Hit Jobs Gone Wrong

Or when paranoia makes you do dumb things
On December 29th, 2008 the owner of the boycottnovell.com website published what can only be described as a smear job on a Wikipedia user. Roy Schestowitz believes this person is employed by Microsoft somehow, and that he was responsible for removing a reference to an email that surfaced during a recent trail where Bill Gates says that ACPI should be made not to work with Linux. I reproduce the entire post (links and all) below, because it will probably be amended and/or changed, as usual:

As our regular readers may know, Microsoft was caught more or less sabotaging ACPI as a standard in order to make life miserable for GNU/Linux. It continues to this date in the sense that GNU/Linux users and developers must often wrestle with ACPI to make it work properly. Bill Gates was personally responsible for this, as shown more clearly than just implicitly in court evidence. He mentioned “Linux” by name and suggested the use of patents, too.

The Wikipedia article on ACPI had a link to an antitrust document (which is mirrored in several Web sites) regarding Bill Gates’ wish to make ACPI proprietary to Windows. This information is highly relevant to the article, since after all it is about a standard, and Microsoft were also part of the group responsible for that standard, therefore any corrupting influence on either the standard or its implementation should be a matter of public knowledge.

About a month ago we discussed Microsoft’s manipulation of Wikipedia, sometimes through hired professionals or PR agencies.

I recently noticed that the relevant part of the ACPI article which links to the antitrust exhibit has been removed, and even more insidiously the entire “Criticisms” section has completely gone. This is clearly a case of censorship.

The person responsible for this censorship is a man by the name of Jimmi Hugh, whom I believe has a particularly infamous reputation on Wikipedia. One source describes him as “a shameless character with some kind of pro-Microsoft agenda.”
The italicized parts are emphasis by me.
Apparently in his zeal to meet the daily post quota, Schestowitz failed to correctly interpret the edit history of the ACPI article. Let's go through the correct sequence of events:
  • On Oct 9, user FreeRangeFrog removes the paragraph in the Criticisms section that references the Bill Gates email. He then posts this message on the talk page explaining what and why he did. There is no subsequent challenge by other editors to this change.
  • Between Oct 25 and Oct 28, Jimmi Hugh makes 12 edits, including removing what is left of the criticisms section and working the "salvageable points" into the rest of the article. This is in line with Wikipedia policy. Remember, by this time the Gates reference did not even exist in the article, as it was removed previously by FreeRangeFrog. Hugh then makes additional edits to the article. The sequence can be seen better by looking at the whole revision page.
  • On December 16, an anonymous user (identified on Wikipedia only by an IP address) restores the entire Criticisms section claiming "censorship", placing the Bill Gates claim back but also in effect duplicating information that had already been worked into the article by Jimmi Hugh.
  • The next edit is made by user Slatedorg, which does not even have a Wikipedia user page. He helpfully "corrects" the Bill Gates reference. I assume Slatedorg is this person, who is a well-known collaborator of BycottNovell. It's important to remember that the paragraph in contention here pointed to his blog. Surprise!
  • On December 17, FreeRangeFrog reverts the Bill Gates reference only, leaving the rest of the (now duplicate) Criticisms section, mentioning his post on the talk page. This is wrong in that the correct action he should have taken is to revert the entire change by the anonymous user.
  • That same day, Jimmi Hugh reverts (again, and correctly) the entire Criticisms section.
So, it's clear that:
  • Schestowitz and his friend do not care about the criticisms section per se, especially the technical ones. They're just worried about the removal of the Bill Gates reference.
  • FreeRangeFrog removed said reference, not Jimmi Hugh. Jimmi Hugh removed what was left of that section by working it into the rest of the article, as per WP policy.
  • FreeRangeFrog went about removing the reference as per WP policy as well, posting a message on the Talk page and inviting people to comment on his action.
In the comments for that blog post, Schestowitz brings up the fact that Hugh's revert in the history page is summarized with "wtf… I merged the data you fucking childish retards..." Ad-hominems are the usual in these cases. Also, as usual when cornered he brings out the mysterious: There is more to it than I wrote here. Oooohhhh....
This is clearly a smear job, and if anything, it should have been directed at the FreeRangeFrog user, assuming it was done in bad faith, which doesn't look to be the case.
This Schestowitz kid likes to tell people to keep issues from other websites out of his, but apparently he's not honest enough to take his issue to Wikipedia, where it belongs. Instead he publicly smears and libels people. Not only that, but he does not reveal the so-called "source" of all this alleged information about how Jimmi Hugh has a "Microsoft agenda".

