Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wikipedia: gagging the encyclopedia?

Juventud Rebelde
February 16, 2006

Wikipedia: gagging the encyclopedia?

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

It came about as an open-content project for worldwide netsurfers,
this website's content is being targeted now by those trying to
'dress up' the image of US politicians or hush-up differing opinions.

In a partially-undercover operation worthy of the terrible
disinformation campaigns waged by Nazi Germany's Minister of
Instruction and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, the U.S. Congress visited
the Internet and modified the public biographies of a dozen senators
that were published in the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia

A free multilingual encyclopedia based on the wiki system, the site
is written and rewritten collaboratively by volunteers from all over
the world, and its articles can be changed and replaced with new
content by anyone who so wishes.

The project began on January 15, 2001 as a complement to the
expert-written Nupedia and presently has more than 3,210,000
articles, including more than 945 000 in the English-language
version, and as of January 2006 it reached a number of 857,000
registered users.

This is the first time, however, that the U.S. government has been
found to be intentionally modifying the site's content to 'embellish'
its senators' biographies by trimming any 'dark angles' or
controversial elements from their past.

Wikipedia reported that Capitol Building-based computers deleted
facts from articles about senators, while other entries were

In fact, the scandal spread after some senators admitted to have
'polished' their own biographies, such as Massachusetts Democrat
Marty Meehan, whose confession gave rise to an investigation that has
brought to light similar actions by other American politicians.


Wikipedia is a user-designed Internet site in which visitors can make
entries and edit any page. As a result, it has become a kind of
online reference website where readers can find almost any

Furthermore, users can also edit words within the same article both
to add to their meaning and enrich each entry with new knowledge, so
its information at times exceeds that of other traditional
encyclopedias, either digital or in paper.

On the other hand, since it can be reviewed and enhanced free of
charge, many use it as a daily consultation tool mainly preferred by
students, who gain new knowledge and contribute with whatever
addition they deem useful to others.

For instance, the British journal Nature recently reported to have
examined a wide range of scientific information and concluded that
articles in Wikipedia are comparable in accuracy to those in the
Encyclopedia Britannica, after finding few differences between both
reference works.

Nevertheless, Wikipedia has been repeatedly criticized for a
perceived lack of reliability regarding its information, since by the
nature of its openness some people have introduced inaccuracies or
distorted its contents.

Consequently, Wikipedia was recently forced to request users to
register their generals before they proceed to modify anything so
that readers can be able to know who provided any new text.

'INACCURACIES' AND VANDALISM Owing to the scandal caused by the U.S.
senators who tampered with the online encyclopedia, site-manager
Wikimedia Foundation decided to take a look at previous edition works
made to Wikipedia, and to that end its investigators got the Senate's
computer protocol numbers and thus found out some changes made to
pages online.

According to the website, a dozen biographies of outstanding figures
were modified from Senate-based computers, including that of
Minnesota senator Norm Coleman.

Coleman's own office has already confirmed that its staff has made
some changes to their Internet files. Where it had been described as
a 'liberal' university student, it now says 'activist". Also deleted
was data saying that Coleman had voted for Bush 98% of the time in
2003, when a year before he had campaigned as a 'moderate'.

Coleman's chief of staff Erich Mische said such editing was made to
correct some inaccuracies and delete facts that failed to correctly
portray the politician.

But Wikipedia claims this is just a part of the problem, for there
have been cases of true information 'vandalism', namely in the case
of president George W. Bush's biography, now impossible to be edited
after being altered countless times by supporters and critics alike
as well as acceded to from the U.S. Congress.


Much deeper interests than those of the Empire's makeup artists lie
behind the controversy surrounding these changes to Wikipedia
articles, as proven by pressures exerted on this website to prevent
its content from being modified by netsurfers.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate any thoughts dissenting from
hegemonic ideas disseminated by 'official' encyclopedias, because
Wikipedia has become a bulwark of all kinds of viewpoints, if leftist
ones for the most part.

In addition to how questionable some of the online encyclopedia's
content may be, the truth is no one doubts it has become an essential
reference tool, to the extreme that many prefer it over Encarta or
the abovementioned Encyclopedia Britannica, notwithstanding their
share of mistakes, some accidental. others not.


Mark K said...

This article is a bit OTT. This isn't comparable to Nazism. It's bad, but not very - after all there's nothing to stop lefties going out there and embellishing articles as they see fit - indeed, they do!

Renegade Eye said...

Maoist groups like Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party misuse the word fascism. Fascism only occurs in particular circumstances. Even a military dictatorship is not a fascist state.

To be fascist a state needs a defeated working class, no vanguard party that has a base. Fascism means total annihilation of the working classes revolutionary organizations. Different than a bureaucratic or conservative state.

Mark K said...

RE - while I basically agree with you, that last bit about fascism and the working class - historically fascism almost always comes into play when the working class is very organised, and though the fascist state moves against the proletariat immediately, it doesn't crush it straight away. I think I get what you're saying is that the US government is way too tolerant to count as fascist - but I think even Avakian gets that the US isn't actually fascist yet, but thinks that the ruling clique are fascists who will try to suppress dissent as much as possible.

Umer A. Chaudhry said...


I get your point, which, I think, is a good one. As Marxist, one needs to be well aware of the nature sources. Wikipedia has turned out to be an oft-cited source. I uploaded the article so that the next time someone brings something from the wikipedia in an argument, I would have a part of my reply ready.


Renegade Eye,

I can not say anything about the use of word 'fascism' by Bob Avakians and Revolutionary Communist Party of USA as I have not read much of their literature.

However, this is something that I would like to point out. Apart from being a fascist state, there can also be a fascist act, or a fascist law. What do you think?

In Solidarity,

Umer A. Chaudhry said...

There is this book "Reading Hitler Recounting Bush" by Dennis McKinsey. I have not read the book myself. Nonetheless, it seems relevant to the topic of fascism and USA.

An online copy of the book is present at:

Renegade Eye said...

Even a military dictatorship doesn't qualify as fascist. It's a precise, unique state.

Norm Coleman is the senator where I live. If you look up oppurtunism in Wikipedia, his picture should be there.