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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wikipedia Editors Censor Portland Murder from Antifa Page

Following the murder of Trump supporter Aaron Danielson by self-identified Antifa member and Black Lives Matter activist Michael Reinoehl, editors on Wikipedia tried to add the execution-style killing to the page for the violent far-left group. Antifa supporters on the site argued Reinoehl was not a member of any Antifa organization and therefore the killing was not significant enough to mention in the article. One administrator, during a discussion of the incident, smeared Danielson as a “fascist” with another administrator agreeing with the remark.

While brief mention of the killing is included in the article on the recent Portland protests, similar arguments resulted in any mention of the incident also being censored from the page on Patriot Prayer, a pro-Trump group with which Danielson was associated. Attempts to censor the murder follows past pro-Antifa editing on Wikipedia, including censorship of past violence, and edits favoring Black Lives Matter, such as on the Kenosha rioting.

Reinoehl killed Danielson at the end of August on the night a pro-Trump caravan drove through the city of Portland, where there has been daily rioting by Antifa members and Black Lives Matter supporters. He was subsequently identified and public statements he made on social media identifying himself as “100% Antifa” began appearing in the media. Editors determined to note the first killing attributed to Antifa in the United States on the far-left group’s page raised the matter on its discussion page, but their requests to add the incident were rejected.

Initial objections were based on uncertainty regarding the identity of Danielson’s killer and then about site policies arguing articles shouldn’t name individuals suspected of a crime unless charged. Another recurring argument was that unless those involved identify as Antifa their actions shouldn’t be included. Once Reinoehl was identified by the media, it was further argued that even his self-identification is insufficient unless he was in some formal Antifa organization, claiming he would otherwise merely be a “supporter” of Antifa. Several editors insisted acts by Antifa supporters should not be included in the article unless heavily associated with the group by media outlets deemed “reliable” on Wikipedia.

Even after Reinoehl was charged by police with murdering Danielson and was killed himself after reportedly drawing a gun on police moving to arrest him in Washington State, where he had fled, editors still resisted including the incident. During subsequent discussion, editors pointed to an interview Reinoehl did with Vice News shortly before his death. In the interview, Reinoehl admitted to the killing, but denied being a member of Antifa or, specifically, any Antifa organization. Giving priority to his comments after Danielson’s killing brought negative attention to Antifa, editors stated this meant he was an “Antifa supporter” and “antifascist activist” rather than an “Antifa member” and therefore the incident did not warrant inclusion.

Some Antifa supporters on the page claimed including mention of an Antifa supporter’s crimes would be equivalent to mentioning every killer who has been a Democrat or a Republican on Wikipedia’s pages for those parties. Others disputed the validity of this comparison, noting the two major political parties were not heavily associated with violence, but Antifa’s notability is largely derived from its history of violence. Doug Weller, an administrator who regularly defends Antifa, suggested if violent actions by Antifa supporters are included, then so too should violent actions by Antifa opponents.

Weller’s comment was specifically responding to editor Davide King mentioning in the discussion the case of a self-described “Antifa hunter” who was sentenced to prison for making threats. One editor asked about the incident’s relevance to “the now (thankfully) deceased Antifa member murdering the protestor in Portland” and Weller subsequently suspended the editor’s account for over a day for “gloating” about Reinoehl’s death. After the editor referred to Reinoehl as a murderer in questioning the suspension, Weller posted a message on the Antifa discussion page noting Wikipedia’s policy on claims about living people also applies to the recently-deceased, specifically discouraging claims about Reinoehl’s self-admitted guilt.

The editor responded by noting a comment administrator Guy Chapman made in the discussion where he called Danielson a “fascist” and Weller seemingly agreed. Like Weller, Chapman has previously defended Antifa, initially participating at the Antifa discussion page following a Facebook request by an Antifa supporter. Chapman is also part of a Black Lives Matter group on Wikipedia, stating upon joining: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.” The editor noting their comments about Danielson tried to clarify if the same policy on claims about the recently-deceased applied, but was instead warned by another administrator against engaging in “personal attacks” on Weller.

