Wikipedia warning

We all know by now that Wikipedia has credibility problems, because anybody can write anything — and that anything stands until it’s corrected, or falsified, or otherwise manipulated.  I tend to cite to Wikipedia if I feel that it’s a neat précis of something I already know to be true, but I always rely on my own knowledge to confirm (which is probably a fairly weak reed on which to rely).  Max Boot now warns again about just how wrong Wikipedia can be, focusing on a Wikipedia story that accuses the US, falsely, of murdering millions of Filipinos at the turn of the last century.

You should feel free to use Wikipedia, but definitely take most everything it says with a grain of salt, until you’ve had a chance to establish its accuracy to your own satisfaction.


5 Responses

  1. Wikipedia, like most all human large social groups, are separated into different factions and philosophies. Therefore, it is to be expected that the faction specializing in American historical crimes will focus on political issues as relating to American history.

    They could do nothing else.

    In addition, as the global propaganda war progresses, both sides are going to start gobbling up paraganda apparatuses in order to spread their message around. Both the Islamic Jihad, with their websites and bought and paid for media stations, as well as the Americans, with their psy ops restricted to only non-American, will be looking for more firepower to use against the other.

    Just as in WWII where the main conflict became symbols of local conflicts that were already brewing, so will America’s war with the world also manifest as both attacks by jihadists and attacks by everyday strangers.

  2. Yes, Wikipedia sometimes approaches the integrity of a Ward Churchill article. For a while I followed the Wikipedia entry for the high school I graduated from decades ago. I was amused to find out that a classmate of mine had edited the entry to add that “George Bush is a fool,” or some such. There have been many such periodic changes to the entry on the high school, but such smartass entries do not last long.

    I have found Wikipedia useful as a sort of super-Google for finding out statistical information. As the statistical information on Wikipedia is usually referenced, it can be usually checked.

    Example: I wanted long-term statistical information on violence against abortion clinics to counter a poster who maintained that Xtian fundamentalists were nearly as much a danger as the Muslim variety.

    Googling the information did not readily produce the information. When I went to Wikipedia, a search found the name of the organization that would most likely have such information.

    Armed with this information, I then Googled it and quickly found a graph with 30-year data.

    Allende is another topic for which bias is potentially strong. Having read many books and journal articles on Allende, I had enough knowledge to evaluate Wikipedia on Allende. Yes, there was bias, but there was also some mention of what Allende had done wrong. At the same time, the Spanish version of Wikipedia about Allende looked as if it had been written by a Monthly Review staffer.

    Wkipedia had the text of the Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy, copied from José Piñera’s PensionRerom website. This was the 81-47 vote in the House of Deputies 3 weeks before the coup that stated that Allende had violated norms of democratic and legal procedure left and right ( sorry about that), and in effect asked for the military to have a coup.

    As such, it is a very important document for understanding Allende’s Chile. Some months ago, Wkipedia stated that as there were attribution problems- it appeared to have been copied outright from José Piñera’s website, there might be changed made. Soon thereafter, the Declaration disappeared from Wikipedia. My immediate reaction was that it disappeared not because of any alleged attribution problems, but because someone did not want to have this information available on Wikipedia, as I doubted that Piñera would have objected to it being posted.

    In any event, after having disappeared from Wikipedia, the Declaration reappeared again. So, perhaps attribution was the only issue.

    Wikipedia isn’t perfect, but I would rather have it than not have it.

  3. PensionRerom should be PensionReform

  4. Of note: the proprietors of Wikipedia recently announced they are relocating from Saint Petersburg FL to San Francisco CALIF. Their servers for the time being remain in Florida. I assume that culturally and socially the staff prefers San Fran, which may be indicative of their leanings.

  5. I don’t know whether what happened in the Philippines could be construed as a touch of genocide or not – and I certainly don’t know who the hell “E. San Juan” is when he’s at home – but I do know who Mark Twain is.

    Twain, alive at the time, wrote a number of newspaper articles, columns, etc. commenting on the events of that war as they happened. He was for the most part not real pleased, and embarrassed for his country – and not at all embarrassed to fire some pretty plain speaking across Teddy Roosevelt’s bow, or General Leonard Wood’s bow, either (Wood commanded US forces int he Philippine engagements.)

    A couple of hundred words from “Conquest of the Philippines – the Moros” for your general interest:

    “…This iincident burst upon the world last Friday in an official cablegram from the commander of our forces int he Philippines to our government at Washington. The substance of it was as follows:

    “A tribe of Moros, dark-skinned savages, had fortified themselves int he bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace. Our commander, Gen. Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnoissance. It was found that the Moros numbered six hundred, counting women and children; that their crater bowl was in the summit of a peak or mountain twenty-two hundred feet above sea level,and very difficult of access for Christian troops and artillery. Then General Wood ordered a surprise, and went along himself to see the order carried out. Our troops climbed the heights by devious and difficult trails, and even took some artillery with them. The kind of artillery is not specified, but in one place it was hoisted up a sharp acclivity by by tackle a disatnce of some three hundred feet. Arrived at the rim of the crater, the battle began. Our soldiers numbered five hundred and forty. They were assisted by auxiliaries consisting of a detachment of native constabulary in our pay – their numbers not given – and by a naval detachment whose numbers are not stated. But apparently the contending parties were about equal as to number – six hundred men on our side, on the edge of the bowl; six hundred men, women, and children inthe bottom of the bowl depth of the bowl, 50 feet.

    “General Wood’s order was, “Kill or capture the six hundred.

    “The battle began – it is officially called by that name – our forces firing down into the crater with their artillery, and their deadly small arms of precision; the savages furiously returning the fire, probably with brickbats – though this is merely a surmise of mine, as the weapons used by the savages are not nominated in the cablegram. Heretofore the Moros have used knives and clubs mainly; also ineffectual trade-muskets when they had any.

    “The official report stated that the battle was fought with prodigious energy on both sides during a day and half, and that it ended with a complete victory for the American arms. The completeness of the victory is established by this fact: that of the six hundred Moros not one was left alive. The brilliancy of the victory is established by this other fact, to wit: that of our six hundred heroes only fifteen lost their lives.”

    There is more. That’s from Twain’s “Conquest of the Philippines: The Moros.” There is also; “The Destruction of the Filip[ino Patriot and President, Aguinaldo, by US General Funston.” And: “Summary of the Philippine ‘Incident'” and the rather sarcastic: “Defense of General Funston.”

    I don’t know about Wikipedia, and I don’t recognize their sources, but this may not have been the issue upon which to challenge their view.

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