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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Deep Thought
Topic: Horowitz
Should a guy who has written a book about "the left's romance with tyranny and terror" be proud of his own association with an unrepentant terrorist?

Posted by Terry K. at 3:55 PM EDT
We Cross The Pond
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald cites ConWebWatch in reporting on the WorldNetDaily/Wikipedia controversy.

UPDATE: And we're linked to in Hebrew too! Ynet is operated by the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot. (Here's its English site.)


Posted by Terry K. at 12:19 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 1:52 PM EDT
The Farah Media Smear Machine
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah unleashes his vitriolic lashing-out strategy at WorldNetDaily's critics yet again in a March 11 column that attempts to defend Aaron Klein over his attacks on Wikipedia.

Needless to say, he begins by taking out his frustrations on little ol' me. Endeavoring to smear me as a "fulltime anti-WND blogger" (as if that's a bad thing), Farah asserts that I "claim[ed] falsely that Klein himself was the Wikipedia user dubbed Jerusalem21. In fact, Klein's Jerusalem bureau research assistant is Jerusalem21. Oooooooh. Big scandal, right?"

First, Farah is lying; I never asserted that Klein was Jerusalem21. Here's what I wrote in my original post: "'Jerusalem21' is either Klein or someone close to him acting on his behalf, if not his direction." I merely presented the facts of the case -- which Farah does not contradict -- and offered the two most likely possible conclusions, one of which Klein and Farah were forced to admit was correct.

Second, the "scandal" is not that Klein was the man behind Jerusalem21; it's that he didn't follow sound journalistic practice by disclosing this to his readers. Instead, he left the false impression that he had no personal connection to Jerusalem21. If Klein had done proper disclosure about his relationship to Jerusalem21, this "scandal" would never have taken off like it did.

Third, if this is the non-scandal Farah claims it is, why did WND scrub all references to Jerusalem21 from Klein's articles?

Fourth, Farah fails to address the other part of this "scandal" -- the utter hypocrisy of complaining about removal of negative information from Obama's Wikipedia page when Klein (or Jerusalem21) has been similarly quick to remove critical information from Klein's own Wikipedia page.

Nevertheless, Farah continues to hurl insults: He claims I was taking "libelous shots at Klein" (as noted above, a lie) and adding, "Normally no one pays too much attention to Krepel, recognizing him for what he is – an ideological crusader masquerading as a press watchdog, determined to expose the slightest break in the ranks of the Obama media amen chorus."This is Farah's M.O. -- denigrate, discredit and destroy his critics, even when he can't actually prove they got anything wrong.

And Farah whines, again: "What's odd about this tempest in a teapot is that even if what Krepel and company had written were true, that Klein himself had made the submissions on Wikipedia and reported on it, what is the big deal? What is the scandal? What would be wrong with doing first-hand research of this kind and reporting on it?"

Two things: lack of disclosure and scrubbing of the original articles after publication without alerting readers to it. What about that does Farah not understand? Has he been away from the real world of journalism so long that he no longer grasps such concepts? Does Farah have the guts to defend such egregious violations of journalistic ethics? We suspect not -- publicly, anyway.

If Farah has no problem dishing it out attacks on Obama and other people he doesn't like, he should be able to take it when criticism comes back his way. But as his history demonstrates, he can't.

Neither Farah nor Klein can point to a false claim I've made about this controversy (when they aren't making it up one, anyway). They seem to think beligerent bluster will throw me off their scent. In this case, bluster equals cowardice.

What are they afraid of? Why can't Farah admit that some (if not most) criticism of him and WND is legitimate? Why can't Klein have the same live-and-let-live philosophy on his own Wikipedia bio that he demands be done to Obama's bio?

Farah demonstrates even more cowardice by refusing to link to my original ConWebWatch item on Klein. That's not surprising -- Farah similarly deleted links to ConWebWatch in an op-ed I submitted to WND in response to a previous attack on me by Farah (in which he denigrated me as a "talent-challenged slug").

Farah then writes: "I tell you all this because, in my business, reputation and credibility constitute our lifeblood. And, I know from personal experience that when your reputation and credibility is being gang-raped like this – even by people with no reputation or credibility of their own – it causes real damage."

Well, guess what? I have a reputation and credibility to uphold as well. I research what I write about, I back up my claims, and I will defend myself against false and unfounded accusations like the ones Farah is spewing.

I stand by what I wrote about Klein's Wikipedia stories; I'm merely reporting what WND won't. Farah, meanwhile, has not only lied about what I've written, he has already demonstrated he doesn't trust his own reporter or his readers by surreptitiously scrubbing Klein's stories after publication.

