British Conservative Party Edits Wikipedia to Back Brown Claim

Truthiness Stephen Colbert

It seems a staffer for Gordon Brown engaged in a bit of truthiness.

When checking facts with Wikipedia it helps to know who edited the entry last.

In their weekly debate Wednesday in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and would-be prime minister David Cameron clashed over — of all things — how old the Renaissance painter Titian was when he died. 

Titian came up at Prime Minister’s Question Time as Cameron asserted that Brown never got his facts right. “You told us the other day you were like Titian aged 90. The fact is Titian died at 86,” the leader of the Conservative Party told the Labour prime minister.

Within minutes, a Wikipedia user registered at Conservative party headquarters logged on and changed Titian’s date of death from 1576 to 1572 to conform with Cameron’s statement.

A party spokesman blamed the editing on “an overeager member of staff putting right an incorrect entry on Wikipedia.”

All’s fair in politics and Wikipedia.  And, besides, as the authoritative Wikipedia entry on the subject clearly states, “The precise date of Titian’s birth is uncertain.”  So, for all we know, Brown was right.  And even if he wasn’t, there’s a strong truthiness to Brown’s story.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.  Photo via Wikipedia, naturally.

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