In the body of the blog entry there's also a link to this other post of his, where he presents what he thinks is clear evidence of Microsoft somehow subverting Wikipedia. The title is, wait for it, Microsoft Agents from Waggener Edstrom Airbrush Wikipedia, Glorify Paymaster. He uses this to imply that this particular smear is justified somehow. I invite you to read that article as well, and the comments attached to it. I actually posted two of them, pointing out that his claims are ridiculous at best, taking into account that his "evidence" are three edits made to the MSN article in 2005 - none of which show bad intent (in the Wikipedia sense). No matter though, this is also standard procedure. Create a never-ending cycle of self-referential half-thruths and misrepresentations so that people who read your blog will come to the conclusion that none of it can possibly be wrong, since there's so much of it! Even David Gerard, a well-known Wikipedia administrator/sysop/bureacrat and someone who comments on BoycottNovell regularly, dismisses these claims. But again, that doesn't stop Schestowitz. This is a man on a mission, and facts are just small specks of lint to be brushed off one's sweater.

Update (12/30/08)

 After a day of what could (I suppose) be characterized as "discussion" with the instigator of this smear job on Schestowitz' blog, we come to the following conclusions:
  • The person called Homer (or [H]omer, who posts in that page as Slated), which runs slated.org, is the "source" for this. He confirms as much, but denies the "shameless character with some kind of pro-Microsoft agenda" part originated with him. If that is the case, then I find it funny to think that Schestowitz has a source on a random Wikipedian, of all things, so if Slated is not lying, that means Schestowitz simply made up that part and attributed to a "source". He's been known to do that in the past, as a way to bolster the appearance of professionalism in his work. Corrupt journalists also do that.
  • It is apparently impossible to make them understand that Hugh did not ever, not a single solitary time, remove the link to Slated's blog. The WP diffs, they do nothing. That did not prevent the two of them from continually claiming he was guilty of removing the part of the Criticisms section they care about, while mking it seem like they were worried about the technical criticisms. Of course when Hugh did post, he was berated for - you guessed it - removing the link to Slated's website. Again, it's fairly clear what the main issue here is, and it has nothing to do with the two paragraphs of technical criticisms that were worked into the article by Hugh. But of course, having already committed to the smear, the only alternative is to continue with the hope that proof by verbosity and insults will confuse people who read the blog. Again, standard operating procedure for Schestowitz & Co as I understand it.
  • Claims about how it was "impossible" to talk to "the thug" and a dramatic surrender to the forces of Evil by Slated, backed by nothing more impressive than a single edit. No discussion, no dialogue, no nothing. WP is not engaging in evangelism exactly the way they want it, so the whole thing is unaccceptable. Not even for a second did he attempt to restore the link to his blog, the Bill Gates mention, nothing.
  • Ad-hominems and faux outrage at the use of the phrase "fucking childish retards" in a WP revision summary works well when you find yourself backed up against the corner.
  • Slated calls me a "thug" as well, and an idiot for taking the time to do all this, yet it's a well-established fact that he is the one who is a intolerant thug, kicking people off their IRC channel and claiming they are "astroturfers" when they try to engage in discussion. God forbid someone should try to discuss anyone with the likes of them, since anyone who does not think the same way they do and say the same things they do is, by definition, employed by Microsoft to "harass" them.
  • By extension, he of course implies that I also am somehow employed by Microsoft. That Microsoft pays me to argue with him and his friend on the internet. The usual "well if you disagree then why do you spend so much time here", as counterpoint to the "haha, no one comments on our blog, they must be terrified of all the truth we are spewing" argument. Having your cake and eating it is always fun, as long as it's accompanied with a healthy dose of self-delusion.
  • Eventually the whole thing devolves into veiled threats, complete with references to my family, etc. As I commented there, this kind of tactic is typical of what Schestowitz & Co. like to call "the SLOG" in the context of their claims that Microsoft hires people to harrass them. Apparently the irony of this is completely lost on them.
The most amazing part of poor Slated's desperate attempt to fix the major screw up he got his buddy into follows:
What part of that phrase could be construed libellous? Unless you believe that supporting Microsoft is, in and of itself, some kind of criminal offence, then describing someone as “pro-Microsoft” can hardly be described as libellous, now can it? So the only derogatory part of that phrase is the single word “shameless”. Let me ask you, seriously, how many people in the world do you suppose have ever been successfully prosecuted for calling someone else shameless? And the real kicker is, in Hughes case it happens to be demonstrably true (hint: “you fucking childish retards, check the edits, and grow a couple).

People tend to think they're more clever than they really are, especially online. So turning the tables and saying basically "oh but you don't think defending Microsoft is criminal, do you?" and dismissing the smear accusations based on that alone is a perfect example of this extreme cleverness. Then we go back to character assasination, a tried and true tactic.