Despite opposition, an editor still added Danielson’s killing to the Antifa page, arguing the association was strong enough. However, the edit was undone by King. A self-identified anarchist, King’s Wikipedia profile page displays a quote from editor “Simonm223” insisting his socialist ideology did not make him less neutral. At the Antifa discussion page last year, Simon praised Antifa terrorist Willem Van Spronsen’s attack on an ICE detention facility while seeking to distance the group from Spronsen, and delete the article on the attack from Wikipedia. Like Reinoehl, Spronsen sought to distance himself from Antifa before his death to protect their reputation according to NPR. Others also censored any mention of the attack from the Antifa page. While Weller participated in the discussion then, he showed no concern about Simon praising Spronsen.

Antifa supporters have many times used the discussion page for attacking victims such as Danielson. Simon and other Antifa supporters mocked and denigrated journalist Andy Ngo over the vicious Antifa attack he sustained last year. Editors also had that attack censored from the Antifa page. Several other editors who advocated excluding Danielson’s killing from the Antifa page are themselves self-identified Antifa supporters and socialists. One of them previously removed material implicating an Antifa group in looting associated with Black Lives Matter rioting in Austin, Texas, part of a wider attempt to censor Antifa’s involvement with the riots.

Not all Wikipedia pages have kept out mention of the killing. The article on the Portland protests themselves does currently include a paragraph-length section about it. However, the article on Patriot Prayer was repeatedly censored of the killing as well, with the argument Danielson merely supported the group similar to the reasoning for censoring mention from Antifa page. Curiously, after Reinoehl was killed by police seeking to arrest him, an article was created about his death providing sparse information on Danielson’s killing, which did not have its own article.

Eventually, the article on Reinoehl’s killing was changed to also cover Danielson’s killing. Though more detail was added, the contents of the actual video of Danielson’s shooting that suggest he was targeted are not included. Despite the page giving a fuller view of Danielson’s killing, Antifa supporter “Arms & Hearts” removed mention of Reinoehl being an Antifa supporter from the page’s intro, cast doubt on his self-identification as Antifa, and prominently described Reinoehl as “involved in protests against police violence and racism.” Another editor added claims Trump urged “extrajudicial executions” by supporting law enforcement’s use of lethal force against Reinoehl citing left-wing outlets Rolling Stone and Talking Points Memo.

Censoring and downplaying Antifa violence and smearing opponents are typical activities on Wikipedia’s Antifa pages. Long-standing mentions of violence were recently removed with most incidents being favorable to Antifa. They have also added extensive material portraying Trump’s Administration and his supporters as fabricating or exaggerating the Antifa threat, including adding material about right-wing violence being more threatening. One discussion initiated by Chapman following an Antifa supporter’s Facebook request, ruled Antifa cannot be labeled “militant” or “far-left” in the Antifa page’s intro with Antifa supporters dominating the discussion. An Antifa supporter even invoked smears of Ngo to get Post-Millennial, of which Ngo is an editor, deemed unreliable on Wikipedia.

Pro-Antifa bias often overlaps with bias towards the Black Lives Matter movement with editors downplaying violence during protests over the police-involved death of George Floyd or pushing articles favoring the movement’s agenda and attacking Trump onto Wikipedia’s front page. On the article about riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, editors successfully removed “riots” from the title with the term only occurring once in the intro and a few times in the article, while variations of “protest” occur several times in the intro alone. Debate also erupted over the article’s main image being a burned-down car dealership and it was eventually removed, though editors struggled to find suitable images of peaceful protests.

Discussion inevitably focused on the killing of Black Lives Matter supporters by teenager Kyle Rittenhouse who prosecutors controversially charged with murder, despite evidence suggesting self-defense. Initially, the article painted Rittenhouse as guilty and early correction requests were shut down. While eventually providing a more factual account, editors removed the Anti-Defamation League’s statement that Rittenhouse had no ties to extremists, but kept an ACLU statement associating Rittenhouse with “white supremacist” protestors. One editor added claims of Rittenhouse supporting President Trump, despite others questioning its relevance. Similar to comments on Antifa’s page, editors also attacked Rittenhouse as a “domestic terrorist” and accused him of “murders” on the article’s discussion page.

Wikipedia’s left-wing bias has been a long-running problem at the site, noted by its own co-founder and evidenced by the extreme slant of articles about groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter. However, the site is also widely used by mainstream media, academics, and Big Tech, as a reliable source of information. Previously, this has caused the spread of hoaxes and other false claims.

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.


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