This is Wikipedia. These servers give Wikipedia to the world. Nearly half a billion people use them every single month.
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On Wednesday (April 10, 2019) a reader alerted me to the fact that I am being smeared on Wikipedia as a "vocal supporter of the current Russian government and its policies." The reader also reports that an article in the Daily Beast calls me a "Putin worshiper." The reader says that he tried to edit the Wikipedia entry without success, and he urged me to give it my attention.
I do not know whether the person who wrote my Wikipedia entry intended to smear me or is merely uninformed. However, dissenting voices do get smeared on Wikipedia. It is an ongoing problem for many of us. For years readers and people who know me would make corrections to my Wikipedia biography, but as soon as the corrections were made, they would be erased and the smears reinstalled.
The problem with Wikipedia is that it is an idealistic approach based on the belief that truth is more likely to emerge when everyone has a voice than when explanations are provided by a select group of experts or peers. This idealistic approach is not without merit. Moreover, it might work very well with subjects and people who do not have ideological opponents or are of no threat to those intent on controlling explanations.
The problem arises when a subject or a person is controversial and is especially the case if the person's arguments disprove or dissent from official explanations. In The Matrix in which we live, truth-tellers are unwelcome to those who control the explanations in order to advance their agendas. Until truth-tellers can be silenced or completely censured, the practice is to discredit them with smears. Thus, I and many others have been described as "conspiracy theorists" for reporting factual information that contradicts the official and unproven explanation of 9/11, anti-Semites for criticizing Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians and influence over U.S. foreign policy, and as "Russian agents" or "Putin stooges" for keeping the record straight about Ukraine, Syria, and Putin's effort to avoid military conflict with the West.
In the pre-Internet age it was difficult to smear people. Newspaper editors would allow letters to the editor to correct factual mistakes or to provide a different interpretation of a collection of facts, but shied away from smears. This doesn't mean that smears never happened, but not with the abandon of the Internet era.
Open works in process like Wikipedia, Internet comment sections and social media are ideally suited for smearing people and broadcasting the smears worldwide prior to any correction of them. Thus, the digital revolution has been a godsend to government agencies such as the CIA, State Department, Mossad, the Israel Lobby, corporations and other private interest groups, ideological movements such as neoconservatism and Identity Politics, and politicians, all of whom have agendas that are furthered by controlling the explanations.
As money is the highest value for many people, there is an unlimited supply of people who can be hired to smear those who challenge official explanations. A smear can start in a comment section, move to social media, and from there to a website and on to Wikipedia.
It is truth-tellers who are smeared, people such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Manning, and whistleblowers whose messages are inconvenient for powerful private and government interests.
Smears are effective. There is no shortage of gullible and uninformed or misinformed people. They take a smear at face value and avoid the person or idea smeared. Despite the extreme clarity of Julian Assange's orchestrated persecution, many see him as a "rapist escaping justice," "Russian spy," and "a blackmailer of governments and people."
In short mud sticks better than facts. That is why I am not optimistic about the future of truth in the digital age. Many see the digital age as the era when truth will flourish. I understand their case. Their belief is not without merit. But the digital age is also an age in which lies can flourish because, unlike the print age, they can be so easily spread.
Consider, for example, the description of me as a "vocal supporter of the current Russian government and its policies" and a "Putin worshiper." I am a well known critic of the Russian government's neoliberal economic policies. Michael Hudson and I have jointly criticized the Russian government's neoliberal economic policies and demonstrated that they are harmful to Russia's economy. I am known also as a skeptic of Putin's policy of turning the other cheek to Washington's and Israel's aggressions. I appreciate and admire Putin's enormous self-control, but I have expressed concern that Putin's unwillingness to put down a hard foot fails to turn away wrath and instead encourages more aggression that sooner or later will result in thermonuclear war.
The Russian government is aware of my position, as is the Russian media where I am often interviewed. My position is also clearly expressed on my website, which is read internationally. So why does the Daily Beast and Wikipedia misrepresent my position?
Wikipedia and comment sections can work only if commentators are responsible people who are carefully monitored by knowledgeable and responsible monitors. But this takes us back to peer-reviewed explanations that Wikipedia was created to avoid.
Historically, messengers are killed, so truth tellers have to expect smears or worse -- Julian Assange was arrested yesterday morning inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Mankind is fallen. Governments do evil. The most evil is done to those who oppose evil. Truth cannot be told without cost to he who tells the truth.