So, which one of us has "no reputation or credibility of their own"?

UPDATE: Cross-posted with minor alterations at Huffington Post.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:34 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:13 PM EDT
Klein Claims He's Not Jerusalem21 -- And Scrubs His Story
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Aaron Klein has responded to Gawker over our report on the unusual and undisclosed closeness between Klein and "Jerusalem21," the nom de wiki of the Wikipedia contributor around whom Klein built an article to claim that references to the birth certificate issue on Barack Obama's Wikipedia page were being swiftly deleted:

First, I am not "Jerusalem21," but I do know the Wikipedia user (he works with me and does research for me), and I worked with him on this story, which focused on investigating allegations I had received from others of Wikipedia scrubbing Obama's page. I wanted to personally oversee whether indeed criticism of Obama was being deleted. For your information, often investigative journalists engage in exactly this kind of testing – like seeing if they can bypass mandatory disclosures while donating to a candidate (several newspapers did this prior to the November election), or if they can register a dog to vote in Illinois. Thus, even if I had personally edited Obama's page as a test to investigate allegations of scrubbing, this is entirely legitimate journalistic practice.

Then again, reporters typically fully disclose the extent of their involvement in such stunts in their articles -- something Klein did not do until we reported on it and it spread across the Internet (Pandagon, Wired's Threat Level, Gawker/Valleywag). His obviously close relationship to "Jerusalem21" should have been disclosed.

Of course, even Klein's begrudging disclosure here is not sufficient. How do we know for sure that "Jerusalem21" is not Klein? Why take Klein's word for it? After all, the only thing "Jerusalem21" edited at Wikipedia before this is Klein's own bio -- where we know any criticism of Klein is swiftly deleted -- and Klein is still obscuring "Jerusalem21's" real identity, for which he has not given a reason.

Klein further defends his story: "My article from yesterday noted what is clearly a major trend at Wikipedia and is a very legitimate piece. ... Do not simply and misleadingly update your article just by stating that I know 'Jerusalem21' and leaving in the defamatory portrayal that I somehow invented a controversy, when indeed there is indisputably a much wider, documented trend."

But as we also noted, Klein failed to provide proper context. In neither of his articles -- his original one, plus a follow-up -- did Klein mention that a separate Wikipedia page exists regarding Obama birth certificate conspiracies. Nor does he acknowledge that other Wikipedia pages are similarly monitored by editors and critical claims deleted -- like Aaron Klein's.

Klein sent a similar response to Threat Level. As blogger Kevin Poulsen sums it up:

What's missing from this treatise on investigative journalism is the reporter's obligation to disclose when he's engineered events on which he's reporting. In a follow-up e-mail, Klein acknowledges that he should have made that disclosure, but suggests he's guilty of nothing more than an accidental omission in a hastily written story.

"It just slipped my mind," he writes.

[...]

That's a lot of mind-slippage. You'd think at some point in the writing, Klein would have a revelation, slap his head and say, "Silly me! Here I am writing about my researcher following my instructions, and I'm making it sound like I don't even know the guy! Glad I caught that."

Further, if Klein is so proud of this story and his association with "Jerusalem21," why did remove all references to "Jerusalem21" after the fact? As Threat Level noted, as of early afternoon on March 10, Klein's original article "was scrubbed clean of the name Jerusalem21, who's now referred to only as 'one Wikipedia user.'" There is no notice on the article to indicate that it has been altered from the original -- another thing a real, conscientious journalist would do.

Fortunately for you (though perhaps less so for Klein), we saved a copy of the original. We're pretty sure Klein's follow-up originally referenced "Jerusalem21" as well, but that's been scrubbed too.

Given that Klein is still obfuscating about "Jerusalem21" and has significantly changed his article(s) after publication without informing readers he did so, why trust Klein on anything?


Posted by Terry K. at 12:06 AM EDT
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
WND's War on Wikipedia
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Aaron Klein's current sock-puppet assault on Wikipedia is far from the only instance of WorldNetDaily's attacks on the website.

In December, WND editor Joseph Farah let loose an anti-Wikipedia screed after someone had edited his Wiki bio to claim he was "noted homosexual." Farah called Wikipedia "wholesale purveyor of lies and slander unlike any other the world has ever known," a "vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit," "a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution," a "wholly unreliable website run by political and social activists promoting their own agenda" and, last but not least, "pseudo-journalistic terrorism and character assassination." You know, kinda like WND itself.

