A Personal Appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia is soon to enter our 5th year online, and I want to take a moment to ask you for your help in continuing our mission. Wikipedia is facing new challenges and encountering new opportunities, and both are going to require major funds.
In passing, have you noticed how wherever there is a meeting of the words "mission", "challenges", and "opportunities", it's a safe bet that we are being taken on a gentle journey to the words "major funds"?
Wikipedia is based on a very radical idea, the realization of the dreams most of us have always had for what the Internet can and should become. Thousands of people, all over the world, from all cultures, working together in harmony to freely share clear, factual, unbiased information… a simple and pure desire to make the world a better place.
Oh please. What a shameless crock. Look at any Wikipedia Talk page on any controversial subject, and, instead of "people working together in harmony", you will typically and unsurprisingly see a bunch of mediocre nerds with too much time on their hands and with rather uninformed opinions on too many subjects, bickering among themselves in an attempt to forge an entry that will represent a "consensus" of their uninformed opinions. And on a bad day, you might see among them a displaced person who actually knows something about the topic and has done actual research, being subjected to a hazing because he or she does not want to play along with the "consensus" game. And this is called "making the world a better place"? As for "clear, factual, unbiased information", we have previously described, in great detail, the concerted efforts exerted by Wales' "radical dreamers" to defeat various attempts to place such information in Wikipedia. And any thoughtful examination of any Wikipedia entry concerning a subject of any depth or complexity is likely to reveal, instead, 'information' that is muddled, distorted, factually dubious, often plain ludicrous, and always biased in the direction of mainstream opinion. And what else could be produced by "thousands of people working together"? What else but a "consensual" version of Usenet.
This is a radical strike at the heart of an increasingly shallow, proprietary and anti-intellectual culture. It is a radical strike at the assumption that the Internet has to be a place of hostile debate and flame wars. It is an appeal to the best within all of us.
"Radical strike" our foot. If you want to see "shallow", look at the Wikipedia entry for "Anti-Psychiatry", which mixes together R.D. Laing and Scientology, and references Tom Cruise as a top exponent of the "anti-psychiatry movement". If you want to see "proprietary", look at Wikipedia's recent deal with Answers.com, who will be offering a proprietary 1-click access to Wikipedia (more on that below). And if you want to see "anti-intellectual", just look anywhere in Wikipedia - or, if you don't want to look just anywhere, here is assistant prep-school teacher Theresa Knott - a bright light of the Wikipedia "science squad" and about to become one of the bright lights in the new WikiJunior project - expressing herself on the subject of Aetherometry, which she refuses to read, and on which she has formed an opinion by private consultation with another bright light, Fred Salsbury, who also refuses to read anything about Aetherometry:
The "experimental evidence" presented isn't experimental evidence at all. It's crap. I've been saying that all along, as have asll the other science trained people. Experimental evidence has to be done properly. It has to be peer reviewed it has to be repeatable and repeated. Otherwise it's a load of bollocks dressed up a science. So bully for you. Theresa Knott (a tenth stroke) 21:18, 16 August 2005
If Wikipedia is an "appeal to the best within all of us", is this the best of Theresa Knott? Heaven help us. But Wales tells us that the result has been "a wild success":
The result so far has been wild success. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers who have created and managed this vast resource, we are now one of the top 30 websites in the world… and traffic growth continues. The pressures on us increase daily, pressures of organization, of servers and server management. In order for Wikipedia to move forward, we need the help of ordinary people like you, people who share in our dream of a free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet.
In 2005, we achieved 6-fold growth in pageviews with spending of less than $750,000. We will need a lot more this year just to keep the site on the air and performing well. But the wonderful thing about our growth is that it gives us a real opportunity to extend our fundraising beyond just what we need to stay on the air.
Ah, it is starting to make more sense. We have been naively barking up the wrong tree. The "radical strike", the "simple and pure desire", the "dream of freedom", the "appeal to the best within us" have been a wild success - why? - not because Wikipedia is in fact the embodiment of any of them, but because the judicious use of these populist platitudes have made Wikipedia one of the 30 most-trafficked websites in the world, have resulted in a 6-fold growth in pageviews in 2005, and will permit Wikipedia to extend its fundraising!
Reporters are always asking me why I’m doing this, why Wikipedians do this? I think you know why.
Yes, we do. Because it permits any semi-literate nerd to join the cyber-maoist mob of 'editors' of a 'radical encyclopedia' whose 'radicalism' consists in the fact that it expresses a consensus of semi-literate nerds. And it permits them - and Wales - to feel "empowered" by being on their way towards some paranoid 'world-wide control over knowledge' - knowledge being just the commodity which Wikipedians are quite impotent to produce.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I’m doing this for the child in Africa who is going to use free textbooks and reference works produced by our community and find a solution to the crushing poverty that surrounds him. But for this child, a website on the Internet is not enough; we need to find ways to get our work to people in a form they can actually use.
