The world has come to trust liars, and that’s tragic

Wikipedia is run by a bunch of bloody liars, and if they think this is a libellous smear, let them think again: even their co-founder, Larry Sanger, says so.

To be precise, Larry Sanger said earlier this year that “The days of Wikipedia’s robust commitment to neutrality are long gone.”

Whether he knew he was exaggerating matters not. What matters is that he was exaggerating like nobody’s business.

It begins with the site’s name: Wikipedia. It’s the second part of the name, pedia, that offends.

Based on the Greek paideia, translated verbatim as general knowledge, it has become a part of a combination that means either to educate or to indicate a full list or inventory of knowledge.

Yes, encyclopaedia is one of the resulting expressions. And that’s precisely what Wikipedia has been trying to suggest that it is.

And that’s precisely what it’s not, and what it has never been.

Bias? Lies? Both stink

Larry Sanger, its co-founder and, obviously, one of the guys who would be expected to know, went on in his criticism: “Wikipedia, like many other deeply biased institutions of our brave new digital world, has made itself into a kind of thought police that has de facto shackled conservative viewpoints with which they disagree. Democracy cannot thrive under such conditions: I maintain that Wikipedia has become an opponent of vigorous democracy.”

This is a verbatim quote.

Wikipedia has come with a brilliant way to deflect criticism.

Say, you read a piece on their site that you happen to know is perfectly and factually false. It just so happens that you were an eyewitness, for example.

You write a polite message stating that Wikipedia has got it all wrong, and saying precisely what had actually happened, with all possible details.

First, you get a cookie-cutter response: we’re being edited by volunteers, and how can you expect them to know everything, etc. The Wikipedia reply suggests in fact that only a complete anti-social moron and unscrupulously irresponsible imbecile can be so ruthless, inconsiderate, thoughtless, even, to demand that Wikipedia editors do their job by at least checking the stories they publish: for facts they are not.

If you persist and reply by telling them, fine, but now I have sent the facts to you, and you should check them, and if you find the proof sufficient, you ought to adjust your story accordingly, their reply is that you can do it yourself. Just click on edit, they say.

Well, that may be one way of doing it, except there have been examples where stories thus edited by people who knew the real facts somehow continued to appear on Wikipedia without the edits showing to the general public.

A dirty trick

Here’s a story that happened several years ago.

A guy with extensive and intensive knowledge in international politics and economics spotted a huge howler in Wikipedia’s item covering a story in which he had been involved personally.

After a few weeks of getting the Wikipedia run-around (volunteers, do it yourself, and whatnot), he decided to expose Wikipedia using Wikipedia.

He wrote an item about himself, chastising several Nobel Prize committees for not giving him their awards (in fields he knew nothing about, except, perhaps, that they existed).

He praised himself to high heaven, coming close to saying that all Gods people have been worshipping during the last few centuries have been on first-name basis with him (and he with them, too).

After a few weeks, having counted several million readers from all over the world, the guy decided enough was enough. So, he wrote to Wikipedia to tell them that the entry was fake.

How do YOU know? Wikipedia demanded.

I wrote it myself, he replied, adding that he had never been involved in any of the sciences listed in the entry

To cut a long story short, it would take some time, and a number of e-mails, with Wikipedia explaining (again) it is edited by volunteers and how could they know, blah, blah, blah.

It never occurred to them that so long as they could not establish the story’s veracity, they should have withheld it.

So far, so good. The problem here is that even Wikipedia’s excuses are a bloody lie.

The pattern is so obvious it borders on the insane: stories that spread lies about people are almost always those where individuals or groups who are called all kinds of derogatory names somehow contradict the accepted left-wing bias.

Wikipedia’s policy is straightforward. At least officially so: “All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV).”

Co-founder Sanger to the rescue again: “From a truly neutral article, you would learn why, on a whole variety of issues, conservatives believe one thing, while progressives believe another thing. And then you would be able to make up your own mind. Is that what Wikipedia offers? As we will see, the answer is No.”

Slander or lie? Both

Examples galore, one comes to mind immediately: German physician Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg.

As chairman of the European Union health commission (this equals in standing ministry or department of health), Dr. Wodarg formed a committee of inquiry to probe some strange proceedings within the World Health Organisation (WHO). That body have deleted the two reliable standards that help determine the spread of diseases (morbidity and mortality), while changing the third one (known as speed of spread) so as to make it perfectly useless.

The result: WHO’s medical experts who proposed the change had just received lucrative offers from pharmaceutical companies (they accepted, of course). And all that happened just as the so-called swine flu, and bird flu, and SARS, and H1N1 viruses appeared on the scene, and those companies were flogging their potions as miracle medications.

To Wikipedia, Dr. Wodarg was a Covid-19 denier to begin with. The denier description, scandalously insulting in today’s context, was perhaps deemed too explosive. In any case, it was later removed. The rest of the entry remains still the article of faith for Wikipedia (and its users): Dr. Wodarg’s views run contrary to what is called accepted science.

An aside: the main feature of science is, or should be, that it keeps developing. What used to be the gospel yesterday is questionable today and becomes a faint memory tomorrow. End of the aside.

And here comes the real problem: all kinds of fact-checkers, from Snopes all the way to most of the social media, consider Wikipedia the fountain of truth.

If you check the fact-checkers’ credentials, they would be laughable if their impact wasn’t that overwhelming. Undergraduate students, most in their early years, and mostly in humanities (how a gender studies apprentice decides on, for example, climate change?). Or people who used to be employed in journalism, and never had a word removed from their copy for censorship reasons simply because they never saw (and wrote) uncomfortable truths even if they hit them between the eyes.

Yes, there exist teachers who fail students who have used Wikipedia as their sources in the papers they had submitted. But their numbers are dwindling.

We have come full circle. Wikipedia is run by a bunch of bloody liars, and, alas, the rest of the world has yet to figure out that the king is naked.

5 thoughts on “The world has come to trust liars, and that’s tragic

  1. […] Takže jsme oběhli celý kruh. Wikipedii řídí banda zpropadených lhářů a, bohužel, zbytku světa dosud nedošlo, že král je nahý. Pro ty, kteří nevěří, že dovedu přeložit do češtiny co jsem původně napsal anglicky: https://adlerpeter.wordpress.com/2021/07/12/the-world-has-come-to-trust-liars-and-thats-tragic/* […]

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  2. Peter August 29, 2021 at 13:42 Reply

    What is the story You were referencing that should had happened years ago? Ie that fake story. I’d love to see details (both to see it in more detail and actually check You at the same time). It’s pity You mentioned that without saying the name/link/entry of it. Feels more like urban legend, hard to believe…

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    • Peter Adler August 29, 2021 at 15:56 Reply

      thanks … alas, you seem to have read the item very superficially: you didn’t notice that the most serious claims against wikipedia had been made by wikipedia’s co-founder who ended up leaving it in disgust …
      besides: as soon as i decide to write a legal document charging wikipedia with this or that, it would include links with dates, etc. … as it is, i was writing about its co-founder’s allegations, adding a personal insight now and then …
      and the ancient story i was referencing could have hardly been described in more detail, without revealing the author’s name and/or location: someone wrote a fake entry about her/himself, and had frightful difficulty getting it through wikipedia’s thick skull that it was fake, and that s/he knew it the best because s/he had written it …
      other than that, thanks for writing …

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  3. Donna October 27, 2021 at 06:53 Reply

    Sad but true.. have you seen the spartcus letter?

    Like

  4. Lauryn Colston April 24, 2022 at 11:25 Reply

    Hey! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

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