Roger L. Simon

'Wikipedia' - use it at your peril

Pajamas Media has a top story up on the current scandal surrounding internet favorite “Wikipedia.” That pseudo-encyclopedia has never been my cup of tea – unsigned open posts are no way to arrive at the truth. I’ll take Dr. Johnson when it comes to encyclopedias any time. At least we know where the information is coming from and can draw our own conclusions. Wikipedia seems to me a free-for-all for propagandists. An example of this is this scurrilous entry about John Siegenthaler that is creating the recent controversy:

“John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960’s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”

No wonder Mr. Siegenthaler was a bit miffed. He wrote in the Nov. 29 USA Today:

I phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder and asked, “Do you … have any way to know who wrote that?”

“No, we don’t,” he said. Representatives of the other two websites said their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia, never checking whether it is false or factual.

Naturally, I want to unmask my “biographer.” And, I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.

It sure is.

Apropos, we at Pajamas Media are having a lot of serious, on-going discussions of how to fact check. We don’t have any answers yet and it’s certainly not an easy thing. We’ll be working on it for some time. But Wikipedia has been an open field for virtually-unchecked character assassination. I think most of us can agree that that is really bad.