William Connolley demonstrates once again why Wikipedia is an untrustworthy reference source

Wikipedia_ministryI saw this coming a mile away.

On Wednesday August 20th, Dr. Roy Spencer noted how John Cook’s well debunked 97% ‘consensus’ claim, based of statistical sleight of hand and pal review, was used as an example of propaganda techniques

Wikipedia Page on Propaganda Techniques Uses 97% Meme

Roy opined:

I wonder how long the example will stay there, without William Connolly to play gatekeeper. I also see “Hope and Change” is given as an example. Hmmm…sounds vaguely familiar.

Like a moth to a flame, William M. Connolley showed up in comments, and accused Dr. Spencer of adding the 97% example himself:

You’re fast. That example was added only a few days ago. Its almost like you did it, or someone did it and then told you. No? Seems like a pretty bizarre coincidence otherwise.

Having boobed the date, he later had to retract that statement:

> only a few days ago

A month and a few days. So, not so fast.

Connolley is equally fast it seems, because he immediately went into Orwellian 1984 Winston Smith mode and re-wrote the entry, simply because he himself believes in the 97% consensus meme. Roy writes today:

Censorship Alive and Well at Wikipedia

That didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after I noted the use of the “97% of scientists agree” meme as an example of “propaganda techniques” on Wikipedia, the example has disappeared.

And who did the change? Well you know who:

07:29, 21 August 2014‎ William M. Connolley (talk | contribs)‎ . . (16,792 bytes) (-53)‎ . . (Undid revision 617361920 by (talk) better to use a non-controversial example)

In science, citations are done on published works knowing that good or bad, they’ll be there in 10-20 years for the most part, except in cases where the work is so bad, it has to be retracted, such as the Lewandowsky-Cook Recursive Fury paper.

BBC_wikiwarsWikipedia, being at the mercy of thousands of Winston Smiths in the form of the banned and maligned William Connolley, is like a shape-shifting information portal at the will of the controlling Wikipedians. It might be good enough for a passing blog reference, but there’s no guarantee it will have the same meaning as a citation tomorrow or even an hour from now. With such shape shifting references at the mercy of often politically motivated editors, it certainly isn’t good enough for scientific publication citation.

Maybe that’s why there has been a movement at colleges to ban Wikipedia as a source, even going so far recently as to remove it from college dorm WiFi connections.

Zealots and activists like Connolley should never be trusted as editors, (his track record speaks for itself) and Wikipedia edit wars were even the subject of a study. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is not very good at self-policing such editing zealotry, and this is why Wikipedia will eventually fall by the wayside as a serious reference source.




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I wouldn’t know how to edit Wikipedia anyway. Looks like the IP address of the original 97% example there belongs to Joint Interagency Task Force South, Key West, that works drug interdiction.

Movement at colleges? I work for a college system. Any student using Wiki as a reference gets a failing grade. You can use it to find the original source, but not as a final reference. But that is anecdotal, so there are probably some colleges that do accept it. More’s the pity.


” and this is why Wikipedia will eventually fall by the wayside as a serious reference source”
You mean it hasn’t already?
Whenever I see someone’s argument is based on Wikipedia as a source I know they are clueless. It is the same with the alarmists and their models, as soon as I see their claims are based on models my BS meter starts going off.
Not saying I don’t go to Wikipedia, but only as a quick and dirty start to my research. I scroll down to the reference section of the entry and start following those links to what hopefully are actual sources. But even then I search other places for sources as a bias in a Wikipedia article will also lead to a bias in the sources referenced.

@ddpalmer – Yep! I tell them to Google WC, and that shuts off that avenue.


Just image how bad Wikipedia would be if Billy C wasn’t banned ;(

Ken Hall

“and this is why Wikipedia will eventually fall by the wayside as a serious reference source.”
Will? Does anyone take Wikipedia seriously as a reference source anymore? May daughter’s university rejected any papers using Wikipedia as a source over 5 years ago. They accept sources taken from the lists of sources at bottom of Wikipedia pages. Wikipedia is useful for finding the source of the source of their information and then people should check that. And if they are studying one of the sciences, then strictly apply the scientific method.

