This blog has been moved…

Posted November 1, 2006 by wikipediaisevil
Categories: Uncategorized

I decided that rather than have multiple blogs, each on a single topic, I would have a single blog with multiple topics of interest (to me).

The new blog is called “Against the Consensus” and is at http://againstconsensus.wordpress.com

This current blog will no longer be updated.

Keeping history right up to date

Posted October 31, 2006 by wikipediaisevil
Categories: 1984, Wikipedia

One of the benefits of Wikipedia’s massed army of editors, we are told, is to keep the encyclopedia up-to-date. This is a good use of the Internet since no-one likes their information even slightly old. But there is another thing that bothers me about Wikipedia’s fetish for modernity – it allows nearly unlimited access for propagandists to rewrite the past.

Winston Smith was part of a larger collective of people (although he never talked to them, he only knew them by sight) whose job it was to rewrite history.

What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead.

This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date.

In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.

The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one on which Winston worked, consisted simply of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers, and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of The Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing its original date, and no other copy existed to contradict it. Books, also, were recalled and rewritten again and again, and were invariably reissued without any admission that any alteration had been made.

Even the written instructions which Winston received, and which he invariably got rid of as soon as he had dealt with them, never stated or implied that an act of forgery was to be committed: always the reference was to slips, errors, misprints, or misquotations which it was necessary to put right in the interests of accuracy.

This is what happens with Wikipedia – that facts yesterday are not facts today, because facts can be altered moment by moment.

But surely, you say, there are edit histories showing who added what and who deleted what?

That’s true, but only if you go to the source document at Wikipedia.org and only if an administrator isn’t the one doing the editing because administrators can also remove the records that the addition was ever made!

Most people are using Wikipedia and don’t even know it. According to Daniel Brandt, as a result of his inquiry into plagiarism on Wikipedia, he discovered that there were 965 domains that simply scraped information from Wikipedia and served it up with adverts (usually Google AdSense). None of those scrapers had the edit histories, because the edit histories made the whole encyclopedia perhaps 20-30 times larger, and these scrapers don’t need them anyway.

When I looked at the possibility of having a personal copy of Wikipedia, I found the storage proposition rather daunting. To store just the articles and their full edit histories (assuming no admin interference in them) and without the images would be around 500-600 GB.

So people get their information from answers.com or whatever and don’t realise that their source is Wikipedia, a collection of facts, truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, myths and outright falsehoods written by complete amateurs. Of course those people, we are told, are idiots to believe everything that Wikipedia serves them – but they don’t know that what they’re reading comes from Wikipedia, any more than someone reading a book in 1984‘s Marxist state would see Winston Smith’s amendments.

And like the print media in 1984, Wikipedia doesn’t have mistakes, falsehoods or even plagiarism. It has something that Winston Smith would immediately recognize – the modern electronic equivalent of memory holes.

Working at the Ministry of Truth

Posted October 30, 2006 by wikipediaisevil
Categories: 1984, George Orwell

One of the pleasures and benefits of the Internet has been the placing of some of the great literary classics online when they become out of copyright. Such a classic is George Orwell’s dark SF novel “1984“.

In 1984, Orwell transports us to another Britain where a totalitarian Marxist regime has taken over perhaps half the world, where there is perpetual war being fought, where there is no freedom of the press, or even much personal freedom, private property is abolished and everything – food, clothes, housing, employment – is provided by an all-powerful One Party State headed by a near-mythical figurehead known only as “Big Brother”.

The anti-hero of the novel is called Winston Smith, a party apparatchik who is a secret dissenter to the rule of Big Brother, and who works at the Ministry of Truth. Like everything else in 1984, official titles are euphemistic since the Ministry of Truth deals with the dissemination of information on behalf of and in the service of the Party, ie its sole products are propaganda and lies.

The first part of Chapter 4 of 1984 deals with the Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth:

With the deep, unconscious sigh which not even the nearness of the telescreen could prevent him from uttering when his day’s work started, Winston pulled the speakwrite towards him, blew the dust from its mouthpiece, and put on his spectacles. Then he unrolled and clipped together four small cylinders of paper which had already flopped out of the pneumatic tube on the right-hand side of his desk.

In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

The speakwrite is obviously a futuristic machine from Orwell’s time that turns speech into typed documents. Memory holes are important, because Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite the past.

One of the ways that the Ruling Party controlled the population was by controlling history, and controlling history meant purging history of the Party’s previous mistakes, making the Party appear all-knowing and therefore invincible. To do so, all documentation previous to changes made by Winston and his co-workers was destroyed in those memory holes.

Why “memory holes” are important in our discussion of Wikipedia will become apparent…

Welcome to Wikipedia is Evil!

Posted October 29, 2006 by wikipediaisevil
Categories: Politics, Wikipedia

This may come as something of a shock, but I believe Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” is evil. Not simply misguided, or in need of a firm helping hand, but evil.

That isn’t to say that most of the contributors to Wikipedia, past or present are evil, because I don’t think they are at all. But they are misguided and they have been betrayed by the Wikimedia Foundation and by Jimbo Wales. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll endeavour to show why that is so.

Wikipedia is not, nor will it ever be, the sum of human knowledge. Wikipedia is a political entity, first and foremost, to prevent the dissemination of knowledge that does not tally with a particular point of view. It does this under the extraordinary guise of representing “a consensus” and a “neutral point of view” (which in wiki-speak is called NPOV). It’s claim to be the largest encyclopedia in English is tendentiously true, but only on the basis of “never mind the quality, feel the width”.

The most important fact about Wikipedia is that it behaves like a political movement, replete with backers, high priests, hangers on, troublemakers and propagandists. Like all political movements, it has its own vocabulary of neologisms which mean virtually nothing outside of Wikipedia, but which are used as instruments of control.

Like other political movements, it has a lot of dissenters as well. I am one of them.


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