IS WIKIPEDIA THE END OF HISTORY?
by Larry Daley
Every one is familiar with Wikipedia the supposedly open source online encyclopedia. Were Wikipedia is truly open source then totalitarian governments would have to fear it for controlling history is a priority for a these kinds of dictatorships.
However, as we have seen as is Google and the Chinese Government, Wikipedia is a prime target for propagandists of such government. For as much as volunteers try to avoid it, these propagandists have a job to do and work at it with little imagination but much persistence. These propagandists label other opinions as “Vandalism” and lump them with obscene comments that appear periodically. If these other opinions are expressed persistently the pro-Castro contributors, stage false trials and ban those they find annoying.
Now in a free country there is nothing wrong of having a pro-Castro source. There is nothing wrong (within the limits of US anti-discrimination law) for a private group to select its own members, and to exclude those they decry or oppose them. However, what is concerning is that when common “net carriers” such as Google or Yahoo give large donations of server space and bandwidth which is the ‘greatest expense for such highly trafficked sites’ (Cohen, 2005). This matter becomes more dangerous when one considers that recently Google allowed the Chinese government to control access to their site in that vast and still highly controlled and authoritarian land (CNN 2006).
It would seem that Wikipedia software has much to offer Google, Yahoo, etc, and in return, for “business is business” there seems to be no objection on part of Google to censorship (see above). Thus, these businesses and this “free encyclopedia” are in collaboration, and this collaboration may result in the formulating the “end of history.” An example follows.
In the last few days pro-Castro hacks have been busy trying to recover control of the Wikipedia section Cuba (Wikipedia, 2006). To see how this happens it is useful to go to the discussion page (Talk:Cuba); however, to truly see how this works one needs to visit the linking heading labeled “history” and follow the discussion there.
In Wikipedia as it stands at the present time the Cuban government must be called “socialist” since to call it communist is POV (Point of View, a term for an action that is forbidden in Wikipedia). To call Castro a dictator is also POV he must be referred to as a “leader.” However, one can note that Batista and Machado are labeled dictators. Yet, Cuban government controlled elections are expounded in prolonged, solemn and laughable detail as if they were free.
Just in the last day or so (3/9/2006) a list of printed scholarly material on Cuba has been moved to a “limbo” with a link labeled Cuba/Printed_sources; and even in that limbo the classical Cuban history source: Hugh Thomas’ “Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom” has already been deleted.
To “replace” this scholarly data, there is a section labeled “Official” which consists of Cuban government sites. The section labeled “General,” which one might surmise to hold other views, has been expanded to include mostly Castro propaganda sites. A few carefully labeled “anti-Castro” sites, pro-Castro sites have no such labels, has been included to offer “balance.”
Thus Wikipedia with its massive files on expressed opinion (linked to each user’s computer identification) plus its growing collaboration with such “search engines” as Google offers the spectre of control of history.
What is proposed is not to close down Wikipedia for that would censor free speech, but to make it general knowledge that “web encyclopedias” such as Wikipedia are contaminated sources. One recalls, as Eric Blair (George Orwell) wrote "He who controls the past controls the future"
CNN.com 2006 Google to censor itself in China. World Business Thursday, January 26, 2006 Posted: 0540 GMT (1340 HKT) Accessed 3/9/2006 at http://edition.cnn.com/2006/BUSINESS/01/25/google.china/
Cohen, Daniel J. 2005 The Wikipedia Story That's Being Missed Posted to Google and the World of Search Accessed 3/9/2006 at http://www.dancohen.org/blog/posts/wikipedia_story_thats_being_missed
Hugh Thomas 1998 Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom (Paperback) Da Capo Press;
Wikipedia 2006 Cuba Accessed 3/9/2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba