The Washington Post

Fight brews over Sarah Palin on Paul Revere Wikipedia page

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sits with her youngest daughter Piper, left, and her mother Sally Heath, during a tour of the Old North Church in Boston's North End neighborhood, Thursday, June 2, 2011. (Steven Senne/AP)

This post has been updated.

Update 6/7/11: The Paul Revere post on Wikipedia now sports a padlock in the upper-righthand corner that prevents changes from being made.

Wikimedia spokesman Jay Walsh told the Associated Press that can provide a cooling-off period when there are numerous attempts to edit a site.
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According to Wikipedia, the protection prevents edits from unregistered users, as well as edits from any account that is not either confirmed — at least four days old and has made ten or more edits. Other users can propose changes on the talk page, which now as a fourteen-part discussion on “Sarah Palin-related material.”

* * *

Supporters of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have taken to Wikipedia, where they have been trying all weekend to revise the page on Paul Revere to reflect her recent comments.

In her trip to Massachusetts last week, Palin flubbed the history of Revere’s ride, saying that he rode through Boston ringing bells to warn the British that the revolutionaries were armed and ready to fight. Revere actually rode quietly, to warn the revolutionaries that British troops were headed their way.

As first noticed by the blog Little Green Footballs, Palin fans have been attempting to add her version of the story to Revere’s Wikipedia page — a source of research information for more than half of college students. Other users have been deleting the changes as they appear, arguing that what Palin said in the past week should be kept separate from a page about an event that happened hundreds of years ago.

Palin is hardly alone among politicians for getting American history wrong. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) made a similar gaffe on a trip to New Hampshire earlier this year, placing the battles of Lexington and Concord in that state.

Where Palin is unique is in her — and her fans — defiant attitude. Bachmann admitted on Facebook that “it was my mistake” and turned it into a joking jab at Massachusetts. Palin, on the other hand, went on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend and defended her version of events.

“I didn't mess up,” Palin said. “I answered candidly and I know my American history ... Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there.”

Defending Palin, some commentators have pointed out that Revere did tell the British about armed colonial militiamen — after he was captured and held at gunpoint. According to “Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hackett Fischer, Revere was trying to lead his captors away from Lexington (where Sam Adams and John Hancock were hidden) by saying that danger awaited them there.

Think you know your history? Take the Paul Revere quiz.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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