January 15, 2013

"I successfully edited Wikipedia!"

Meade exclaims. It's his first time. It was over there in the page on The Gettysburg Address (which I linked to earlier today, as perhaps you noticed). His edit is in the third paragraph, which, before his edit, read:
Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago," referring to the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution in 1776, Lincoln examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the Civil War, and memorialized the sacrifices of those who gave their lives at Gettysburg and extolled virtues for the listeners (and the nation) to ensure the survival of America's representative democracy, that the "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Meade took out the "the" before that last quote. Have you ever noticed that there's no "the" before "government" (even as there is a "the" before each of the 3 "people"s)?
... we here highly resolve... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Do you see what a big difference a "the" would make in that sentence? Meade had gotten into a back-and-forth over at the Isthmus forum (a site dominated by typical Madisonians, i.e., left/liberals).

The topic was the 2d amendment and, more generally, what rights are. Responding to TheBookPolice who'd asserted that rights are "100% about the government telling people what they can and can't do," Meade said:
Thank you but you have that exactly backwards, TheBookPolice. Check your high school Civics textbook. The amendments in the Bill of Rights are all about protecting the people from the power of the government. I know that concept can be a little difficult for Liberals and Progressives to grasp, seeing as how they begin with a fundamental utopian assumption in government we trust. But government - even a democracy - can become corrupt, coercive, authoritarian, and tyrannical. So if you look at the text of, say, the 2nd amendment, you'll see that it is addressing the government, not the people. The people's right shall not be infringed. Infringed by the people? No, of course not. The right shall not be infringed by the government. Take a closer look at the entire "Bill of Rights" and I think you will see that the first ten amendments to the constitution are completely about restricting government from infringing the people's rights.
TheBookPolice dragged in the Gettysburg Address:
Abraham Lincoln described the government of the United States as being "of the people, for the people, and by the people." Sounds to me like we're all in this together. You on the other hand seem to treat the government as a panther stalking the outskirts of your jungle village, waiting for the opportunity to snatch a wandering child unawares.

Tell me: who makes up the government you fear so much?
And Meade came up with this "the" point, which I'd never thought about before:
That's just it, Police -- I don't fear the government at all. Thanks to the constitution. And thanks, in particular, to the first ten amendments.

Now take a closer look at the text of the Lincoln speech you alluded to. Notice: he does not put the article, "the" before "government" and yet he uses it each of the three times he repeats "people".

Let that sink in for a minute.
Lincoln was not talking about preserving the entity that is The Government, that might overstep its bounds and oppress us.  He was talking about preserving government by the people, that is, preserving democracy. Or that's how it's sunk in for me.

49 comments:

Quayle said...

QED.

Chip S. said...

There's a lot more editing left to be done on that paragraph.

mccullough said...

Madison was a great man but it is a weird town.

wyo sis said...

Nicely done Meade.
Thank you.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's a lot more editing left to be done on that paragraph."

Yeah, indeed. Which makes it especially funny that Meade was all about a "the" and that was his one and only Wikipedia edit.

Paul said...

Liberals believe in an all powerful, even tyrannical government because in their fantasy reality they are part of it, or at least it dictates in accordance with their beliefs and wishes, and circumvents the stupid conservative troglodytes and their obstructionist efforts bollocksing everything up and holding back PROGRESS.

Scratch a "liberal" and find an authoritarian. Every time.

Chip S. said...

Meade was all about a "the" and that was his one and only Wikipedia edit.

only the, beginning.

Mumpsimus said...

Someone will revert the edit, just out of habit.

bagoh20 said...

Without that "the" it isn't important where said government might be, just as long as such a form of government it does not perish everywhere on earth. With that "the" the implication is we are talking about this (our) government.

Ann Althouse said...

It seems to me that without the "the," the reference is to the abstraction or the quality that is government, as opposed to a specific institution there in Washington D.C.

Sorun said...

Some people really love the government. Thankfully, we have lots of liberals trying to protect the government from getting its feelings hurt.

bagoh20 said...

I edited the page for my small hometown once, and put myself under famous people born there and justified it with a reference to an invention that I made which, while sold in the millions, is a very obscure item.

They deleted me as a "vanity entry", which of course is true, but vanity and fame are not mutually exclusive, besides they have Miss USA 1971? That's a vanity entry.

bagoh20 said...

I crave to be famous, without anyone knowing who I am.

wyo sis said...

bagoh
You're famous here, where I, at least, appreciate your experience and style.

Brew Master said...

The fundamental difference is between two types of people.

Those that subscribe to the belief that rights are inherent with life, you are born with them and they cannot be taken away.

And those that believe that your rights are granted to you by a government, and that the government can take them away.

Nearly every ideological disagreement boils down to this difference.