Using wikipedia in lecture material even to make a small point is very much deprecated. No way would it be accepted as a source in an essay or dissertation. That said, it’s very useful on most topics just not the contentious ones.


The USPTO does not reccomend Wikipedia as a source.

I use Wikipedia routinely to learn about stuff, but only if it’s a not very controversial subject.

It’s good for ancient history.

Jimmy Haigh.

Until the advent of the internet people like Connolley used to stand on street corners with sandwich boards. Oh for the good old days…

Pamela Gray

I sometimes use it as a source list on a topic. However, I have discovered that I can find more pdf’s on my own faster than I can slogging through a citation list that seems not to include very many nonpaywalled papers.


I feel like my degree is Wikipedia studies has been for naught.


“The discordant [f******g] mob.”

Connolley is clearly OCD.
I’m trying to be nice.


I agree with Dr Spencer – Wikipedia can be useful if areas of controversy are avoided, along with any biographies of the living or recently deceased.

Wikipedia? A very handy starting point for further research. I thought WC had been banned from editing there? Clearly not. Sadly, it’s folks like him who give Wikipedia a bad name.


John K. Sutherland (08:40:19) :
We need a new word for the English language: WIKI-WISE, to mean woefully misinformed, profoundly ignorant of the facts, believing only what one is told to believe.

In Orwell’s Oceania, Connolley would have been put in charge of the Ministry of Records, and O’Brien would have been proud of him.

“Zealots and activists like Connolley should never be trusted as editors,…”
Remove the words “as editors” and you also have an accurate statement.

@ rogerknights:
How about “Wiki’d down” as in “dumbed down”?


I once read on the Wikipedia page how plug-in hybrids were going to save the earth by moving us all around without those evil CO2 emissions. I proceeded to go to another Wikipedia page to look up what percentage of electricity in the US comes from coal, and use that to make the caveat in the PHEV article that all you’re really doing is moving the emissions from the road to the power plant. When I attempted to edit the PHEV page, it wouldn’t let me use another Wikipedia page as my citation. I pointed out this idiocy in the discussion page.
The next day both my edit to the PHEV page and my entry in its discussion page had been memory-holed.
That was maybe five years ago, and I haven’t tried editing a Wikipedia page, again, since.

Craig Loehle

There was a report recently about a congress-critter editing his own wiki page to clean it up. How handy. And of course the Eurpoean “right to be forgotten” is used mainly by people to clean up references to usually true events such as convictions or political scandals.

Many years ago I selected a non-political (I thought) subject I knew a lot about and joined Wikipedia to post a few good paragraphs correcting false statements on the subject (a subject I have been heavily involved with since the mid-1960’s).
All of my non-controversial, non-political contributions were soon “revised” by other posters until the article was pretty much back to where it started.
Wikipedia is a majority-rule view of the world where the majority are young and leftist.
As leftists they typically express their beliefs and feelings as if they were proven conclusions, and have no interest in debating or changing their beliefs.
Whatever they write becomes “correct” because they say so, and so does everyone they know, so it couldn’t be wrong.
They don’t think like scientists.
If you assume “thinking” requires a conclusion to be based on facts, data, logic, and especially honesty, with the conclusion changing if the supporting data require a change, then you really don’t understand how leftists “think”, or Wikipedia, at all.
I’d rather not mention the subject I contributed to, so no one will be tempted to read the wrong information still there.
Once I realized Wikipedia was a majority-rule “encyclopedia, I have only used it to look up unimportant subjects, such as looking up Leave it to Beaver to see how many episodes there were.

Russ R.

“Wiki” means “fast” or “quick”. And that’s exactly what wikipedia is… a quick reference guide.
It’s a starting point for research, not the ending point.