Also in one of his comments Slated quotes the message left by the FreeRangeFrog user about the removal of the paragraph, claiming it was done in bad faith and justified with "platitudes". He quotes only the part he finds convenient in the context of his argument, of course. Here's the part he does not quote:

That email reads to me more like the musings of a man whose company just spent a lot of money with partners to develop something, only to see it adopted by its main competitor for free. It's an interesting general comment on how Gates thinks perhaps, and even on Microsoft culture, but it proves nothing and is irrelevant to ACPI.

Ahhh. A user called Jose_X (a regular and collaborator there) also posts about an entire page about criticisms of Microsoft that exists in Wikipedia. In his response to that, Slated is reduced to the role of whiny child who didn't get all the ice cream he wanted. Instead of renting a clue as to how Wikipedia works - and perhaps understanding what the above quote means - is out of the question for him, of course. Incorporating that link to his blog and the paragraph about the Bill Gates email into the Criticisms of Microsoft page (perhaps as part of the antitrust section), and leaving a link to that in the See Also section of the ACPI article, or even working a mention of it and a link into the body of the article is also completely out of the question. Because things are not being done the way he wants them done, with the forcefulness that he requires. So it's a conspiracy, very deserving of a personal hit job on someone who wasn't even responsible for removing the paragraph of text he wants to have included in the article. Jose_X is also the few of the BoycottNovell regulars that actually bothers to look at the evidence and comes to the same conclusions as I did. Of course his comment to Schestowitz is promptly ignored.

And where is Roy Schestowitz during all this? He "fixes" the smear by crossing out Jimmi Hugh's name, and leaving his fabricated claims intact in the body of the article. He also starts to scrape the bottom of the barrel by responding to other people who mention it's probably a bad idea to smear people like that with things like these:

AlexH said,
December 30, 2008 at 3:53 am
Actually, his credibility is fine, because he’s espousing the documented Wikipedia policy which he was following:
     [Criticism sections] are a symptom of bad writing. That is, it isn’t that we should not include the criticisms, but that the information should be properly incorporated throughout the article rather than having a troll magnet section of random criticisms.

Which is exactly what happened.

This site’s credibility continues to swirl around the soil stack, however. All of this energy to attack one guy, and why? Because he removed a single paragraph from a Criticism section which wasn’t even criticism (and certainly nothing to do with Microsoft). How vociferously these attacks must be supported, and how we must repeat the “fact” that this is someone with a Microsoft axe to grind, even the face of no factual evidence whatsoever.


Roy Schestowitz said,
December 30, 2008 at 3:58 am


Have you ever said anything other than positive about Microsoft’s actions in your hundreds of comments, despite being presented with breaking of the law (there are more obvious examples)?
Do you justify what BillG did in this case?

Remember, if all else fails, just claim Microsoft is evil and you're fighting for "good". That justifies anything and everything. I guess this is the kind of "scandal" he's looking for in order to drive up his flat traffic numbers.

Schestowitz and his friends are too arrogantly ignorant to appreciate the depths of their own arrogance and ignorance. They feel that their unique insights and the mountains of self-referential gunk they try to pass as "information" and "evidence" on their blogs are far more efficient than the mechanisms Wikipedia has in place to prevent actual censorship. Well, no problem. They cannot be wrong. As our friend Slated lays it down so well:

... Given the subject matter, the fact that we are in the right and you are clearly in the wrong, and the considerable lack of sympathy anyone has for Microsoft and its “supporters”, what possible benefit do you suppose you can achieve by continuing to attack us in this fashion?

Anyone who disagrees with them must be corrupt and evil. They instinctively "know" what's good or wrong, mostly because of their ridiculous predisposition to unconditionally believe anything negative and preemptively discard anything positive about Microsoft or any of the other (quite numerous) targets of their sophomoric anger. And criticizing what they do is, by definition, an "attack".

Is this what they call FOSS evangelism? Lord, protect me from your followers.

Update (01/05/09)

Shane Coyle (who originally created BoycottNovell and recently expressed dissatisfaction about the direction the site has taken) posted in the story, gracefully acknowledging that the evidence presented here is correct and Slated/Schestowitz are wrong, as well as apologizing to Jimmi Hugh himself. I had not really had any contact with Mr. Coyle in the past, since I don't think I ever read any of his articles there (if he had any), but he definitely comes across as a true gentleman to say the least.

At this time the title of the article still contains Hugh's name, and the slander from the "source" has been rather cleverly crossed out. I mentioned to Shane that the right thing to do is to remove Hugh's name completely from the article, especially the title, considering that the first item in a Google search on his name is this smear.

Update (01/10/09)

Shane Coyle posted again, agreeing that Jimmi Hugh's name should be removed from the article. Unfortunately, even after this, all Schestowtiz can do is apparently say he will "post more stuff". Genius.