By Mark O’Neill
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
I have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia. Over the years, I have quoted from it relentlessly in my articles and I have used it for research and reference purposes. I have even opened several user accounts and attempted to correct factual errors wherever I have found them (provided I have the correct knowledge to hand – nothing is worse than someone who changes a wrong fact with another wrong fact).
But something is fundamentally and fatally flawed with Wikipedia and it is something which has finally made me give up trying to edit Wikipedia articles. It is something which is making George Orwell’s 1984 predictions all come true. It is something that in true Orwellian style, the National Post calls the “Thought Police”.
In other words, Wikipedia has no supervisory independent impartial oversight and zealots are going wild with their one-sided view on subjects. They’re drunk with the “editorial power” with which they have been bestowed, they crush all dissent and there’s no-one to stop them. The zealots are attempting to influence people with their one-sided view of subjects and if anyone attempts to correct them…well, they’re the editors! They’re the Thought Police! They’ll just change it back again!
As the National Post article points out, take a subject such as climate change. Highly controversial with supporters and detractors. Now what if a Wikipedia editor (such as the one in the article) decides on one particular viewpoint? How is anyone with an opposing viewpoint ever going to get a chance to get that opinion into Wikipedia?
Or to take a personal experience. Last year, I was approached by a business client who was trying to get a Wikipedia page set up about their new tech product. But every time they wrote the page, it was deleted – without explanation. They tried to get a Wikipedia editor to explain why the page was deleted so they could modify their strategy but was unsuccessful. So they turned to me and asked for help.
When I finally found a contact email address for Wikipedia, I politely asked for a reason why the page was deleted and after ignoring me for several days, an editor finally emailed me back and said :
“We don’t have to explain our editorial decisions to you. If we decide the page goes then it goes. Get over it. Don’t email us again about this matter. You might also want to tell your client that his product sucks.”
First of all, where does he get off talking to me like that? I made a professional query on behalf of a client and all I get back is an abusive and immature message! Right away, my client’s opinion of Wikipedia went from “excellent” to “terrible” in the space of 2 seconds flat.
Wikipedia is a very noble project – to collect all the world’s information and educate people – with the help of as many online users as possible. But as with all mass collaboration projects, an elitism has grown behind the scenes. I don’t understand why there is no complaints procedure in place for people who have a grievance with Wikipedia. If someone feels slighted in any way by a contributor or an editor then they should be able to email a complaints department and they should be able to file a complaint. That complaint should then be taken extremely seriously.
But no. The rule seems to be “hands off” at the Wikipedia empire (unless it’s Jimbo Wales and his online girlfriend, Rachel Marsden, in which case it’s fully hands ON). This means that people are being influenced by knowledge that the Wikipedia “editors” only want them to see and nothing else.
Mr Wales needs to get his eye back on the ball and get his pet project back on track. He needs to start a thorough house-cleaning. He needs to restore credibility in the Wikipedia brand because he doesn’t seem to realise that the nutcases have left the hospital and are taking over the Wikipedia Empire.
Watch out Jimbo, they’re in your office!