Now I cite Wikii articles quite often …. simply because they are written in verbiage that is more easily understood by those who are not well learned in the sciences. But I only cite specific verbiage within said article that I know is actual, factual, true and/or supported by factual evidence and observations.
And my citing of an article does not mean, infer or imply that I approve and/or agree with 100% of the contents/context of said article or that I disagree with 100% of the contents/context of said article.
And I do likewise for published papers on scientific studies, abstracts and/or other scientific literature simply because many of the more recent ones contain a lot of misinformation as well as silly, illogical and/or asinine conclusions.
As the ole fellow said: “There is oftentimes a little bit of “good” even in the “worsest” of things.

Patrick B.

In political issue areas Wikipedia is next to useless due to the liberal lean of its editors. On non-political, technical matters, it can be quite useful and instructive – go read some of the entries describing math like Laplace transforms. But for lectures or scientific articles, cites should only go to the source material and only after actually reading and understanding the source material.

J. Sperry

For what it’s worth, Connolley’s edit was undone by another (brand new) editor less than 5 hours later. I’m going to keep my eye on this article at Wikipedia.

Gary Pearse

Wiki has been made part of the “liberal” education system by prop specialists and Wiki Will is a proper gander if there ever was one.

I don’t agree with the argument that using wikipedia for ‘non-controversial’ issues is safe. You only think it is safe because you are not that familiar with the subject, or the motive and character of the author(s).
The entire global warming deception, orchestrated by those at the CRU and the
IPCC, including Connolley, worked because most people didn’t know the science. Most people assumed the authors, especially since they were scientists, were rigorous, scrupulous and unswerving in their search for truth via all the facts. Most people assumed scientists wouldn’t use science for a political agenda.
Since these were majority views, it was easy for people, like Connolley, to marginalize any who questioned them by scurrilous inaccurate personal attacks. Connolley likely orchestrated many of these on wikipedia, knowing ‘trusting’ people were accepting them as facts. It is one thing to know people are driven by fear and greed, it is anther thing entirely to exploit that information.
Questioning everything, is the hallmark of science, but must be the hallmark of everything in today’s world. We might wish it was otherwise, but people like Connolley, make it a harsh reality.


Citing Wiki as a *source* is as spurious as the citation “everybody knows” in common conversation, or “it is well known that…” in undergraduate papers. The Wiki article itself could have been written without reference to the “97% consensus” meme, but use of the meme brings the topic into current relevance by citing what is probably the most publicized example in history of the Logical Fallacy called “appeal to authority” (argumentum ab auctoritate).
The hypersensitivity of Connolley to the perceived impugning of his beliefs reveals nothing about the meme, but much about the man.

“Zealots and activists like Connolley should never be trusted as editors, (his track record speaks for itself) and Wikipedia edit wars were even the subject of a study. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is not very good at self-policing such editing zealotry, and this is why Wikipedia will eventually fall by the wayside as a serious reference source.”
Wikipedia is secondary source material at best.
If you want to use it, use it exactly as you would use an encyclopedia. read it to get the general
idea.. then go to the references and collect the items referred to.
Then go to the references in the references and collect those items.
and so forth until you get to primary sources.
Now you have a bibliography.
Then begin reading.

@Steven Mosher
“Now you have a bibliography.”
A bibliography that is slanted, one sided and incomplete.


I was a college professor for 10 years–Geology and Math. Wikipedia was not acceptable in my classes…not so sure about other Professors. The only real use was as an example of bad writing for a college writing class. Provided students with lots of practice editing grammar and sentence structure etc.


97% believe Wikipedia is a great source of information especially when dealing with some of the most important scientists of our time such as Dr. William M. Connolley.


I’m curious if Mr Connelly would suggest a ‘non-controversial’ example of propaganda. As far as I can tell, propaganda, by its very nature, is controversial.
In any case, I’m not sure why an example being ‘controversial’ is grounds for disappearing it.
Also, someone needs to get the info that the Cook 97% paper has been discredited to the Sci AM editors who claimed that the paper had been ‘naturally viciously attacked by skeptics and Cook ‘successfully defended it’.

