Conservapedia:Burning the Evidence

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In-depth analysis
This page is about evidence-burning at Conservapedia. For discussion of the more general topic, see this article.

Sometimes the administrators of Conservapedia become so drunk with power, and so thin-skinned, that they attempt to remove material that they find not to their liking. There are a few things to note about this practice:

  • The ability to edit articles in the main page space is the defining aspect of a wiki, and such editing often involves deletion. This is to be expected (though "revert wars" can sometimes be amusing to watch, especially when the participants are doctrinaire morons). However, it is generally considered to be a violation of wiki etiquette to delete material from a talk page. Talk pages are ongoing discussion journals. How offensive such deletions are depends on the context; it is particularly offensive to delete anything from another user's talk page.
  • Because of the way wiki software works, especially the MediaWiki software that is used by Wikipedia, Conservapedia, and RationalWiki, mere deletion of material from any page, main space or talk, does not irreversibly remove it from the historical record. To achieve the degree of perfidy of Orwell's Memory Holes, more drastic measures are required. Such activity is called "deep burning". It is frequently practiced on Conservapedia.

The deletion, by person A, of material from person B's talk page, that had been placed there by person C, is a particularly flagrant violation of Wiki etiquette and of common-sense respect for the principles of free speech. And yet, sysops sometimes burn material in other sysops' talk pages. A legendarily flagrant case of this was the deletion, by Conservapedia sysop TK, of an open letter from AmesG (that's right, our User:AmesG!) from sysop SharonS's talk pageimg. Apparently some sysops are "real" and some are just impressionable teenage girls that need to be protected from the real world.

Shallow Burning on Conservapedia[edit]

Because deletion of embarrassing material is so common on Conservapedia, when we at RationalWiki point to foolishness over there (see, for example, all the articles in Conservapedia:What is going on at CP), we routinely point to a "diff" from the CP edit history. Whenever something is "shallow burned", the deletion is visible in the edit history. When you want to cite such a thing in an RW entry, do the following:

Go to the edit history and look around. It might look, in part, like this:
  1. (cur) (last) 10:15, 25 October 2007 TK (Talk | contribs) (?Drop outs)
  2. (cur) (last) 10:13, 25 October 2007 TK (Talk | contribs) (?Not Fond of the Main Page Color)
  3. (cur) (last) 09:26, 25 October 2007 Maestro (Talk | contribs) m (?Drop outs)
  4. (cur) (last) 09:26, 25 October 2007 Maestro (Talk | contribs) (?Not Fond of the Main Page Color)
  5. (cur) (last) 09:17, 25 October 2007 BethanyS (Talk | contribs)
Clicking on "last" will show the changes between that version and the one before. Clicking on the date and time (e.g. "09:26, 25 October 2007") will show that specific version. Clicking on "contribs" will show what other foolishness that person has been engaged in lately.

If you are writing something for RW or elsewhere, and you want to cite a specific individual version, such that it will not be subject to shallow burning, click on the individual version time/date, and, when that version comes up in your browser, copy and paste the URL from the browser's URL window.

A URL pointing to a specific version in this way is called a "permalink". We use them extensively at RW for our citations of Conservapedia Craziness.

If you want to cite a difference (say, a particularly moronic deletion of embarrassing information), click on the "(last)" link for the change (or use the more sophisticated "Compare selected versions" feature), and when the appropriate "diff" page comes up, copy and paste the URL as before.

As a further precaution, take the permalink and preserve it at As of January 2018, there are 995 pages captured there.[note 1]

Deep-burning on Conservapedia[edit]

Particularly embarrassing material is sometimes "deep burned".

Page deletion[edit]

The simplest way that sysops can do this is simply to delete the entire page. Its edit history (or "fossil record", as we say here at RW) goes into the memory hole. A common place that this is done is with personal user pages and user talk pages. New users often ask embarrassing questions (funny how that happens!), and such users are often quickly banned, and turned into "unpersons" by having their user pages and talk pages permanently deleted. Such users are often naive about this practice, and engage in their embarrassing discussions on their own talk pages.