Yes, Wikipedia will point this child to a solution to the crushing poverty that surrounds him - it will teach the child how to become a consumer and peddler of AIDS cocktails, spread Google AdWords among the African poor, spearhead a project to translate Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds into 2000 African languages, or just become one of Wales' paid cohorts selling the Wikipedian "radical dream" to moneyed nonprofits, and to for-profits looking for more profits or for a tax-break. It's always better PR when the fundraiser is a kid from an 'underdeveloped' country.
And I’m doing this for my own daughter [you didn't by any chance name her Catherine Halsey Wales, did you, Jimmy?], who I hope will grow up in a world where culture is free, not proprietary, where control of knowledge is in the hands of people everywhere, with basic works they can adopt, modify, and share freely without asking permission from anyone.
A world whose 'culture' is the 'culture of looting', where 'control of knowledge' is in the hands of nerds who don't create anything and have no use for knowledge - other than for purposes of controlling a populace - and where these nerds can freely loot and distort what they are unable to create, without asking permission from anyone. A 'radical' vision? Hardly. If nothing else, you can read all about it in Atlas Shrugged.
We’re already taking back the Internet. With your help, we can take back the world.
There it is, ladies and getlemen. Bimbo Wales grandly trumpeting his aspirations to "take back the world" for the culture of looters. And therefore -
Please consider a generous donation to the Wikimedia Foundation.
While the Wikipedia machine advertises Wikipedia as "an appeal to the best within all of us" a 'radical' dream of universal 'harmony' where anyone and everyone can join in a grand unitarian project of helping 'knowledge' to be ' free', to 'progressively evolve' - a thoughtful observation of the Wikipedia editorial process for any given topic reveals that what actually transpires is nothing short of an infernal exercise in disinformation, never more poignant than when it is mobilized to destroy the content (or information) of an entry, an idea, a theory or a concept. At this level, the Wikipedia machine operates monolithically, as if it were a hive of drones and soldier-Admins engaged single-mindedly in a systematic campaign of degrading information or content. This is most apparent when it comes to critical or controversial issues, or in Wikipedia entries requiring some degree of expertise: here, the hive wreaks havoc, gradually replacing what might have started as actual content ('the information') with superficial, ignorant, erroneous or deliberately misleading simulations of content. Supported by an infrastructure designed for compulsive maniacs ('Wikimania'), the Wikipedian 'act' of disinformation constitutes nothing short of a looting frenzy, a veritable orgy of exhibitionistic stupor where anything and everything - from history, art, music, literature, politics and philosophy to science and technology, in short, everything that the depth and breadth of human thought has or might have had to offer - is methodically distorted, expunged, neutered, sacked, gutted. The machine keeps grinding until all it leaves behind is an empty shell, often a mere nonsensical marker generated by vying cliques of vested interests that have everywhere infested Wikipedia as a rich new cyber field for covert knowledge warfare.
Wikipedia is a disinformational demolition derby that, in theory, can be played by anyone with computer access. And it's all done under the banner of 'democratically' providing 'encyclopedic knowledge' for 'the people'. Invoking a cyber-maoistic ideal of enforcing 'consensus', anonymous and committed cliques - organized by government, corporate, religious or official-scientific interests - are able to engage in systematic adulteration and ransacking of knowledge and information at Wikipedia, while claiming a 'grassroots community' support for their antics. The 'grand global project of knowledge' translates into a frenzied opportunistic rewriting of the entirety of knowledge and history - by way of the meticulous substitution of platitudes, salespitch and contrived falsities for facts, thought and truth, even textual truth. Far more effective than the old Nazi method of building book pyres, Wikipedia is a slow-burning wholesale Fahrenheit of knowledge. It's a mental Taliban, with a cyber-bureaucratic mini-State to prop it up. And let's face it - there are hordes of people just dying to burn something, anything.
Of course, besides the so-called content of Wikipedia, there is also the expression, the famously 'free' expression - something that must be equally barred, censored, controlled, manipulated, if the disinformation is going 'to stick'. We have elsewhere documented some of the techniques employed by pathological Wikipedians to bar free expression of thought and opinion in Wikipedia. Outright censorship, rewriting of other people's interventions, suppression of records, etc, are all practices that fascists, comfortable in their milieu, have grown accustomed to. While other anti-Wikipedians (like Daniel Brandt) seem to concentrate on reforming Wikipedia, identifying and 'responsibilizing' its participants, our point is a very different one: Wikipedia is not a method to catalogue, archive, describe knowledge, let alone a method to generate and connect knowledge. Wikipedia's business is the mob-based 'democratic' falsification of knowledge, sort of a pornography of knowledge. The more rules and regulations it adopts, the more distorted and demented still will be its output. As it stands, it already constitutes a staggering collection of officiating misconceptions about nearly everything. Sociologically, it is indeed likely that this molecular fascism of expression - this soft-fascism so dominant in Wikipedia and which lays the groundwork for Web 2.0 - is one of its major marketing features for infantilized minors and retarded/conformist adults, all equally supervised by the backroom tutelage of soldier-Admins.