Owen in GA

I instruct the students here to only use Wikipedia if they are having a problem coming up with search terms in the journal databases. Occasionally I get a student who hasn’t done enough background reading on a topic to even search for good materials (what are they teaching in High School these days?), and will use a wiki article as a starting point for their search terms. Other than that, any good search engine can provide a large list of enthusiast articles to give enough background for a real literature search, so Wikipedia has really outlived its usefulness at even that limited function.
A few years ago, I looked up an entry for a band I used to like from the late 60s-early 70s and was amused to read the edit history tab to find a long standing argument between the lead singer and some editor hack who kept inserting a paragraph about the band’s demise being because of the untimely death of the lead singer and the lead singer posting back that he was indeed still alive and had performed on stage just that night. There must have been 10 instances of that in the article history. I used to use that entry as an example when I first started helping students evaluate sources – I wish I could remember which band it was now…I haven’t looked at it in about 7 years.


Dagnabbit! Every time I see his name I’ve just got to spit. This time I was so incensed that I partially missed the spittoon. Now I have to clean the spittoon and the floor. I wish his name would go down the memory hole, or go where it really belongs— flushed.

I don’t even use Wikipedia for references anymore. Google Scholar !


07:29, 21 August 2014‎ William M. Connolley (talk | contribs)‎ . . (16,792 bytes) (-53)‎ . . (Undid revision 617361920 by (talk) better to use a non-controversial example)

Connolley justifies deletion of facts he does not like by demanding a “non-controversial” example of a propaganda technique. One wonders what that would be.
Of course, justifying the deletion of facts that one does not like on the basis of a demand for a “non-controversial” example of propaganda techniques is itself a propaganda technique, and undoubtedly would be judged deletably controversial by the people employing it..

David L. Hagen

97% of subsidies wasted
Bjorn Lomborg reports: “A study by some of the world’s top climate economists including three Nobel Laureates for the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that subsidising existing renewables does so little good that for every euro spent, 97 cents are wasted.”
Germany’s energy policy is expensive, harmful and short-sighted Financial Times

Edward Richardson

Tim Ball says:
August 21, 2014 at 7:53 am
“You only think it is safe because you are not that familiar with the subject, or the motive and character of the author(s).”

Care to comment on this Wikipedia entry?

Bob Kutz

What’s totally hilarious about this episode is that the comment itself is under the wrong section (should be appeal to authority rather than bandwagon) but actually contained no reference to CAGW or any climate topic whatsoever. It didn’t mention climate or climate scientists at all.
Yet WC found it, assumed the implication, found it offensive and removed it . . . for entirely fraudulent reasoning. The statement made would be a perfect example of appeal to authority, there can be no controversy about that. So the comment should have been moved to the ‘appeal to authority section’ rather than deleted. WC’s assumption made the comment be about the CAGW camp’s use of propaganda and used this as his justification for removing it as a controversial comment.
In doing so he basically admitted that the 97% citation is a meme and used as propaganda by the warmist camp.
That is rich.

Evan Jones

In Connolley’s defense, it was partly discussions on Stoat that unearthed a couple of legit concerns about the surfacestations release two years ago, which we have since addressed. He treated me respectfully and politely, and did not delete anything I had to say. He even stepped back on a few of his original comments and allowed that he would withhold any conclusions about the paper until it was published.
He may be a man of many sins, and I do not address such, but I personally found his treatment of me to have been reasonable and professional.

“When I attempted to edit the PHEV page, it wouldn’t let me use another Wikipedia page as my citation. I pointed out this idiocy in the discussion page.”
Wikipedia wants reliable reference sources. *drumroll*high hat*

Alan the Brit

My faith in Humanity was somewhat restored when my daughter, whilst studying for her nursing degree, advised that they were told by the teaching staff to use Wikipedia with great caution, as it was apparently poorly edited, & strewn with errors & inaccuracies because the data & info was not provided by scientific or technically able people!

more soylent green!

