[WikiEN-l] A recent exchange with Jason Gastrich

rknvcpx at hushmail.com rknvcpx at hushmail.com
Tue Feb 21 09:13:09 UTC 2006

Pardon my English; it is not my first language, nor do I speak it 
often while not online.

While browsing Wikipedia recently, I stumbled across the 
controversy regarding the editing of Jason Gastrich and his 
organization. I am not a Wikipedia editor, but I use Wikipedia as a 
tool for research. As one of my online ventures is SEO, I prefer 
the format of Wikipedia for finding information quickly, rather 
than the often irrelevant Google results. Thus, you could say that 
I am a minor stakeholder in Wikipedia itself. As a person in need 
of quick access to information, attacks on Wikipedia concern me, 
but what I read about this recent conflict disturbed me enough to 
comment on this issue.

As an outside observer who isn't a party to the conflict, I feel 
that my input on this matter can be valuable to the process as a 

I recently spoke with Mr. Gastrich via AOL Instant Messenger, so 
that I might try and get another opinion on the basis of the 
dispute. Before doing so, I spent approximately one hour reading 
various Wikipedia pages related to the matter, as well as some of 
Mr. Gastrich's own pages concerning himself and his organization. 
The readings were two days ago, while my conversation occured 
approximately one hour before this E-Mail was sent.

I shall reproduce the conversation below, as both a source for my 
analysis, and as a curiosity to those who have a significant stake 
in the ongoing dispute. The conversation is as follows:

Alexi: Why do you feel the need to turn Wikipedia into a warzone 
through biased editing, all the while falsely championing your own 
MrJasonGastrich: have we met?
Alexi: No, I'm not a Wikipedia editor even, but I'm incredibly 
disturbed by the whole situation.
Alexi: Pardon my bad english.
MrJasonGastrich: Feel free to introduce yourself and maybe we can 
chat.  You obviously don't now me, but how or why do you think you 
know me?
Alexi: Well, I became aware of the whole incident while I was on 
Wikipedia reading RFCs related to HTTP caching implementations, and 
stumbled upon the RFC concerning your conduct. Out of curiosity, I 
decided to read it, and was disturbed by the level of agenda 
pushing that several parties were throwing into the whole 
situation. While I don't have the time to contribute to Wikipedia 
myself (I'm a full time webmaster), I am a little discontent at the 
notion of people using Wikipedia to wage ideological battles. As an 
ex-Usenet junkie, I realize that heated debate can be interesting 
and invigorating, but don't feel that Wikipedia is the place for 
MrJasonGastrich: I understand.  Nice to meet you.
Alexi: Perhaps you could use the openess afforded by the GFDL to 
fork the Wikipedia entries which you want to, and set up your own 
Wiki using the freely available MediaWiki software.
MrJasonGastrich: I've considered it and you aren't the first to 
suggest it, but I don't think I'll do it.
Alexi: Why has this been made into a confrontational issue? You've 
lost a lot of credibility, between the sockpuppets and the overly 
inflated claims of being a professional webmaster. What is it going 
to take to end this conflict?
Alexi: If you really want my opinion, I'll give it to you.
MrJasonGastrich: Why is this any of your business?  Your distorted 
summation of the facts is offensive.
Alexi: It is my business because Wikipedia is a resource for all 
the world, and is supposed to be neutral. Your organization has 
been working to destroy that neutrality. Wikipedia is much like 
Jerusalem - unless it can be held by people of differing 
persuasions, in peace, then in-fighting will completely destroy it.
MrJasonGastrich: I disagree with your opinion about my organization 
and I believe you need to take a much closer look at the facts 
before judging me as you are.
Alexi: As an outside observer, I did look at situation before 
making an accusation. While what you do may be welcome in Christian 
circles (I don't know, I'm not a Christian), Wikipedia is not the 
place for it. Perception is key, and even if what you feel you do 
is right, the very idea that so many others perceive it as wrong 
can only hurt your mission of faith.
MrJasonGastrich: Since you've launched attacks at me, without all 
the facts and without even introducing yourself, you've lost all 
credibility with me.
Alexi: If you think I am attacking you, then you need to re-
evaluate your whole view of the world. If I chose to attack, which 
I didn't, I would have entered this chat hell bent on degrading 
your character with only you as the audience, as opposed to trying 
to initiate a mature discussion between adults with the intent of 
finding a mutually beneficial solution. As for credibility, you 
ought not to cast stones, unless you truly have no credibility 
issues yourself. The fact that you call yourself a professional 
webmaster yet obviously don't act like it would not sit well with 
many others, but I at least chose to give you the benefit of the 
Alexi: What I see here is not someone who is spreading the word of 
Christ through love, but someone subconsciously rejecting their 
former self through a hyperimplementation of that activity's polar 
opposite. Maybe you ought to conduct a bit of soul searching and 
try to really understand why you chose the path you did, and what 
drives to you interact with others in the way you do.

