Free Speech

Wikipedia? They Should Call it ‘Wicked-pedia’

At the risk of seeming self-obsessed, I would like to share with readers the latest installment of my adventures in Wikipedialand.  I have been blocked as an editor and have appealed my sentence.  What follows, while it might seem trivial, comes with a larger and more important message: conservatives are losing the big battles because we are too easily concede the little ones.

Let me begin by pointing readers to the previous two recountings of my battles with the gatekeepers who have made what should be an invaluable resource into a collection of authorised leftist narratives and, with few exceptions, only leftist narratives. ‘Something Wiki this Way Comes‘ begins the saga, with ‘Tell the Truth, Get Wikiwhacked’ the second installment. What follows are e3xcerpts from the subsequent to and fro.

Before that, however, I draw readers’ attention to Wikipedia’s pleas for donations and hope that any tempted to dig into their wallets will think twice. Wikipedia’s stated goals are noble — the free and frank relaying of information, with group consensus shaping the final product via discussion and agreed-upon revisions. The thing is, though, you can’t have anything resembling a reasoned debate when those in charge apply the gag to opinions and hard facts that don’t match their ideology.

As background, I wrote a book, Bitter Harvest, critiquing Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which can be ordered here.  In late 2020 I noticed that the Dark Emu section in the Wikipedia article on Bruce Pascoe lacked a reference to my critique, so in my naivete and ignorance of Wikipedia protocols, I added this entry under the handle ‘Petro Antonio’:

Pascoe’s claims in Dark Emu have been challenged in a 2019 book by Peter O’Brien, ‘Bitter Harvest – the illusion of Aboriginal agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu’, published by Quadrant Books.

I was very quickly made aware that my addition violated Wikipedia protocols, for which I apologised and requested in the article’s Talk page that my edit be reinstated.  Here are highlights of the discussion that ensued:

Bacondrum: Peter O’Brien is not a subject matter expert, the book was panned/sold poorly, poorly received by academics and published by an unreliable source of which Peter O’Brien is also a regular contributor. You have a serious conflict of interest issue which has not been declared and you should not be editing this article.

Petro Antonio: I did not write ‘about’ my own work. I simply pointed out its existence. My book has sold out its first print run and I invite you to identify who has panned my work and on what basis.

Bacondrum: If an editor is pointing out the existence of their own work then that editor is obviously writing about their own work and it’s not permitted.

Petro Antonio: Bacondrum, it seems to me that this article is deficient in that it fails to mention the existence of a serious, well-researched 300-page book rebutting Pascoe’s claims. It should not matter whether it is me or someone else who rectifies that omission. However, since you did not know I was the author at the time you first deleted my contribution, it is clear that the real reason you objected is because the book is published by Quadrant. Regardless of your personal ideology, Quadrant is a serious and successful publication that survives without any help from the public purse and represents the views of a significant portion of the Australian populace.

At this point, editor HiLo48 piped up in support of Bacondrum, his claim being that, as his crowd had decreed Quadrant “unreliable”, it must therefore be, er, unreliable. Arrogance, anyone?

HiLo48: Quadrant is not regarded as a reliable source for Wikipedia content in general … In addition, it’s credibility on this topic was extensively discussed on this Talk page before. It really does seem to be a waste of time to be discussing this again.

At that point I decided to let it go, having been polite, forthright and restrained.  My proposed entry was a simple statement of fact objectionable to Wikipedia editors only on the grounds that it was inserted by me and that I write for Quadrant.  But I decided the issue was not worth pursuing.  However, at that time I also thought to check the Talk page of the Dark Emu article and discovered that there has been further discussion of Bitter Harvest. — if ‘discussion’ is taken to mean spleen, vitriol and ad hominem assaults. Here is a sample of what I read:

Bacondrum: There’s a general consensus that ‘Bitter Harvest: The illusion of Aboriginal agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu’ is a hatchet job, a stridently biased work with an agenda, it’s not reliable, views expressed are fringe – it’s an attack piece. It is published by Quadrant. Peter O’Brien has dedicated a lot of time to writing defamatory and deranged attacks on Pascoe in Quadrant, such a vitriolic and stridently biased punter cannot be considered for inclusion

Bacondrum: Bitter Harvest hasn’t been refuted because no one takes it seriously enough to bother……

HiLo48: The “substantial criticism” is all from the same tiny group of mostly discredited and unethical liars ….. Straw man arguments like that are used by people without a decent argument against what is actually being claimed. Stop wasting our time here using the claims of bigoted liars and professional racists to defend your own ignorance and hatred.

