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Eve Fairbanks – Hillary Clinton: Wiki Woman

Back when we got basic information from encyclopedias instead of Wikipedia, politicians were at the mercy of the encyclopedia-writers’ particular biases. Take the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Apparently controlled by smug British nationalists, it described the important Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell as “not over-scrupulous,” “repellent,” “powerful for evil,” and, owing to the “mental affliction of his ancestors,” probably possessing a “mental equilibrium [that] was not always stable.”

Wikipedia was supposed to fix this problem. Anyone can add, delete, or massage language in its online articles, and–boom!–refresh the page to see their changes appear instantly. These volunteer contributors (“editors,” in Wikipedia lingo) discuss their changes on an article’s associated “talk page,” and eventually (or so the theory goes) merge their different perspectives on various subjects into something truly neutral. But, after you see what happens when two warring Democratic candidates are thrown to the mercy of the Wikipedians, you kind of yearn for the 1911 Britannica.

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