Last May, WND accused Wikipedia of promoting pornography for including "detailed photos of nude homosexual men engaging in sex acts and a variety of other sexually explicit images and content" for, among other things, offering the definition of a "fluffer" and including an image of the European cover of the 1976 Scorpions album "Virgin Killer," which features a naked girl. At no point does WND concede that the images and content occur in the context of an encyclopedia, or that child nudity is not the same thing as child pornorgraphy. WND promoted the story with the blurb, "Wikipedia or Wikipornia?" As one observer put it, WND demonstrates "a shocking misunderstanding of how Wikipedia actually works."


Posted by Terry K. at 4:50 PM EDT
WND vs. Snopes
Topic: WorldNetDaily

As editor Joseph Farah himself has demonstrated, WorldNetDaily's reaction to information they don't like is to attempt to discredit and destroy the source of that information.

A March 9 WND article by Drew Zahn attacking the credibility of the Snopes.com urban legend-debunking site and accusing it of a "political or social bias" follows that pattern. Why attack Snopes? It contradicts WND by declaring Barack Obama to be a natural-born American, and it called out Farah for making baselessly alarmist claims.

To counter Snopes on the birth certificate issue, Zahn uncritically quotes false and misleading claims by Orly Taitz, who has filed numerous lawsuits over the issue, claiming that "His paternal grandmother in Kenya and the ambassador of Kenya made statements that he was born in Kenya." In fact, the claim about Obama's grandmother is based on a conversation selectively edited to make it appear as if she made the claim, and WND itself has reported that Kenyan Ambassador Peter Ogego says he was misquoted on the issue and that he never said Obama was born in Kenya.

Zahn also uncritically repeats Taitz's baseless attack on FactCheck.org, asserting that it "claim[ed] to have examined Obama's birth certificate and found it valid. Neither the state of Hawaii, nor Obama has ever released such birth certificate." In fact, FactCheck claimed to have examained the certificate of live birth released by the Obama campaign. Unsurprisingly, Zahn fails to note that WND itself delcared that certificate to be valid.

Zahn goes on to parrot Farah's 2007 attack on Snopes -- but since it's a one-sided account, Zahn doesn't bother to tell the full truth.

As we reported at the time, WND published an alarmist article by Farah on the purported hazards of compact flourescent light bulbs, focusing on the case of a woman who claimed she faced a $2,000 clean-up bill after a bulb broke. Farah failed to mention evidence that a four-figure cleanup of a broken CFL is overkill. Snopes cited Farah's article as an example of a fallacious claim. That got Farah's dander up, and he insisted that it was "ludicrous" for Snopes to claim he suggested that "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb" (despite Farah's enthusiastic promotion of the woman's alarmist claims to that effect) and that "Everything in the story is 100 percent accurate and truthful – and not a word of the original story has been altered" (ignoring the fact that he selectively quoted from the original article, thus introducing factual misrepresentation into his own by telling only one side of the story).

Zahn bizarrely reframes the issue, asserting that "Snopes was investigating claims that the Environmental Protection Agency was covering over safety concerns with compact fluorescent light bulbs" and that Snopes somehow erred by citing the EPA guidelines on how to dispose of a broken CFL. At no pointdid Farah then, or Zahn now, offer evidence to contradict those EPA guidelines.

Farah concluded that 2007 column by laughably asserting that, unlike Snopes and Wikipedia, WND has the "traits" of "honesty, integrity and standards." Zahn demonstrates yet again, through failing to fact-check those whose views he's promoting, that WND has none of those traits.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:15 PM EDT
Newsmax Ignores E-Verify Errors
Topic: Newsmax

Uncriticially repeating claims by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, March 9 Newsmax article by David Patten promotes the mandated use of the federal E-Verify system to check the eligibility status of employees and complains that such a requirement was "deleted by Democratic leaders" from the stimulus bill. But Patten fails to note concerns about the error rate of E-Verify databases.

As Media Matters details, several government reports have suggested that E-Verify does not have the level of accuracy needed to be truly useful, and that it contains errors that can misidentify millions of qualified workers, especially foreign-born citizens, as being potentially ineligible for employment.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:24 AM EDT
WND's Imminent Apocalypse
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily's vision of news has turned rather apocalyptic of late.

A March 8 article by Drew Zahn touts how you can be "quietly preparing to survive catastrophe" by purchasing "high-yielding vegetable seeds sealed for long-term storage and awaiting a family's need to grow its own food." WND's front page currently features an ad by a similar company promoted with the line, "Why almost everyone's wrong on coming food shortage."

