Don’t get me wrong. I admire Wikipedia.
I believe it’s possible for “unprofessionals” to provide information just as reliable as professionals can, and at a far lower cost. And I commend Wikipedia for coming up with the idea of assembling a diversified group of people to put together a free online encylopedia.
In fact, many articles in Wikipedia are quite good, especially, I’m told, science articles. Wikipedia, indeed, has improved a good deal over the years.
But a key flaw that Wikipedia suffers from is that fanatics seem able to have their false views published by Wikipedia as if they were true. These fanatics keep rewriting Wikipedia articles to reflect their own idiosyncratic beliefs.
Here are two instances:1. "It is beyond dispute that Richard Stockton of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, recanted under duress while imprisoned by the British and signed an oath of loyalty to King George III." (See 'Washington’s Crossing' by David Hackett Fischer.)
Yet, even today, Nov. 12, 2011, Wikipedia publishes in its biography of Stockton that “There is no evidence that Stockton swore an oath of obedience to the King….”
A woman, a descendant of Stockton, has been relentlessly and fruitlessly waging a campaign to prove the allegation untrue.
2. Edward Baron Turk, the author of “Hollywood Diva,” an impressive biography of singer Jeanette MacDonald, reports that there is no truth to the rumor that she and her co-star, Nelson Eddy, had an affair. He is even quoted in an Wikipedia article on her. Yet, earlier in the same article, Wikipedia flatly writes: “While on location at Lake Tahoe, they [she and co-star Nelson Eddy] became secretly engaged. Then MacDonald became pregnant and was ordered by MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer to have an abortion. Eddy did not believe her when she claimed to have miscarried, and he broke off the engagement.”
For an encyclopedia to publish these false assertions – even temporarily – is disgraceful.