Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Anarchy of Wikipedia

Michael J. Lewis makes a fair point about Wikipedia: we have all used it as a short-cut from time to time, and, provided that information from it is checked and cross-referenced, it has its legitimate uses. But he does not go far enough in commenting on its accuracy.

The site is the repository not merely of inaccuracy but of disinformation on a vast scale. It is a minefield for those whom Nietzsche called “die Halbgebildeten,” the half-educated. According to Tom Gross, Wikipedia recently deleted an entry that claimed “the bones of Palestinian children” were one of five ingredients used by Jews to make unleavened bread for Passover. Though the editors promised to be more vigilant in the future, it is troubling that an Islamist version of this ancient anti-Semitic blood libel could be posted on this most popular of online resources for any length of time at all.

By chance, I discovered that the entry about me also included hostile, anonymously authored material. At my request, it was removed without question by the editors of Wikipedia. But what if I had not noticed it, or had been dead or otherwise unable to lodge a protest?

I am alarmed by the notion that authoritative reference works such as Britannica have been replaced by a “people’s encyclopedia” based on a primitive form of epistemological and moral relativism. Some people know more than others, and works of reference are there to disseminate the knowledge of the few to the many. In the realm of truth, Wikipedia has replaced democracy with anarchy.