Wikipedia, answer this:
Does the consensus of the mob trump truth?

February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Those perpetrating the attacks on the Wikipedia entries of Bob Avakian (BA) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA have tried to hide their political opposition behind a smokescreen, citing (on the Wikipedia “Talk” pages) phony reasons for their malicious edits and pointing to certain Wikipedia guidelines and procedures which they have cherry-picked and misused to justify what they are doing. Beyond the obvious problem of political censorship, a fundamental question is also raised here: What is Wikipedia’s approach to standards of truth as reflected in their editing rules and practice which give room not only for such political censorship, but for lies and actual distortions of the truth?

The practices and rationalizations of Wikipedia editors have included:

» Deleting huge sections of the entry, charging that material which is undeniably factual, accurate, written in a neutral manner, and backed up with numerous supporting references, is somehow not presented with a “neutral point of view” (a Wikipedia requirement) and is instead a political “soapbox” presentation. What is the logic here? Would an entry on Einstein that highlights his theory on relativity be a “soapbox” presentation or would it be a factual representation of Einstein’s intellectual thinking on crucial questions of physics? Similarly, if an entry on Bob Avakian—the foremost communist thinker in the world today—accurately outlines his thinking on revolution and communist theory, isn’t this precisely what such a biographical entry should do? Clearly, by bringing this so-called political “soapbox” argument into play, these Wikipedia editors are revealing their personal political motivations and not only their objections to the content of the Bob Avakian entry, but also their hostility to BA and what he represents.

» Deleting almost all references to BA’s works (claiming these are not acceptable references) while at the same time replacing them with references which are extremely dubious by any standard to bolster lies and slander. Some of the sources that they rely on are in fact notorious right-wing or anti-communist authors.

» Claiming that BA is somehow not notable enough to deserve a substantive Wikipedia entry and based on this “pronouncement,” actually deleting most of the entry so that it is now one-eighth of its original length. First, based on what authority does some random “editor” have the right to hand down such a judgment? Second and more to the point, it is an indisputable fact that since the 1960s, BA has been a well-known, albeit very controversial, communist leader and theoretician. Let’s call this out for what it is—an attempt at political censorship by “air brushing” an actual revolutionary leader with a very notable history and deep and wide-ranging body of work off the “pages” of Wikipedia.

» All of this is justified, according to this handful of “editors” who have ganged up to attack and vandalize the entries on Bob Avakian and the RCP, by their claim that this somehow represents the “consensus” of Wikipedia editors. It is beyond the scope of this article to deeply interrogate the policy of Wikipedia regarding standards related to having truthful content on the website, but there is an elephant in the room here: Is it the official policy of Wikipedia that “mob” editing of this type done under the banner of “consensus” trumps facts and truth?

Not only has this mob editing resulted in the gutting of what once was a truthful and objective biography of Bob Avakian, but distortions and lies have been deliberately inserted into the entry and are being legitimized by Wikipedia in the name of consensus. When outright factual inaccuracies are pointed out, the Wikipedia decision is that these actual inaccuracies should remain because a so-called consensus of “editors” says so.

Keep in mind that at Wikipedia, anyone can call him or herself an editor without needing to meet any qualifications. These “editors” have clearly shown that they are people who know nothing about Bob Avakian and have not studied his life and the body of work he has done since the 1960s. On what basis could they possibly have standing to completely rewrite this biographical entry?

Furthermore, why should anyone give credence to what is posted on Wikipedia (which millions of people do) when Wikipedia’s method of deciding what is true relies on the concept of consensus that legitimizes mob editing, such as was done to the BA and RCP entries, by editors who 1) know nothing about the subject matter they are editing; and 2) in this case clearly are not basing themselves on a “neutral point of view,” but instead on their opposition to BA and their anti-communist prejudices against what he represents?

Finally, to take Wikipedia’s policy on editorial “consensus” and follow it to its logical conclusion: If the original authors of the BA/RCP entries recruited a bunch of supporters to post as editors on Wikipedia and back the original entries, should the fact that they now outnumber the vandals be what decides what is true? Of course not.

This type of an approach to truth, essentially “might makes right,” is truly dangerous and should not be tolerated on Wikipedia.

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