Savvy operators know about this, and do their work on pages that can't simply be deleted, such as the talk pages for important topics such as Talk:Main Page or Talk:Examples of bias in Wikipedia, or on sysops' own personal talk pages, such as User Talk:TK.

However, in recent times, even important personal talk pages have been deep burned. On October 27, 2007, Jallen/Niandra burned Andrew Schlafly's own talk page. This was repeated on March 3, 2008 under the Newspeak term "routine cleaning". We are attempting to recover the lost data for you.

Conservative's shout-outs[edit]

In the single biggest page burning event, Conservative deleted his shout out to PZ Myers. To cover up this whole embarrassing incident, he deleted the Atheism talk page, Public Awarness of the Atheism Article, and then, in a blatant act of overreacting, the big pages themselves: Talk:Mainpage and the right and left mainpage templates all without their history.

Fortunately, a piece of censorship this large would not stand, and Philip J. Rayment restored the pages with their history [2] [3] [4] [5].

This event highlighted how far some of the sysops will go to hide their own screw-ups.

Bogus archiving[edit]

The more evil sysops (TK was a particularly egregious practitioner of this) will use MediaWiki's page-move feature to relocate the talk page to an archive, and then delete the archive. Archiving moves the material and its edit history over to another page. Operators who have nothing to hide often use this feature to keep the discussions on talk pages to a manageable length, while moving out-of-date material to another location. But, at Conservapedia, there is a more sinister use.

Because of this, the friendly elves at RationalWiki periodically make copies of vulnerable CP pages.

For example, at 20:31 on 24 October 2007, sysop TK "archived" the talk page for Richard Dawkins, on which there had been some interesting discussion. (Briefly, Andy Schlafly, and the other powers that be, are stark raving nuts. But you could have guessed that.) The edit histories for the archived material involved a lot of Shallow Burning, that permalinks could have shown. Those edits were compressed out, so the archived versions show only the final results. Fortunately, we have saved the version of the page at 09:32 20 Oct 2007 Conservapedia:Burning_the_Evidence/DawkinsTalk0932_20Oct07. We apologize for the incompleteness of this, and are working on more effective means of closing the memory hole.

Instant incineration on Conservapedia[edit]

Recently installed oversight extensions to the Mediawiki software have made it possible to obliterate individual edits conveniently, permanently, and in a way that casual observers might not notice, without the inconvenient, heavy-handed, and obvious practice of deep-burning. Individual versions can be expunged from the history. This requires a high level of authority called "oversight" (even higher than "administrator"), and the practice is called "oversighting". Because oversight privileges are so great, very few CP sysops are entrusted with this. The few sysops at CP that have this power are generally among the less psychopathic (other than Andy and Karajou) ones. They seem to be, as of this writing: Andy, PJR, DeanS, Karajou, Jallen, and CPWebmaster.[1] However, TK has recently been granted oversight privileges as well. Unlike other forms of burning, oversighting doesn't leave any logs or traces visible to non-oversighters, so it is very hard to see if the above have used their privileges without painstakingly checking diffs.

The practice of instant incineration apparently became widespread at Conservapedia around 13 March 2009. We are developing technical means to ferret out, and make available to our readers, the information that "the encyclopedia that does not censor" censors.

Examples of burning on Conservapedia[edit]

There are quite a number of talk pages of higher-than-average controversy in their content, that Conservapedia folks routinely delete material from. They do this even though wiki tradition holds that this should not be done save for libelous or otherwise legally actionable items, a principle familiar to people living in nations with a tradition of free speech.

For your convenience, we have saved some of them from any future deep burning and presented them in easy-to-peruse format. We have omitted trivial changes and deletions that are justifiable as repair of clear vandalism.

Items that are deep-burned are often harder to track down and present to you, but we do our best. The practice of deep burning on Conservapedia is reserved for the most embarrassing topics, of course.