I hate that you even mention that name.

Mike Maguire

This is true and defines other controversial realms but climate science is at the top.
Anybody can get on the internet and within minutes, come up with dozens of studies that support CAGW theory.
Another person, can find studies that appear just as authentic, that contradict this theory though not as many and especially not as well circulated.
How does one know what to believe? Even climate scientists, authorities on the topic can’t agree and a large % of meteorologists, who specialize in observations/measurements of the atmosphere(using the scientific method) as a group, have a different opinion than climate scientists, who put more faith in models and theory.
Turns out that you just believe what you already believed in most cases…….cognitive bias rules.
However, with time(too long already in this case) both sides usually converge towards the truth.
One side may already be closer to it……and both sides think it’s their side……….for now.


I once tried to substitute the words “global warming” for “the theory of global warming” in a few obscure wiki articles and Connelly reverted them all withing 24 hours. He must have links to hundreds of wiki pages so that he gets notices of any change to them whatsoever.

The simple uttering of the word Wikipedia by any of my 1st year student’s produced roaring laughter by the entire class.


When the Malaysian airline was shot down over Ukraine, someone in the Russian government changed the entry to read that the Ukrainians shot it down. There is a wikiwatch style system which detects whenever governments try to edit or change information. Don’t know whether this could be extended to anyone affiliated with the IPCC.
It’s an interesting question though whether left leaners tend to take over Wiki. This implies that properly objective democratic information isn’t possible. That’s a big call, I’m not sure whether it’s true or not. I reckon there is probably a way to make it better and close to objective, although it probably isn’t the case yet.
Even in strongly left dominated fields, you can usually get weaknesses in an argument at least noted, even though it doesn’t necessarily lead to objective analysis. One example is climate sensitivity, when I looked it up, it did state that the whole idea depended on sensitivity being the same regardless of the forcing, in other words if its high for the sun its also high for c02. The article at least noted this concept, which skeptics tend to think is not necessarily the case, whereas most alarmist tend to think it’s a forgone conclusion. I have never understood why it has to be the same regardless of the nature of the forcing, and rejected this straight away. But at least wiki recognises that it’s a central assumption in the whole alarmist case. Note as of today there is still no citation which says this is so:
From wiki:
Although climate sensitivity is usually used in the context of radiative forcing by carbon dioxide (CO2), it is thought of as a general property of the climate system: the change in surface air temperature (ΔTs) following a unit change in radiative forcing (RF), and thus is expressed in units of °C/(W/m2). For this to be useful, the measure must be independent of the nature of the forcing (e.g. from greenhouse gases or solar variation); to first order this is indeed found to be so[citation needed].

I often use it for generic descriptions of things and to find further research info from the source links.
it does serve a good purpose if used correctly, the problem is the ease at which it can be used incorrectly.
often the talk pages also lead to MANY links not included in the actual article and other avenues of research.

@Ken Hall 8/21 6:56 am
[My] daughter’s university rejected any papers using Wikipedia as a source over 5 years ago. They accept sources taken from the lists of sources at bottom of Wikipedia pages. Wikipedia is useful for finding the source of the source of their information and then people should check that.
Several people have mentioned that while you should not use Wiki text as source material, using their list of references is a good place to start. While I don’t disagree, I caution that one of the most pernicious practices of misinformation is in the selectivity of the facts presented. While nothing said or written could be identified as false, the misinformation is in what is NOT said or written. What source materials SHOULD be in the Wikipedia entry that are not or have been deleted? What facts have been made “unfacts” by the Winston Smiths of today?

“It’s not enough to be able to lie with a straight face; anybody with enough gall to raise on a busted flush can do that. The first way to lie artistically is to tell the truth — but not all of it. The second way involves telling the truth, too, but is harder: Tell the exact truth and maybe all of it…but tell it so unconvincingly that your listener is sure you are lying.” — R. A. Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love”