Here is an interesting discussion between journalist Glenn Greenwald and Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, on how the latter has become little more than a crude propaganda platform.
Sanger has been putting this message out for several years, but like most truth now, a majority of people still have no idea that Wikipedia is anything other than an unbiased source of information. Even earlier this year, or perhaps last, responding to some such accusation of bias, the anchor of The Hill opined that whilst Facebook is unreliable, Wikipedia usually gets it right. Wrong, when the subject is controversial.
Greenwald’s disillusion came firstly from seeing how his own Wikipedia entry gradually morphed, at around the time he began to criticise the political Establishment, from being a pretty accurate picture of his life and career, to being a thinly veiled hit piece. Actually, his page looks reasonably innocuous now, but who knows what changes he’s managed to secure and how? In the video he points out a number of instances of how dissenters against mainstream narratives are vilified as “conspiracy theorists”, “far right” and so on, how they have been debunked (even when the “debunking” was some social media post from a nonentity lacking any evidence), and how even direct lies have been inserted, and not removed despite objections.
The same goes for versions of events that go against the political Establishment tide. On a subject like the lab-leak theory of COVID, terms like “conspiracy theory” are tossed around, little or no evidence supporting for the theory are given, and the impression is left that nearly all responsible scientists favour the natural origin theory. The FOA and whistleblower revelations of a cover-up, and even the MSM articles and intelligence sources indicating a laboratory origin, are not mentioned.
On the other hand, supporters of the political Establishment are given laudatory treatment, and even proven instances of lying or corruption are omitted.
Sanger concurs with Greenwald that this problem has become rampant in the last few years, and they also agree that the dividing line is not between “left” and “right” political views, but between those supporting the Deep State, and those questioning its narratives. Though not stressed in the video, the disclosures in the Twitter Files confirm that government agencies, particularly intelligence groups, have infiltrated not only social media, but also Wikipedia. It seems there are full-time teams of people making sure that, on controversial political issues, Wikipedia pushes the desired viewpoint hard, and crudely demonises their opponents. And so the introduction of the article on Robert F. Kennedy, Jnr. begins:
He is known for advocating anti-vaccine misinformation and public health–related conspiracy theories,as well as environmental protection, especially of rivers and other bodies of water. He is a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2024 presidential election.
Since 2005, he has promoted the scientifically discredited claim of a link between vaccines and autism, and is founder and chairman of Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine advocacy group. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy has emerged as a leading proponent of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in the United States. Much of Kennedy’s public health criticisms and writings have targeted prominent figures such as Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and Joe Biden.
I’ve no doubt that this technique works for millions of mid-wits. Hearing on CNN that RFK, whom they maybe quite liked when they heard him speak, is actually a mad conspiracy theorist, they do their (minimal) homework by looking in the encyclopedia – and don’t get past the first two paragraphs that show CNN was right. In his case, it hasn’t stopped him surging in the polls, but it’s surely effective for less-known people, like journalists. You read a piece on, say, the Syrian chemical weapons fraud, and find in the author’s Wikipedia article that she’s a conspiracy theorist debunked by X,Y, Z and the BBC and accused of being paid by Putin by some think-tank. Whilst your belief in the authority of Wikipedia lasts (and it’s always at the top of your Google search, so who could doubt it?), you are kept nicely in step with the official line.
To me, though, an interesting detail of this discussion was that Sanger began to “smell a rat” much earlier, noticing in the late noughties, that such character assassination was happening, but not to political figures. The rot began, in Sanger’s estimation, when the censors were not government-infiltrated apologists for the Deep State, but people promoting scientism (Sanger’s own label) against people they considered to be dangerous pseudo-scientists. Sanger instances scientists opposing the global warming alarm. But I was aware, in the 2010s, of the same fate befalling Intelligent Design proponents, and other scientific dissidents like Rupert Sheldrake.
Here the epithets were “pseudoscience” rather than “conspiracy theory,” but the techniques were texactly he same. The use of pejoratives like “Creationist” and “debunked” at the head of the article, the omission of seriously good qualifications up to the level of Nobel Prize nominations, and basically any tittle-tattle that would discredit the offender not only as a scientist, but as a human being. This, as Sheldrake in particular documented, was accompanied by the full-time activity of biased editors in removing any corrections as soon as they appeared until the victim gave up correcting from sheer exhaustion (and the need to work!). All this was done with the support of the powers-that-be at Wikipedia, just as is now the case for broadly political figures.
It worked – I’m sure many a denigration of ID at BioLogos was fuelled by Wikipedia hints that the whole thing was an attempt to create a Fundamentalist Theocracy. And those believing the spin were intelligent people.
The ideology at work during those years seems most plausibly to have been the New Atheist movement, whose proponents perennially proved how “bright” they were (remember when “Brights” were the thing?) by showing their philosophical and theological ignorance and mocking those who thought more deeply than they did. Occasionally some smart-arse would even drop in here, post an ill-informed insult about “god” or “sky fairies” and not stick around to think. It was easy to imagine a small teenage army of such dinosaur positivists, inspired by Jerry Coyne or Larry Moran and unemployed after a biology degree, making it their mission to take over Wikipedia for Richard Dawkins from their bedrooms.
The question Sanger’s observation raises for me, now that New Atheism has died the inevitable death, is whether US Intelligence got the idea for making Wikipedia “the most biased encyclopaedia in the world,” from these adolescent keyboard warriors, and decided to use it to govern the world; whether with the demise of the Brights all those teenagers got employed by the CIA in the same capacity, with new targets but still urging that everyone “Follow the Science”; or whether in some way the scientism movement and the progressive politics were always part of the same campaign by the same shadowy figures to the same ends.
What do you think?