Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Censoring Reality

Every now and then, I receive a visitor referred from the Wikipedia entry for Indymedia where someone added this blog as an external link.

Reading the entry today, I noticed it had a tag indicating the "Neutrality of this article is disputed". Wikipedia apires toward neutrality on most issues and in many cases achieves it. This is because Wiki articles can be edited or modified after publication by anyone. Contributors usually know this and present both sides of an argument or avoid making one in the first place.

Curious as to the dispute, I followed it to the discussion between editors of the piece. It was a real eye-opener. Given the volatile nature of a Wiki, it may change in real time, so I am quoting significant extracts which may or may not remain after the time of this entry. It started with:
This article has serious NPOV problems and needs to be thoroughly edited. While I sympathize with Indymedia, phrases like "amazing and grand experiment in democracy" are of course unacceptable.
...and completely unjustifiable. Then it comes down to the question of what is claimed to be Indymedia's political approach, versus what it actually is:
"Local IMC collectives are expected to be open and inclusive of individual members of a variety of different local left-wing, right-wing, anarchist and other activist organizations, whether or not these have any overt political labels, so that even those without internet access can participate both in content creation and in content consumption."

This statement is a bit laughable. The local collectives are expected to censor right-wing posts. For example, here's a post by a moderator from the lists:
"We are under near constant attack by enemies from across the political spectrum, including Zionists, Nazis, and especially grassroots rightwingers, who use their own websites to organize coordinated attacks."
Here's another page:
When describe posts they hide, they say "right-wing propaganda or hate speech;"
Now, take a look at all the posts on that article and their bias, then look at the hidden posts:[No longer visible]
All those are listed as "policy violations"
The Wikipedia article constantly states that it is an open system, and while the anyone can post, the posts are STRICTLY moderated in order to keep with the websites' pro far leftist agenda. I think this article needs a little more revision to specifically state what the IMC is for.
I have to agree, having worked with IMC collectives. The open system died quickly in the face of complaints about Neo-Nazis and the like making extensive use of the forum. Furthermore it's never been really obvious to me that IMC people really intended it to ever be anything other than a mouthpiece for leftwing voices, no matter their claims to the contrary.
This last claim should not come as a surprise. Since the very beginning, I have argued that Indymedia has at best failed at what it stated as its aim, at worst was dishonest in what it claimed it was attempting.

It's past this however that it becomes really interesting. Concerning the question of Indymedia representation, comes a complaint as to the suggestion that:
Indymedia lacks representation from any currently Communist nation, or from most Muslim countries away from the Eastern Mediterranean
An argument ensues:
The only nations that I would call Communist right now are North Korea and Cuba. Since that category is so small, why not say that Indymedia lacks representation from Vanuatu while we are at it? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to simply list Indymedia-represented countries in a separate section.
...and then a Communist pipes up with his opinion:
First of all there is no such thing as a communist state, that's a contradiction. And Palestine and other countries have Indymedia's, saying most Muslim countries whatever that means is very selective, most third world countries don't have Indymedia, for obvious reasons.
And what are those "obvious reasons"? Lack of electricity? Can't be. Oppressive regimes that limit free-speech? Surely not... Nope the reason third-world countries don't have Indymedia is because:
The US government has gone to great trouble to try and keep places like Cuba and Muslim countries off the Internet
What an outrageous statement. The Internet, and particularly blogs are at the leading edge of grassroots democratic movements in hitherto oppressive regimes, specifically including Muslim countries (ahem, whatever that means). Witness the Iraqi blog phenomenon - Democracy in Iraq, Healing Iraq or The Mesopotamian just for starters. Cuba doesn't miss out either but if their access is limited, there might be other reasons for it, and I'm sure the Communist contributor to Wikipedia can't imagine what they might be other than America.

Then there are the Iranian dissident bloggers who I reported on and Indymedia completely ignored.

Now I know why. It's all America's fault isn't it. The fact that a Saudi dissident blogger would have their head cut off, must also be an American conspiracy to "keep Muslim countries off the Internet". Sure. Never mind the fact that the Internet is widely available in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Egypt...You name it, but no corresponding local Indymedia.

Surely Indymedia could report on fact that Chinese bloggers are locked up (and according to this article, were sold out to the Chinese Goverment by Yahoo). I won't hold my breath they'd even care unless it could be argued that the Chinese Government is really a US/Mossad puppet regime.

It is this double standard of claiming to stand for free speech, and using it to lie, whilst doing nothing to provide or encourage freedom of speech for those who are without, that is the biggest indictment of Indymedia's hypocrisy.

On a final note, despite my comments above about Wikipedia's self-enforcing neutrality, from time to time things will fly under the radar. In discussing Google News' decision to stop indexing Indymedia, the Wiki entry says:
The IMCs' open newswires have generated some controversy. For example, in early May 2003, after receiving numerous complaints about newswire stories that referred to the Israeli military (IDF) as "Zionazi forces" (example) or to Israeli Zionists as "Zionazis" (example), Google decided to stop including some IMCs in Google News searches (many non-English IMCs remained in the search).
It is in fact unclear whether this was the sole reason Google acted responsibly in blacklisting Indymedia, rather than the fact that the remainder of Indymedia could not possibly be considered a reliable news source. Indeed, the above claim evokes images of Jewish control of the media, itself a frequent antisemitic claim on Indymedia which rebukes itself.

It's academic ultimately, as Google News is acting irresponsibly again and indexing Indymedia as a 'news source'. The intent of the author (or a subsequent editor) of the previous paragraph also becomes clear with this note:
There have been complaints and discussion of innumerable other posts, as has been the nature of open publishing from the early usenet to the present. Notably, however, there has been no similar outcry concerning posts of an anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab nature, by Google or any other organization.
Yup... It must be those Jews complaining again. The claim is of course manifestly false and unsurprisingly no reference is provided.

This highlights a problem with Wikipedia's noble intention of neturality. Whereas outlandish bias is identified and smacked down, more subtle and in many cases insidious as such, bias (or flat-out BS) can fly under the radar. Remember, the frog lowered into a pot of boiling water will panic immediately. If however it starts in warm water which is slowly heated, it won't even notice until it's too late.

Small, immeasurable and persistant festering bias on certain issues is sometimes as dangerous as outlandish extremism. The smarter extremists have learned this and are often unknowingly assisted by people who believe their BS and echo it.

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