Friday, December 30, 2011

Wikipedia Bias

Yeah, that could be a whole category on a blog, couldn't it? There was a Ferdinand Marcos link on the Wikipedia main page today. I come from a Marcos-hating era, of course, as his declaration of martial law occurred while I was liberal, and his fall from power occurred when I was apolitical. In the end, I recalled, even the American conservatives dropped him as just too corrupt and too vicious, however reliably anticommunist he was. So I still had extreme negative associations with Marcos.

Yet I recalled a doctor from the Philippines, Melicio Flores, who I had worked with during the 80's and 90's at the hospital. I recall him being very anti-Marcos, pro-Aquino, but also annoyed at some of the posturing his countrymen were doing back home. Something along the lines of They forget how they cheered him then, early on. He did some good things early on, that they benefited from but don't talk about now. Many of the families that are against him now made a lot of their money by being his friends. And they forget how dangerous his enemies were. Still, Dr. Flores was glad to see him go. Fifteen years early would have been fine with him.

Thus, I thought it a good time to read up on Ferdinand and Imelda, to see what good things had been accomplished, however roughly, that might moderate my negative opinion of him.

Apparently there were none. According to Wikipedia there was nothing redeeming about him ever, other than being clever. And American involvement in the Philippines was likewise entirely without virtue until the day that Reagan belatedly cast Marcos aside. I'm going to bet that's not true. Not that I doubt any of the accusations they make against him. I expect that they are sourced and accurate.

I also expect that the account is slanted enough to be deceitful. Perhaps not. Perhaps he really was a Ceausescu, a Saddam, a Stalin, whose virtues were so insignificant as to no longer bear mentioning. Yet is should be noted even with those comparisons that Saddam and Ceausescu started off pretty reasonably those first few years.


karrde said...


Does the same effect hold for Augusto Pinochet?

I have noticed that Wiki articles on climate--even historical climate events like the Medieval Optimum and Little Ice Age--steer away from much comment on modern climate science.

Texan99 said...

I like to use Wikipedia for a quick orientation on completely uncontroversial subjects such as unfamiliar species, unusual geographical formations, or the filmography of a favorite actor. If you stray into history, economics, or politics on that site, you get a steaming pile.

Gringo said...

What Texan99 said. Wikipedia is good for at least two things: 1) information on uncontroversial subjects or 2) to find a quick link for a fact you want to know (MUCH easier than Google for this.)

On controversial subjects, Wikipedia's content can easily be driven by contributors with an agenda. One time I had posted on some blog some information on Venezuela- I believe it was the murder rate. I used Wikipedia as a source.

I used Wikipedia as a source- which was documented. Several hours after I posted on the blog, the information disappeared from Wikipedia.

(Thugo's government has not been forthcoming on murder rates since the exponential increase in murders in Venezuela does not reflect well on his regime, making such information more difficult to find than for a normal country. Many Venezuelan newspaper stories on murder rates are based on the slip of a tongue of a Chavista official- who after he lets fly the statistic, realizes he should not have revealed it.)

Gringo said...

Another amusing Wiki policy is that Wiki will sometimes delete a contribution with the reason that the contribution was pure pedantry
- just copied from an attributed source,with no original contribution. I have seen this reasoning used for controversial subjects.

This is very selective reasoning on the part of Wikipedia editors, as it is very easy to find articles in Wikipedia that are just pure copies from another acknowledged source.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"Selective" is the operative word. They treat some biased sources as obviously legitimate, others as not acceptable, and the difference is largely one of perception, dependent on political persuasion.

As a consequence, uncomfortable ideas can be shrugged off, while comfortable opinions can be put forward.