Posted by: Honest ABE | April 3, 2010

Wikipedian Shenanigans and the Financial Crisis

(Note: Feel free to skip this and go directly to the linked lecture at the bottom – it is longer but well worth listening to)

A few days ago I came across an interesting segment of whitewashed wikipedia history that I hadn’t heard about before.

The short version of the story is that the CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, had made it his personal mission to expose the practice known as naked short selling, which he thought his company was both a victim of and which was partially responsible for the financial meltdown. Short selling, as it usually functions, is where a person will pay a fee to borrow some stock from someone else, with the promise that they will give that stock back at a later point in time – but that is just the start of it. The short seller will borrow that stock, but then immediately sell it for cash, and then they hope that the price of the stock goes down so that when it comes time to pay back the stock the price will have dropped.

However, with naked short-selling, the person doesn’t actually borrow the stock, they essentially sell I.O.U’s of the stock, which are treated exactly like actual shares of stock for all intents and purposes (you may even own them yourself without realizing it). The problem that Byrne articulated was that naked short selling can multiply the number of shares of stock in a company, totally out of the company’s control, and cause inflation due to the excess of supply – for companies that rely on stock for capital this can be deadly, but for the hedge funds that artificially collapse the price of a companies stock (and those that facilitate these transactions) this can be extraordinarily profitable.

How does this deal with wikipedia?

Well, Gary Weiss, a slimeball of a journalist who pseudonymously writes his own book reviews on amazon to praise himself and harm his competitors, decided he would whitewash the naked short selling article while muddying up the Patrick Byrnes and Overstock.com articles. He accomplished this, as with his Amazon.com reviews, by creating a number of sockpuppet accounts and by gaining favor with the now former wikipedia administrator  SlimVirgin (a name obviously designed to sexually manipulate the socially incompetent) – necessary due to the involvement of Judd “Wordbomb” Bagley, who from what I gather was at one time an employee of overstock and a journalist.

“Wordbomb” not only quite cleverly exposed Weiss’s sockpuppets, but also discovered that SlimVirgin and Jayjg (another incompetent administrator who has the hobby of deleting, with no history, any wikipedia pages that would embarrass himself or his clique) engaged in extremely unethical behavior in order to further his agenda.

What agenda?

Here is the clincher – Gary had been editing wikipedia from an IP address that was traced to the  DTCC – who were getting publicly pilloried over the naked shorting issue and desperately needed a PR counteroffensive.

For a really amazing lecture by Judd Bagley then please click on his website (banned at wikipedia of course):

http://antisocialmedia.net/lecture1/player.html (might want to skip to slide 5)

It is really a fascinating story, a bit long, but better than any TV show you are likely to watch tonight. The presentation seems to occasionally bug out for me, but it is easily fixed by moving the slider on the player slightly to kick it into gear.

Closing thoughts:

Overly influential wikipedian administrators protected and covered up a sockpuppetting corporate shill while he protected and promoted unethical financial practices (shades of Sam Blacketer). The problem is that there is no easy way to get rid of these bad apples, no balance of powers in wikipedian “government,” which may be solved by simply allowing editors to vote to strip them of their privileges.

Of course, the problem with that is the obvious canvassing (e.g. emailing each other to garner support for issues) that goes on with many administrators, which could only be countered by allowing canvassing to be public and legal – instead of a secret hammer used to attain and maintain power.

Eventually though there will be a scandal so big it can’t be ignored – and wikipedia’s complicity in it will directly and proportionally relate with either its downfall or its transformation.

External Links (yep, I’ve listed it twice because it really is that good):

http://antisocialmedia.net/lecture1/player.html (might want to skip to slide 5)

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Responses

  1. It really IS that good 🙂
    Thanks

    When are WE doing something like that for AGW? And how would it ever fit in only one hour?

  2. I’m glad you liked it.

    That “articulate” software is pretty neat, but I don’t think I have the speaking voice for it (I speak too quickly).

    The nice thing though is that I doubt we’ll even need to do anything about AGW. As it becomes clear that it is merely cargo cult science it will probably fade away quietly – I doubt the public has the attention span to muster much outrage over being lied to and manipulated for decades, but there will certainly be some good books and articles on how the media, politicians and people were conned by arrogant “scientists.”

    AGW will be regarded as phrenology and alchemy – a curioso produced by primitive minds.

    Of course, this assumes we grow out of it before disastrous policies are shoved down our throat due to the theory.

  3. “AGW will be regarded as phrenology and alchemy – a curioso produced by primitive minds.” LOL, that’s priceless.

    While the entire Gary Weiss episode is unrelated to the climate change meme, it IS illustrative of some of the tactics being employed there, just as the Lambert and Quiggin thread below similarly illustrates.

    All three of these examples included people who had real world enemies that they were trying to attack, and they were using Wikipedia as a means of advancing that attack.

    A similar dynamic exists within the biographies of the prominent climate change proponents and skeptics. The biographies of the proponents are padded with nice glowing information similar to how Weiss padded his biography, whereas the skeptics are padded with as much negative dirt as can be found or misrepresented, again similar to how Weiss was lining up to falsely label Patrick Byrne as anti-Semitic.

    The only reason that this is allowed to continue is that a certain faction of editors has gained control of the climate change articles and they encourage and enforce this type of disparity across the different biographies based on who they like and who they don’t.

  4. Yes well there is a huge COI problem at wikipedia due to the moronic assertion that “outing” causes more harm that secret POV pushers :).

    Hell, I would’ve added WMC to the list as well due to his edits (and the edits he encourages his “friends”) to make.

  5. This topic tweaked my interest enough that I dug around a little bit to get the lay of the land with this group of editors. This led me to this thread over at Wikpedia Review which seems to indicate that Gary Weiss is not necessarily in a good mental space. I then went over to the Gary Weiss (auto-)biography to see what was happening and low and behold, there is User:JzG (aka Guy) doing some cleanup for Weiss, see this and this. What’s up with that? Are Guy and Weiss allies somehow?

  6. Well from Essjay to Weiss (and everyone in between), JzG and the rest of the power nerds always and inevitably will back the wrong horse in the race.

    The most obvious explanation for JzG’s constant sympathies with assorted sockpuppeters, nutbags and slimeballs is that he himself engages in such behavior.

    Kindred spirits will empathize with each other.


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