While Wikipedia's self-promotion says that anyone can edit Wikipedia, to really edit Wikipedia, i.e. to have your edits 'stick', you need to belong to one of two classes of Wikipedians: the clique cadres (soldier-Admins) who have an inordinate amount of time to spend, a committed agenda dedicated to enforcing a particular line, and who work in tandem with other like-minded anonymous sappers to dictate the lines of 'consensus' (the party line of the sans-party); or the lower-level classes of aspiring young technocadres (the drones) - subject to the intensive social training ('nurse conditioning') required to turn out a 'good member of the Wikipedia community'. A 'good' member is one who dutifully enforces the 'consensus' (the catch-all 1-click word of epsilon drones). While everyone knows (or should know) what the first class is about and which business it's in, the formation of Wikipedia's 'grassroots', as it turns out, has far more to do with cult indoctrination than with anything even mildly resembling an open approach to building a functional knowledge base. Which is why one can only laugh at the 'encyclopedic' pretensions of Wikipedia. And apparently most do; if one is to believe in polls and speak of consensus, the CNN poll on the occasion of the Seigenthaler-Wales confrontation revealed that 62% of those who voted (ca 50,600) did not trust Wikipedia.
What one cannot laugh at, however, is Wikipedia's cult of 'the official line' (and yes, even in unofficial matters there is always an official line to be towed). If you enjoyed the mentality of the S21 Security Bureau - you'll just love Wikipedia. The avid recruitment of new, pliable youth members is carried out through a myriad of tried and true methods for cult indoctrination: from 'love-bombing', 'edit' tallies, flattery, aspiring ingratiation and 'patient thought reform', to endless instructional rules of conduct and policial vigilance, disciplinary procedures, gleeful public humiliation, group rule by bully boys and cliques, including the all-consuming bureaucratic work-routines and procedural minutia for underlings. Not surprisingly, these are traits common to most religious, fascist, socialist and communist organizations - marks of totalitarian movements. However, the nature of Wales' populist ideology, the presence among the drones of roving populist Commissars (often suspect 'sock-puppets'), the practice of public self-confession and dress-downs, the notion of a Wikipedia vanguard, the pretense of group criticism, the tortuous sets of 'Wiki Etiquettes', all bear a nauseating resemblance to the cult of Mao:
"The mob, and the mob alone, constitutes the motive force that creates universal history." (Mao Dze Dung, April 24, 1945)
"Gather ideas from the masses, concentrate them and take them back to the masses so that they may apply them firmly, and thus arrive at just ideas of leadership - such is our method of direction. And so on and so forth, the process repeating an infinity of times while the ideas become more and more correct, richer and more lively. Such is our theory of knowledge." (Mao Dze Dung, June 1, 1943)
And how better than by way of an 'encyclopedia', now cyberneticized and with a gruesome potential for an even greater reach than the old Helmsman himself could ever have imagined. The Great Gutural Revolution of the mediocrat.
Under the cover of secret Wikipedia identities and administrative sock-puppets, stalking and flame wars can be conducted comfortably under the guise of providing a public service - as are character assassination and self-interested, organized smear campaigns. (Ever wonder what government does with your tax money? Now figure out how so many of these Wikipedia cadres manage to spend day and night doing their sapwork - often responding immediately to an undesirable's intervention - while they apparently hold civil-service jobs as teachers, bureaucrats, engineers, or senior scientists. Maybe they're all on indefinite holidays.)
