29 June, 2008

Rumors and facts

I have stumbled onto a page on Wikipedia that treats rumors as if they were true. It isn't in English, so I managed with some effort to find the appropriate label for dubious statements*, and wrote a note that, to all effects and purposes, this section of the page amounted to rumor-mongering. To give you an idea of what I mean by "rumor-mongering", imagine this: someone seeks out what your enemies write about you, finds that they used common insults of their day and age in their polemics, then treat these authors with unquestioning deference, as if they had unimpeachable motives to write such things. It would be almost as credible as taking seriously Hugo Chavez' claims that the stench of the devil remained in the UN General Assembly after President Bush's speech.

Subsequently, someone came along and fixed it. Good, right? That's the point of Wikipedia, right? Wrong. By "fixing it", I mean that the individual merely provided more detailed references for sources of the rumors, rather than addressing the fundamental issues. The individual also removed any note about rumors and the dubious nature of the charges.

So, I went back and wrote a more detailed explanation as to why the statements were inaccurate.

This kind of stuff goes on at Wikipedia all the time, especially on controversial topics. Yet an increasing number of people seem to take the thing seriously.

I doubt it will pan out well for the actual facts. The topic in question has been controversial for about thirty or thirty-five years, and that rarely bodes well for facts. Things like this are why I have a hard time taking Wikipedia seriously.

Well, that, and the fact that I contribute to it on an irregular basis. If I'm writing for Wikipedia, how accurate can it be?

*It is surely one of the surest signs of Wikipedia's unreliability that they make it so hard to find the appropriate markups to label an article/section/passage as unreliable.

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