The following letter was published on June 4 in New York’s The Jewish Week:
by Gilead Ini
We at CAMERA aren’t the only ones to notice Wikipedia’s serious shortcomings (“Latest Front In Mideast Wars: Wikipedia,” May 16). The Web site’s co-founder, Larry Sanger, feels that “[Wikipedia] is part anarchy, part mob rule. The people with the most influence in the community are the ones who have the most time on their hands — not necessarily the most knowledgeable….” (Sanger eventually left the project, blaming its “poisonous social or political atmosphere,” to start a competing online encyclopedia called Citizendium, where he printed the above criticism.) Robert McHenry, a former editor in chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, went even farther, saying in “The Truth About Wikipedia,” a documentary that ran on Dutch public television, that “I couldn’t see how [Wikipedia] could be represented as an encyclopedia …. It’s like nothing so much as a great game. It’s the encyclopedia game, played online.” It is the source of “some very, very bad stuff,” he added.
Much of that “bad stuff” is on articles about the Middle East conflict, which are often skewed by dogmatic anti-Israel editors who have found an easy and extremely influential venue to bash the Jewish state. There’s no easy answer to the question of how to fix these problems. One hope is that if more fair-minded people participate in the experiment, the influence of the less fair-minded can be reduced. For this reason, we’ve urged our members to learn about, and edit, Wikipedia for accuracy.
Tellingly, those who volunteered to improve Wikipedia’s often-unreliable articles on the Middle East were themselves targeted for criticism by partisans who seem to prefer the Wikipedian status quo, including the pro-Palestinian Electronic Intifada and the bigoted David Duke.
Joining them was Gershom Gorenberg, who was quoted in The Jewish Week echoing Electronic Intifada’s criticisms. Gorenberg, it seems, has not forgiven CAMERA for exposing serious errors and distortions in CNN’s “God’s Warriors” series with Christiane Amanpour, in which he played a prominent role. It seems to have irked him that CNN edited the program and rebroadcast it with most of the serious factual errors identified by CAMERA redressed.
In his current attack, Gorenberg seems more concerned with hitting back at CAMERA than with thoughtfully looking at the situation. In a revealing example, he calls CAMERA “duplicitous” for urging volunteers to select a Wikipedia login that differs from their actual names. What he doesn’t tell his readers is that, in fact, Wikipedia itself emphatically urges the same practice. Far from being duplicitous, we were merely relaying Wikipedia’s own advice to new members.
But the key issue isn’t CAMERA or Gorenberg. It is Wikipedia, which, although it is one of the largest and most influential sites on the Web, can be turned into a propaganda vehicle by anyone with an agenda, a computer and some spare time.
Senior Research Analyst