Wikipedia has undergone further sanitizing of the philosophical underpinnings of what it means to be a “natural born citizen” as the Constitution requires for U.S. presidents, the latest in an ongoing “edit war” at the online encyclopedia.
In the most recent development, an unnamed “editor” deleted in its entirety a section of a Wikipedia entry for Swiss legal philosopher Emmerich de Vattel, whom Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin have credited for his influence on early American policy formation.
The deleted segment, titled “USA Constitution,” had included a reference to de Vattel’s 1757 treatise “The Law of Nations,” which defined natural-born citizenship as “those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”
Before the edit
The now-removed section also had noted the U.S. Constitution’s use of the phrase “the law of nations.”
Wikipedia’s de Vattel entry likewise paired the phrase with the philosopher’s citizenship definition followed by the Constitution’s overall candidate requirements for the presidency.
According to an auto-generated Revision History accompanying the entry, the anonymous editor deleted the USA Constitution section on May 2.
The editor justified changing the separate, de Vattel entry with this brief explanation: “Removed misformatted section, misapplying a quote to provide NPOV support to birtherism.”
The acronym NPOV, according to Wikipedia’s own definition, is “Neutral point of view ‘NPOV’ (journalism), a stance or tone that is free from bias…”
After the edit
The person who changed the listing sought additional affirmation for his or her decision, inserting in the Revision History page the extra comment, “Moderator support requested.”
That same editor first modified the de Vattel entry on April 30, denouncing the paired inclusion of constitutional presidency requirements and references to de Vattel as “a naked attempt to validate Birtherism (and therefore NPOV)…”
A request made to Wikipedia for comment on this process was not answered as of press time.
The back-and-forth process of deleting and re-inserting the same information has been a source of angst for some of Wikipedia’s volunteer citizen-editors.
Indeed, one commenter on the history revision page exhorted participants to cease this information – or disinformation – campaign with the simple cry: “Let’s stop this edit war.”