HiLo48: There is no objective evidence that Pascoe mishandled sources. Every critical article saying such things includes bullshit from discredited sources. Any new content in such articles is therefore also questionable. …..  

Bacondrum: I think that would be giving undue weight to fringe views. Where else have these criticisms been raised? If O’brian [sic] is the only one who has raised them then they are next level undue and fringe. Who is O’Brian? Nobody, at least not as far as publishing his criticism here is concerned. If I write a book about how shit I think Tony Abbott is, should that be added to his article? How is O’brian any more of an authority than the next punter? No way.

Bacondrum: Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, the many awards and accolades this work has received, I’m okay with the inclusion of mainstream criticisms from reliable sources – but not Quadrant Who publishes Bitter Harvest: The illusion of Aboriginal agriculture? Quadrant, an unreliable source. How many units has Bitter Harvest… sold? Hardly any … The inclusion of this poorly written, unpopular, stridently biased, unreliable attack piece is not on, it is massively a blatant hatchet job produced by an unreliable source that’s barely sold a few dozen copies. I’ll fight its inclusion with all means available.

… I can see the argument for including Bolt and Cashman’s criticisms, but not O’Brian’s – they are the unhinged rantings of someone with no expertise on the subject That barely readable rant and its obscure author are fringe and deserve no mention, IMO.

Naturally, I was stung by this attack and so I wrote the two articles linked above.  After that I left the matter lie fallow until February 2021, when I became aware of the existence of a well-researched paper by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen who also has critiqued the central theme of Dark Emu. So I joined the efforts of some other editors, a very few, to have mention made of this paper in the Dark Emu article. You can read the substance of this discussion here  I proposed the following amendment:

The central premise of Dark Emu viz that Aboriginal people were essentially sedentary agriculturalists rather than nomadic hunter/gatherers, was challenged by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen, in a paper entitled “Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture” published in the journal Anthropological Forum in January 2021″.

Once again, this is a simple statement of fact, objectionable only on the basis that it was proposed by me.  Having received no substantive objections to this proposal from other editors, I posted it.  It was almost immediately removed.  I then proposed an even more anodyne version:

The evidence that Dark Emu offers in support of the extent of pre-colonial Aboriginal agricultural practice has been challenged by anthropologist Dr Ian Keen, in a paper entitled ‘Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture’ published in the journal Anthropological Forum in January 2021. Keen argues that the evidence has been exaggerated and that the designation ‘hunter-gatherer’, that has traditionally been used to describe Aboriginal society, is appropriate.

For my pains I was ‘indefinitely blocked’.  And yet today the article includes the following paragraph:

Anthropologist Ian Keen has argued in the journal Anthropological Forum against Pascoe’s thesis that Indigenous Australians practised agriculture. He concluded that “Aboriginal people were indeed hunters, gatherers and fishers at the time of the British colonisation of Australia”, although acknowledging “the boundary between foraging and farming is a fuzzy one.

So it is clear that I and Austhistory99, who supported me, were quite justified in our efforts.  The only difference was that we are depicted by the hateful intolerant Left as representing the ‘hateful racist Right’.

Oh, and by the way, Dr Keen, newly embedded in the Dark Emu article, states

Many critiques of Dark Emu have come from the political right. They include the writings and broadcasts of Andrew Bolt; articles in, and a book published by Quadrant magazine (Peter O’Brien), whose editor Keith Windschuttle engaged extensively in the ‘history wars’; and the Dark Emu Exposed (Anon. 2020) as well as the Quadrant online (quadrant.org.au) websites (sic). Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct.

Editor Bacondrum is opposing my re-instatement as an editor on the basis that my conduct has been ‘appalling’.  I will leave it to more objective editors to decide whose conduct has been appalling. Quite some time has now passed and I have received no further communication, so I assume the Wiki gnomes are just waiting me out.

