METRO VANCOUVER – Wikipedia editors, stung by the fact critical historical information had been systematically edited out the online biography of B.C. New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix, restored the information and appeared to be guarding against it being removed again.
On Wednesday morning after The Vancouver Sun reported that a group of people had been actively cleansing Dix’s biography around his falsification of an executive memo while working for former premier Glen Clark, Wikipedia editors removed a block on changes to the page and restored critical details. As of mid-afternoon it was still in place.
Meanwhile, the editor who has been most active in removing critical sections of Dix’s biography has been identified as a B.C.-based actor and hobbyist historian whose constant edits of political pages have drawn complaints of bias.
Mike Cleven of New Westminster acknowledged in a comment posted to The Vancouver Sun’s story about Dix’s online biography that he has been removing information about Dix’s memo-writing affair.
But Cleven, who goes by the user name Skookum1, said he took the action because of what he sees as a concerted effort by B.C. Liberal supporters to skew the incident into a campaign issue for the May 14 election.
“I am the editor who’s spent the most energy on keeping the people pushing an inflammatory and undue-weight account of this.” he said. ” … Whitewashing the article to prevent mention of this is not the aim here, it is to prevent articles being used for defamatory purposes … the BC Liberals have pulled this kind of crap on Wikipedia before; they can say it’s not them, sure uh-huh, but the agenda of those claiming NOT to be them is too much like theirs to be worth explaining further.”
Both the NDP and the Liberals say they are not behind the Wikipedia wars.
In a Facebook note posted Wednesday, Cleven categorically insisted he his not aligned with the NDP. But he said he
” was a founding member of the Green party (not a member now) and on the Van Ctr board of the National Party.”
“My own view of this memo business is it’s completely overblown relative to what the (BC Liberals have) done with billions of dollars of public assets and outsourcing Crown agencies and services to American companies,” he said. “If the memo is all the Libs have to attack Dix with it’s pretty pathetic. And all to do with Casinogate. Did your paper cover the other side of that — that there was a Liberal-affiliated competing casino licence? No it did not.”
The Liberals are making Dix’s memo-writing incident an issue of trust in the campaign. Dix, on the other hand refuses to engage in negative personal attacks and said on Tuesday he wishes for a higher discourse of opinion from the parties and public alike.
Cleven is an extraordinarily prolific contributor to Wikipedia, having made more than 71,000 edits since he became a member in 2005. He is one of Wikipedia’s 400 most active editors. Much of his work involves correcting and adding to BC Place names.
But Cleven also has a history of making changes to biographies — principally those of living politicians — that has brought charges that he’s politically biased. He has acknowledged in several posts that he has a conflict of interest when it comes to editing some pages because of criticism he has levelled on other websites and in blogs.
In the last four days Cleven was responsible for removing references to Dix’s memo-writing controversy five of the 10 times it was posted on Wikipedia by other users.
He also has edited references on Premier Christy Clark and former premier Gordon Campbell (in one case changing Campbell’s job as a real estate developer to “real estate lobbyist”. He is actively involved in shaping how information is relayed about the BC Rail scandal that plagued Campbell’s government, and believes that mainstream reporting of the casino scandal that led to the fall of Glen Clark’s NDP government is biased and shouldn’t be used in any Wikipedia article about it.
A number of users have complained about Cleven to Wikipedia’s conflict of interest board, and have criticized him in posts on the site. The user whose Dix notations Cleven repeatedly removed tried but failed to have him banned by Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is governed by a strong set of guidelines that dictate articles — particularly those involving living people or controversial subjects — must be written from a “neutral point of view.”
In a posting on the website alternatehistory.com a decade ago, Cleven illustrated his views about the NDP and his disdain for the B.C. Liberals which had just been elected. He called them “the Carpetbagger Party” and wondered about an alternate history if the NDP had not squandered their time in government.
“As maple leafers know, the 10+ year tango with socialism in BC has come to a crashing end, and the “Liberal” party (a re-hashed Social Credit-cum-Alliance mishmash flying a flag of convenience, having stolen it from the original left-centre bunch that first replaced the defunct Socreds when they collapsed back in the ’80s) is now in charge, for better or for worse — probably for worse, and no doubt for a series of scandalously broken promises and inevitable dagger-in-the-backing within their own ranks.”