The RenCen Commentaries: A smear campaign in Wikipedia, and mating with monkeys

The target of the smear - Jack Baruth at work

The target of the smear – Jack Baruth at work

 

In February 2009, when GM’s bankruptcy went into its terminal phase, someone with access to GM’s computer network developed an odd fascination with bicycle racing, and with the life of former bicycle racer and TTAC contributor Jack Baruth. Baruth is currently Editor in Chief of TTAC. At the time, TTAC  looked unfavorably on the bailout. The person with the GM computer started to make unfavorable edits to Jack’s Wikipedia page.

Not content with shilling in a car blog, people at GM went to subvert the world’s 5th largest website, Wikipedia. Anonymously, but traceable by its IP, a person at GM peppered Baruth’s page with nasty tags, such as “this article appears to be written like an advertisement,” or  “the neutrality of this article is disputed,” both of which are fighting words in a Wikipedia community that prides itself of its *NPOV” (neutral point of view,) how elusive that ideal may be. A day later, a Wikipedia editor by the name of “Viergang” (apparently Baruth himself) “called out GM for actually having the nuts to edit my Wiki,”  and accused GM of trying to get his “Wiki page deleted.”

The person at GM fired back, saying “what’s an individual poster with a GM IP got to do with anything? Oh yes, it must be a big conspiracy whereby teams of GM personnel track down and punish people whose opinions they dislike.” This is a favorite tactic on the message boards, where you don’t disprove a statement, but instead blame the other person of being a conspirationalist wearing a tinfoil hat.

That wasn’t the end of the smear campaign against Baruth. It moved to IPs that were not directly connected with GM. Also in February 2009, someone with an IP said to be located in Fostoria, Ohio, graced Baruth’s Wikipedia page with this addition:

Man Sentenced to Prison After Shooting at Motorist

 Associated Press, 15 Feb 1998 – COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man who said he felt threatened by another motorist and retaliated with gunfire was found guilty of aggravated assault and sentenced to 4½ years in prison. John C. Baruth, 26, of Columbus, originally had been charged with attempted murder and felonious assault. The prison term includes the maximum sentence of 18 months for the assault and three years for using a gun in a crime. Baruth cannot be paroled early. Prior to sentencing Baruth on Friday, Judge Lisa Sadler of Franklin County Common Pleas Court told him, “There was absolutely no justification for use of a deadly weapon.” Baruth, who worked for a check-cashing… ( gunpolicy.org )

That edit did not live long. However, Baruth found himself subsequently characterized in Wikipedia as ”a famed crossdresser on the Melbourne, Australia drag scene” who was alleged to be  “best known for a 2005 drunken tirade in which he railed against “spics, wops, dagos, kykes, and those fucking Pakis” outside of Cafe du Brasil,” or as someone who “confessed his infatuation with taking shaft in the rear.”

As the links prove, all the “information” is still there, Wikipedia rarely forgets.

At around the same time the Wikipedia edits were made from GM computers, the originating IPs in the 198.201.16.x netblock were used to post comments on TTAC under the pseudonyms “Holden” and “Andrea @Holden.” Which is not to say that they were the same who edited on Wikipedia.

P.S.: In his Wikipedia reply to the anonymous editor at GM, Baruth wrote that  “I bet Toyota’s busy vandalizing a more important page right now.” Knowing Toyota, I agree that the company most likely is “much too naive to do something like that,” as a Toyota executive recently said.  In a future article, we will look at the industry’s infatuation with social media. We will also look at sophisticated methods of not getting caught.

P.P.S: Speaking of Wikipedia and not getting caught, the day after the first RenCen Commentaries story broke,  I find this charming message on my talk page in Wikipedia – comments on Daily Kanban are wisely turned off:

“Wait, so are you attracted to people from other human races? Chanes are, you have sexual deviations, eh? How about mating with a couple of two happy homosexual monkeys? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.153.230.50 (talk) 14:12, 16 September 2013 (UTC).” 

94.153.230.50 is either a cell phone, or most likely a proxy in Ukraine. THIS is how the pros do it.