However, news has just come to hand that co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, has had enough of Wikipedia’s ‘Leftist bias and propaganda’  and is moving to set up a truly, independent and free speech alternative. Strength to his arm! Like everything the Left infiltrates, subverts and conquers, Wikipedia has been made not merely useless as a reliable source but intentionally and grossly misleading. That the laughable likes of bush league sophists such as Bacondrum wield a corrupt censor’s blue pencil with impugnity says it all.

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here

23 comments
  • Harry Lee

    Yes, control of all information and all concepts -the ways the ordinary People think about the nature of the social-economic order- is a necessary component of the Left’s campaign to enslave said Ordinary People.
    Thus we have the neo-marxist, anti-Westernist info and concepts channeled by:
    The ABC, SBS and 90% of the commercial media; schools and universities; much of the law industry; and almost all of what is said and done within the public services at Fed, State, Territory and Council
    levels.
    How to save ourselves?
    Cannot be done.
    Not unless a critical mass of Ordinary People volunteer their lives -their own time and their own money- to the counter-campaign.
    (Latest we are seeing is the puppeteering of St Gretas With Grievances by the Leftist strategists in the shadows and their operatives).

  • Harry Lee

    Obvious:
    There is nothing in the various Aboriginal tribal cultures -beliefs, practices- that existed before 1788 that is of any benefit to Aborigines today.
    Not a thing.
    Aborigines and their non-Aboriginal advisors/controllers who say otherwise are not promoting the circumstances required for proper human flourishing.
    Obvious.

  • ianl

    >” [Larry Sanger] is moving to set up a truly, independent and free speech alternative … to Wiki”

    Good luck to him. Why a new venture will not meet the same end is a mystery, however.

    The whole point to this, and unhappily one which Peter O’Brien does not examine, is just *how* people like BaconRoll beget such Wiki powers. This is the real question: how does this occur ? It’s certainly not magic; it is intended by them and they are successful at it. Just how, exactly ? What process did they undertake that allows this success ?

    It’s a critical question. Wiki is popular because it is so easy to use – everyone may just type some question into the search box and Wiki springs up with an answer. This grants enormous propaganda value to a Wiki editor who can then cancel anyone else they choose to. So how does one achieve such an untouchable position ?

  • Tony Tea

    Bacon Drum’s comments are proof he knows you’re right.

  • Lonsdale

    And more Pascoe in today’s extreme feft Saturday Paper

  • Lo

    To their credit, the Geelong West library now has four copies of Bitter Harvest and only thirty seven of Dark Emu.

  • Peter OBrien

    “The whole point to this, and unhappily one which Peter O’Brien does not examine, is just *how* people like BaconRoll beget such Wiki powers. This is the real question: how does this occur ?”
    Ianl, you must have missed the whole point of my article. People like Bacondrum operate a la Gramsci. They reinforce each other and bully out all other opinion. And they get away with it because we let them and, rather than engage them, we (conservatives) just throw up our hands and say ‘what the hell’. And people like Harry Lee say “How to save ourselves? Cannot be done. Not unless a critical mass of Ordinary People volunteer their lives -their own time and their own money- to the counter-campaign.” Well I am one of the critical mass – at least I hope I am. That’s why I write this stuff – hoping that more of us will take up the cudgels.

  • Harry Lee

    Answer:
    An alliance of pro-Western anti-marxists must start up a new non-Left “Wikipedia”.
    Playing on the Left’s turf will not defeat the Left.
    And being one of a non-critical mass is not the same as being a member of a critical mass.
    However well-intentioned one is.
    How to establish an effective anti-Left alliance, of the self-organising, self-resourcing variety?

  • Doubting Thomas

    Years ago there was a notorious American individual whose name I’ve forgotten, who set himself up as the Wikipedia gate-keeper of all things “climate change”. He worked in company with various “experts” to ensure that no alleged sceptic/denier was survived without being edited out of existence. Well-qualified people like Judith Curry and Bjorn Lomborg had their bios “edited” pejoratively lest they retain any “dangerous” credibility. Any positive corrections by other editors were immediately reversed. He was Wikipedia’s equivalent of our own unlamented global warming troll. There were so many complaints that he was eventually banned by Wikipedia.

