[UPDATE: I have heard once again from the Wikipedia editor who removed Brett Kimberlin's Wikipedia entry. He refuses to tell me who claimed Kimberlin had been the victim of a harassment campaign. He evidently has no regrets about his decision even though Kimberlin has now been exposed as making repeated bogus claims of harassment.
Meanwhile, Wikipedia is moving to restore an entry after an absence of several months, and currently links Kimberlin to an entry on the Speedway Bombings. Over 700 versions of the article await review.]
[UPDATE x2: Symonds is now busy editing the Speedway bombings Wikipedia page. Here is Symonds removing the detail about Carl DeLong's leg being taken off, and his wife being injured, and cleaning it up so it just reads that DeLong and two others were "injured." Brett Kimberlin would be thrilled.]
I have described Brett Kimberlin’s campaign of harassment against his critics as “brass-knuckles reputation management.” The idea is to intimidate and harass anyone daring to bring up Kimberlin’s extensive criminal history. There are other examples I’m aware of that can’t be fully told for various reasons, although I hope the victims choose to tell them.
But one of the most concerning aspects of this reputation maintenance campaign is the way history is rewritten. And one example of that is the way that Kimberlin’s Wikipedia entry was whisked away from view on September 14, 2011.
Let’s look at the reason the editor gave for the deletion:
Oh, really? There was a harassment campaign against Brett Kimberlin, was there?
And here I thought it was the other way around. Here I thought he was the guy harassing others. Silly me!
And we certainly can’t discuss in public the reason that accurate facts are being whisked away from a source that 4 out of 5 suckers consider reliable.
The idea that there is a harassment campaign against Brett Kimberlin is a reputation management theory that has been pushed for months by Brett Kimberlin, Neal Rauhauser, and Ron Brynaert — three people who engaged in the extraoardinary and very real harassment campaign against myself and other critics of Brett Kimberlin.
So where did the Wikipedia editor get the idea that there was a harassment campaign against Brett Kimberlin? In early May 2012, I decided to write the editor, Richard Symonds, and ask why the page was deleted.
Our dialogue follows.
Hello. My name is Patrick Frey and I operate a blog at patterico.com. I am interesting in knowing why you deleted the Wikipedia page on Brett Kimberlin. I have seen the deleted page and it was quite well sourced, with links to TIME Magazine and other news publications.
There was an entire book about this individual written by Mark Singer, a New Yorker writer. There is simply a wealth of reliable information out there about Kimberlin.
I read the reasoning for the deletion and did not understand it. I wonder if you could enlighten me. Thanks very much.
Symonds responded (emphasis mine):
I deleted the article back in September as a volunteer, because it served as an attack page. It was sourced, but was also unduly negative, and written by people who “had an axe to grind”. Although some of the facts were sourced, there was an undertone of maliciousness in the way that the article was written.
Mr Kimberlin was not a paragon of virtue, but the article as it stood simply painted him as a man with no positive qualities at all, which is obviously problematic in a neutral encyclopedia.
If the facts are sourced and accurate, perhaps the negative picture is accurate. Mr. Kimberlin is a man convicted of violent crimes. Portrayals of violent criminals tend to be largely negative, do they not? It sets a disturbing precedent to remove accurate facts from a neutral encyclopedia because those facts portray a violent convicted criminal in a negative light.
Also, how do you know the authors had an “axe to grind”? Who made this claim to you?
And why would that matter if the facts are accurate?
Symonds haughtily blew me off:
I’ve answered your questions and I have no real interest in discussing foreign politics with a blogger by email on my day off. The decision I made was backed up by others, the creators of the article were banned by the community, and I barely even remember the while episode. The whole event was entirely run of the mill, the sort of thing that happens on Wikipedia every day, and I have no real interest in left or right wing politics in North America.
All the best,
Note that he didn’t explain who had complained about the entry. My response suggested that I planned to blog about this:
Politics? I did not say a word about politics. This has nothing to do with politics. I simply asked why a factual article was removed. I find it odd that you would bring up politics when that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I asked you.
You say you answered my questions, but in point of fact you have not. I asked a couple of follow-up questions which were not answered at all: 1) who told you the authors of the article had an “axe to grind” and 2) why would that matter if the facts were accurate?
You’re entitled to refuse to answer my questions, but please don’t say you have answered all my questions when you haven’t.
If you want to wait until it’s no longer your day off, be my guest. I do not plan to publish anything about this today anyway.
