Wikipedia vandal’s actions should cause concern for our community

To the Editor:

I am troubled by John Behan’s behavior. According to Wednesday’s article “Profs question students’ Wikipedia dependency,” Behan has created multiple hoax articles on Wikipedia. I am forced to wonder what Behan feels he gains from wasting other people’s time and effort tracking down and dealing with his hoaxes. Note, for example, that the deletion discussion that occurred concerning the emysphilia article involved four Wikipedia users who went through and attempted to find Behan’s sources. There’s a term on Wikipedia for what Behan does. It’s called “vandalism.” And there is a reason why that term is used: Behan is engaging in vandalism that is no different from someone spray-painting graffiti on a wall; if anything, Behan’s behavior is worse — Behan imparts falsehoods to a variety of people, whereas the spray-painter simply makes an eyesore. The Yale community should be concerned that we have people like him as members.

Joshua Zelinsky ’07

Feb. 7

The writer is a Wikipedia administrator.

Columnist, though mostly right on, should have kept Coke, NFL separate

To the Editor:

I’m glad Steven Engler was moved to write about Coke’s association of itself with a fabricated, sepia-toned memory of black history, since it bothered me, too. I really appreciated his research and many of his points, like the ignoring of Black History Month in previous February Super Bowls that did not include black coaches.

But at times Engler conflates Coca-Cola and the NFL. Both are relevant, as both are complicit in our country’s history of racism (which Engler points out); but the NFL did not have anything to do with the production of the ad, so the ad’s suggestion of Dungy and Smith coaching in the game as the culmination of a century-long history of the struggle for civil rights is Coke’s alone.

Engler astutely mentions the erasure of 43 years of black history and the implication that “nothing notable occurred in black history in the intervening years.” But I think this is the main idea, not increasingly obsolete stereotypes about quarterbacks needing to be white, although that issue, and the one Engler makes about the paucity of black coaches, is important as well. (It might also help to mention that there are only three black general managers and no black owners.)

It’s not just that Thurgood Marshall and Oprah are being slighted. The problem with American historical memory regarding black history is that Marshall and Oprah aren’t even considered to be (or remembered as) breaking barriers because organizations like Coke perpetuate myths that the aims of the civil rights movement were achieved the instant King uttered those words. It’s a convenient and prevalent post-civil rights view that justifies complacency and even attacks on affirmative action to assume that the work for racial equality has been done already.

Another piece of Black History Month propaganda during the game: A joint spot by Tostitos, Frito-Lay and Doritos, which shows black families watching the coaches compete before a question-and-answer (“Who’s winning?” “We all are”) illustrates the scope of this problem.

Alex Goldberger ’08

Feb. 7

The writer is a former sports reporter for the News.