The Problem With Wikipedia and the Digital Revolution

By Paul Craig Roberts

Yesterday (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 check 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 knowledgable 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 this 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.

When I speak of truth-tellers, I am speaking of people whose motive is to tell the truth. Truth is their agenda. I am not saying that truth tellers are infallible and always right. I am saying that they strive to be. They do not intentionally write falsehoods and mislead.

Truth is not opinion. It is pointless to tell a truth teller that you disagree with him. You can present a case that his facts are wrong. You can present a case that there is a better explanation of the facts.

In my experience when most people say they disagree, they mean that they prefer another explanation that is more congenial to their feelings and emotions. For example, many Americans believed the preposterous Russiagate fib because they dislike Trump, just as today conservative talk radio has adopted the official explanation of 9/11 because it can be used against the outspoken female Muslim member of Congress. The facts have nothing to do with either belief. In both cases, the facts are resisted because the truth is not as emotionally comforting or as useful for the agenda at hand as the lie.

I have no objection if readers undertake to monitor and correct the account presented of me in Wikipedia. It will be an ongoing process, and will require the commitment of many of you. Those behind the attacks on me have a lot of money and a lot of hirelings, and they can erase your work as soon as you finish.

The digital revolution and the control mechanisms it provides makes it far more likely that we will end up in a locked down dystopia than would ever have been possible in the print age. But the digital revolution represents perhaps an even greater threat to humanity. It is making humans redundant.

What are humans to do when everything is automated? If the tech nerds have their way, we soon won’t be allowed to drive cars.

What will humans do when there is no need for their labor? Boston Dynamics, a Waltham Massachusettes company, has come up with a robot that replaces warehouse workers. The prediction is that 40 million more Americans will be shoved out of the workforce by robots over the next ten years.

Has anyone thought about who is going to be employed and have the money to purchase the products of robots? No doubt we will be promised all kinds of new and better jobs like we were promised to take the place of the offshored manufacturing and professional service jobs. The promised jobs never showed up. And no, this is not a luddite argument. Everyone can’t be employed designing robots to replace humans.

Each warehouse will rush to increase its profits by laying off employees, and none will consider the aggregate effect on consumer demand for the products in the warehouses. Will the warehouses have to give back their gained profits in taxes to support the unemployed? Will the warehouses have any profits if people haven’t income from jobs with which to buy the products in the warehouses? Does the robot age mean profits have to be socialized in order to sustain human life?

An intelligent approach to technology would be to focus on technology that enhances human performance, not on technology that eliminates the need for humans.

At Stanford University technology has emerged, or is emerging, that permits real time changes in the movements of a person’s mouth as he speaks in order to broadcast a message different than the one the speaker is speaking. The mischief possible with this technology is unacceptable. Television could destroy any unwelcome politician or leader by showing him delivering a message designed to destroy him. If people catch on, it would mean the end of televised speeches as no one would believe any speech unless they were present in person.

People already find it challenging to comprehend reality. The emergence of technology capable of falsifying reality in real time presages a future in which fact and fiction become indistinguishable. The unintended consequence of this technology may well be the death of truth.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

MORE NEWS

MIDDLE EAST

Attack in Iraq kills 5

Land mine blast kills 3 children in southern Syria

Damascus reserves right to retake occupied Golan Heights by any means: Official

Yemen holds mass funeral for children killed by Saudi Arabia

War on Yemen: Court hears challenge to UK’s decision to license arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Silver or lead? – “accept this money or get shot”: Jamal Khashoggi’s son issues strange statement absolving Saudi crown prince and promising justice will be done

Erdogan Calls for Annulment of Istanbul Elections

PR agency takes credit for hidden cameras at Arab polling stations: Brags it led to lowest level of Arab turnout ‘seen in recent years!

Netanyahu’s next coalition: Annexation for immunity from indictment: The new Netanyahu regime will have two main goals: Get rid of the indictments looming in his future, and annex the settlements to Israel, in coordination with the Trump administration

U.S. Denies Entry To Leader Of Movement To Boycott Israel

Rand Paul to Mike Pompeo: You don’t have Congress’ “permission” to go to war with Iran

Iraq will be no starting point for action against neighbors, Salih assures Iran

Egypt withdraws from U.S.-led anti-Iran security initiative – sources

AFRICA

France and Mali troops kill 30 militants in major counter-terrorism operation near Burkina Faso border

Egypt says security forces kill 11 militants in Sinai

Plane shot down in Libya: UNICEF has announced that half a million children are at risk if violence continues in Libya, as rebels led by former CIA asset Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar march on Tripoli and shoot down a government plane.

