Thursday, February 29, 2024
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The Wikipedia Winstons


YET again, one of the grim predictions in Nineteen Eighty-Four seems to be turning into reality.  

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, the hero Winston Smith works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, spending his days ‘rectifying’ past newspaper stories which no longer conform with actuality as dictated by Big Brother.  

‘Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date,’ Orwell wrote. ‘All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.’  

Which takes us to the BBC News website and an article headlined ‘Climate change: Small army of volunteers keeping deniers off Wikipedia’.   

It is written byone Marco Silva, who rejoices in the title ‘Climate change disinformation specialist’. He excitedly tells us of a ‘small but dedicated group of volunteers who have made it their mission to curate and protect articles about climate change’.  

They do this by going through the free internet dictionary Wikipedia – which anyone can edit – altering entries about climate which do not conform with what they regard as the truth.  

Says one volunteer: ‘Editors recognise all of the common climate denial myths, and most editors have a good feeling for misinformation red flags, including use of unreliable sources, of emotive words. The most satisfying editing for me is the removal of misinformation.’  

The difference between this and Nineteen Eighty-Four is that it is a two-sided battle. In Orwell’s book, history was settled once Winston had filed his alterations. It could not be contradicted (except by BB).  

But while today’s Wikipedia vigilantes are altering entries by climate sceptics, the sceptics are in turn free to rewrite the rewrites – and the vigilantes to do likewise, ad nauseam. Thus you can argue that the sceptics too are a party to the tedious cycle, although I suspect they are less well-organised than their counterparts. It all depends whose side you’re on.  

Of course, it’s not just climate change narratives that are being ‘revised’ on Wikipedia – every entry is open to the Ministry of Truth treatment. Anyone can have a go at ‘rectifying’ something with which they disagree. All of which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the content.  

I won’t go into the well-aired climate arguments and counter-arguments here. I’ll just note that the tone of the BBC News piece – that the sceptics are the baddies and the global warming zealots are the goodies – is another typical offering.  

However, it’s no more than we’ve come to expect from our taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, which – contrary to all journalistic principles – disgracefully refuses to countenance that there may be dissenting voices who deserve to be listened to, and instead pumps out its own ‘climate emergency’ propaganda.  

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Henry Getley
Henry Getley
Henry Getley is a freelance journalist.

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