Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old progressive activist, became the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th congressional district after a primary election yesterday. Ocasio-Cortez defeated 56-year-old Joseph Crowley, a man who served ten terms and was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus. The weird part? Ocasio-Cortez didn’t even have a Wikipedia page on Monday. But she has one now.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins was the first to point out the absence of Ocasio-Cortez’s page yesterday. When someone first tried to make a Wikipedia page for her on August 14, 2017, the user was chided, “do not start separate article until multiple reliable, secondary sources discuss her in depth.” A page about her wasn’t allowed to be on Wikipedia until she won the Democratic nomination last night.
Why is Ocasio-Cortez’s victory a big deal for Democrats? She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Bernie Sanders. Crowley, the man she defeated, was being groomed to be the next Speaker of the House. “No one is safe,” a Democratic strategist told ABC News.
Wikipedia has a subtle but profound impact on the way that we see the world here in the 2010s. If there’s a Wikipedia page for something, it exists and people can link to it and debate it on the internet. But for things and people who don’t have Wikipedia pages, there’s a signal to the world that this subject or person isn’t important. Until yesterday, Wikipedia editors didn’t deem Ocasio-Cortez as important.
And we’re seeing this debate over Wikipedia pages play out again and again in the Trump era. Last week, Donald Trump’s immigrant detention centers, sometimes known as “Trump Hotels,” were added to Wikipedia’s list of concentration and internment camps. There was an editing war for days on the user-edited encyclopedia until it was ultimately removed.
As of today, Trump Hotels aren’t on Wikipedia’s list of internment camps. But any objective observer will tell you that they deserve to be there. As Andrea Pitzer, author of the book One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, put it on Twitter, “Yes, of course they’re concentration camps. They aren’t the unique subset of death camps that were invented by the Nazis for genocide, or even Arctic Gulag camps built for hard labor. But they’re camps created to punish a whole class of civilians via mass detention without trial.”
In another sign of just how surprising Ocasio-Cortez’s victory was to the establishment yesterday, the Associated Press doesn’t have any photos of her from her victory party last night. While searching for photos on the various wire services that Gizmodo subscribes to, this was the result for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
Yep, all the AP has is a photo of Joseph Crowley.
“This is not an end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it’s not OK to put donors before your community,” Ocasio-Cortez said after her victory was certain last night.
And she thanked her supporters who were able to mobilize the community for her big win.
“You have given this country hope, you have given this country proof that when you knock on your neighbor’s door, when you come to them with love, when you let them know that no matter your stance, you are there for them—that we can make change,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
The midterm elections will be held on November 6, 2018. And with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win, it’s looking more and more like this will be the election where Americans finally throw the bums out. If organizers are smart they’ll start waging battle online in the spaces that some Democratic activists might not think too much about. Like Wikipedia.
The last line for the intro to Crowley’s Wikipedia page currently reads, “He was defeated by Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 26, 2018 in the Democratic primary.”