Wikipedia Editor Advocated Deleting Gosnell Entry as Just 'a Local Multiple-Murder Story in Pennsylvania'

April 14th, 2013 5:06 PM

One would expect that everyone associated with an outlet which characterizes itself as the be-all, end-all of online encyclopedias would be on board to make sure there is space for an entry on the person who may, when all is said and done, be shown to have been among the worst, if not the worst, mass murderers in U.S. history -- and maybe, if ABC's Terry Moran is correct, "the most successful serial killer in the history of the world."

Nope. It appears that earlier this week, an editor at Wikipedia proposed deleting an already-existing entry on Kermit Gosnell because, according to the relevant "Articles for deletion" page at the site, "His case has not received national attention. It is a local multiple-murder story in Pennsylvania, nothing more." As outrageous as this suggestion was, it should be noted that all but one of several dozen responses to the suggestion advocated keeping the entry. Excerpts from the Daily Caller's coverage follow the jump.

Though the "battle" he describes was more like a "rout," here is most of the story by Josh Peterson (internal links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):

A battle raged this week on Wikipedia about the site’s article on disgraced abortion doctor and accused murderer Kermit Gosnell, after a Wikipedia editor suggested that the entire article should simply be deleted outright.

Issues with the page, which was initially fraught with formatting errors, were flagged by the Wikipedia community as early as February 2011.

A single Wikipedia editor later flagged the piece to allow community members to discuss whether the page, which primarily focuses on the allegations of murder and malpractice Gosnell faces, should be deleted. The editor argued that the piece violates Wikipedia’s biography standards by focusing on sensational criminal allegations.

Additionally, the editor said the page should be deleted because Gosnell’s trial is nothing more than a “local multiple-murder story in Pennsylvania.”

... According to another Wikipedia page, articles can be deleted by any site administrator if an editor’s suggestion of deleting an article page goes without objection for seven days.

The Wikipedia debate over the relevance of Gosnell’s page sparked anger from some members of the pro-life community, who quickly accused Wikipedia bigwigs of political bias.

“The fact that this article is nominated for deletion when all it clearly needs is some editing exposes [sic] the blatant left wing bias by many who come here under a ruse of neutrality,” said one anonymous Wikipedia contributor on the article’s discussion page.

“This is a typical knee-jerk reaction by far-left zealots to protect the abortion industry at any cost,” the contributor continued, adding that “this kind of thing is why no one takes Wikipedia seriously.”

... The debate closed late Friday afternoon, with editors coming to overwhelming consensus in support of saving the article from deletion. ...

It's worth looking into the scope of the seven-day objection period following a suggestion for deletion. As written above, it would appear to be the case that any article can disappear if an editor proposes deletion and no one notices for a week. Despite the number of people involved with Wikipedia, it seems more than a bit likely that someone could, whether driven by destructive whim or an ideological agenda,  find older or less controversial entries and eliminate them. There does appear to be some controls over that possibility, specifically in the form of "proposed deletion patrolling" and (found within that link) a statement that "an article that has been proposed for deletion for 7 days still must be overtly deleted by an administrator. They are supposed to look at the article and make sure the prod is valid before deleting, and they do."

So it doesn't appear that Gosnell was really going to make it into Wikipedia's dustbin. But it is clear that someone either breathtakingly ignorant or ideologically driven (my money is on the latter) really did want to send the Kermit Gosnell saga down Wikipedia's memory hole. Volunteer or not, that person and other such persons do not belong in responsible positions at "the free encyclopedia."

An advocate for keeping the Gosnell entry appears to have had the last word in the discussion, writing the following:

I agree with all previous supporters of keeping. This is a vitally important news event about a catastrophic crime. Deleting it gives the appearance of impropriety and suppression/censorship. If this is deleted then every other murderer on trial or similar murder story should also be treated the same. No wonder folks don't take WikiP very seriously!

That person said it. I didn't.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Wikipedia has a very complete entry on Eric Rudolph, who killed two. I suspect that no one at Wikipedia ever tried to argue that his killings involved only two southern states and were therefore of no national interest.

Cross-posted at