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Hillary And Wikipedia Slam Russia – OpEd

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Do you know what Hillary Clinton and Wikipedia have in common? I do. They’re both waging wars of words against Russia. You can hear it in Clinton’s public comments and you can see it in the articles of Wikipedia. The message is clear. It seems the goal is to get Russia and its president no matter what the facts.

But there’s even a more sinisterly suspicious connection between Clinton and Wikipedia.

What is it? Before I reveal that, let’s first examine some of the commonality they share in the wars of words.

Many media reports claim Hillary once said that Vladimir Putin “doesn’t have a soul.” She is also widely quoted comparing Putin with Hitler. HuffPost Alberta reported she said, “Vladimir Putin cherishes a vision of a greater Russia. His goal is to re-Sovietize Russia.”

Maybe she’s right. But she offers no substantiation for her inflammatory claims. And one wonders when she was intimate enough with Putin to see whether he has a soul or for Putin to have confided in her whatever visions he cherishes.

My hunch is that Hillary was just mouthing off with scurrilous allegations on things she really knows nothing about.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia has plenty of equally scurrilous assertions. For example, it quotes British historian Max Hastings describing Putin as “Stalin’s spiritual heir.” Then there’s also the allegation that Putin is a pedophile, and lots more.

These are the same kind of specious allegations heard from Hillary. But Wikipedia has a different modus operandi. Whether factually right or wrong, Hillary at least has the courage to speak her own mind. Wikipedia’s MO is to quote or reference other sources. It claims to use only reliable sources. But from my own careful examination, I’ve found that is a false claim.

Here’s an example I found while writing my book Ukraine in the Crosshairs. One Wiki article states, “The Ukrainian government released photos of soldiers in eastern Ukraine, which the US State Department said showed that some of the fighters were Russian special forces.” Wikipedia references a CNN story.

But CNN was presenting evidence that has been widely discredited. The New York Times had fallen for that same fabricated evidence. Later it humiliatingly had to retract its own front-page story on the subject. Nevertheless, Wikipedia continues to present its fallacious article as though it were factual. Wikipedia’s use of “reliable sources” really just amounts to a case of pseudo-objectivity. It may fool the apathetic reader, but it doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny.

I first discovered reason to suspect Wikipedia’s political agenda while researching an article for Editors Only, a monthly I publish for online and print publication editors. The article’s theme was to be “audience-generated content.” And since Wikipedia is a conspicuous example of such, I invited its representative to share some information on Wikipedia’s experience with audience-generated content. I wrote to the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that hosts Wikipedia and raises funds for it.

The response I got said, “Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate your request due to current time constraints.” It was signed by “Dasha Burns, On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation.”

So I had written to Wikimedia but received a response not from the organization, but by somebody answering on its behalf. I checked the domain name in Burns’ email address. It is “minassianmedia.com.”

Out of curiosity I went to the website at that address. All that’s there is a simple business card–type page with the company name, address, and phone number, plus the descriptive line “Content + Communications.” That’s is the whole website. There’s not a single link.

Still curious, I googled the company name. That brought me to a website of The Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. In a report, it identified the president of Minassian Media as Craig Minassian.

And when I googled his name, what did I find?

He is the chief communications officer at the Clinton Foundation. That’s worth saying again: he is the chief communications officer at the Clinton Foundation. I wondered if this meant the Clinton family has Wikipedia under its thumb.

All this googling was being done early this year, around the time the NBC Brian Williams scandal was a big item. He had been caught exaggerating the danger he was in while visiting a world trouble spot.

I remembered that Hillary Clinton had been caught in a similar imbroglio over her 1996 visit to Bosnia, claiming to have exited her airplane amidst enemy fire. Years later, video emerged that proved her story to be as false as the Williams’ story.

How did the Wikipedia coverage of these similar predicaments compare? I wondered. Here’s what I found: The Williams fib story takes almost 1,000 words to tell. It’s full of clickable links that take you to other sites to substantiate the story.

Hillary’s fib is covered in a mere 40 words. That’s just 4 percent the verbiage devoted to the Williams scandal. And the Clinton coverage seems to really gloss over Hillary’s Bosnia fabrication. This Wikipedia entry has only one footnote. It’s to a book published in 2010. There’s no clickable link to any content. The footnote just gives the authors’ names and the page numbers, not even the name of the book. So it’s like a dead-end reference.

Then I postulated that the great difference in the fib coverage might be a result of the freshness of the Williams story, whereas Hillary’s became news back around 2008. So I checked out another famous fib. It was that of Dan Rather’s when he touted a false story about George W. Bush’s questionable National Guard service. This was from 2004, older than Hillary’s story. It got around 1,000 words in Wikipedia, just like the Williams story. So the short treatment of Hillary’s fib seems to have nothing to do with how far back it was.

Certainly this is not an exhaustive examination of Wikipedia manipulation. But it sure looks suspicious. Do the Clintons hold sway over Wikipedia’s content? Or is there some other explanation?

Wikipedia clearly seems to minimize an embarrassing transgression of Hillary’s and to amplify fabricated defamatory allegations about Russia and its president. Isn’t there anything that can be done about this kind of shenanigan?

Actually, there is something concrete you yourself can do about this troubling situation.

Anyone can become a Wikipedia editor. All you have to do is go to the Wikipedia site and create a free account. Then you will be able to edit existing content and add new material. If you see new information somewhere that is not covered in relevant Wikipedia articles, add it. If you see Wiki content that’s wrong, change it.

Don’t expect this kind of intervention will be a cakewalk, though. Wikipedia has self-appointed gatekeepers. They are people who are experts on Wikipedia’s intricate and confusing rules for editing. And you should expect they will invoke that expertise to obstruct your efforts to introduce truth. One observer remarked, “I have a son who has made a particular correction on a subject in Wikipedia countless times. It is always immediately deleted and returned to the original lie.” It seems to me those Wiki gatekeepers practice a kind of cyberbullying.

In October 2013, MIT’s Technology Review magazine ran an article titled, “The Decline of Wikipedia.” Among its conclusions: “Authoritative entries remain elusive.”

The Wikipedia ideal is that a loose collective of well-intentioned editors will ultimately produce an outstanding encyclopedia. That’s turned out to be a naive notion. It seems never to have contemplated that a loosely connected clique could use Wikipedia to distort the truth in serving their own ends. The result today is simply this: Wikipedia can’t be trusted.


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William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley is a media business analyst and consultant based in New Britain, Connecticut, USA. He works extensively with media organizations in Russia and other post-communist countries, and has advised government leaders on strategies for building press freedom and a healthy media sector. He is a Senior Fellow at the American University in Moscow.

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