Exposed: Wikipedia Editors Fought To Cover Up Racist Tweets by NYT's Jeong


If you’re one of the visitors to the Wikipedia page of the newly minted New York Times editorial board member with a record of serial tweeting about the multitude of treacheries attributable to Caucasians, you’re probably looking for some background.

Not just background on her career, mind you, but background regarding the Twitter controversy.

Yet, up until very late in the game, no mention was made of Sarah Jeong’s racist tweets on her Wikipedia page. When mention did appear, it was only after a long and surprisingly heated debate over whether the most widely discussed event of Jeong’s public life should even appear on her page at all.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the particulars of how Wikipedia works, it’s run by a committee of volunteer editors who, while remaining anonymous, often grapple over controversial issues in what’s known as a “Talk Page.” In the most reductionist terms, it’s a message board in which they discuss various edits to any page.

Jeong’s Talk Page (which can be seen here) has been particularly active of late, yet the addition of the controversial tweets to her actual page was a long time in coming — something one editor noted in a portion of the discussion excerpted in The Daily Caller.

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“Sarah Jeong is infamous for her racists (sic) tweets on twitter, most of the people who know her name will know her by her tweets,” the editor wrote.

“Because of this, I think it is misleading to not say a single line about her racist tweets and simply label her as ‘an American journalist specializing in law and technology topics’.”

One editor responded in opposition to a proposed section on the Twitter controversy, objecting to both the wording and the source it cited, ThePostOnline, a right-wing Dutch website.

“First, it uses the word ‘found,’ which suggests a mainstream authority, preferably a scientific one,” the objection stated. “Second, ThePostOnline is an explicitly right-wing news site, according to wikipedia’s own article on it, and therefore not a reliable source.”

Do you think Wikipedia should include mention of these tweets?

Well now. First, the mainstream authority on this is … Sarah Jeong’s tweets. That’s about as “scientific” as you can get. No one denies she made them. No one denies they’re controversial, which is why Jeong herself has had to explain them publicly.

As for ThePostOnline’s political leanings, this is rather beside the point, since again nobody disputes the fact that a) these tweets were made, b) that they’ve made news and c) that they could plausibly be construed as offensive.

However, this remark hinted at one of the more spurious arguments from Wikipedia editors against including the controversy in Jeong’s profile: That the provenance of the tweets’ rediscovery ought to factor in whether or not we care about them at all.

“Reliable, published sources are saying that the tweets were dug up and deliberately taken out of context by people seeking to demonize journalists, and that as a result Jeong has been subjected to even more online abuse,” one editor wrote. “By including the text of the tweets in our bio of Jeong, we would clearly just be doing the trolls’ work for them, in clear contradiction to (avoid victimization).”

Firstly, I love the idea that reporting what Jeong said counts as “victimization.” If individuals cannot be “victimized” by their own actions, one would expect to see Wikipedia pages that describe O.J. Simpson solely as a football player and corporate pitchman of unparalleled talent, and Jimmy Swaggart as a man of God wholly unblemished by any personal failings. This may be an exercise in pointing out extremities, but it illustrates the absurdity of the argument.

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As for who originally “found” the tweets, I’ll admit to being a little skeptical of the kind of person that digs through a mountain of forgotten internet postings when someone gets a new job or says something controversial. Of course, one could argue that Jeong’s tweets likely made an impression on Twitter users when they were sent out and that they knew where to look when her name surfaced in the news as being hired by the editorial board of what’s arguably the mainstream media’s most prestigious political and social platform.

Putting aside all these concerns about where they were rediscovered and recirculated and the motives of those who rediscovered and recirculated them, we now know about these tweets and they call into question the prejudices and personal belief system of Ms. Jeong in a rather extreme manner. Omitting them from the page because you believe that they are part of some sort of right-wing conspiracy does a grave disservice to the mission of Wikipedia, which is to educate readers in an impartial fashion.

And as it regards trolls, I’m curious when the behavior of the ill-educated dregs of the internet determined what was newsworthy. Wouldn’t that be letting them have more control over the narrative, not less?

These “reliable, published sources” about the tweets being solely dug up to “demonize journalists,” by the way, are The New York Times and notably leftist U.K. Guardian. Apparently, that whole thing about using “explicitly” political sites to construct an argument only applies to sites that are explicitly right-wing. I cannot feign surprise, mind you, but that fact bears noting.

Other editors struck back at this sort of logic: “It would be interesting to compare how long it took to add mention to this article with, say, Roseanne or any comparable tweet controversy. We are often blind to our own bias, but the readers are saying that they see it on WP pages like this one, and they are not pleased.”

Another editor, astonishingly, responded by saying that the tweets didn’t represent news.

“It’s not Wikipedia’s function to quote one or more of a dozen or so tweets from four years ago which were dug up and taken out of context,” the editor wrote. “The news cycle about her tweets is over, and the controversy came to nought (unlike the Roseanne situation), nor did she delete tens of thousands of tweets or make homophobic tweets or sexual-harassment (sic) tweets (like [British journalist Toby] Young).”

A lot of this sounds a bit like wishful thinking on the part of the editor (“The news cycle about her tweets is over when I say it’s over, dagnabbit!”). And in what context could Jeong’s remarks be taken that they were not intended to be offensive? This sounds like another variation on the “she didn’t really mean ‘white people’ when she said ‘white people.'”

I personally believe that logic is risible, but OK — put that in the article, too, along with the tweets. That’s not an argument for omitting the tweets entirely, as if they were never made and the controversy never existed.

And, as another editor pointed out, Twitter played a not-insubstantial role in Jeong’s career, noting that her “recently enhanced public profile is largely down to her tweets.”

“I don’t see why some people are trying to gloss over what she said and presumably (as there were dozens of racist tweets over a period of years) thinks,” the editor added.

Another Wikipedian noted the glaringly obvious: “I am aware that she is ‘notable’ for appearing in earlier news articles, but anyone learning of her in the coming days will be learning about her because of this controversy, not because they are interested in a random journalist. I’m having a hard time understanding why it’s not on the page already.”

As of this writing, the Wikipedia community has relented somewhat, dedicating one paragraph out of six on her page to the controversy. The contents of the tweets aren’t mentioned and one would be able to glean little about the matter from what’s there. The fact that we even had to argue about whether it’s there or not, however, is indicative of a much deeper sickness.

Wikipedia masquerades as a neutral encyclopedia when it often hews closer to a social media site, especially behind the scenes — as evinced by the conversations above. And, like other forms of social media, the current liberal belief is that if you stop an opinion from being aired, you stop it from being believed.

This generally has the opposite effect, as Barbara Streisand will no doubt attest. Not only does the behavior of Wikipedians in this matter erode belief in Wikipedia — the same as liberals have with other forms of social media — but it does no favor to Jeong or the truth.

Nice work, everyone.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture