Wikipedia: The Argument for Banning Citations

Originally posted by Real History Lisa on 02/20/07

Since everyone else here has presented a “pro-Wikipedia” argument, I feel compelled to present the rest of the story. I believe impassionedly the control of information is a goal to those who would subvert our independence, and Wikipedia enables, rather than impedes, that goal.

I agree with all those who recommend Wikipedia as a starting point. But I disagree strongly with anyone and everyone who suggests it’s okay to end with Wikipedia.

For support of my view, just search Google news:

Cornell Profs Slam Use of Wikipedia:

Prof. Aaron Sachs, history, said Wikipedia should be used with caution in research.

“I tell my students that Wikipedia is sometimes a decent option for a getting a basic overview,” he said. “But even then it takes a lot of practice to recognize when an entry might be more or less reliable.

In UCLA’s Daily Bruin, we learn:

Many educators agree … that Wikipedia is a valuable place to start research, but should not be treated as an authoritative source.

The history department at Middlebury College in Vermont announced a policy last week forbidding students from citing Wikipedia articles in research papers, said Middlebury history Professor Neil Waters. The policy states that “Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, even though it may lead one to a citable source.”

And what does Wikipedia’s OWN COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER SAY?

“Wikipedia is a great resource for students to get a good overview of a topic, but it should not be cited in papers or exams since it is not an authoritative source,” said Sandy Ordonez, communications manager for Wikipedia.

In answer to the question posed by Prospect Magazine in the UK, “Left and right defined the 20th century. What’s next?”, distinguished critic and novelist A S Byatt responded:

We will be governed by a kind of consensus populism-beliefs, ideas and policies that arise on blogs, websites, focus groups and so on. (Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their candidacies on the web.) This has its appeal. It is also frightening, as Tocqueville found American democracy, because it leads to tyranny of the majority. It goes with vast quantities of not wholly accurate information- Wikipedia is splendid and maddening.

All the above is assuming a completely innocent world, where people want to share correct information and are just fallible. But that’s not even the right model for the world. Imagine the following scenario.

The same group that has controlled the print media and the publishing media in an effort to ensure secret history never reaches the public becomes ecstatic. I’m not talking about all of history. I’m talking about specific events that, if properly exposed, could cause a revolution in the way we think, act, and ultimately, in the kind of government we’d choose. Revolutionary history, such as who was really behind the Kennedy assassination, for example.

Now, to control history, they only need to control a single source: Wikipedia.

The group I’m referring to is the CIA, and this is not really an imagined scenario. Check out Carl Bernstein’s 16-page article in the October 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. Guess what? It’s not online. You miss a huge portion of history if you limit yourself to what’s online.

Separately, find a copy of the Pike Report. It’s not online either. It’s hard to find. Why? Because the CIA doesn’t want you to find it:

On 19th January, 1976, Pike sent the final draft of a 338 page report to the CIA. Mitchell Rogovin, the CIA’s Special Counsel for legal affairs, responded with a scalding attack on the report. He complained that the report was an “unrelenting indictment couched in biased, pejorative and factually erroneous terms.” He also told Searle Field, staff director of the House Select Committee: “Pike will pay for this, you wait and see….There will be a political retaliation.. We will destroy him for this.”

Rogovin’s threat proved true. Pike’s career was ended by his pursuit of the truth about intelligence activities, and especially activities involving the control of the media. And the CIA has never showed that any data in there was inaccurate. Just inconvenient.

I have a copy of the report. In there, you’ll find essentially the result of a constitutional crisis: When the Pike Committee, the House Select committee established to investigate the CIA’s domestic abuses, they ultimately came to the conclusion that the CIA was able to get away with so much because they controlled the press. When our elected officials, charged legally with oversight over the CIA, demanded the names of the CIA’s acknowledged 400 media assets (as opposed to the ones they’d never acknowledge), the CIA refused. They claimed their right to secrecy superceded Congress’s right to oversight. A compromise was brokered, but essentially, the CIA won.

In addition, a member of the CIA, now dead, told me the CIA employs groups of people to buy up books to take them out of circulation. They enlisted rooms of people to watch all channels on TV, with 24-hour coverage, to look for ‘objectionable’ material so they can counter it and dissuade that media outlet from continuing with such “attacks” as the Agency saw it.

The CIA has put its own people on the radio to persuade us. Several “former” employees have become noted radio hosts. (“Former” is a term one can’t use, because the secrecy oath is lifelong. Once you join the CIA, the only way to really leave it is by death.)

So regarding Wikipedia, we’re up against a formidable enemy. The CIA can afford to employ people fulltime to “watch” for changes to these articles. And there are multiple precedents as to why and how they’d do this. By centralizing history, we’ve made its modification by those who would control us easier, not harder.

For all these reasons, I am very much in favor of a ban on citing Wikipedia as a final authority on any subject here or anywhere. I personally will not recognize anything cited from Wikipedia alone as “fact,” and will continue to consider those who stop there lazy. It’s a starting place, NOT a destination. And if it becomes people’s destination on a widespread scale, God help us all.

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