Another March 8 article promotes claims by David Wilkerson, "best-selling author and founder of a major ministry to teens" as well as author of the evangelical book "The Cross and the Switchblade," of his vision of "fires raging through New York City" that "will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires – such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago. ... We are under God’s wrath." What WND didn't report, as Richard Bartholomew noted, is that Wilkerson has been making such predictions for at least 35 years. WND liked it so much it repeated Wilkerson's claims in a March 9 article.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:26 AM EDT
Meanwhile, Over At HuffPo...
Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've published an exapnded version of our post on Aaron Klein, Wikipedia and "Jerusalem21" over at Huffington Post.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:34 AM EDT
The Rush Limbaugh Defense Center
Topic: Media Research Center

The MRC is not just the Ann Coulter Defense Center -- it's the Rush Limbaugh Defense Center too.

The MRC launched a fusillade against the Associated Press for daring to report Rush Limbaugh's remark that President Obama's health-care plan will "be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care bill," asserting that it was "liberal propaganda to help demonize Rush Limbaugh." MRC chief Brent Bozell also demanded in a letter to AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fouriner that the AP issue "both an apology to Rush Limbaugh and an immediate update to correct the record."

Bozell brought up a two-month-old Fox News article suggesting that Democrats planned to name any health-care bill after Kennedy as evidence that "Democrats themselves who first suggested this naming months ago, not Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative for that matter" and that the AP was negligent.

Nowhere in either the press release or the letter does Bozell quote what Limbaugh actually said.

Fournier caught on to Bozell's spin; according to a NewsBusters post, Fournier replied: 

Saying that a bill should be named after Sen. Kennedy is different from saying the bill will be named after the late Sen. Kennedy. (As Rush Limbaugh put it, "Before it’s over, it’ll be called the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill.")

In that NewsBusters post, Bozell likened the AP article to Phony Soldiers, Part II":

In October 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a cabal of liberal Senators in a completely fraudulent attack against Rush fashioned in just the same way - deceitfully taking his words out of context and trumping up a subsequent smear campaign.  The left is at it again. 

Let's remember the MRC's record of deceitfully taking people's words out of context:

  • The MRC patched together several quotes from a book by former New York Times editor Howell Raines to make it falsely appear that Raines was insulting Ronald Reagan. The MRC stood by that for nine years before being forced to issue a "clarification."
  • The MRC is still standing by its 2003 Quote of the Year, a statement in a Boston Globe magazine article by Charles Pierce that "Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to [Mary Jo Kopechne] in her old age," claiming that it's ludicrous sycophancy when Pierce himself has pointed out that in context it was meant, and read by non-MRC employees, as harsh criticism of Kennedy.

Seems to us that Charles Pierce is due an apology long before Limbaugh is.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:21 AM EDT
Monday, March 9, 2009
Richard Poe's Anti-Alinsky Screed
Topic: Newsmax

Richard Poe gets away from ranting about redesigned currency and being a drama queen and gets back to what he does best: rant about liberals. In a March 8 Newsmax article, Poe issues a screed against "radical organizer" Saul Alinsky and, unsurprisingly, issues a few baseless smears along the way against favorite targets like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Poe's article is centered around Sanford Howitt's 1989 bio of Alinsky, "Let Them Call Me Rebel." Poe bizarrely writes, "Ironically, Obama’s name does not appear in the book." Given that Alinsky died in 1972, when Obama was 11, and Poe's own concession that "Obama never met Alinsky," there's no irony whatsoever in the lack of connection between Obama and Alinsky.

Poe also claims that Hillary Clinton was "seduced" by Alinsky: "She met Alinsky through a radical youth group, run by her Methodist church. Later, she interviewed Alinsky for her senior thesis in college -- a 75-page analysis of Alinsky’s organizing methods." Yeah, nothing bespeaks "radical" like being a Methodist.

Poe fails to mention that Clinton concluded her thesis by rejecting Alinsky's methods as a large-scale method for social change: "Alinsky's conclusion that the ‘ventilation’ of hostilities is healthy in certain situations is valid, but across-the-board ‘social catharsis’ cannot be prescribed."

Clinton further wrote in her 2003 autobiography that while she agreed with some of Alinsky's ideas, "we had a fundamental disagreement. He believed you could change the system only from the outside. I didn't." Poe doesn't mention that, either. He was apparently too busy trying to paint Alinsky as "amoral."


