This post was submitted by The Review’s resident Newshound, Kato.
The latest discussions on Wikipedia Review regarding Holocaust denial and Wikipedia - have served the purpose of triggering some reflections on my part on the nature of history, and the threat that Wikipedia’s model provides to our understanding of the past.
Some time ago I spent a period analyzing holocaust denial as an example of how history and truth is impacted by the distance of time. Since the end of the war, holocaust survivors and others have consciously stressed the importance of personal, lucid testimonies to counter what they rightly predicted would be a gradual debasing of truth. The level of diligence to this noble premise is quite unique. Spielberg’s Shoah foundation is just one of many examples.
Despite the Holocaust becoming an ever more intensely politicized subject encompassing the left and right, the guardians of the many testimonies have managed to hold onto the truth; and though skirmishes continue to rage here and there, there is almost no dispute in the Western world over the central events. Which remains a great achievement.
What is worrying, however, is the role Wikipedia will play in the debasing of history and truth on many other complex subjects. Having seen the tribulations Holocaust survivors and historians have had to endure to hold onto truth, before WP’s “democratization of knowledge”, it is difficult to imagine how truths will fare after Jimbo’s grand folly has put them through it’s mangle. The Holocaust on Wikipedia is reasonably well protected, due in large part to international court cases regarding the historiography of the events, which have established central tenets. Other less well-defined historical episodes remain in constant jeopardy.
These are serious issues and serious problems that face Wikipedia. We’re constantly told by Wikipedia zealots that “WP is not interested in the truth”. Well I am. And I remain unconvinced that Jimmy Wales has any of the credentials needed to ensure that these issues get played out to the benefit of human knowledge. The net result of Wikipedia is becoming increasingly apparent. It is atomizing truth to the level where it is in danger of losing all meaning.