In response, this Wikipedia editor Googled me, found several false claims made about me — mainly from Kimberlin’s band of defamers — and presented them as examples of “reliable” facts:
You are a right-of-centre blogger who has an interest in a left-of-centre individual. You’ve also been threatened with legal action by him, it seems – in my opinion, politics, and general ‘bad blood’ is involved here. I am answering your questions below, although I do so as a volunteer, and you must be aware that my memory of this non-event is hazy at best:
The community decided that the authors have an axe to grind due to their conduct. One of the authors behaved in a threatening manner towards a new editor. None of the editors showed any interest whatsoever in editing about other topics, even when asked to stop editing about Mr Kimberlin. Their interest in publicising their views about Mr Kimberlin (and his family) was more important to them than the general advancement of knowledge, ergo, they had a ‘conflict of interest’.
Furthermore, their comments towards new users – described by an uninvolved administrator as ‘truly chilling’ – showed that they harmed our project, rather than helped it
The problem is, I would have thought, obvious. Let me give you an example, using phrases I’ve literally just picked up out of Google:
“John Patrick Frey is a blogger and LA city prosecutor obsessed with the liberal bias of the Los Angeles Times. He has a long memory, especially for all things LA Dog Trainer Times. He has been reported as having harassed Jamie Gold, and has been accused of running a “infamous right wing extremist hate blog”".
They’re all facts that can be backed up by reliable sources, and they have a hint of truth about them, but they paint a biased and patently untrue version of events. The way that sentences in a neutral article are constructed is just as important – if not more so – as the facts out of which the sentence is built. The article, as written, had that sort of problem.
I’d be interested to know what version of the deleted article you have – there are two flying round, one of which is less ‘problematic’ than the other!
Again, emphasis is mine.
“Reliable sources,” eh? I responded:
In your response, you construct a description of me that you say is composed of “facts that can be backed up by reliable sources.” Yet your description is nothing of the sort. I am a blogger. I am not an “LA city prosecutor.” [I am an L.A. County, not city, prosecutor, speaking in his personal capacity, as always. --ed.] Calling me “obsessed” is not a “fact” but a characterization. Calling my letters to the LAT Readers’ Rep “harassment” is a tendentious characterization and not a “fact.” Calling my blog an “extremist hate blog” is a tendentious characterization and not a “fact.”
Please tell me what “reliable sources” you used to determine these “facts” about me.
There is a difference between tendentious claims and factual claims that can be supported by reliable sources in the media.
For example: one version of Kimberlin’s Wikipedia entry said: “In 1981, Kimberlin was convicted of a series of bombings that took place in Speedway, Indiana in 1978.” That is simply a matter of public record — as are his convictions for drug smuggling, perjury, and impersonating a federal officer. Yet you deleted these facts from Wikipedia.
If Charlie Manson were to file or threaten lawsuits against anyone who has ever written about his criminal history, that would not change the facts about his criminal history. I am not asking Wikipedia to rely on my blog for the facts regarding Brett Kimberlin. But there are numerous court decisions, articles in mainstream media, and even a published book by a New Yorker writer, testifying to the facts surrounding Kimberlin’s record. For Wikipedia to whisk the facts regarding his record away based on the arguments you have made is Orwellian, and casts serious question on the reliability of Wikipedia as a source for information.
I am attaching a screenshot from one version of the Wikipedia article. It appears to be pure fact. It contains nothing about Kimberlin’s family, just facts. The one opinion I see is that his claims about selling pot to Dan Quayle are called “false.” That cannot be established as fact, and rather than deleting the article outright, editing out the word “false” would have been the truly neutral and factual action to take.
Have you ever heard from a fellow named Neal Rauhauser concerning Brett Kimberlin? Is he one of your “reliable sources” for information about me?
Here is the screenshot I sent Symonds of a version of the Wikipedia entry I found on someone’s Facebook page.
Once again, Symonds blew me off:
I’m afraid that our views on neutrality differ rather wildly. I’m not really sure that I can help you any further without inflaming something which, for me, is a non-issue. As a result, you should probably leave a note at the Wikipedia Administrators Noticeboard if you have serious concerns about the actions I took as a volunteer in this case.
I stand by the actions I took in my capacity as a volunteer administrator.
Nah, I’ll just blog about it instead. I think people will find this “non-issue” very revealing indeed, as well as the questions of mine (like the one about Neal Rauhauser) that you have refused to answer.
In his final email, Symonds claimed he had never heard of “Neal Rauthouser” — which is not how Rauhauser’s name is spelled. (Was he seeking deniability or did he just not try to spell it accurately?) He also agreed that “facts are facts” but that “in this case we didn’t think they were represented accurately.”
