Smash that Wikipedia Revision History Comments Button

Some of you researchers out there know the struggle. You’re doing some work and you come across a certain figure. Maybe this person expressed a deep concern about white racism. Maybe they sexually harassed a minor. Perhaps they lent money at obscene interest. A key question burns in your mind: “Is this person a Jew?

Sometimes the fastest way to answer that question is to go to the relevant Wikipedia page and check for the information: “Early life” and  “Personal life” are some key subtitles to look for. You could also Ctrl+F for the word “jew”. This process is sometimes called smashing the early life button. For example, take the late conservative icon Charles Krauthammer. At the time of this writing, the “Early life and career” section contains the relevant information.

Smashing the early life button for Charles Krauthammer

Checking the Early life section has generally been a safe and effective way of performing an initial investigation into a person’s Jewish identity, but it’s starting to get harder and it’s going to keep getting worse. I was doing research into the scourge of microtransactions that affects many video games, and I found myself looking at the Wikipedia page of the CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick – a man at the center of a company in a messy situation involving sexual harassment investigations, greedy-ass microtransactions, and union-busting. A Ctrl+F of the page gave zero results.

There’s a hefty stack of clues in here, but nothing solid

I’m lucky that I thought to Ctrl+F the talk page. There was a minor debate about this last month, both on the talk page and in the comments on article edits. Here are some snippets of the argument between people for and against referencing Kotick’s Jewish identity on his page.

    • Against: “unreliable and insufficiently reliable sources for a claim in a BLP that are at-best made tangentially to whether he says he is a Jewish (which he hasn’t)”
    • For: “Added link – you don’t bat mitzvah your daughter unless you’re Jewish”
    • Against: “It might in fact be the girl’s mother who is Jewish.”
    • For: “If it is because of his sex scandal, it might because so many of the recent sex scandals in the headlines have been about Jews, i.e. Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, etc, and certain people don’t want to add another name to the list. Just a guess.”
    • Against: “This are inappropriate sources to identify faith
    • For: “In addition to his last name being very clearly Jewish, Bobby himself has commented on his ancestry numerous times. Jew is the ethnicity while Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, something that some Wiki editors seem to be confused about.”
    • Against: “Basing a religion around someone’s last name is original research.”
    • For: “Jewish is an ethnicity before it’s a religion. I would think someone from Germany of all places would understand this. But I’ll go ahead and add even more sources.”

Bobby Kotick with his former gf Facebook COO (((Sheryl Sandberg)))

You can look into the talk pages yourself and see how dishonest one side of this debate is. Mind you, there is less controversy over including the fact that, at the height of COVID lockdowns, this guy’s salary was over 300 times that of his average employee. 

“One may call him a scoundrel, parasite, swindler, profiteer…”

This sort of thing is going on all across Wikipedia. The days of easily smashing the early life button might be coming to an end. Last year, Edward Kosner wrote for the Jewish publication Commentary:

“I’ve had a Wikipedia entry for years and never (well, hardly ever) look at it. It’s a straightforward account of my career as a journalist and editor with a couple of paragraphs about my early life and education and the requisite accounting of marriage, children, and grandchildren. As far as I know, the entry had never been fiddled with since it was originally published in the open-sourced encyclopedia that, along with Google, is the modern resource of choice for checking each other out. Then, not long ago, I clicked on my page and suddenly read that I was a Jew.”

“But call him a Jew and you will be astonished at how he recoils, how injured he is, how he suddenly shrinks back: ‘I’ve been found out.’”

This Kosner character reached out to a Wikipedia editor named Coffee and asked for a change. Coffee initially told this whiny Jew that he can’t just remove properly cited, relevant material. But Kosner wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

“It’s possible, I wrote back, that the ‘editor’ who introduced Jewish identity into my and many other entries was so proud of the Jewish contribution to journalism and literature that he wanted the world to know about all these accomplished Jews. But, … it was certainly plausible that the intruder was trying to stigmatize Jewish “notables,” in the Wikipedia term of art. ”

This is a bizarre thing to read. He’s Jewish, he’s admitting he’s Jewish. The intentions of this editor should be irrelevant.

“The accused has become the accuser, and loudly he shoves the accuser into the dock.”

 Coffee then did as instructed, you can see his removal of Jewish references in talk pages all over Wikipedia, including that of Kosner himself. Kosner contacted the ADL, who even then were aware of the jew-tagging issue. I now expect the early life section to be made a little more kosher.

The takeaway from all this is that we should push the issue. Keep smashing that early life button. This is forcing them to recoil – to shrink back – and try to find increasingly incredible excuses for removing these facts. When the early button fails, smash that talk page and smash that revision history. At some point, they may feel compelled to clean up even the talk page and revision history. This would cause even more friction within the Wikipedia community and be rather discrediting. And never forget:

“The fact that he shouts and complains about such a movement therefore is only a sign that it is right. We are therefore delighted that we are constantly attacked in the Jewish gazzettes.”

Cobblestone Prude
I poast about technology and culture and stuff.

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