Mr. Cope’s Cave: Weak-a-Pedia

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I’ve been looking into the life of George Hansen for another project and came across something I thought interesting. If you don’t remember George, let me quote from his obituary printed in the New York Times in August:

“George V. Hansen, a Republican politician whose open disdain for federal authority made him a popular figure in Idaho, where he was elected to Congress seven times, and who twice landed in federal prison, died on Thursday in Pocatello, Idaho. He was 83.”

That obituary went on to describe two of the more vivid episodes from George’s career, the first being his trip to Tehran during the hostage crisis (1979-1981):

“The 6-foot-6 Mr. Hansen was known in Idaho for flamboyance, impulsiveness, affability and tireless campaigning. Outside the state, he may be best remembered for his visit to Tehran in November 1979, shortly after Iranian students overran the United States Embassy there and took dozens of hostages, whom they would hold for 444 days.

“Without notifying the White House, Mr. Hansen undertook the visit ‘to see if I could build some bridges and open some doors,’ he said. President Jimmy Carter called the mission ‘not useful,’ saying it could endanger the official negotiations. Mr. Hansen nevertheless returned to Tehran the next month for more meetings. No hostages were released as a result.”

Now let us look at the same incident, as entered in his Wikipedia profile. It is copied exactly as it appears in that on-line “encyclopedia”:

“Congressman Hansen risked his life when he went to Tehran by himself in 1979 in the middle of the Iran hostage crisis to try to negotiate with the hostage takers through the fence of the U.S. Embassy. When negotiations failed Congressman Hansen threatened the hostage takers by telling them that Ronald Reagan would be the next President of the United States and told them that President Reagan will come after them and destroy them if they refuse to release the American hostages. On November 4, 1980 Ronald Reagan won the Presidential election in a landslide. On January 20, 1981, at the moment Ronald Reagan completed his 20 minute inaugural address after being sworn in as President, the 52 American hostages were released by Iran into U.S. custody, having spent 444 days in captivity. It appears that Congressman Hansen’s threat put the fear of God into the hearts and minds of the Iranian hostage takers. The Iran hostage crisis was a major embarrassment for the Carter administration and that administration was not pleased with congressman George Hansen’s visit to Tehran. The 49-year-old Idaho Republican rode alone into Iran on a self-appointed “mercy mission” and promptly accomplished what the Carter administration could not. … “

Now let us move on to Hansen’s history with the justice system. The Times obit:

“In 1984 Mr. Hansen was convicted of violating the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, a post-Watergate measure, by failing to disclose $334,000 in personal loans and other transactions. While appealing his conviction, Mr. Hansen ran for re-election, losing by 170 votes out of 200,000 cast. He served six months in prison in 1986, paid a $40,000 fine, then served another six months in 1987 for violating the terms of his parole.

“Mr. Hansen appealed the 1984 conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, accusing the government of pursuing a vendetta against him, as he put it, over “my opposition to federal intrusion into all our lives.” The court ruled in his favor in 1995, asserting that the ethics law applied only to members of the executive branch. His conviction was vacated, and the fine he had paid was returned.

“By then Mr. Hansen was in prison for a 1992 conviction on charges of defrauding two Idaho banks and 200 individuals in a $30 million investment scheme. He denied any wrongdoing and again raised accusations of a government vendetta.”

And the same sequence through the eyes of whomever contributed the Wikipedia article. (I repeat, it is copied exactly as written.): 

“Hansen was reprimanded by the Democrat controlled House in 1984 during an election year for failing to include transactions on federal disclosure forms. The Democrats reprimanded George Hansen during an election year in order to help there candidate Richard Stallings win the election. This entire thing was political and it was a witch hunt. Richard Stallings used the false charges against George Hansen for his political advantage. … The Democrats successfully used the IRS to target George Hansen and he was convicted for failing to file full disclosure forms and spent 15 months in prison. His imprisonment included torture through medical neglect and subjection to “diesel therapy,” a form of punishment in which prisoners are painfully shackled and then transported for days or weeks without respite. The conviction was overturned in 1995 as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Hubbard v. United States which adopted a narrower interpretation of the law under which Hansen was prosecuted. … George Hansen was therefore exonerated by the highest court in the land which means he was innocent. What happened to George Hansen should never have happened.
“In 1993, Hansen was convicted of 45 counts of bank fraud for a multimillion-dollar check-kiting scheme.”

And so, boys and girls, what might we learn for certain from these two wildly different versions of the same events?
  • Anyone, it seems, can contribute to Wikipedia, anonymously and that a total absence of writing skills is not grounds for exclusion.

  • It would be wise not to use Wikipedia for your primary source material unless valid information is the last thing on your mind.

  • Idahoans who have right-wing idolatry material they wish to contribute to Wikipedia might want to first check out Cope’s Grammar, Style and Syntax Services, which for a reasonable hourly rate can make even those people sound like they aren’t idiots.