In an odd twist, Ron Brynaert — who has furiously been portraying himself as an enemy of Rauhauser’s and a critic of Kimberlin’s, despite the similar nature of his tactics and theirs — wrote a post about the deletion of the Wikipedia article. He wrote his own version and submitted it. I don’t recommend going to Brynaert’s site, but here is a safe link to a Google cache of Brynaert’s post, where you can read this amusing passage from Brynaert’s submission:
Since October of 2010, conservatives have hounded Kimberlin about his bombing conviction, after articles were published at a website owned by Andrew Breitbart and other conservative blogs that questioned donations to his non-profit. Lawsuits and back-and-forth online battles have transpired between progressives backing Kimberlin and bloggers on the right ever since.
Brett Kimberlin could not have written it better himself. According to Brynaert’s submission, Kimberlin is being “hounded” by conservatives, and his extensive harassment campaign against us is really nothing but a blog war between the left and the right.
That’s exactly what Kimberlin wants you to think. Also from Brynaert’s entry:
During his imprisonment, one of the victims from the bombings killed himself, and Kimberlin was held liable for the death and a $1.61 million dollar judgment was awarded to the widow. An appeals court later ruled he wasn’t directly responsible for the suicide, and the judgment was reduced to $360,000 but it’s unclear if Kimberlin ever paid anything.
Yeah, except that the judgment of that intermediate court of appeals in 1993 was itself reversed in 1994, by the Indiana Supreme Court.
In the present case, the complaint alleged intentional injury. Kimberlin’s federal criminal conviction, through collateral estoppel, discussed in Issue 1(c), supra, establishes his conduct as malicious and thus intentional rather than negligent. Moreover, Carl’s DeLong’s death, although occurring more than four years after the explosion, was within the scope of harm intended by Kimberlin’s intentional criminal conduct. Under such circumstances, we decline to treat suicide as independent intervening cause protecting a highly culpable defendant from liability for his victim’s death. We hold that an action may be maintained for death or injury from a suicide or suicide attempt where a defendant’s willful tortious conduct was intended to cause a victim physical harm and where the intentional tort is a substantial factor in bringing about the suicide.
[T]he jury finding of damages in the amount of $1,250,000.00 does not appear outrageous at first blush. The verdict does not indicate passion, prejudice, or partiality rather than reasoned assessment. We decline to find the wrongful death judgment to be excessive.
. . . .
As to the damages awarded for Mrs. DeLong’s separate personal injury claim, the defendant asserts that the $360,000 verdict was approximately 18 times her special damages and therefore excessive. In response, the plaintiff notes evidence demonstrating the particularly painful nature of her injuries from the bomb blast and her ordeal during treatment, including multiple surgeries and permanent continuing pain and impairment established by medical testimony. . . . In the present case we find no basis for finding the verdict for Mrs. DeLong’s injuries to be excessive as a matter of law.
$1,250,000.00 plus $360,000 is $1.61 million. The state’s highest court upheld that judgment. Once again Ron Brynaert is seen to be misrepresenting the facts in a way that benefits Brett Kimberlin.
It’s almost as if Kimberlin’s supporters tried to whisk away any mention of him on Wikipedia — and when they got caught, tried to replace the entry with something that sounded neutral, but actually benefited his point of view.
Anyway, since yesterday’s blogburst, it appears that all of a sudden Wikipedia is taking a second look at Symonds’s deletion. On Symonds’s talk page, someone writes:
There’s a lot of discussion about Brett recently, and it must be surprising for individuals to find no article about him.
Symonds the Wikipedia editor responds in part:
That’s fine, but I recommend you have a look at the related deletion review. The previous article was written by some people with rather a large axe to grind! I’ve had a couple of emails from right-wing bloggers, but nothing from anyone I’d trust to write a neutral article.
Never mind that the original article was almost entirely accurate! Another person chimes in and says:
Going through the deletion review, I’m not seeing a clear cut consensus to support the deletion. It seems like the action primarily taken because of objections to the users who had created the article in the first place. Also, I think the condition to “start from scratch” is overly burdensome. Yes, the article is almost entirely negative, but there’s nothing stopping someone from adding balance once the article is restored. Keep in mind that the behavior being alleged against Kimberlin involves inappropriate and extreme efforts to suppress negative but accurate reporting on his past. If you are in possession of ORTS information complaining about “harassment”, please note that many have accused Kimberlin of filing bad-faith harassment claims in the past.
By the way, I wrote Symonds again to ask him the question he never really answered: who told him about this supposed harassment campaign. Oddly enough, he has not responded.
It seems like our little blogburst might be working to get history re-rewritten to conform itself to the truth, rather than the “truth” as determined by a small band of thugs determined to intimidate anyone who tells the actual truth.
Who knew that telling the truth was so dangerous and so difficult?