I was a Conservapedia Administrator

Philip J. Rayment

The TK Saga

TK was another "senior" administrator. Like most administrators, he claimed to be a conservative, although didn't claim to be a Young-Earth Creationist. TK's style was confronting, and he clearly liked the power. He claimed to be unfamiliar with Wikis, and therefore rejected some Wiki ways of doing things. For example, he preferred to have discussions in private, usually via Instant Messaging. And when a new editor expressed interest in, for example, sorting out the categories used for Con­serva­pedia articles, he would take it on himself to tell that editor what should and shouldn't happen, and do so in private. So most of that editor's communication was private communication with TK. If the editor asked another administrator a question about categories, the editor would be told off. And other administrators had little idea what was going on, because the communications were all private.

His attitude, mentioned in private e-mails to me more than once, was that if Wikipedia does something in a particular way, we will do it the opposite way. This was despite the absence of any opposing ideological reasons for Wikipedia's methods.

He apparently communicated frequently with Andrew Schlafly, then used the latter's silence on various matters as tacit approval of his decisions. Indeed, on a few occasions Andy told me that I should do what I thought best, so he probably told TK that on some occasions. The problem was that this tacit approval included matters for which TK knew other administrators held opposing views.

Two examples of this stand out in my memory. One was to do with locking of and approval for templates. Because I had shown an interest in templates and a knowledge of how to write them, Ed Poor had nominated me to be the admin­istra­tor in charge of templates, a role that I accepted, and which was unopposed by any other senior administrator. Yet when TK decided that all templates must be approved by an administrator, this new policy was presented as a fait accompli to the rest of the administrators, despite me not being consulted on the issue! This was likely because TK knew that I would oppose the idea.

The other case was in deciding the style of article titles. The MediaWiki software allows links to other articles simply by typing double square brackets around some text. So, for example, if an editor referred to the theory of evolution in an article, this could be turned into a link to the article of that name simply by typing "[[theory of evolution]]". However, such links are case-sensitive, except for the first letter. Therefore, the policy on Wikipedia is that article titles are always in lower case, except for proper nouns. TK proposed that on Con­serva­pedia, the article titles should be in "title case", that is, Theory of Evolution, not theory of evolution. Doing this requires what is known as a "piped link", where both the form of the article title and the form of the text in the sentence need to be supplied. So to link the theory of evolution in a sentence would require typing "[[Theory of Evolution|theory of evolution]].

I was the only administrator to respond to his proposal, and put the view that it should be in lower case for ease of use. This particular matter had previously been raised by another editor, and they had also expressed the view that titles should be in lower case for the same reason. Despite these reasoned opinions, TK decided that the policy would be that article titles should be in title case, yet provided no reason for his decision.

These and other incidents led me to believe that TK was being deliberately diff­icult, if not outright disruptive.

Subterfuge

At the end of June 2007, several administrators received an e-mail from a person going by the name of Kevin Conley, claiming that TK was actually trying to destroy Con­serva­pedia. His e-mail included copies of messages posted on a message board under the name of E.Wig, which he claimed was an alias of TK. The message board was claimed to actually be a private (secret) forum on the RationalWiki forum.

The anonymous letter was quickly dismissed by other administrators as an attempt by RationalWiki people to frame TK, and indeed I myself pointed out that there was nothing in the e-mail to prove that TK had done anything wrong, as it would have been reasonably easy for someone to fabricate the entire thing.

However, the anonymous whistle-blower further claimed that we could check for ourselves that E.Wig was TK by carefully going through all the public messages posted by E.Wig. Being on holidays at the time, I decided to undertake this task. And what I found shocked me, as it became clear to me that E.Wig and TK were indeed the same person, and E.Wig was clearly opposed to the goals of Con­serva­pedia.

I compiled the evidence I found into an e-mail to Andy (appendix D), and said that it was okay for him to forward it to TK to respond. Andy's reply indicated that he would forward it to TK, after sleeping on it. However, he never did. I waited patiently, and when I asked again what was happening about it, he didn't appear to know what I was talking about. When I reminded him, he said that he believed that TK was now working with us.

I considered this to be unlikely, given that the leaked correspondence included the comment that, if discovered, he would "just break off contact and go back to being TK" for a while. But it was up to Andy to take action, and if he didn't want to, that was his decision.

Later, further leaks and a more public claim were made about TK's subterfuge, including screen shots of a conversation he had with another former admin­istra­tor. Again, these were dismissed as forgeries. Forging plain text is one thing, but forging a screenshot is considerably harder (although not impossible). I wrote to Andy again, pointing out that even if one dismisses all these claims as forgeries designed to frame TK, the evidence that I had previously unearthed was strong evidence that TK was opposed to Con­serva­pedia, and therefore these various claims against him were probably true. But still Andy didn't act.

