Monday, August 06, 2007

A few more things on wikipedia

I've discovered that the talk pages of wikipedia are far more interesting than the articles themselves.

For instance from the Eric Hobsbawm talk page:

I removed stuff about him being a communist. You need to prove to the reader he is. This is a very sensitive legal issue. Please don't just revert go get the sources you need to "prove" he is. thanks!
Documenting that Eric Hobsbawm is a communist - that would requrie some dedicated research.

Making fun of wikipedia is one thing, but this does represent a larger problem. At wikipedia being a member of the communist party is treated as libel in a way the, to me, far more serious charges of being a member of the Labour party, Democratic party, or Republican party is not. I've read the talk pages of a few communists (people who were at one point members of a communist party and remained dedicated socialists throughout their life) right-wingers tend to want to put 'communist' every second sentence in an effort to discredit them (the discussion on Pete Seeger is particularly torturous in that respect), and supposedly well-meaning liberals remove the word 'communist'. Either side is treating 'communism' like it's a taint, and most of the biographies follow this line, by emphasising when and why people left the communist party, and why they didn't leave it sooner. That's not lacking a point of view, it's just sharing a generally accepted point of view.

Or lets look at Louise Nicholas's Wikipedia page. The edit which made the page read "Louise Nicholas is a New Zealand liar who alleged that..." was only up two hours and twenty six minutes (which is, of course, two and a half hours too long). Then the article was edited so it said "Louise Nicholas is a New Zealand woman who falsely alleged that she was raped..." That was up for almost a day. But it still says "Louise Nicholas is a New Zealand woman who made allegations..." I understand it's unlikely to say "Louise Nicholas was raped by Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum an Brad Shipton", although I think that's a serious fault of wikipedia. But can't she at least say she was raped, rather than 'alleging' it?

That's just the start of it. The article on rape has rape apologetics so ridiculous and stupid that I hadn't even heard them before. Comparing the biographies of radical women and radical men, you get the entirely expected result that people are more likely to have written about radical men, and their actions are given far more weight.

I understand that wikipedia can be useful, but it is not the way of the revolution. Free spaces will always reproduce the power structures of existing society, without concerted effort. There is no counter-balance within wikipedia, no effort to give extra weight to the powerless. Therefore, no matter how much useful information it contains, it will always support the status quo, more than it challenges it.


  1. Anonymous12:35 am

    speaking of libel, did you ever apologise to that guy you accused of threatening rape to you? From what I read he got a lot of abuse for your comment.

  2. And he deserved it. The guy and his cronies were morons.