Inherent rights lead to freedom.
Government granted rights leads to tyranny.

Kensington said...

The thing about Wikipedia that I'm not sure most people get is that no one is supposed to post independent research. You're only supposed to post things that have been published elsewhere and can be cited.

Shouting Thomas said...

Thankfully, we have lots of liberals trying to protect the government from getting its feelings hurt.

Congrats, Sorun, on pointing out this absurdity!

Brew Master said...

Ann Althouse said...
It seems to me that without the "the," the reference is to the abstraction or the quality that is government, as opposed to a specific institution there in Washington D.C.


Even further, not just an abstraction that is 'government', but 'government of the people'. Which is a much more distinctive subsection of a generic 'government'.

Lem said...

I never notice that before... not having 'the' before government makes total sense.

Good catch Meade... not bad for a Cincinnati Red.

Bob Ellison said...

The The sucks.

edutcher said...

Definite and indefinite can change the meanings of things.

Witness the First Amendment.

PS Good job, Meade, but I thought the idea of Wiki was that anybody could fiddle with it.

Which is the reason Wiki is something you don't put money on.

The Godfather said...

It's so obvious, once you think about it, that the "the" was wrong, it's amazing that the error persisted however long it did until Meade discovered it.

With the "the", Lincoln would be saying that this war is all about the federal government, of which I'm the head. Without the "the" he's saying that the war is about a concept of what government is all about -- AND the particular government under attack in this war is the only, or at least the best representative (the last great hope), of that kind of government, and if if WE fail, then that kind of government fails.

bagoh20 said...

Thanks Wyo Sis. I am famous for my style of inexperience.

Fandor said...

Atta boy, Meade. No wonder Ann loves you. Brains and brawn.

greenlantern said...

Even after (the) "head-cam" made its appearance, I had no idea of (the) level of your boredom. Hang in there, buddy.

CWJ said...

AA asks - "Have you ever noticed that there's no 'the' before 'government'..." No, because I never encountered a rendition of the Gettysburg Address this incompetent, and I darn sure wouldn't be going to Wikipedia as my source. However, if I did read this version, I would have immediately thought THAT's not right.

That this version stood uncorrected for as long as it did speaks volumes as to who gives a rat's ass as to what's in Wikipedia, and it is surely as likely to be those with an agenda as much as those with any actual knowledge of the subject.

That said, my complements to Meade.

virgil xenophon said...

I wonder how long it will be before some lefty restores the "the" to the article..odds? I'm takin' 'em..

Ann Althouse said...

@CWJ My link goes to a set of links. You found them all inadequate? Link to your draft of the address that's different so we can understand how Wikipedia fell short.

Or just apologize.

Bender said...

Lincoln was not talking about preserving the entity that is The Government, that might overstep its bounds and oppress us. He was talking about preserving government by the people, that is, preserving democracy. Or that's how it's sunk in for me.

That is one interpretation, but it is not the only one.

The problem is one of emphasis, which we cannot determine from the text, but only from how Lincoln actually delivered the address.

Here is that portion of the address in fully context --

"we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Now, given that in the clause immediately before he references "this nation," did Lincoln mean "this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that GOVERNMENT of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth," as argued here, or did Lincoln mean "this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and THAT government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

If he emphasized the "that," then he was referencing back to "this nation," i.e., the Union.

Given that Lincoln's NUMBER ONE priority was not "government" or "the government," but the Union, this latter interpretation would seem to be the better one. That is, he was not speaking of government in general.


CWJ said...

Yes an apology on my part is in order. I now see that the "the" was not embedded in the quote. Lazy reading on my part, reinforced by your "Have you ever noticed..." intro as if there was some "the" version out there. My opinion of Wikipedia, blinkered as it may be, stands.

rastajenk said...

I think your emphasized final "that" doesn't fit with the previous two thats in the quote.

Smilin' Jack said...

Lincoln was not talking about preserving the entity that is The Government, that might overstep its bounds and oppress us. He was talking about preserving government by the people, that is, preserving democracy.

Lincoln said many times that his absolute priority was preserving the Union, that is, the specific government that he was President of. If democracy had been the issue, the South had every right to secede.

Danno said...

We are blogging about "the" today. Great catch, Meade. Maybe we can blog about what the definition of "is" is tomorrow. The definitive expert on that is Bill Clinton, unless someone else has outdone Bubba.

Yu-Ain Gonnano said...

Am I the only one that finds it ironic that someone used the Gettysburg Address to argue that a democratic government *CAN'T* do horrible things to its people?

Despite this, I bet this person complains a lot about the inability of gays to marry and that some employers don't provide contraception insurance.

Richard Dolan said...