Initially, I approached Mr. Gastrich from the perspective of an 
outside observer, who happened to be discontented with Mr 
Gastrich's use of Wikipedia as a channel to evangelize through. 
Despite the long and documented history of policy abuses by Mr. 
Gastrich, as well as my own experience as a webmaster, specifically 
concerning the fact that Mr. Gastrich paints himself as an Internet 
professional despite my belief to the contrary, I did not seek to 
engage him in an ad hominem debate, but rather, try and find a 
solution beneficial to both parties.

In the course of a less than five kilobyte conversation, Mr. 
Gastrich managed to convince me of his malicious editing practices. 
In his fourth message to me, he completely denied the idea that 
everyone who seeks the open exchange of information has at least 
some stake in Wikipedia. By making an attack against my very reason 
for initiating the conversation, which I spelled out to him 
clearly, he was attempting to discredit my entire position based on 
my lack of involvement in the dispute. Not only is this a very 
immature tactic, but also is clearly indicitave of bias, as he felt 
threatened by an outside opinion of the matter.

By his fifth reply to me, Mr. Gastrich had already become 
needlessly defensive, and resorted to the commonplace tactic of 
accusing another party of not knowing the facts, without citing 
specific examples of flawed statements.

By his sixth reply to me, Mr. Gastrich had already become incivil, 
and had adopted a defensive position, with intent to marginalize 
any statement I made.

The way I see this situation is this: were Mr. Gastrich acting with 
good intentions, he would have no need to become as defensive as he 
did, both within the framework of Wikipedia, and in external 
conversations, such as this one. Such defensiveness is not a tactic 
employed by those acting with good faith, but rather, demonstrates 
a strong desire to engage all others in heated and incivil debate. 
As an outside observer, I have thought about this quite a bit, and 
have come to the conclusion that Mr. Gastrich is acting not as a 
representative of his faith, with the intention to spread his 
beliefs to others, but rather, uses his faith and the propogation 
of it in a self-supporting fashion.

Mr. Gastrich's unchristian past, as evidenced by his own admission 
and conversion testimonial, leads me to believe that this new found 
faith is less about faith than it is a rejection of his past. By 
adopting such an aggressive stance, Mr. Gastrich is using 
Christianity as a tool for his own internal struggles, and as a way 
to prove to himself that he no longer wishes to lead the lifestyle 
that he did. His edits attempting to dishonestly raise the 
credibility of his education, as well as his vastly overstated 
claims of webmastering ability lend further credence to this 
personality assessment. Upon inspection of any of his websites, or 
his online resume (before he took the page down), Mr. Gastrich 
comes across as a deceptive individual, with a strong narcissistic 
personality, and a strong desire to prove himself to others.

In my assessment, Mr. Gastrich has quite a bit of insecurity within 
his personality, and is unlikely to change his behavior as the 
result of any external forces. When faced with the possibility of 
mediation within the framework of Wikipedia, Mr. Gastrich rejected 
the spirit of the idea, and never once showed any evidence that 
comprimise would be a possibility. When I suggested that he fork 
current Wikipedia articles on his own server, so that he and his 
organization may edit them as he so desires, he quickly dismissed 
the idea as being without merit, even though, by his admission, 
others before me had suggested the same idea. With regard to this 
idea Mr. Gastrich exhibits an irrational set of behaviors; even 
though, by his own admission, he is technically inclined, and 
understands how to reach an online audience, as well as believes in 
the power of the Internet to reach that audience, he chooses to 
reject the idea of using a Wiki installation on his own server as 
an extention of his meager online minstries. Instead, he has chosen 
to fixate his energies on Wikipedia, Usenet, and other mediums, 
for, in my opinion, the ability to confront others in a vocal and 
incivil manner.

I hope this external perspective helps, and that this controversy 
is resolved swiftly, so that Wikipedia can continue its mission of 
providing a neutral perspective to the world.

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