Demotion

TK lost his administrator status over an entirely different matter, when he allegedly personally insulted Andy in a telephone conversation with him. All of a sudden TK was no longer beyond question, and various other concerns were raised about him, including his name-dropping of various prominent people and in­con­sis­ten­cies in some of his claims.

TK's revenge was to open the private Special Discussion Group (appendix B) for all to see. This of course further alienated the other administrators. Before long, TK was not only no longer an administrator, but had been blocked from editing on Con­serva­pedia at all, supposedly on his request.

The phoenix rises

The block did not last long, however. About five weeks after being blocked, another administrator unblocked TK, allegedly because TK had requested to be unblocked, although it was later admitted that no such request had been made. A day after resuming editing, TK was blocked for a day for calling another user an idiot. Then three days later, for a month, for "off-site harrasment, threatening emails". Five days after that, the block was extended to one year, for "continued bullying despite 2 prev warnings".

These blocks were done by the administrator Fox. But Ed Poor didn't agree with the block, so unilaterally unblocked TK. His comment was "no consensus for block - this is just a personality conflict", yet consensus was never required, and Ed Poor was later to argue that unblocking without getting the agreement of the blocking administrator was wrong. Fox reinstated the year-long block.

Soon after, a user who had been given blocking rights but who was a "double agent", went on a blocking/unblocking spree, and TK was unblocked. HelpJazz reinstated TK's block, but made it for five years. Geo.plrd reduced that to ten months, citing ''Stare Decisis'' (the legal principle under which judges are obligated to follow the precedents established in prior decisions), on the basis that two months of the year-long block had been served. In fact, only five days of it had been served.

A few weeks later, Fox had all his rights removed, after a senior administrator complained that he was writing parody articles. (Yet most of his supposed parody articles were not removed.) A week after that, Geo.plrd unilaterally unblocked TK with the reasoning, "Due to summary removal of original blocking sysop, blatant hatred for this user at time of block, possible conspriacy(sic), and suspect grounds; I parole this user.".

DanH reinstated the block, for five years, "parole denied". Citing a curious use of maths, Geo.plrd reduced it to eight months, "(12-3)". But half an hour later, cancelled the block with the explanation/instruction "This user is released under the conditions of the parole stated on his userpage, under the Probation Policy. Under the due deference doctrine, do not reblock without consulting with Andy or me.".

TK continued to be abusive, while I resisted the urge to block him, wanting to respect the parole arrangement. However, despite me urging on the Admin­istra­tor e-mail group that Geo.prld actually keep TK in line, he did nothing. So after three weeks I'd had enough, and gave TK a very mild 6-hour block. For some reason, he didn't return for seven months.

Return to Administrator

Two weeks after returning on 15th November, TK was given block, edit, upload, checkuser, and siteadmin rights. At the end of December (2008), Andy announced that he would appoint five new administrators for the new year. On the administrator e-mail group, he suggested five people himself, and asked for comments. There was no formal voting system as such. Instead, various administrators simply listed who they would support or oppose, including making new suggestions. Several new suggestions were made, and Andy dropped some of his suggestions. However, he stuck with TK, even claiming that TK had "strong support by several in this group". This was despite only one other administrator supporting him, and three opposing him.

Back to old tricks

TK had the habit of claiming that Andy endorsed his actions. However, in most cases, we only had TK's word for this. In early December, he got involved in categorisation of pages, an area that he'd taken a controlling interest in before. A page for discussing categories was created, on which the following was posted (originally on TK's talk page):

Sensing that TK was again trying to be the controller of various matters, I wrote the following on the page:

On 9th January, after becoming an administrator again, TK removed that "Guidelines" section with the comment, "Blatant lies removed. My commission was approved by A.S.", then two minutes later deleted the page with the comment "Outdated/expired". He was in charge again, because he said so.

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TK Timeline

25th April, 2007

First Admin. e-mail group.

25th May, 2007

Ed Poor proposes me as "template manager".

30th June, 2007

Kevin Conley letter

3rd July, 2007

My letter to Andy about TK/E.Wig.

29th November, 2007

Jallen blocks TK for infinite

6th January, 2008

Ed Poor unblocks TK

11th January, 2008

Fox blocks TK for one day

24th March, 2008

TK unblocked on parole

12th April, 2008

I block TK for 6 hours for abuse. He stops editing for seven months

15th November, 2008

TK returns to editing

2nd December, 2008

TK regains block rights

1st January, 2009

TK regains Administrator status