    So, it was possible and may be again.if enough complaints are made.

  • rod.stuart

    DT
    You might be thinking of Johan Hari aka “David Rose”, but there was another as well. I can’t remember the name.

  • rod.stuart

    DT
    Probably your were thinking of “William Connelly”.

  • Harry Lee

    Error:
    To think that the task is to engage the Left in reasoned debate.
    No.
    Neo-marxist, post-modernist Leftism now commands the heights of everything that constitutes information flow and decision-making within Australia:
    The education systems, the mainstream media, the public services, the law industry -in addition to the parliaments.
    The Constitution contains no provision to save Australia from its demise as a flourishing Western nation.
    Yelling complaints from the side-lines will not retrieve Australia from the Left’s firm and final grip.

  • MungoMann

    Peter’s article is just more example (along with the Porter, Pell, Pascoe, Trans, Newspeak, etc etc issues) that the ‘infidels’ have breached the walls of our Western Civilization. And more is to come. So to my mind we need to gather our manuscripts and retreat to our own ‘safe-spaces’ and ride this ‘collective madness out’ as the scholars of the past have done. Perhaps as Quadrant subscribers we need to dig deep and fund a WikiQuad , a Mediawiki style site that has the whole repository of Quadrants articles indexed (Along with other sensible conservative sources) as a safe source Of truth for us and the younger generations?

  • Harry Lee

    MungoMan yes, excellent idea.
    In addition, it is our task, if we want Western Civ to survive in ever-improving formats, to form self-organising, self-resourcing pro-Westernist forces.
    These will be required to go into proper political action against the post-modernist, neo-marxist hordes.
    Anti-Westernism will not blow over.
    It must be destroyed.
    Just like the NAZIs and the Militiarised Imperial Japanese.

  • Karnjirrwala

    It is unfortunate that Keen chose to preface his assessment that the critics were largely correct with a statement of his irrelevant political biases. Why do people think these declarations are necessary? Fear? …of?

  • Tony Yates

    Doubting Thomas suggests that William Connelly, the Wikipedia climate gate-keeper was banned because his actions generated “so many complaints”. Unfortunately it took more than complaints to Wikipedia. Connelly was only banned after his activities were exposed in a series of articles published in major newspapers. He wound up attracting too much publicity which might have negatively affected Wikipedia’s incoming cashflow from donations. So he was banned but up until the time that he attracted that sort of mainstream international newspaper coverage, Wikipedia did nothing about the complaints.

  • DAVID HAWCROFT

    I think all attempts to understand this situation in terms of a ‘left’ v ‘right’ thing are wrong. And make us blind. Send us chasing after red herrings.

    There’s bullies and bigmouths and attention seekers and bandwagon riders and shallow thinkers and opportunists and sinecured incompetents and crafty manipulators and what do they all have in common, uniting them all?
    Ready made attitudes and ‘philosophies’ , ‘stances’, that they can adopt off the shelf and which require no thinking or understanding and are guarantees of ‘success’.

    i.e. the whole coterie of similarly (un)minded people will be in accord with them. they’ll get patted on the back for it.

    ostensibly beating a path to justice for minority groups and disadvantaged etc., etc.. they claim the moral high ground from the word go.

    always the ‘enemy’ is the status quo, so to speak (though it’s really they who are the ‘status quo’) or the established system and the authority within it – an amorphous evil everyone and anyone can find something within to dislike, to oppose, to hate.

    So it works. It works well.

    Crudely put it’s easy and rewarding amongst a very large proportion of our populace to shout out ‘lets’ go burn the rich shops down and pillage them and take back some of what was taken from us..’ and incite a riot, a major crime.

    It is much, much easier to do that than shout ‘let’s all form into think tanks and working bees and try and formulate some ways to improve thing’.

    Much.

    And that’s all they’re doing.

    They are no more ‘on the left’ as members of some intellectual school of thought conscientiously devoted to untangling the great mess of human society than they are nuclear physicists.

    They scorn either of those disciplines.

    They are opportunists. Chameleons hiding behind whatever suits their purposes for the moment.

    Guerilla fighters attacking for supposed injustice here one minute, there the next, without ever caring really about anything and with never ever doing anything to rectify real injustice.

