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The inaccurate, incomplete Elizabeth Warren Wikipedia entry and edit war

The inaccurate, incomplete Elizabeth Warren Wikipedia entry and edit war

Legal Insurrection is off-limits as “partisan” but The Boston Globe is not?

For background, see my prior posts:

Since then, the cleansing of Warren’s entry continues, with people who clearly have an agenda trying to minimize the scope and breadth of what Warren did in falsely claiming she was Native American.  Take a look at the Talk page for some of the back and forth.  There no longer is a separate section for the Native American issue, it’s buried in the election coverage.

Here is the current entry broken down sentence by sentence, with my notations in brackets and in bold italics.  Since the entry seems to change multiple times per day, who knows what it will look like by the time you see it:

In April 2012, the Boston Herald drew attention to Warren’s law directory entries from 1986 to 1995, in which she had self-identified as a Native American. Harvard Law School had publicized the entries in the 1990s in response to criticisms about a lack of faculty diversity.[47][48][49]  [No, Harvard never publicized the law directory entries.  Harvard publicized the fact that she allegedly was Native American based on her representations to Harvard in filing forms she will not release.  The law directory entries were discovered by law professor David Bernstein in late April 2012, after the Boston Herald reported on Harvard promoting Warren as Native American.  Warren herself never disclosed the law directory entries, but did admit filling out forms checking the box for Native American after Bernstein found them online.]

The New England Historical Genealogical Society found no documentary proof of Native American lineage.[50][51] [True, although the mythology that Warren is 1/32 Cherokee lives on in part because the Boston Globe hyped the initial finding but then buried the correction.]

Warren’s three siblings have backed her claim, stating, “We grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our family’s Cherokee and Delaware heritage.”[52] A number of her cousins echo Warren’s assertion, but other cousins say they know nothing of Native American ancestry.[52] [Partially true but incomplete.  The Boston Globe article which is the source actually demonstrated that Warren’s claim about family lore was at best tenuous, and based on a different lineage than she originally claimed.  Warren’s high school debate partner, who said he was “joined at the hip” with her for three years and knew her family, was unaware she claimed to be Native American.  Warren’s own adult nephew, who researched family genealogy, described the Native American stories as rumor in 2002. Moreover, several of her stories — such as her parents’ elopement, have been called into serious doubt.  The documentary evidence is that her family always self-identified as white, and her great grandfather on the side which supposedly was Cherokee was identified in the local newspaper as white and shot an Indian.]

The Brown campaign, called on her to “come clean about her motivations for making these claims and explain the contradictions between her rhetoric and the record”,[53] and several Cherokee groups came out against her.[54][55] [True]

Warren maintained that Native American ancestry was a part of her family folklore, and that she had self-identified as a minority in the law directory listing in hopes of meeting people of a similar background.[56][57] [As to family lore, see above.  As to meeting people of similar background, Warren’s story was false.  Warren did not appear in the law faculty directory as “Native American.”  She appeared only as “Minority,” so the directory could not have been used to meet Native Americans, since no one reading it would have known.]

Warren stated that she has not received any professional advantage or preferential treatment as a result of her claimed ancestry.[53][58] Charles Fried, a Harvard Law professor who was involved in Warren’s hiring, said that her heritage was never mentioned and played no role in the decision.[47] [Incomplete.  It should be noted that Warren and Harvard refuse to release the records which would be the best evidence as to how and when Harvard became aware that Warren was claiming minority and Native American status.  Considering that in 1993, when Warren was a Visting Professor, the Harvard Women’s Law Journal listed Warren as a “Woman of Color in Legal Academia,” it is hard to believe that faculty at Harvard, including those on the hiring committee, were unaware.]

Readers of Wikipedia would get the full story if Wikipedia editors were willing to link to Legal Insurrection (or Twila Barnes).  But they are not because Legal Insurrection is deemed “partisan.”  In the Talk section for the page, Legal Insurrection is considered off-limits (internal Wikipedia embedded links removed, emphasis added):

I feel that we may be trying to bend to a partisan website too much. If the info can be added in a neutral way than it should be added, but not at the expense of worsening this article. The website is obviously trying to bully us, and we shouldn’t blindly fall for it. Grammarxxx (What’d I do this time?) 04:29, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

*  *  *  *

The website is very obviously partisan. However, it’s doing this the right way, by providing links and evidence for what it’s saying. We clearly won’t be using it directly as a source, but it is pointing out appropriate problems with the article. It has nothing to do with falling for anything, it has to do with making sure the article is neutral. And, as it looks to me now, it seems like this article is being white-washed. SilverserenC 04:33, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

*  *  *  *

What can I say? A Wikipedia editor who states he is non-partisan states that Wikipedia, after hundreds of hours of edits by editors of all opinions, has resulted in whitewashing this article. He goes on to show the WP editors the correct path to follow, the one led by a partisan blogger (but don’t look at the responses to the political blogger’s articles and thus get the wrong opinion of his posts!). Disturbing. Gandydancer (talk) 17:48, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

So Legal Insurrection is not to be used as a Wikipedia source on Warren even though we document everything we say about her (or note when we don’t have documentation)?

