Adam Carr

Adam Carr's editing challenged by Australian MPs

Wikipedia biographies of politicians have made the news again, this time in Australia with a story in the Sunday Herald Sun. In a change from previous incidents, most of which focused on edits by unregistered users that were traced back to political staff, the editor involved has been known for some time.

The article focused on the work of Adam Carr, a long-time editor who is also a staffer for Australian Labor MP Michael Danby. In his Wikipedia editing, Carr has been open about his identity, and his employer has been known to a number of people and was previously reported in the Signpost. His user page does not address it directly, but does identify him as a member of the Australian Labor Party.

The Herald Sun story, by Lincoln Wright, was accompanied by the headline, "Liberals hit back at Wikipedia 'dirt' file", suggesting apparently that Carr had been targeting Labor's primary rivals, the Liberal Party of Australia. In reality, the article focused almost entirely on fellow Labor Party members, indicating that this was more of an internal party dispute. Julia Irwin, a Labor MP whose article notes some controversial comments of hers that brought criticism from Danby, was the person quoted as saying that Carr was "getting dirt on people". Wright also reported that Jennie George, another Labor MP, had complained to party Whip Roger Price as well.

In contrast and despite the headline, nobody from the Liberal Party was quoted on the record with any complaints about Carr's work. Two Wikipedia articles about Liberal politicians, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer, were cited as having been edited by Carr, but nothing was said to indicate that his edits were improper.

As a result of these complaints, Price reportedly warned Danby that he should, as the reporter put it, "rein in" Carr. It was not immediately clear when the complaints were made or any warning given. According to Robert Merkel, another long-time Wikipedia editor from Australia, Carr curtailed his editing of articles about Australian politicians after the publicity surrounding US congressional staffer edits in January. Carr is a prolific editor who edits a wide range of topics, but for Australian politicians his substantive work seems to have been directed more to talk pages recently; he has, however, reverted some edits or made changes to things like categories directly on articles, including Michael Danby, since then.

Carr's response to the story was to dismiss it as "a plain and simple smear-job". He said the Herald Sun showed no interest in reporting the real facts involved and added, "I have of course not compiled "dirt files" on anyone." A number of other editors on the Australian Wikipedians' notice board also commented that the claims had no relationship to the work Carr has done on Wikipedia.

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Background discussion from Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Newsroom/Suggestions:

Allegations Wikipedia was used in a dirt file for Australian Polticians - news.com.au, The Australian.

Liberals hit back at Wikipedia 'dirt' file Will most likely be in the Australian on Monday morning, since news.com.au is the newslimited papers' page. Iorek85 00:25, 18 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's bullrinky. For one thing, there's no reining in to do. After the blowup about US congressional staffers editing articles about politicians, he has largely ceased doing so, certainly for serving politicians. Amongst his thousands of recent contributions, his substantive edits to Australian politicians in the recent past include a tiny correction to Bob Hawke - see this diff, and technical edits to Joh Bjelke-Petersen - this diff.
As to the specific edits that Adam Carr made to the Julia Irwin article, he created the article. He then changed the formatting of an added image. After another anonymous user added the bit about Julia's controversial comments about Israel, he made a rather straightforward pair of edits which clarified what had actually attracted the criticism (the problem was specific comments she made). In my opinion, Carr's edits did not substantively change the tone of the criticisms, which pretty accurately reflected what the media reported at the time. I don't see how his edits to the Irwin article could possible be construed as maintaining a "dirt file" or "blackening the name" of this politician.
As to the Jennie George article, Carr's initial edit contained the claim that she was a member of the CPA, and stated that she had not confirmed it publicly since a 1989 biography that the article used as a source. This claim stood for over a year, until an anonymous editor revised it slightly to state that "it is alleged that" she was in the CPA, and that she has never confirmed it since the claims were made in the book. The anonymous editor's version is probably a fairer way of wording it, but the fact that Jennie George may have had ties (beyond her husband's influence, which she claims as an enormous influence on her life) to the Communist Party is also widely known and acknowledged, and, again, hardly falls into the category of either "maintaining a dirt file" or "blackening the name of".
Frankly, Adam has contributed to the Wikipedia for many years, on an enormous variety of topics, with considerable distinction. I will grant, perhaps, that the wording of the Jennie George article was not ideal, and was inded improved by the anonymous contributor. However, this is just low-grade political gamesmanship. If you want to see a real example of dirt filing in the context of ALP faction fights, might I suggest the contributions of User:DarrenRay and his fellow travellers. ---Robert Merkel 04:15, 18 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

