Antifa Supporters Edit Group’s Wikipedia Page to Downplay Terrorism Categorization
Following Breitbart’s previous coverage of edits made to the Antifa Wikipedia page downplaying the group’s violence, a discussion including Antifa supporters led to the removal of language from the group’s Wikipedia entry intro noting DHS and FBI have categorized Antifa violence as terrorism.
These editors have also fought to include material labeling former Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos as “alt-right,” a label he has repeatedly rejected, to provide “context” to violent disruption that caused the cancellation of his Berkeley speaking engagement last February.
Wikipedia for several weeks included in the introduction to its article on Antifa in the United States a line noting Politico’s report that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI under the Obama administration internally classified Antifa violence as domestic terrorism. Both that and other material regarding the movement’s characterization as a terrorist group has been hotly contested by editors on the article.
Doug Weller, a member of the site’s Arbitration Committee, initiated a discussion on removing the material from the intro, questioning the veracity of Politico’s reporting on the matter. Including Weller, eight editors weighed in, with only two opposing the deletion. However, two of those wanting the material removed from the intro have apparent sympathies for Antifa.
One of the two editors, named “Arms & Hearts,” identifies himself as an anarcho-communist and includes an Antifa image on his profile page. The other is “Bobfrombrockley” who identifies himself as a Marxist and states on his profile page that he “supports antifa in combating fascism in both word and action.”
As the other six editors were closely divided on whether to have the terrorist designation in the intro, these two were enough to establish a firm “consensus” on removing the material, and the anarcho-communist Antifa supporter implemented the decision. Both he and another editor then removed other references to terrorism from the article. While material about the Politico report was still included in the body of the article, Weller edited it to caveat the veracity of the report.
The Marxist Antifa supporter, in addition to another edit downplaying Antifa violence, added a statement that Yiannopoulos was “alt-right” despite this not being included in the cited New York Times article. He justified this edit by stating it was to provide “context” to Antifa violence at Yiannopoulos’ UC Berkeley event in February that was canceled for safety reasons. Editor Policpolicy cited the lack of sourcing and removed the label, sparking an edit war with editors adding other sources to support the label. On his own Wikipedia page, Yiannopoulos is only described as being “associated” with the alt-right.
Editor Darkness Shines brought the issue to the article’s discussion page, stating the sources were opinion pieces, but other editors rejected his position, including the two Antifa supporters. While some sources cited would not qualify as opinion, these sources did not mention Antifa or the violence at UC Berkeley. Wikipedia’s policy on material about living people strictly prohibits “original research” including unpublished synthesis where editors use reliable sources about an unrelated topic to imply a conclusion otherwise not supported by the sources.
Due to his repeated attempts to remove the alt-right label, Darkness Shines was reported for edit-warring, where he argued the policy on material about living people permitted his edits, as removing material violating the policy is often exempt from edit-warring restrictions. Administrator Bishonen blocked Darkness Shines for 31 hours without addressing this argument.
Mention of Breitbart’s coverage of the editing on the article also became a point of contention for Wikipedia users. After Drmies, another member of the Arbitration Committee, congratulated E. M. Gregory for being mentioned in Breitbart’s reporting on the dispute, Gregory added a link to the piece at the top of the article discussion page where media coverage of Wikipedia articles is noted. Drmies removed it stating Breitbart is an “unreliable source.”
Gregory started a discussion about this claim on Wikipedia’s Reliable Sources Noticeboard, noting it was standard to mention media coverage of Wikipedia articles, including by Breitbart. Editors were divided on the matter, with one opposed to mentioning the coverage going so far as to suggest it would be “tantamount to harassment” to note the piece at the top of the talk page.
One other dispute on the article concerned a section on the use of Twitter by members of the alt-right to spread fake claims of Antifa violence to further associate the movement with violence, which was originally part of a “smear campaigns by the far right” section. Editor Saturnalia0 removed the section stating it was excessive to include, and other editors restored the section, including yet another member of the Arbitration Committee, GorillaWarfare.
Frustrated, Saturnali0 undid his last removal and left a message on his profile page regarding Wikipedia’s handling of political topics, stating he was no longer going to edit on the subject:
I thought it could be fixed, but when you have things like this it’s clearly beyond repair. It’s more productive to warn people about it, so that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. It’s unfortunate that this project which works reasonably well with other areas of knowledge fails so poorly when it comes to politics. Then again, most things do.
His words summarize the frustrations many experience dealing with Wikipedia’s partisan left-wing editors.
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