Yet The Boston Globe is deemed non-partisan? The Globe endorsed Warren, created the myth about Warren being 1/32nd Cherokee but buried the correction, ran the article discussed above by a very “partisan” freelance author which tried to make the case supporting Warren’s family lore but which — as I noted at the time — actually ended up showing that much if not most of Warren’s story was suspect, and just days before the election ran a puff piece on Warren contrasting with a hit piece on Scott Brown.  There is almost no one who thinks The Boston Globe was a non-partisan source about Warren … other than Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about Wikipedia editing.  Hopefully some of our readers do.  We want a fair and comprehensive entry on Warren’s Cherokee and Native American problem.

Update 1-30-2013 — We created our own, Announcing


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If LI can’t be a source for Wiki, just use LI’s underlying sources as the source. As you say, it’s all there in documentary form.

The notion that the Globe is not 100% partisan is a complete joke.

Michael Graham of WTKK fame correctly refers to it as the ‘Boston Globe-Democrat’.

So Legal Insurrection is not to be used as a Wikipedia source on Warren even though we document everything we say about her (or note when we don’t have documentation)?

That’s interesting … especially in light of the fact that the Wiki bio on Ms. Warren has absolutely no compunctions about referencing such sites as HuffPo, Vanity Fair, and Charlie Rose as its source materials. Bah! 🙁

Denigrate, marginalize, delegitimize.

That is the way they roll, Prof. The old, old story.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | January 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

We all wish Wikipedia would allow an honest, well documented history of Warren’s false claims of Cherokee ancestry to stand. But they obviously won’t, and I’m not sure it even matters to the people who should care the most – Massachusetts voters. I have to believe that most of the voters of MA had at a minimum a superficial understanding of the controversy before they voted. They did not care. They chose a woman with zero legislative experience and questionable character over a man with decades of state legislative experience, over 3 decades of military service as a commissioned officer in the National Guard who attained the rank of Colonel. It’s a disgrace. But it is what it is. After all, the voters of that state sent a known womanizing drunkard to the Senate to represent them 6 or 7 times. We are living in an era in which Democrats demand no moral or ethical standards of those elected to the highest levels of power. Liberal ideology is all that matters.

However, posterity may care. In 100 years, historians may want to look back and try to understand why our society was so screwed up that we elected dishonest people so pathetically lacking in character to represent us.

It seems like a never ending exercise to try to keep Wikipedia honest. Maybe it’s better just to focus on the Warren Files blog or website. Or maybe publish a footnoted and documented brief e-book or “pamphlet” that the people doing research a century from now can draw upon.

    After all, the voters of that state sent a known womanizing drunkard to the Senate to represent them 6 or 7 times.

    Not to mention that Teddy also killed MaryJo Kopechne by leaving her to die after the drunk crashed the car into to water. In fact, in the next election after killing this 28 year old women, Teddy garnered 62% of the vote. Mass_oles do not care about criminal DEMS in office.

    And let’s not forget the recent reelection of John Tierney – an aider and abetter of his wife’s organzied crime family. nah. who cares. reeelected

    The people in MA – well a majority of them — are brain washed. Even those of the left who knew of the Warren Indian falsity assumed it was all exaggeragated by the Republicans and simply discounted it.

    And, let’s not forget my favorite MA election story. A few years ago a ballot question asked whether to repeal the state income tax. Wow! Are you kidding. Great idea. I was excited. The ballot question failed. Miserable. The dependant class wants their benefits and they truly expect someone else to pay for it.

    When I lived in MA, there was also a case of a black female legislator who was caught on camera stuffing cash [bribe] in her bra … and I think she was re-elected. The last 2 or 3 MA Speaker of the House individuals are in jail. I’ve heard that MA, LA, and NJ has the most corrupt politicians. What a country!

      george in reply to walls. | January 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Yes, good ‘ol Dianne Wilkerson. She, surprisingly, lost in the DEM primary after the FBI arrested her. However, if she survived the DEM primary and ran in the general election, she would have beaten any REP in a landslide.

      Because MA is a one-party state, corruption is rampant. The last speaker, now jailed — Sal DiMasi — said something like “show me a reformer and I show you a guy not getting reelected.” And it is completely true in MA.

      NJ used to have a machine-Republican wing to go with the machine-DEM crowd. DEMS are winning currently. But in NJ, both sides were corrupt.

      I am always surprised NY does not have more pols charged with corruption. It must go on. But I guess they are better at hiding it.

      98ZJUSMC in reply to walls. | January 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Worse than the Socialist Peoples Republik of Illinois?!?!?


wikipedia is awesome, I use it a lot.
its great when I need to find episode lists in broadcast order (like S09E06, etc) for a tv series.
you’re saying they have other stuff there?
I’ll pass on that 🙂

really its kind of a useless pile of crap now and has been for a long time.

