[Marxism] Wikipedia

Lance Murdoch lancemurdoch at gmail.com
Thu May 5 09:52:46 MDT 2005

On 5/5/05, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> http://slate.msn.com/id/2117942/
> Wikipedia is a real-life Hitchhiker's Guide: huge, nerdy, and imprecise.
> LA Times, May 4, 2005
> Wikipedia: See 'Information,' 'Amazing,' 'Anarchy'

Wikipedia is run by a conservative Ayn Rand worshipping millionaire,
Jimbo Wales.  Leftist users, and even administrators, are regularly
purged one way or another.  Long-time left-wing administrator 172 just
left after frustration and multiple "trials".  As far as users like
the British Trotskyist Secretlondon, she was personally driven off by
Jimbo Wales himself.  Which is not to mention all of the left-wing
users regularly kicked off.

It's a judgement whether it's worth it to contribute to Wikipedia, and
from my long and involved experience with it, I'd say it usually is
not worth the effort.  One sign of this is the cliques - there is a
well-organized right-wing clique, including many admins, while there
is no left-wing clique at all, because the left-wing users who become
well known get driven off by isolation and frustration.  Your best
hope is being ignored.

I've been fighting on the Khmer Rouge page since 2003 and it still
looks like garbage.  Wikipedia has a "neutral point of view" clause
which one can appeal to when one is trying to make a neutral article. 
In my mind neutrality would be the same act done by different actors
being portrayed in the same light.  In practice this rarely is adhered

If one looks at the page despite the fights -  first of all Khmer
Rouge isn't even the name of an organization, it's a slur like
Vietcong or zipperhead or Charlie or Shining Path or commie.

Then the second paragraph begins "The Khmer Rouge regime is remembered
mainly for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, through
execution, starvation and forced labor."  As someone familiar with
this I'd say the key word is estimate.  The main method scholars have
used to get this number is going by censuses - subtract the 1979
population from the 1975 one and there you go.  Problems arise though
- no census of Cambodia had been taken since 1962.  Then, on top of
trying to base the 1975 number on the 1962 one, the question of how
many Cambodians were killed directly or indirectly due to American
bombs up until 1975 has to be answered.  Thrown into this is
subtracting the 1979 number from the 1975 one doesn't work because
there were a lot of refugees from Cambodia in neighboring countries,
so that has to be estimated as well.  Along with the possibility that
the birth rate dropped between 1975 and 1979 (or even 1970 and 1975,
since the 1975 population is a wild guess).

Let's look at the lead sentence in the first parapraph: "The
Indochinese Communist Party was founded in 1931, and a separate
Cambodian Communist Party was founded in 1951, although later the
Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, insisted that the party was founded in
1960." So it is stated encyclopediacally, that 1951 was when the party
was founded, not 1960.  Thus it takes one side over the other in a
dispute about what happened in that Phnom Penh train station in 1960,
although clearly the person who does this has no direct insights into
which side is telling the truth.

And it goes on - I use this page as an example since I've been
fighting about this on this page since 2003 and this is the result. 
That's why I like Anarchopedia, I've put the page I want at


In a short time I had the page I wanted, instead of wasting two years
fighting to get a mess.  It's probably more worth it to contribute to
wikis like Anarchopedia, and Infoshop's OpenWiki (as well as
Sourcewatch, Demopedia and Dkosopedia) than Wikipedia.  I would love
to translate an uncopyrighted Great Soviet Encyclopedia to one of
these left-wing wiki encyclopedias.  And of course, in the wiki
format, erase all of the "The Communist party of Greece, following the
shining example of the leader of the communist world, the great
Communist Party of the Soviet Union" and all of that nonsense.  The
GSE gives a good basis for articles though, which one can then work

I tell left-wing Wikipedians they should at least partially contribute
to Anarchopedia and/or Infoshop's OpenWiki. They usually don't, and
instead get into fights they're going to lose on Wikipedia, and after
a few months give up in frustration and don't contribute to any wiki
encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is a great mechanism for wasting the time of
left-wingers, it's sort of like the Democratic Party.

More information about the Marxism mailing list