Europe split over how to respond to Haftar assault on TripoliFrance blocked draft EU resolution condemning warlord and calling for his retreat from Libyan capital

Who is Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s CIA-linked rogue general-turned-warlord?In 1990, under a CIA-sponsored deal with Kenya, Haftar moved to the United States, where he and hundreds of his paramilitary soldiers received citizenship.

Sudan Spokesman: 11 Killed in Protests Including 6 ‘State Forces’

Sudan military coup topples ruler after protests: After nearly 30 years in power, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested, the defence minister says.

Protesters in Sudan celebrate end of Bashir’s rule – in pictures

US continues boming Somalia since admitting civilian casualties

ASIA

Taliban allegedly shoots down US B-52 heavy bomber

‘Shameful’: Trump Admin Revokes ICC Prosecutor’s Visa Over Probe of Potential US War Crimes in Afghanistan

North Korea warns of ´catastrophic consequences´ if F-35s are delivered to South Korea

India to purchase new Russian T-90 tanks amid ongoing conflict with Pakistan

Watch: Modi ‘reckless’ in Kashmir Arundhati Roy speaks about Kashmir, nuclear war, fake news

EUROPE

Brexit: UK and EU agree Brexit delay to 31 October

Ukrainian comic will WIN presidential election by huge margin, shock poll shows

GLOBE

UK court finds Assange guilty of skipping bail

Breaking: Trump says he ‘knows nothing about Wikileaks’ after arrest of Assange: Trump, who said he loved WikiLeaks during his election campaign, tried to distance himself from the arrest of Julian Assange.

Watch: Donald Trump: “I love WikiLeaks!”

Live Updates: Assange Faces 5 Years in Jail in US for Hacking

Assange may risk torture in United States, his lawyer says

Pursued for ‘exposing evidence of US atrocities’: Corbyn opposes extradition of Assange

Watch: Wikileaks editor-in-chief holds presser on new criminal case involving Julian Assange

With Ecuador’s Cooperation Bought by IMF Loans, Washington Waxes Optimistic on Assange Extradition

Spanish police ‘recover Julian Assange surveillance footage’; Material that originated from Ecuadorian embassy was reportedly offered for sale

New Leak Reveals Google Manually Manipulates News Blacklist

Climate Change Is Already Battering This West African CityHome to nearly 300,000 people, Saint-Louis, Senegal, is seeing houses destroyed, streets flooded, and crops killed by encroaching saltwater.

AMERICAS

Pence says US wants Maduro out and ‘all options’ on table

Castro: Cuba won’t abandon Venezuela despite US blackmail

Trudeau Admin Hides Asylum-Limiting Policy in Budget Bill

Trump says he will have to call up more military at U.S.-Mexico border

Trump laments that US troops can’t get “rough” with migrants at the border: The president is saddened by the fact that the military can’t be more “rough” with migrants coming to America.

Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.: If my nephew’s ideas on immigration had been in force a century ago, our family would have been wiped out.

Julián Castro Got Off Easy for Ethics Trouble in the Last Presidential Campaign: Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro violated a federal law while campaigning for Hillary Clinton, but the Obama administration chose not to fine or reprimand him.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire continues it’s outrageous and Islamophobic attacks on Ilhan Omar

John Bolton Took Money From Banks Tied To Cartels, Terrorists, Iran: National Security Advisor John Bolton had accepted money from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Deutsche Bank and HSBC to return for his participation in speeches and panel discussions.

Former Obama legal counsel Greg Craig expected to be indicted in Mueller case: He would be the first prominent Democrat to be charged as part of special counsel Mueller’s team’s 22-month probe.

Treasury misses congressional deadline for turning over Trump’s tax returns

Trump moves to ease barriers to natural gas pipeline construction

Michael Avenatti charged with stealing millions from clients to pay for his coffee business and jet

SHARE THIS POST