To take another example, Carr wrote the initial version of Alexander Downer here. Carr was a relatively new contributor at that stage, and Wikipedia's standards for neutrality and sourcing have been raised since that time. However, while the article makes some judgement calls (for instance stating that he was no match for Keating - which is hardly unfair, because he was slaughtered politically by the bloke), it was in no way a hatchet job. It praises Downer as an "effective" Foriegn Minister. His most recent edit was a grammatical one. He's also corrected factual errors that have been introduced, removed an amusing but non-neutral judgement on his time, added a photo. The only edit that could possibly be construed as anti-Downer is this one, where along with removing this bit:

Downer has four children with his adorable wife Nicola Rosemary (nee Robinson). Georgina born 79, Olivia, born 81, Alexander Edward, born 86, and Henrietta, born 88.

he also replaced

When Howard won the March 1996 elections, he made Downer Minister for Foreign Affairs. After a shaky start, Downer performed effectively in the role. He was greatly helped by the changed international situation after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which hs been attributed to a majority of Australians supporting the Howard Government's policy of close alliance with the US. Mr Downer was a firm supporter of the liberation of Iraq and his support to George W Bush and the Coalition of the Willing has been well received.

with:

When Howard won the March 1996 elections, he made Downer Minister for Foreign Affairs. After a shaky start, Downer performed effectively in the role. He was greatly helped by the changed international situation after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which hs been attributed to a majority of Australians supporting the Howard Government's policy of close alliance with the US. Mr Downer was a firm supporter of the claims that Weapons of Mass Destruction would be found in Iraq and continued claiming that they would be found long after most other commentators had abandoned this position.

Personally, I think that was a perfectly reasonable way of putting things - it was completely factually accurate. However, the current version has been edited a bit through the normal Wikipedia editing process to read:

When Howard won the March 1996 elections, he made Downer Minister for Foreign Affairs. After a shaky start, Downer has performed effectively in the role, with his most notable achievement being his involvement in East Timor's independence from Indonesia. He was greatly helped by the changed international situation after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which has been attributed to a majority of Australians supporting the Howard Government's policy of close alliance with the US. Mr Downer is a firm supporter of the legality of the war in Iraq.

You might also see the comments on the relevant discussion page. Editor Michael states that, while he believes there's a bit of a left-wing bias in articles on Australian politicians, Carr is "not at fault (as far as I can tell)". --Robert Merkel 04:38, 18 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Furthermore, Adam has made all his edits under his own name. If he wanted engage in partisan editing, it would be trivial for him to edit from his home machine under a pseudonym. He has not done so. --Robert Merkel 04:41, 18 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

One further point, the article appeared in the Sunday Herald Sun. --Robert Merkel 04:45, 18 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

While we all have our biases, all I've seen of Adam's editing has been scrupulous and aboveboard. Unless and until these allegations can be supported with diffs, my guess is that somebody who doesn't understand how Wikipedia works is mistakenly blaming Adam for other parties' edits on articles to which he's contributed. --Calair 00:29, 19 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Um, there's slightly more to it than that. While I can't say for sure, it's reasonable to speculate that there are several layers of politicking going on in this attack on Adam's work; both within the Labor Party, and in regards to the Herald-Sun's desire to favour the Liberals by making Labor look bad. --Robert Merkel 00:57, 19 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I might be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that Irwin and George are from the left-side of the party spectrum, while Danby, for whom Adam works, appears to be regarded as Labor right. Which might explain some of the motivation. Also Danby is Jewish and Irwin made a widely publicized attack on Israel, which later led, IIRC to Danby dismissing her comments - I think "schmuck" was a term that was used. Personally, I think the pollies aren't in any position to complain about the Bios considering the stock-standard attacks that are used in the daily context of politics here in Australia.Blnguyen | rant-line 01:05, 19 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Julia Irwin is listed as being in Labor Right. Andjam 15:57, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The newspaper article has been noted by the inquirer, which gives the positive coverage we've come to know and love... Andjam 08:51, 21 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Suggestion for article revision

Michael Snow, regarding the reference to Adam Carr's revert on Michael Danby, I suggest that you mention in the article that the edit served to revert vandalism to the article by the now indefinitely blocked LaRouche editor Cognition (talk · contribs) [1]. By adding that context, it'll be more clear that Adam Carr was rolling back vandalism to help Wikipedia, not to push a political line. 172 | Talk 09:00, 22 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]




       

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