Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Dangers of Wikipedia

Ah, the sweet seduction of open source. The fantasy of a place where honest people meet and correct each others mistakes before you reach the page, sigh. Yes, I can see the appeal of Wikipedia. We all can. Many fewer, however, seem able to see the danger inherent in a centralized source for information.

I believe impassionedly the control of information is a goal to those who would subvert our independence, and Wikipedia enables, rather than impedes, that goal.

I agree with all those who recommend Wikipedia as a starting point. But I disagree strongly with anyone and everyone who suggests it's okay to end with Wikipedia.

For support of my view, just search Google news:

Cornell Profs Slam Use of Wikipedia:

Prof. Aaron Sachs, history, said Wikipedia should be used with caution in research.

"I tell my students that Wikipedia is sometimes a decent option for a getting a basic overview," he said. "But even then it takes a lot of practice to recognize when an entry might be more or less reliable."

In UCLA's Daily Bruin, we learn:

Many educators agree ... that Wikipedia is a valuable place to start research, but should not be treated as an authoritative source.

The history department at Middlebury College in Vermont announced a policy last week forbidding students from citing Wikipedia articles in research papers, said Middlebury history Professor Neil Waters. The policy states that "Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, even though it may lead one to a citable source."

And what does Wikipedia's OWN COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER SAY?

"Wikipedia is a great resource for students to get a good overview of a topic, but it should not be cited in papers or exams since it is not an authoritative source," said Sandy Ordonez, communications manager for Wikipedia.

In answer to the question posed by Prospect Magazine in the UK, "Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next?", distinguished critic and novelist A S Byatt responded:

We will be governed by a kind of consensus populism-beliefs, ideas and policies that arise on blogs, websites, focus groups and so on. (Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their candidacies on the web.) This has its appeal. It is also frightening, as Tocqueville found American democracy, because it leads to tyranny of the majority. It goes with vast quantities of not wholly accurate information- Wikipedia is splendid and maddening.

All the above is assuming a completely innocent world, where people want to share correct information and are just fallible. But that's not even the right model for the world. Imagine the following scenario.

The same group that has controlled the print media and the publishing media in an effort to ensure secret history never reaches the public becomes ecstatic. I'm not talking about all of history. I'm talking about specific events that, if properly exposed, could cause a revolution in the way we think, act, and ultimately, in the kind of government we'd choose. Revolutionary history, such as who was really behind the Kennedy assassination, for example.

Now, to control history, they only need to control a single source: Wikipedia.

The group I'm referring to is the CIA, and this is not really an imagined scenario. Check out Carl Bernstein's 16-page article in the October 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. Guess what? It's not online. You miss a huge portion of history if you limit yourself to what's online.

Separately, find a copy of the Pike Report. It's not online either. It's hard to find. Why? Because the CIA doesn't want you to find it:

On 19th January, 1976, Pike sent the final draft of a 338 page report to the CIA. Mitchell Rogovin, the CIA's Special Counsel for legal affairs, responded with a scalding attack on the report. He complained that the report was an "unrelenting indictment couched in biased, pejorative and factually erroneous terms." He also told Searle Field, staff director of the House Select Committee: "Pike will pay for this, you wait and see....There will be a political retaliation.. We will destroy him for this."

Rogovin's threat proved true. Pike's career was ended by his pursuit of the truth about intelligence activities, and especially activities involving the control of the media. And the CIA has never showed that any data in there was inaccurate. Just inconvenient.

I have a copy of the report. In there, you'll find essentially the result of a constitutional crisis: When the Pike Committee, the House Select committee established to investigate the CIA's domestic abuses, they ultimately came to the conclusion that the CIA was able to get away with so much because they controlled the press. When our elected officials, charged legally with oversight over the CIA, demanded the names of the CIA's acknowledged 400 media assets (as opposed to the ones they'd never acknowledge), the CIA refused. They claimed their right to secrecy superceded Congress's right to oversight. A compromise was brokered, but essentially, the CIA won.

In addition, a member of the CIA, now dead, told me the CIA employs groups of people to buy up books to take them out of circulation. They enlisted rooms of people to watch all channels on TV, with 24-hour coverage, to look for 'objectionable' material so they can counter it and dissuade that media outlet from continuing with such "attacks" as the Agency saw it.

The CIA has put its own people on the radio to persuade us. Several "former" employees have become noted radio hosts. ("Former" is a term one can't use, because the secrecy oath is lifelong. Once you join the CIA, the only way to really leave it is by death.)

So regarding Wikipedia, we're up against a formidable enemy. The CIA can afford to employ people fulltime to "watch" for changes to these articles. And there are multiple precedents as to why and how they'd do this. By centralizing history, we've made its modification by those who would control us easier, not harder.

For all these reasons, I am very much in favor of a ban on citing Wikipedia as a final authority on any subject anywhere. I personally will not recognize anything cited from Wikipedia alone as "fact," and will continue to consider those who stop there lazy. It's a starting place, NOT a destination. And if it becomes people's destination on a widespread scale, God help us all.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Rosi said...

Lisa, This article appeared today in CNN's MONEY, and it expounds on "Wiki-Crowdsourcing". Thanks to Real History, I decided to read this article and have learned from you and experience to double check sources - especially "Wiki-acedemia". Is that a new term?

http://money.cnn.com/2007/02/21/magazines/business2/walledgardens.biz2/index.htm?postversion=2007022113

Best Regards, John R

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Dick Lee said...

Lisa, If one were to pick between the Corp. media and their CIA influences compared to such open information sources as Wikipedia I'd be much more skeptical of the Establishment media's spin on the truth. One shouldn't "go to the bank" on eithers information input but, like the internet, at least it's not all spin on Wikipedia and you have good sources and references to check. Because the Establishment media knows this, much of the Wikipedia criticism seems to come from the Right and their apologists in the media. It's best in a pinch but can be contaminated.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Hey, John R - glad I got you looking into this!

And Dick - you and I both know that the problem is ANY single source, especially one touted as "reputatable." In my experience, reputable sources can be wrong and unlikely sources can be right. The point is not whether Wikipedia is "better" or "worse" than any other media source. It's just not 100% accurate. So long as people assume that going in, they will be safe. In fact, that's a safe assumption to make about anything that's not itself a primary source.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Bernstein's 1977 expose
'The CIA and the Media' here-

http://rigorousintuition.ca/board/viewtopic.php?t=8590

There are a few other articles at that link about CIA disinfo and culture-steering, too.

Bernstein's article is too important not to have at your fingertips to share so I put it at RigorousIntuition.ca's Data Dump forum once I found it.
I have the Rolling Stone hard copy, too.

Hollywood movies and TV are largely products of Langley-based social engineering goals, too. Just look at the movies made by any guaranteed box-office leading man for evidence.

Tom Hanks was recently inducted into the Army Rangers Hall of Fame.

Tom Cruise, well...

1:49 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

I have a hard copy of the Rolling Stone article and was the first to put part of it on the Internet, over ten years ago now. While larger snippets are now online, no one has published the full 16 pages of small type from the original piece online yet. We should get RS to do it - it's their property, after all.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Rajiv Sobhee said...

The problem with Wikipedia is that it might contain some information which are not accurate. If many people read that information and blindly take it for being correct.. over a generation, it is possible that the incorrect information is assumed as true. Then it is hard to know what is true and what is not true unless you go and prove it. This will lead to confusion. Each article has to be reviewed for accurateness and certified as accurate. There should for each page,, a section that gives people the right to refute information displayed there or confirm or approve.

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Research Papers said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Darmit said...

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. That's it's biggest problem but also it's biggest atu.

7:50 AM  

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