We have saved some examples of burned material in the next few paragraphs. Some of these have only been shallow-burned at this time, but could be deep-burned at any time. Some items are on the boundary between the two — even though the deceitful archiving has taken place, the original page has not had its history deleted. This means that, with some effort, the burned material can be seen.

FBI-related material[edit]

Not surprisingly, issues surrounding the FBI Incident are among the most thoroughly burned. It seems that, at 01:19 on 2 November 2007, TK deleted all the content of the talk page for the FBI itself and then deleted and recreated the page itself. (Deleting the content is shallow, of course. Deleting and recreating the entire page is deep — the edit history disappears.) He then helpfully edited back into the recreated page a small amount of material from the original page, from 6 weeks earlier, that he considered harmless.

Fortunately, we have saved much of the burned material here.

Gun control talk page[edit]

The talk page for gun control has been a burn magnet for much of late 2008. Partly because, like so many pages, it's full of garbage, and partly because, well, like the FBI incident, it's viral. In fact, the go-around of December 2008 involved a paragraph being shallow-burned (at last count) 13 times. This is more than the amount of mayhem that got the FBI Incident page started, but that was at a more innocent time. Sassing CP is now a much bigger industry.

In any case, Philip J. Rayment appears poised to archive the talk page, at a moment when the interesting material appears to be absent. To ameliorate the loss from such an unfortunate occurrence, we have saved it here.

Conservapedia commandments talk page[edit]

In late February to early March of 2009, an issue arose on the commandments talk page (don't bother looking) about whether various edits to Conservapedia constitute a violation of 18 USC 1030, the federal law against tampering with ("hacking") computers used in commerce, defense, and government functions. The powers that be insist that editing Conservapedia does indeed fall within the scope of this statute, a claim which apparently rests on whether the CP servers are "protected", which in turn depends on whether they are used in the "communications" industry. Needless to say, there are those who dispute this contention, and, needless to say, the CP sysops are hard at work deleting such expressions. A large deletion took place on 2 March, 2009, just prior to archiving the entire page and then deleting its content. This of course had the effect of making the removed material hard to find, though the talk page itself has not actually been deleted, so this isn't really a "deep burn". Nevertheless, we have saved the page here.

PNAS reply talk page[edit]

The discussion of PNAS's reply to Andy's letter claiming malfeasance in the Lenski study (see Lenski affair) became quite a raucous brawl. The amount of burning that took place is positively legendary. This may be because Andy's claims of expertise were so transparently outlandish, and so his dishonesty, stupidity, hubris, and thin skin were on display in such a big way. The fact that he went public with all this, sending a letter to the editors of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also helped.

The page at Conservapedia is here. It has not (yet) been deep-burned — one can still see the history. Another fine example of Schalfly's removal of content that pointed out flaws in his statistical reasoning, that would be rather difficult to refute.

Our annotated copy of the page, showing the full extent of the censorship, is here.

Catholic Views on Creation[edit]

Another fine example was on 18 September 2010 when a discussion on the WIGOCP talk page centered around a debate that Philip J. Rayment had with Andrew Schlafly regarding Catholicism and views on creation. Upon reading this, TK deleted the page as "empty"img before bringing it back with the aforementioned discussion scrubbed away.img Luckily for us, Ace and trusty google cache were on the button and the original page can be found here.

Other burned pages that we have saved[edit]

User ForeverPeace was banned, came back as JeremyJCH, was abused further, and left this parting shot. It was deep-burned by Karajou at 23:20, 12 Feb 2009, with the comment "you are censored here, and your demands that we must be tolerant because we are Christian will not work."

Professorship of Dawkins[edit]

PNAS Reply[edit]

FBI Talk[edit]

Commandments Talk[edit]

Fred Phelps[edit]

JeremyJCH Talk[edit]

Further help[edit]

You should make use of Internet archive sites. E.g. currently has copies of Andrew Schlafly's talk page from various points in 2007. However there are two caveats: (1) archiving is sporadic, so they might not have what you want (2) older archives disappear, so if they do have what you want, save a local copy for yourself while you can.