Though the gentlemen at the other site would never use the words “evolution” and “Conservapedia” in the same sentence (unless a picture of Hitler or Stalin is nearby), it cannot be denied that CP has evolved since its humble beginnings. Specifically, what has changed most about CP is the characteristics of the users that it is composed of. Over its relatively short history, CP has weeded out the vast majority of its users, who ranged from vandals to idiots to parodists to honest people actually attempting to do productive work. This high mortality rate begs the question, what characteristics do the surviving users possess that the others did not? How does the natural selection of CP users operate, and how has this brought CP to its present state? In this short essay I will endeavor to answer these questions in an attempt to better understand CP and those who frequent it.
The original sysops
Much of CP’s natural selection depends upon the people who were there from the very beginning, namely Andy, TK, Conservative, and Ed Poor. They all possess the natural advantage of being there first, and so are not as subject to CP's "natural selection" as other users. But not all of CP’s current sysops were there from the beginning; people like Jpatt and Karajou did not enter the picture until later. Bugler would probably still be a sysop if he hadn’t come out of the closet himself, and many other well-known Conservapedians such as PJR and TerryH had to earn their way to the top rather than having the natural advantage of being first. So, what is it about these users that make them able to avoid the banhammer? I believe the answer can be broken down into two sections:
Quite simply, to remain at CP you must agree with Andy on every issue he confronts you about. There are almost no exceptions to this rule, as Andy refuses to have a true debate on any subject. Even PJR, who echoed Andy’s beliefs to several decimal places, was discredited because he did not agree with the Obama smear campaign. As Bugler and RodWeathers prove, the content of one’s articles do not matter; the only thing that is important is that you agree with Andy at the right moment. By extension, you must agree with the other sysops as well, but these tasks are one and the same since no sysop differs ideologically from Andy. As history shows, the vast majority of users were driven from CP because of this principle (but not before being called a “liberal,” “atheist,” or “enemy of school prayer”).
However, the rule starts to bend when dealing with parodists. One cannot simply parrot everything Andy says and expect to stay at CP, as that person will be ousted as a parodist immediately. This suggests that Andy does have some idea of how obscure his political views are, even if he will never admit it. Instead, some subtlety is required, as demonstrated by parodists like Bugler, RodWeathers, and many, many, others. Still, the general idea remains the same: declaring your direct opposition to Andy’s views results in immediate wiki-suicide.
To rise to the top at CP, though, it take more than just a willingness to submit to Andy’s idiotic belief system. Just as important as a Conservapedian’s beliefs is his or her attitudes, as evidenced by the fairly homogenous group of sysops. I believe there are two major characteristics that the powers-that-be at CP look favorably upon:
Aggressiveness and the desire to silence dissenting opinions. In a word: Bugler. As soon as Andy noticed him, he was so impressed by his obnoxious demeanor that he ignored PJR’s repeated assessments of his motives. As long as the aggressiveness is directed at anyone Andy perceives as a liberal, it is impossible to go wrong. This same ferociousness allowed Bugler to silence or at least snub anyone who stood in his way, which eventually led to his sysopship. I have yet to find an example of a sysop who lacked this quality, even if they were a parodist; even people like PJR, who were slightly more reasonable, still used the same techniques to silence the opposition.
The tendency to obsess over a particular subject. Perhaps the best example of this is FOIA, author of CP’s enormous “Alger Hiss” article. But other examples include Conservative and his endless stream of articles with Hitler pictures, TerryH and his love affair with Ayn Rand, and RobS and all things related to fluoridated water. As long as the subject is favorable to Andy and the other sysops, the user can stay. However, without the aforementioned aggression, this trait will not get you very far. Compare what happened to FOIA, whose obsession is unparalleled, with what happened to Conservative, whose obsession is coupled with antagonism and hostility. FOIA remains a peon, but Conservative’s eagerness to use the banhammer keeps him in Andy’s group of respected users. (Granted, Ken was there from the beginning, but he has been able to remain in Andy’s favor despite his communications with those mysterious “gentlemen.”)
This brings us to the state of CP today. Take a look at the remaining users and you will find all of them possess the qualities above, almost without exception. Any user who lacked sufficient measure of these traits or beliefs is no longer at CP, regardless of whether they left in disgust or were perma-banned by Andy or one of his cronies. I suspect that in the future these principles will continue to operate, snubbing dozens of new users weekly and occasionally dethroning an established user who falls out of Andy’s favor. Similarly, anyone who exhibits the correct balance of the above qualities does have a chance to rise at CP. Though the sysops have become paranoid about parodists, I believe it is still possible for one to infiltrate CP and even become a sysop. Why someone would want to is another matter, of course. But if anyone does have the patience and ability,
good luck it would still be morally wrong.