trolling is especially interesting in light of his derisive comparison of female GamerGate supporters to Black Republicans.

Just a year after trolling the Chelsea Manning name dispute, in spite of his pledges to do better, Tarc was once more the focus of ArbCom ire. Prior to Tarc’s involvement in GamerGate he had engaged in an edit-war where he restored a banned user’s questions to Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales over two dozen times within 24 hours, several times greater than the usual three restorations allowed for an editor. Barely escaping a site-ban, Tarc was subject to a couple of sanctions and told he would be banned if he “does this sort of thing again.” Same as Ryulong, Tarc had also taken to attacking Slate writer David Auerbach after Auerbach complained about his portrayal in the GamerGate article, though Tarc would later apologize for his remarks. However, given his track record it was not at all surprising that confronted with evidence of Tarc again repeatedly breaching the same three-revert limit and frequently being abusive to other editors in the GamerGate dispute, two arbitrators would note that his behavior had actually improved when opting not to ban him from Wikipedia.

*TheRedPenofDoom is an editor whose primary contribution to the site is fighting against pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. Ostensibly a noble goal, his involvement in a raging dispute over the biography of biologist Rupert Sheldrake included attempting to argue that Sheldrake came up with his morphic resonance concept while high on drugs. When questioned on this implication he was incredulous at the notion such an insinuation might be considered insulting then proceeded to add it to the man’s biography. After other inflammatory rhetoric was brought forward, admins considered banning him from editing Sheldrake’s biography until he agreed to step away from the article for six months, with one admin observing that RedPen “historically has a tendency to lose his cool” in such heated disputes.

*TaraInDC was admittedly the least deserving of inclusion in this notorious batch of editors. The sole female and sole feminist of the five, Tara seems to have just not been around long enough to have attracted much controversy aside from dipping her feet into the exploitation of the Isla Vista killings as a talking point on misogyny for the usual reason of treating dead men as statistics and dead women as a tragedy. Like the others her abusive rhetoric during the GamerGate dispute was more often reserved for those established editors who disagreed with her rather than any newbie GamerGate supporters, only to complain that one of them would accuse her and her compatriots of bias. Within 48 hours of my arbitration request appearing Tara fled the jurisdiction, returning months later as the case was concluding to complain about not being able to address the allegations against her.

Next: Part 3: White Knights of the Five Horsemen

Previous: Part 1: The Lie Heard Around The World

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T.D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators.

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