Sunday, June 5, 2016

The sociopolitical dangers of Wikipedia

I commented earlier how the Wikipedia article on gamergate is astonishingly biased agenda-driven unilateral propaganda, to a completely ridiculous extent. Said article has been 100% appropriated by social justice warriors, who seem to have an irontight grip on it, and will not let it go, no matter what.

This presents some serious problems. Most people take Wikipedia way more seriously than they should. This includes journalists, politicians and people in charge. Wikipedia has an amazing power to influence people's opinions due to how popular and trusted it is. In other words, Wikipedia is a frighteningly powerful tool for propaganda. Thus if a biased movement controls Wikipedia, it controls the entire narrative pretty much.

What makes this even more frightening is that there is basically nothing that can be done about it. As long as it doesn't technically and outright break the law, there is little to no recourse to do anything about biased propaganda articles that have been appropriated and locked by a sociopolitical movement.

As Wikipedia itself puts it:
Wikipedia has no central editorial board; contributions are made by a large number of volunteers at their own discretion. Edits are not the responsibility of the Wikimedia Foundation (the organisation that hosts the site) nor of its staff and edits will not generally be made in response to an email request.
There is, essentially, nobody to send a formal complaint to, if some article in Wikipedia clearly breaks their own Neutral Point of View principle, or is clearly biased and overly propagandist. It has no people in charge; there is no editorial board, there are no authority figures who could veto edits or entire articles. The people who are responsible for keeping an article under tight lock, and removing edits that they don't like, are pretty much anonymous. If there is collusion behind the scenes, is pretty much impossible to find the culprits.

And, as said, as long as the articles do not outright break the law, no external authority is going to step in either, because they don't have any legal reason to do so. It's not up to them, at any possible level.

Thus Wikipedia is pretty much controlled by an anonymous mob. If the people who hold the lock have a certain agenda, and the people who oppose that agenda are not numerous enough to overthrow them, there is essentially nothing that can be done. And, as said, this is problematic because of the outright frightening power that Wikipedia has in influencing society. A certain narrative, a certain biased sociopolitical agenda, is controlled by an anonymous mob of ideologues, and there's nothing that can be done about it.

The Wikipedia article on gamergate is just the most blatant and egregious example of this. How many other articles are there that likewise drive a given biased sociopolitical agenda, perhaps more surreptitiously? How many articles are there with faux "neutral point of view", ie. biased opinions being masqueraded as NPoV by carefully using certain wording?

As a possible, much subtler example, consider the article on "History of the Caribbean."

There is an entire, relatively large, section named "Impact of colonialism on the Caribbean", which immediately follows another relatively large section named "Colonial era". They have sub-sections named eg. "Slaves in the Caribbean" and "Economic exploitation." These two sections make for a quite large chunk of the entire article (at least half of it.) Without being an historian, or an expert on the history of the Caribbean, it's hard to tell whether this amount of text dedicated to that particular subject really is warranted, or whether there's a bias from the part of the author(s).

Some of the language used in the text itself could also, possibly, be subtly biased. For example:
"European plantations required laws to regulate the plantation system and the many slaves imported to work on the plantations. This legal control was the most oppressive for slaves inhabiting colonies where they outnumbered their European masters and where rebellion was persistent, such as Jamaica."

"The new system in place however was similar to the previous as it was based on white capital and colored labor."
Some sentences are a bit oddly worded for an "encyclopedia", such as:
"It should be noted that as of the early 21st century, not all Caribbean islands have become independent."
As said, it's difficult to say whether that amount of text dedicated to the subject is warranted and logical, or whether there is a bias from the author(s). And that's the devious thing about Wikipedia. To most people this is impossible to know, and they may be influenced by such biases, if such articles indeed do have a political agenda behind them, which try to push a certain narrative, and try to emphasize some things more than is warranted, for political and even propagandist reasons.

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