Edit war on Wikipedia over Labeling Stefan Molyneux alt-right

After the author of the Google Viewpoint Diversity memo appeared on libertarian philosopher Stefan Molyneux’s YouTube channel, Wikipedia editors began editing Molyneux’s page to state he was alt-right and far-right. His own statements rejecting the labels were removed.

Following Google firing James Damore over his memo, Damore made an appearance on Stefan Molyneux’s YouTube channel. Within hours Wadaad, a self-described “defender of social justice”, began editing Molyneux’s Wikipedia page to suggest Molyneux was a racist based off blogs, Molyneux’s criticism of mass immigration, and Molyneux’s interviews with individuals arguing a biological cause for the racial IQ gap.

While most of Wadaad’s edits were rejected for failing to comply with Wikipedia’s standards on reliable sources, one of the changes that stuck was an addition to the top of a section on Molyneux’s views describing him as alt-right. The label had been included in the intro to Molyneux’s page since June and was expanded in July by an editor previously sanctioned for his edits about conservative figures, but the edits by Wadaad reignited discussion.

Efforts were made to remove the alt-right description but were reverted. When the claim was attributed to the media, further edits specifcally attributed the characterization to Politico and the Washington Post. Wadaad expanded further noting a report in Metro that used the same characterization.

The fight over labeling Molyneux “alt-right” also made its way to the article for the Google memo. Unlike on Molyneux’s page, the label was not attributed to any source when it was added, instead stating as fact that Molyneux was alt-right. An editor removed it partly noting a guideline that discourages editors from using “value-laden” labels unless widely used by reliable sources.

Hours after Molyneux tweeted a link to Breitbart’s coverage on the editing dispute over the Google memo article, editor Volunteer Marek restored the alt-right label. Marek was himself a subject of the Breitbart piece. A discussion was initiated on the label, which overwhelmingly favored excluding its usage and it was removed.

No similar discussion occurred at Molyneux’s page, but a video by Molyneux rejecting claims of him being far-right sparked off a renewed edit war. The video concerned a Business Insider article about Trump supporters opposing his Afghanistan surge where Molyneux was branded far-right. An IP user added links to the video with material stating it was rejecting his categorization as alt-right. While Molyneux’s video only mentions the “far-right” label, Wikipedia’s own article on the alt-right linked from Molyneux’s page describes it as “a loosely defined group of people with far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of white nationalism.”

Multiple editors began to edit war to keep this video out of Molyneux’s article, stating it did not meet the criteria for reliable sources. Wikipedia’s reliable sourcing policies, however, explicitly allow using sources published by the subject of an article. Marek and another editor called SPECIFICO, who in one instance removed the video link as “primary sourced BS”, were among those involved in the edit war.

In discussion about the video link, SPECIFICO and another editor mocked the idea of allowing Molyneux’s response in the article likening it to citing the statements of Charles Manson or OJ Simpson in their articles. Though they still acknowledged it could be acceptable to cite the video, they also argued he did not really reject the label or suggested he may contradict himself in another video in order to argue against citing it.

As this discussion went on, Wadaad added the Business Insider article with material noting its claim of Molyneux being far-right. Multiple additional sources for the alt-right label with each being attributed was added by another editor in an example of “citation overkill” as described in one essay written by Wikipedia editors. The essay notes this can occur when “an editor desperately tries to shore up one’s point . . . in the hope that their opponents will accept that there are reliable sources for their edit.”

The edit war resumed with users again attempting to add the YouTube video by Molyneux rejecting the label and being reverted. SPECIFICO went further, claiming Molyneux “frequently asserts” claims of a link between race and intelligence, despite this not being supported by the cited Gizmodo article.

SPECIFICO has a history of agenda-driven editing on the pages of right-wing libertarians, including attempts to associate them with the far-right. He had been banned from articles about the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises Institute and was eventually banned from all articles about Austrian economics due to repeated violations of the aforementioned ban. This included edits related to Molyneux, who has written for the site of LvMI co-founder Lew Rockwell.

On Molyneux’s page, SPECIFICO is the top editor having made over 10% of the edits to the article. His past activity has involved arguing against describing Molyneux as a philosopher, trying to cast doubt on this description, and engaging in innuendo about his finances. In one edit, SPECIFICO removed the description of Molyneux as a philosopher as “vandalism” despite two of the article’s citations in the same version describing him as such.

Although the alt-right label on Molyneux’s page is backed and attributed to half-a-dozen sources, these mostly have come after its initial inclusion in his page in June. One possible explanation is that journalists are consulting Wikipedia and using its identification of him as alt-right. These sources then being used to bolster the claim would make it a case of citogenesis, a cycle where claims made on Wikipedia get repeated by “reliable sources” that are then cited on Wikipedia. This impact of the site’s influence and reach on the reputations of living people is why some critics of the online encyclopedia call it a “defamation engine” and Molyneux’s case is just one of many such examples.

(Disclosure: The author has been involved in disputes with several of the parties mentioned in the article)