The word 'Forward,' which appears to be the new slogan for the 2012 reelection campaign of President Barack Obama, featured prominently in a video released by the Obama campaign on April 30. But the word has generated some controversy for due to its historical connotations; in the past, 'forward' has been tied to socialist and communist literature.
That controversy has spilled over onto the public pages of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that is open to public editing. There, the possible deletion of certain articles has taken a political turn.
The Wikipedia entry at the center of the firestorm is titled Forward (generic name of socialist publications) and has a long history of edits. First published in January of 2011, it was a relatively stable article until just before midnight on April 30, the same day the Obama video came out. After that point, a tidal wave of edits rolled in.
The article (as of 5:00 p.m. on May 2) begins: In the English translation, the term Forward has been used as an effective title for socialist and left-leaning periodical publications. It goes on to briefly describe these publications.
This entry was referenced by Michael Walsh in an April 30 post on the National Review website. He used the Wikipedia information to link Obama's campaign slogan to German socialism.
The onslaught of user edits to the Wikipedia page began hours after Walsh's post.
The issue was next taken up on May 1 by The Rachel Maddow Show, which is broadcast by MSNBC. Maddow pointed out three editorials that had criticized the 'forward' slogan: the National Review blurb, a piece on the Washington Times blog, and an article in the Daily Mail.
Maddow scoffed at Walsh for using Wikipedia as his source. She then mocked the general idea of linking the word 'forward' to socialism, since it has plenty of other connotations as well.
Applying Ockham's razor to this story, she said, I would like to point out one thing that anti-communist fear-mongering leaves out of the analysis of the 'forward' slogan -- which clearly comes from some godless pinko movement from the 1930s bent on the destruction of everything awesome and free in America! -- 'Forward' is also the motto of the great state of Wisconsin.
Maddow also noted that MSNBC's own slogan is Lean forward.
Stuck in the middle of it all, the original Wikipedia page keeps vacillating in slant. It is at risk of being deleted altogether by administrators, and debates as to the entry's fate are underway on a public 'talk page.'
Deletion is defended by a user named SkepticAnonymous. He or she argues that it is being used for a blatant political attack, which constitutes a violation of [Wikipedia rules].
The posted rebuttals are vehement, including this one from a user named Nintendude: A single edit that you think violates [the rule] is a pretty reckless reason to delete an article. I don't give a s**t about your political sentiments, you seem to think otherwise. This is not an uncontroversial delete.
And if you wanted to witness even more nitpicking, an entirely new controversial Wikipedia article was posted on May 1. This one is called Forward (Obama-Biden campaign slogan) and it too has a lively editing history; users continue to delete and reinsert references to socialist propaganda. This entry is also in danger of being deleted.
Fortin is the IBTimes Africa Correspondent based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She joined IBT in February of 2012, and has previously worked as an editor and reporter for...