Wikipedia is a great first source for information on noncontroversial subjects. Even on those, it is only a first step to actual research in most cases.

But it is not and has never been reliable about anything remotely controversial or political. The “wiki” aspect always ensured there would be an ongoing “war of the last edit” on any such subject, and their cadre of “official” or “senior” editors is not exactly a judicial or judicious group.

That it has become among the prime online sources of political information accounts in part for the poor political decision-making on the part of the wiki-informed electorate.

More information is always better than less… so WikiGods, I propose this:

Instead of deleting the section of her bio that discusses her ancestry and burying it in the campaign, why not add TWO sections:

WARREN’S CLAIMS (including variations by era)


Give it dry… but give it all. If anybody is really interested, they can follow the cited sources. Include all sides, and researchers will actually be an Encyclopedia… that is, a Reference with Encyclopedic information. You know. All of it.

Who knew that ethics, honesty, and equal treatment were “partisan”?

“Whoever controls the present controls the past. Whoever controls the past controls the future.” — 1984

The term, “objectivity,” needs to be deleted from Webster’s.

I almost get an overwhelming feeling at times that we’ve lost every sense of accountability by our elected leaders and the media.

It is really starting to look like a lost cause…

Several years ago I followed a high-profile criminal case. There was (and I assume still is) a wiki page that told the story from the viewpoint of those who supported the accused, a very small minority of those who followed the case. There were blatant falsehoods; things in news articles were taken completely out of context so as to misrepresent their meaning; and “facts” supposedly supported by linked articles simply weren’t, and at times the linked articles that supposedly “proved” the “fact” didn’t even mention it. These weren’t a few oversights or misunderstandings. It was a farce.

Despite being such a very small minority, the pro-perp group always managed to have a quorum to keep the page more-than slanted to favor the perpetrator. They were apparently very well organized and never took their collective eyes off of that page for very long. They were all, coincidentally, left-wing liberals, although this case had nothing to do with politics.

If there is anyone who knows the wiki system and will give me instructions, I will do what I can to help. If enough of us volunteer, maybe we can get as organized as the left and make a difference on this one single page. If enough of us volunteer to help the professor on this one single page, it shouldn’t be that big of a burden to anyone.

If we keep letting the left re-write history, even on wiki, we have only ourselves to blame. And it’s only one page. For now.

As a Wikipedia editor, I posted this on the Warren talk page:

Gandydancer and others have been working hard to minimize this issue in the Warren entry and to knock critics like Jacobson as “partisan.” But facts are facts and Wikipedia has no business shading them, especially not to favor an active politician who has been talked about as a future Presidential prospect. This was a major issue in the campaign, and this Senate race was among the handful most closely covered in large part because Warren is widely regarded as a comer. She did claim Cherokee heritage on more than one occasion over a period of time. Challenged, neither she nor anyone else was able to find a shred of proof of her claim, while significant facts were adduced that tend to undermine it, such as the fact that relevant ancestors were white. She says that she never benefitted professionally from the claim but neither she nor Harvard have been willing to back that up. Gandydancer says “this is an encyclopedia, not a news daily.” Exactly. A newspaper is free to be biased or partisan. Wikipedia should be neither.Burke242 (talk) 21:36, 14 January 2013 (UTC)Burke242

It’s too late to worry abut this liar. The people of MA have spoken and they did it the way they always do…without regard for honesty or integrity. The only thing they care about is that “D” after her name. Look at the other senators they elected, Kennedy and Kerry, a murderer and a traitor. Being a communist, she is of the same stamp and has six years of lying and destroying the country to do. We can point out her failings but the people of MA don’t care or agree with her. They have foisted this POS on the rest of us and that is that.

As a Wikipedia editor, I’m not surprised that there is some argument against citing Legal Insurrection in Wikipedia, and not (only) because of editors’ political biases.

The concept of WP sees it as a tertiary source: a summary of material appearing in conventionally published secondary sources. The idea is that by depending on other publications’ editors to exercise a journalistic role, WP can make up for the lack of professional editors and researchers in its own system.

Blogs, regardless of their merits, don’t really qualify as part of the conventionally published media, so under WP’s guidelines they shouldn’t be cited. OTOH, if your reportage is picked up by a newspaper or magazine, even some trivial local paper, that outlet’s coverage qualifies as a “reliable source”.

So: how much of the material removed from the Warren article can be supported by coverage from the Boston Herald or other papers?

    William A. Jacobson in reply to Norris. | January 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Some of it can be linked to the Herald, although many of its articles are “archived” now and mostly hidden from view, but all the really detailed genealogical research with documentary evidence was done by Twila Barnes’ Cherokee group, and posted on her blog and Legal Insurrection.

      Well, the full detail is more than what is suitable for an encyclopedia article on Warren anyway. On the other hand, perhaps someone will want to prepare a more in-depth and documented article specifically on the Elizabeth Warren ethnicity controversy.