March 2, 2009
-- by Dave Johnson
Try this: start or edit a Wikipedia article that includes information that might be unfavorable to conservative corporate interests, perhaps in the area of tort reform (incl medical malpractice, etc) or trade/protectionism, etc. Try adding citations to studies that show that tort reform is a corporate-funded effort to keep people from being able to sue companies that harm them... I tried it and it was removed in a few minutes.
Or try to edit the entry on Protectionism, perhaps adding something like the words "unfair competition" as in protecting America jobs from unfair competition from countries that exploit workers. Someone did this the other day and the edit lasted a few minutes before it was removed because it changed the "long accepted definition of protectionism." In other words, the idea that our standard of living should be protected from competition using exploited workers is unfair goes against the corporate-interest meaning of the term.
Try editing entries covering other issues around trade, economics or corporate issues. See how long it takes before a pro-corporate viewpoint is returned to the article. Or add an article about a progressive organization. I added an article about the Commonweal Institute, and it was immediately removed, so I put another up and it was immediately flagged for removal. (I am working to save it...) An article about me - put up and edited by others - was also removed twice. The circumstances involved a professional "leading tort-reform advocate" -- while I'm the person who wrote this report about how the tort reform movement is involved with the corporate/conservative movement. Go figure.
This is a problem at Wikipedia. It is quite possible that there are people who are paid to show up and push Wikipedia to reflect a conservative, pro-corporate viewpoint. And why wouldn't this be the case as it is in so many other areas where corporate interests are affected? (I know of one corporate-funded conservative movement insider who spends much of the normal workday and evenings editing Wikipedia.) So it seems the Wikipedia organization may be unable to sufficiently police the site to keep this from happening, and to keep new people from having unpleasant experiences and being shouted down and driven away. There are so many areas of political life where conservatives shout down or intimidate everyone else until they give up and go away. Wikipedia is fast becoming one more.
This has real-world implications. Wikipedia shows up at the top of many if not most Google searches, and people tend to believe this means it is a reliable source. This positioning implies a public-interest responsibility for accuracy and objective presentation of material. On non-controversial topics Wikipedia is a very reliable and possibly the best source for information because over time the "wisdom of crowds" effect brings increased expertise to bear.
But like so many things today, in areas where corporate resources can be focused, the subject matter increasingly reflects the viewpoint that serves the interests of the few at the top. Wikipedia's prominence is the likely reason this conservative information-purging occurs. It is also the reason Wikipedia has a responsibility to do something about it.
(Edited a bit for clarity, focus.)
PS also see this about article deletions.
Posted by Dave Johnson at March 2, 2009 9:59 AM
Progressives are being out organized by conservatives... what else is new? Just one more thing we need to get on the ball about.
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at March 5, 2009 5:28 PM
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