A now famous video of former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin discussing American History has sparked a battle on Wikipedia between those attempting to edit an article in order to reflect some suspect information.
Palin has been on a bus tour that has drawn quite a bit of media attention. She has been visiting landmarks and historical sites all across America, hitting places like Gettysburg and the Liberty Bell. This tour has roused speculation that she may be gearing up for a Presidential run, but she has specifically said that it isn’t a campaign tour. She’s had this to say about her tour, according to Politico:
This is a bus to be able to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested in all that is good about America and to remind ourselves we don’t need to fundamentally transform America, we need to restore what’s good about America.
During a stop in Boston last week, an answer to a question about Paul Revere was captured on video. The video shows Palin giving a less-than-familiar history of his famous “Midnight Ride,” where he quote “warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringin’ those bells.” Documented history and common knowledge of the event obviously tells of Revere warning Americans that the British were coming, and the ringing of bells haven’t traditionally been part of the warning.
Check out the video below:
It appears as though some people have decided to include Palin’s history of the Midnight Ride in the Wikipedia article about Paul Revere, and have been met with some resistance. On June 5th, one user added some content to the part of the article that concerns the midnight ride. Here’s a screencap from the old revision:
The additions of the “one disputed account” suggesting that “Revere rang bells” looks to be a reference to Palin’s comments. As does the phrase beginning “most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British.” This would justify her claims that the British were warned.
The revisions begun a war on Wikipedia amongst those who attempted to insert the new information and those who believe it has no place in the article. In the Wiki Talk section, there is a funny discussion entitled “Was Revere warning the British” and a topic has been opened and closed about the edit request.
The AP clears up the history pretty well, stating that although Revere did talk to the British, it was far from giving them a message about taking away American arms. Plus the bell thing is highly suspect, according to a Revere biographer:
The colonists at the time of Revere’s ride were British subjects, with American independence still in the future. But Revere’s own writing and other historical accounts leave little doubt that secrecy was vital to his mission.
The Paul Revere House’s website says that on April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, a patriot leader in the Boston area, instructed Revere to ride to Lexington, Mass., to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching to arrest them.
In an undated letter posted by the Massachusetts Historical Society, Revere later wrote of the need to keep his activities secret and his suspicion that a member of his tight circle of planners had become a British informant. According to the letter, believed to have been written around 1798, Revere did provide some details of the plan to the soldiers that night, but after he had notified other colonists and under questioning by the Redcoats.
Intercepted and surrounded by British soldiers on his way from Lexington to Concord, Revere revealed “there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the country all the way up,” he wrote.
Revere was probably bluffing the soldiers about the size of any advancing militia, since he had no way of knowing, according to Joel J. Miller, author of “The Revolutionary Paul Revere.” And while he made bells, Revere would never have rung any on that famous night because the Redcoats were under orders to round up people just like him.
“He was riding off as quickly and as quietly as possible,” Miller said. “Paul Revere did not want the Redcoats to know of his mission at all.”
The interesting thing about Wikipedia is how it is always changing, modifying in real time to support an ever-changing world. That’s why Michael Jackson’s death can be part of his article seconds after it happens. But Wikipedia’s strength is also its weakness, as anyone can edit articles and change information. Wiki’s citation procedures eliminates most questionable information from the site, but there are always little tidbits that fall through the cracks.
The Wikipedia consensus this time was that regarding the bells, Sarah Palin could not be cited as a reliable source.