As in any good cult, the drone classes of the Wikipedia enterprise are permanently engaged in a bureaucratic motherload of obsessed and obsessive inventorizing - of 'correct' expression, behavior, rules and manners, specifically geared to fit the aspiring Wikipedian (the Wales tentacle, or Wikipod) to the demential logic of its system. Tweaking, un-tweaking and re-tweaking of formatting minutiae, along with the mindless collection of sound-byte fragments - harvested almost exclusively from Google gossip - are combined with vigilant vandal-fighting campaigns, to keep the drones perpetually busy. Books, facts and reading are definitely a 'no go' at Wikipedia - as is any knowledge whatsoever of the subject matter under drone 'edit'. In fact, ignorance of a subject is explicitly considered to be a plus in editing (another maoist apriorism). And information targeted for suppression by any of the dominant 'interest groups' operating within Wikipedia is effectively squashed under the gloriously virtuous rubrics of enforcing consensus and 'fighting vandalism'. While the drones keep busy, the great leaders (Wales, his partners and bureaucrats, and other Red Guard entrepreneurs) strategize behind the scenes about the future of mass communication and uniformly useless 'information' - going as far as dreaming of ruling science and research through a futures market of public opinion tied into their demented Web 2.0 plans. Gutting science - another maoist project that is coming close to completion.
Don't like the competition? Just create an entry on him or her or it, and have a bunch of anonymous Wikimaniacs (who may or may not be you) come in and collectively work out a disparaging characterization - and presto! a 'consensus' is established that the trained drones can now automatically enforce: the 'fine art' of character assassination elevated to encyclopedic 'knowledge' à la Wikipedia. Or, just as well, plaster into an entry inanities and falsities about a topic, a method, a concept, a research endeavour that is not mainstream, etc, and the same mob will show up to validate them.
Any falsification or character assassination in the Wikipedia will be almost instantaneously copied to countless pro-Wikipedia blogs and openly indexible Wikipedia mirror sites. There's absolutely no recourse - unless, of course, you happen to have the media and legal pulls of a John Seigenthaler. Even then, more recalcitrant mirror sites retained the libelous Seigenthaler article long after it had been deleted from Wikipedia itself, and most Wikipedians we've seen commenting on the affair seem to concur that the issue of libeling Seigenthaler wasn't really so serious, that, actually, it was 'funny'.
In the Wikipedian world populated by acolytes with infinite time to spend and a fanatical hatred of anything that goes against the "wisdom of crowds", it doesn't matter if after weeks or months of 24/7 backdoor infighting one manages to secure a correction to some piece of damaging disinformation perpetrated in the name of that 'wisdom'. In all likelihood, upon waking up the next day or the day after, one will find it reverted again - or replaced by some other falsehood or distortion. Back to square one. And hell, the new attack may even be motivated by an eagerness, on the part of the attacker, to 'share with the world' a 'fact' that he had previously ingested. After all, in the minds of many people the name Seigenthaler, for example, will forever retain the 'encyclopedic' and therefore 'factual' connotation of assassin, 'murderer of JFK', etc. That's the damage that cannot be undone, nor is intended to be undone (unlike what true good will would demand). In the meantime - given that Wikipedia now occupies a top spot on most search-engine results - the first item most people seeking information on a subject will discover is what Wikipedia offers up as 'information', and 'encyclopedic information' at that... Is this a joke?
If you are the butt of these directed Wikipedian attacks, and you decide to fight it out on the terms of this brave new 'information-generating' machine, you can be assured you'll be accused of being either a kook, a crank, a disgruntled sore loser, a troll, a scientologist, or someone who didn't like Wikipedia's 'consensual' reporting of 'the truth', etc. And there's no chance that you, in turn, will be able to insult them back on Wikipedia - they'll blithely quote you the 'no personal insults' rule and delete/censor you altogether (believe it or not, even the humorous insult 'bit of ectoplasm' became the subject of rigorous censorship by the intended recipient, William Connolley).
Jimbo Wales says he cannot be held accountable for what goes on on the pages of Wikipedia. He thinks it suffices to have a disclaimer, which he asserts is styled after those of CNN, Britannica or the New York Times, and all is fair and square. Yet, CNN and the New York Times do have an express legal responsibility to report facts as facts, and to not report as facts outright lies that they can readily ascertain to be lies. If they did not take public responsibiltiy for false reporting and its correction, they would long ago have been sued out of existence. CNN or the New York Times disclaim responsibility only for the web-contributions of their Users - whose opinions do not constitute news or news-content; but Wikipedia passes as facts and news the opinions of their anonymous Users. So why should Wikipedia - so intent on presenting itself as an 'encyclopedia' - be astonishingly exempt from any responsiblity, legal or otherwise?
According to Jimbo Wales, 'editors' who launch anonymous torpedos on Wikipedia can only with the greatest difficulty and in the rarest of circumstances be held accountable for the damage they may have inflicted. Yet, Daniel Brandt seems to have fairly effortlessly tracked down the Seigenthaler libeler - doing what Wales claimed he and Wikipedia were unable to do. But simply responsibilizing and identifying the authors of specific Wikipedia edits is not a method to secure knowledge, accurate and factual knowledge of anything - it's only a policial method to permit a selective enforcement of responsibility. And that, too, is not a basis for any encyclopedia worthy of the name.