Today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales named two women as “Wikipedians of the Year” (archive here). Regrettably these women, Emily Temple-Wood and Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, were immediately attacked by notorious bigot Mark Bernstein, who demanded on Twitter (archive here), “what did the Wikipedians of the year do to stop right-wing threats and extortion at Wikipedia?”
Mark Bernstein, the self styled ‘Chief Scientist’ of his company Eastgate Systems (and also pretty much the only scientist of the tiny company), has a long history of using Wikipedia to promote his own views and prejudices. He is currently serving a 6-week Wikipedia block (archive here) and and indefinite topic ban from ‘any gender-related dispute or controversy […] broadly construed’ (archive here) due to ‘a pattern’ of misconduct and insensitive remarks in this area.
In my article, Improper of last year I exposed Bernstein as having made numerous edits to articles about his own company and its products contrary to Wikipedia policy on conflict of interest.
In this case, the female subjects of Mark Bernstein’s attack could not be more inappropriate and ironic. Whilst Bernstein claims to support feminists, as in his lengthy and regrettable article, Infamous, his targets in this incident, women of achievement, could not have greater credentials in the fight against harassment.
To quote the Huffington Post, “Student Emily Temple-Wood Writes A New ‘Women In Science’ Wikipedia Entry Every Time She’s Harassed” (archive here). Unlike many self-styled social justice warriors, Temple-Wood largely eschews Wikipedia’s drama boards and actually writes articles.
Similarly, Stephenson-Goodknight has contributed to over 3,000 content articles and was a founder of the Wikipedia Teahouse, an induction programme for new members.
In short, when asked, “What did you do to fight harassment?” these women can answer, “Quite a lot, actually”.
The irony of Mark Bernstein’s continuous attacks on alleged Wikipedia sexism is that it is he who is formally sanctioned for inappropriate remarks on gender related issues, with a neutral administrator finding Bernstein was, “contributing to a toxic atmosphere”.
One way in which Bernstein helped to cause pointless strife on Wikipedia was by trying to gratuitously link online ethics movement GamerGate to the Charleston shootings (archive here) stating, “Dylann Roof began by looking stuff up on Wikipedia. A reminder why it’s important not to let Gamergate have its way”.
When Bernstein was blocked earlier this year, he span a fabulously elaborate conspiracy theory about a, ‘right-wing coup’ on Wikipedia. Mark claims that his ban from gender related controversies was cause by a, “Right-wing extremist coup against Wikipedia governance” (archive here) and not, ex-hypothesi, for his unacceptable attacks on other editors such as in this case.
Bernstein’s problem is that he is a poster-child for the reasons all his allegedly favoured politically correct causes are losing. Social justice is a good example, in which even a staunch feminist and defender of the LGBT+ movement like Temple-Wood must meet up to unattainable and shifting standards set in this case by a white male.
Bernstein’s intolerance and his inability to celebrate even insufficiently zealous colleagues is a microcosm of why Trump is soaring in the polls and Britain has just voted to leave the European Union.
Another facet of Bernstein’s objectionable behaviour is his sinister attempts to silence opposing voices, accusing critics of blackmail and extortion. In my case, I recently wrote a draft article about a Wikipedia official who had failed to enforce Wikipedia’s child protection. I contacted the subject for comment along with other interested parties in line with ethical practices. The official did not deny the allegations but instead resigned. Bernstein claims this was, ‘blackmail’.
Wikipedia needs more sensible moderate voices. Whilst I am by no means left wing I would far rather the encylopaedia was edited content creators like Emily Temple-Wood than skulkers on the drama boards such as Bernstein.
Fortunately, there is a Reddit based group that is setting out to try to bring moderation and collaboration back to Wikipedia. It is called, /r/TheGGGreatWork. Quiet and discreet, this GamerGate-friendly group sets out to work ethically without brigading or breaching any rules. The group prohibits sock-puppeting but instead encourages members to join Wikipedia, work helpfully on uncontentious areas and then apply for voluntary positions. Administrators on Wikipedia, for example, are elected.
By working together, civil and scholarly individuals can ensure that voices of conflict and extremism like Bernstein’s are drowned out by the will of the mainstream majority.
If Jimmy Wales truly wants to support women on Wikipedia, perhaps he could make a symbolic gesture by making Bernstein’s ban permanent. This would help to send a much needed message that inappropriate gender-related behaviour is unacceptable on Wikipedia.