    In fact, as it totally and glaringly clear – and the bottom of all such articles as this which lament it – they are the perpetrators of most injustice and happily so.

    Thinking of them as ‘leftists’ is to misguide ourselves and deny ourselves of the companionship and thought of those who seek to find answer to the human condition through channels more in line perhaps with overt communal sharing than those on the ‘right’ would willingly concede.

    Different schools of thought and the permitting of them and interacting with them is what promotes our advancement, isn’t it? I believe so. I was taught so.

    So I don’t think we should call these people ‘leftist’ at all.

    We should call them what they are at the time of their manifestation – for they adopt different guises at different times. At one time criminally neglectful. At another criminally deceitful. Then again criminally abusive and slanderous. Always illogical. Always contradictory – puts you in mind of the biblical dictum: ‘ye shall know them by their fruits’ for these people are known that same way. They walk spouting fairness and truth and justice and leave a trail behind them, clear and broad and overwhelmingly obvious, of unfairness, lies and injustice.

    Call them what they are when you find them. One by one. Each to his own.

    Don’t turn your eyes away from the villain and leave him free to continue while you shout out ‘leftist!, leftist! leftist!’ and all to no avail.

    Call a criminally stupid, inept, incompetent, slanderous editor a criminally stupid, inept, incompetent and slanderous editor. And stick it to him.

    Leave serious political thinking and thinkers out of it.

    Would be the way to go. I think.

  • Searcher

    Peter O’Brien was violating Wikipedia policy by promoting his own book in a Wikipedia page; the ‘Quadrant’ link was inessential; his apologising is immaterial in the face of his conflict of interest. Wikipedia lacks a counter to the rule of the ruthless. It shows how due process under the rule of law is the product not of new ideas and media, but of a long, almost timelss, and difficult evolution, and even so is gravely imperfect and vulnerable. Generally speaking, I favour the Wikipedia policy that forbids self-promotion in Wikipedia articles; allowing self-promotion would wreck Wikipedia. Yes, it results in unfairness and imbalance of presentation in Wikipedia. I see little likelihood that Wikipedia itself will be able to remedy this.

    Wikipedia is of the social media. Thoughts that to mind: lowest common denominator, mob rule. We need to be aware of this; I see no other remedy.

  • Searcher

    My experience has been that in Wikipedia, the forces of ignorance and darkness win when they become aware of something.

  • PeterS

    The published memories of William Buckley who lived for thirty years among the aborigines of the lands around Port Phillip records no instance of aboriginal farming and recorded a totally peripatetic lifestyle where small family groups moved with the seasons and the availability of game or fish. He made no statement regarding gardens or settled villages but recognised that family groups had their patches that they moved within as far as moving regularly from the Mornington Peninsula to the Bellarine Peninsula by land and even further to the coastal west. He recorded regular violence between family groups and within them. There was absolutely no indication of settled villages and communities with gardens and fishing areas such as seen in the Papuan New Guinea.

  • simonbenson65

    At the heart of the problem for the left-leaning PC brigade is a singular lack of understanding of what constitutes real scholarship. But in this post-truth age (we’re way beyond postmodernism), anything vaguely approaching academic and intellectual honesty counts for nothing in lefty land. Anyway, don’t let it get you down. It’s just laughable really!

  • simonbenson65

    Just as a postscript, my eldest son studied at UTS graduating with a BA (Hons) in Communications. Smart lad, if I do say so myself. In his first year, he showed me his first essay before submitting it, which was very well written. But I had to tell him although it was clearly D-HD level, he would be lucky to get a bare pass. Confused, I explained to him that he needed to know his audience, and that his essay would mess with the faculty’s left wing worldview. He thought I was kidding. He went ahead and submitted it ‘as is’. Guess what? A bare pass. From then on, suitably cynical, all he dished-up in his entire degree was the kind of left wing muck he thought those marking his work wanted to hear. And guess what? Straight HDs all the way thereafter. He is now well out of academia, working in the real world. Before I finish, I hasten to thank UTS for two things. Firstly, managing to turn my son right off the left wing worldview completely. And secondly, helping him to realise how narrow-minded, biased and wrong left wing academia really is in Australia. Thank you, UTS. I owe you, big time.

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