Posted by Terry K. at 1:27 PM EDT
Aaron Klein Double Standard (And Bad Reporting) Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A March 6 WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein begins: "Officials in Jerusalem are quietly scratching their heads in wonderment as to why the White House did not release an official statement condemning yesterday's tractor terrorist rampage here, the third attack of its kind in recent months."

At no point does Klein offer any evidence that this is a concern by anyone but him. Nowhere does he identify any "officials in Jerusalem" who are asking this question -- even anonymously.

Klein also answers his own question later in the article by reporting that the Arab "terrorist" killed no one or even inflicted anything beyond "minor injuries" in the police officers in the police car the "terrorist" overturned with his front-end loader. (The "terrorist" himself was "shot by police and an armed taxi driver" and later died.)

Klein has a history of double standards on so-called "terrorist rampages." In contrast to his reporting here, he painted an AWOL Israeli soldier who shot and killed four Arabs without apparent provocation on a bus in Gaza as a victim who was "murdered" by a "mob of Palestinians" who observed the shooting.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:20 AM EDT
Is Aaron Klein Writing About Himself?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A March 8 WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein asserts that Wikipedia editors "has been deleting within minutes any mention of eligibility issues surrounding Barack Obama's presidency, with administrators kicking off anyone who writes about the subject," citing the experience of "Wikipedia user 'Jerusalem21'" in trying to add the information to Obama's page.

What you won't learn from Klein's article: "Jerusalem21" may very well be Klein himself.

As the posting history of "Jerusalem21" demonstrates, the only other Wikipedia article "Jerusalem21" has edited is the one on ... Aaron Klein. Indeed, "Jerusalem21" created the article on Klein and added numerous links and pictures. This alone strongly suggests that "Jerusalem21" is either Klein or someone close to him acting on his behalf, if not his direction.

Don't take our word for it. Here are a couple comments from the discussion area for Klein's Wiki page and its puffery-laden claims:

  • "We might surmise that the subject is once again editing his own article."
  • "This article in its current state is absolute garbage. It reads as a total puff piece and was obviously heavily influenced by Klein himself and cronies/sockpuppets at WND."

Full disclosure: We've previously attempted to add factual information about Klein to his page that we've previously reported at ConWebWatch -- much of which was deleted by "Jerusalem21." Ironically, it appears that Klein is guilty of doing the exact same thing to our edits that he's accusing Wikipedia editors of doing to the edits by "Jerusalem21."

Now it's Klein's turn to disclose. Is he "Jerusalem21," or is that person acting on Klein's orders? He needs to stop pretending he's not writing about himself.

UPDATE: An alert ConWebWatch reader alerts us that Klein fails to mention the existence of an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the Obama citizenship conspiracy.

UPDATE 2: NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard regurgitates Klein's story. But then again, Sheppard also embraced a guy who believes in 9/11 conspiracy theories.

UPDATE 3: We've published an expanded version of this post over at Huffington Post.

UPDATE 4: This is not the first attack WND has made against Wikipedia.

UPDATE 5: Klein denies he's Jerusalem21 -- but WND has scrubbed his story of all references to Jerusalem21.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:10 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 11:44 AM EDT
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The Obtuseness Continues
Topic: NewsBusters

It's apparently obtuseness weekend at NewsBusters.

First we had Tim Graham unable to properly identify what remark Rush Limbaugh that many found offensive. Now we have Noel Sheppard writing about White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' sparring with critics, then adding, "Anything to distract the nation from a deteriorating economy and the obvious lack of a plan to do anything about it I guess."

Apparently, that stimulus bill was not a plan to do something about the economy.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:38 AM EST
MRC Branch Advances Anti-Global Warming Fallacies
Topic: Media Research Center

A March 4 MRC Business & Media Institute article by Julia Seymour complains about the "media myth" of global warming, but Seymour's article perpetuates a different set of myths.

Seymour cites how "Temperatures have plummeted to record or near-record lows in 32 states this winter" and "a global warming protest in Washington, D.C. was buried by nearly a foot of snow" as evidence that "the Earth is cooling," adding, "Even record low temperatures, record snowfalls and snow in odd places didn’t stop the network media from worrying about the threat of global warming."

In fact, as we've noted, there's no correlation between briefly cold temperatures or snowy weather in isolated parts of the country and long-term climate trends. Even global warming denier Patrick Michaels agrees with that.

Seymour also suggested that temperaures in 2008, which she wrote was "the coldest year since 2000," was further evidence that the earth is cooling. Seymour fails to note that 2008 was the 10th warmest year on record or that, in fact, the earth has not cooled over the past decade.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:51 AM EST

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