Another way to put it is that Lincoln was disputing Plato's view of government. That point only comes across if the phrase is taken as Lincoln wrote it -- without the "the" before "government." With the "the," it's just a comment about a particular instance of government, a historical accident rather than a timeless ideal.

Eddie said...

I agree that Lincoln was speaking about "government of the people" abstractly. Like many 19th century Americans, he saw the United States as the vanguard of history. So, yes, he was concerned about the Union, but this was because it was the most enlightened form of rule in the world. Lincoln was not a conservative in the European sense of the term.

Basta! said...

Bender, the three "that"s are parallel, and they're all subordinating conjunctions, each an instance of what "we" are resolving: ""we here highly resolve THAT these dead shall not have died in vain, THAT this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and THAT government of the people" etc. It's not ambiguous at all

Basta! said...

Also, kudos to Meade for catching this.

Despite having had years of Latin, which generally doesn't use in/definite articles, I didn't really grasp how important they are to meaning til I started to translate poetry from Russian, which has neither definite nor indefinite article. There were so many instances where, in English, you needed to supply one or the other, yet where the meaning would be different depending on which one you chose. I spent hours wrestling with this, switching back and forth, and also laughing at myself: "the? a? the? a? or maybe no article at all?" and on and on, with tiny words that normally seemed so inconsequential.

traditionalguy said...

Meade FTW.

Another frequent misquote about "rights" in the Declaration of Independence is to call our rights Inalienable rights. That says we cannot sell them, but that is wrong because it is done everyday for a price and makes them no longer ours to pass on to decendents.



The correct quote is "UNalienable rights." That says that they literally cannot be transferred to anyone ever no matter what King or Court declares them gone. They are inherent in the man, meaning a free man chosen by God.

That makes it a Protestant Reformation war cry. Take those unalienable rights only by killing us... and we don't plan to surrender to any King, Pope, or tyrant.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

When will conservatives finally admit that they just hate democracy?

Meade doesn't answer the point. The other guy asks why Meade sees the government as a foreign and unnatural entity. Meade can preen all he wants about his courage. Soooo courageous! But the point is why a government "of, by and for" the people is problematic for him.

The obvious answer is that he hates the people. Conservatives fixate on "order" and humanity is not a neat and orderly thing -- or at least, not in the way that they wish it could be. That's what they can't stand. That's what causes them to believe in lies.

That's what causes them to pretend that any good that government does should be framed as a wishfully attempted utopia.

Extremists to the core. And not a ray of daylight allowed in to illuminate the vast reality between their black and white thinking.

From Inwood said...

E-mail to my daughters, the college Profs, who are always warning their students about the accuracy of Wiki:

"Wiki Version of Gettysburg Address had an extra “the” in last paragraph (see bracket below), which obviously changed its meaning (since corrected):

- and that [the] government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

H/T Althouse blog

Love

Dad

From Inwood said...

ER, close quote after Dad!

rastajenk said...

I think O Ritmo has it completely backwards. It's the lib side of the aisle that places their collective faith in the power and control of unelected bureaucracies more concerned with their turf and authority than with delivering efficient and useful services for the betterment of the people they supposedly serve. Past performances show that that kind of secular faith holds much more potential for disaster than the healthy distrust of "the" government displayed by Meade and many others here.

jaynie said...

Well done. Language gives muscle to ideas.

jaynie said...

Well done. Language gives muscle to ideas.

machine said...

"I'm from government and I'm here to help..."


Yep, he was wrong again. Thanks.

Yu-Ain Gonnano said...

I find it hilarious that a liberal is arguing that Gov't = The People™ therefor opposing government action means hating The People™ after listening to 8 years of wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the government could do no right during the Bush years.

If The People's Will™ is sacrosanct why did Liberals pass Obamacare over the objections of The People™. Why do Liberals want to pass gay marriage over the objections of The People™. Why is Obama, this very day, imposing new gun control over the objection of The People™.

Although it is nice, I guess, for a Liberal to admit he hates his fellow citizens.

Hate, I guess, really is a liberal value.

Kirby Olson said...

I got my novel Temping into the Wikipedia article on Seattle Arts, and I got a mention of my book on Andrei Codrescu into the Wiki biography of the NPR star. The thing is that you forget how to do it once you've done it, and meanwhile, someone comes by and edits the edits! I've tried doing about twenty of these, and only two have remained. Good for Meade, though. Now let's see if his edits remain after a month. Editors come by and edit edits fairly regularly. Many faculty think Wiki is untrustworthy because anybody can contribute. Sure, but the contributions are monitored and usually excised within 24 hours or so.

Rockport Conservative said...

I am glad he did the editing. I had not looked it up on Wikipedia and did not realize anyone thought there was a "the" before government. Maybe it is because I learned it so very many years ago in high school civics class and that was in the year 1954.