Obama ‘Forward’ campaign slogan inspires Wikipedia editing war

David Martosko Executive Editor
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GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney mocked President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign slogan — “Forward” — during a fundraiser Wednesday night. “‘Forward,’ what, over the cliff?” he joked.

Romney isn’t the only one trying to make hay over Obama’s head-scratcher of a choice on Monday. A Wikipedia page exploring the historical significance of the word “Forward” as a socialist rallying cry has made it the subject of dueling snarks from assorted would-be Wiki editors and vandals.

Within hours of the Obama campaign’s slogan unveiling, the online page had its first edit since November 2011. “Forward is the official slogan of the Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2012,” the simple entry read.

But nothing in Wiki-land is simple, especially when the name “Barack Obama” is sandwiched between references to “Avante!, organ of the Portuguese Communist Party” and “Voorwaarts!, organ of the Communist Youth Movement (Netherlands).”

Apples and oranges, a persnickety editor claimed around 1 a.m. Tuesday: “The Obama campaign is not a publication, socialist or otherwise.” And with the click of a mouse, the Obama connection disappeared — for nearly 14 hours, at least.

The next edit seemed earnest enough. “Forward was used by the US President Barrack [sic] Obama as his 2012 presidential campaign slogan,” the semi-literate Wikipedian wrote. “The slogan was used to look back at the begining [sic] of his Presidency and the situation he inherited, and the bold strides taken over the four years of his term in office, and as a message towards his reelection.”

Within four minutes, that, too, was gone. “Obama’s campaign slogan,” another editor sniped, “is irrelevant to an entry on Forward as a generic name for socialist publications.”

And so it went. By dinner time Tuesday an editor proposed that the entire “Forward” page should be deleted. “This is patent garbage,” he wrote. “I wonder what the right wing author thinks of the State Motto of Wisconsin?” His account was later frozen.

But the edit war raged on. First came the addition of “Forward!,” cryptically described as “President Obamas change for America Divided States Of America Communist League.” Then “Forward” was replaced by “Forward 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

Those edits came after Neal Boortz, the libertarian talk radio host, published an article online alerting his listeners to the possibility that the page in question could disappear.

“Clearly Obama has an official or unofficial Wikipedia team ready to cleanse postings that might not play well with voters still on the edge,” Boortz wrote Wednesday. “Control the message. Always control the message.”

Perhaps it was one of Boortz’s more enthusiastic followers who made the next move. “DO NOT DELETE,” the Wiki page suddenly included. “ITEM MARKED FOR DELETION DUE TO POLITICAL REASONS FROM THE INCUMBENT!”

The last laughs clearly have not yet come. During the 6 p.m. hour Wednesday, “Boortz Rules!!! Get Obama out of office!!” appeared, grafitti-like, at the top of the page.

That edit lasted for about one minute. But less than ten minutes later, a clever left-wing vandal turned the entire article on its head by changing a single word.

“The name Forward carries a special meaning in tea party political terminology,” the article’s opening sentence now read, substituting “tea party” for “socialist.”

A similar edit war continues on the Wikipedia page exploring the Obama-Biden campaign’s use of “Forward” as its slogan.  What now stands as a one-line explainer already went through more than 500 edits on Wednesday alone. It has since been locked down and protected from further editing.

Along the way, however, the page became a monument to vulgarity, garden-variety political discord and plain old silliness.

“We all know that the economy is in fact racing backwards,” one vandal quipped in the article. “It would seem that this is just wishful thinking.”

Another changed the slogan to “Forewarned.”

Others took liberal tacks, writing that “Newt Gringrich’s greatest regret regarding his failed Presidential bid is that he did not adopt ‘Backwards’ as his campaign slogan” and carping that the “noted Marxist President Ronald Reagan” once gave a speech titled “Forward for Freedom.”

But for every attempt to be somewhat serious, another relied on stand-up comedy.

“Seriously, what a strange slogan,” one nameless editor wrote Wednesday evening. “You’d think they’d want to go backwards… back to when people had jobs… back to when health care was affordable… back before Obama ate Bo cause he had the munchies.”

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