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Wikipedia publishes lies and false information

wikipedia111211_optBY WARREN BOROSON

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.

Comments (6)
6 Tuesday, 06 December 2011 09:55
Lots and lots of bias on Wikipedia. Going all ways. Western establishment bias is actually quite heavy and much more than what one would expect from an internet source supposedly open to edits from a wide audience. There are some innocuous substances from foreign countries you'd think are very dangerous from all the warnings about them in the article coming from various government agencies, but then if you are intimately familiar with the superficial science and political backdrop you realize the grave sounding warnings are based not on direct evidence but on skimpy association that has been undermined even for the originally associated item and that the negative stories serve as trade barriers. So rather than enlightening with new information Wikipedia actually reinforces outdated prejudices. Lots of stuff that is actually out-of-date, not because they are not being updated but because the old thinking is held sacrosanct and the new information is being reverted. Wikipedia I would have thought would be close to cutting edge. Instead it seems to be as slow as molasses for non-news subjects. Since it's like that why bother with it? Use a real encyclopedia.
5 Sunday, 13 November 2011 14:12
MacDonald and Eddy were singing stars for MGM in the 1930s, starring in "Naughty Marietta" "Rose Marie" (where Nelson was the Canadian Mountie Sgt. Bruce that everyone made jokes about and they sang "Indian Love Call" -- THAT'S who MacDonald and Eddy were).

Turk never met Jeanette MacDonald; he wrote his bio on her based on input from her widower, Gene Raymond. Sharon Rich knew Blossom Rock, Jeanette's older sister and an actress who played Grandma on "The Addams Family" in the 60s. It was Blossom who verified the affair of her sister Jeanette and Nelson Eddy. They'd been in love since they met in 1933/34. Long before they made "Naughty Marietta" which catapulted the duo to "America's Singing Sweethearts" -- this is a well-documented book with first-hand accounts from people who knew them not the least of which was a trove of thousands of letters written by Nelson Eddy's own mother, Isabel Eddy, to a friend back east detailing the relationship over decades from the 1930s to the end of the 1940s. What further proof does Turk or anyone else need? That Turk's work is refuted by this is without a doubt the reason he so fiercely sticks to his guns that Jeanette and Gene were the perfect married couple, when the truth is Gene was bi-sexual who really preferred men. In Jeanette's own unpublished autobiography she admits there were problems in the marriage and several times wanted to divorce. It's a complicated story. The "scandal" it would have caused both stars in the 30s, 40s and 50s, wouldn't even cause a blip in this tweeting era -- in fact they would have been considered cool for bucking convention. So, Mr. Turk, keep making money off your fictionalized account of MacDonald's personal life, but don't disparage Sharon Rich's dedicated research and discount the eyewitness testimony of MacDonald's own sister, Blossom Rock. May they all rest in peace!
4 Saturday, 12 November 2011 19:39
Jim Heaphy
Wikipedia has 3.8 million articles, and you think you've found problems with two of them? Shocking news! Stop the presses! Maybe you should pitch in and help improve those articles. That would be productive, wouldn't it?
3 Saturday, 12 November 2011 19:37
Silver seren
I've started a discussion on the Richard Stockton issue, because it seems quite clear that the article is wrong. This should hopefully be cleared up soon.

But, as for Edward Turk, I don't see the issue. The article in question presents both sides of the issue, that the book Sweethearts makes the allegation of an affair and the book Hollywood Diva says there was no affair. Both sides are shown and it is proper that they do so. I don't see an issue here.
2 Saturday, 12 November 2011 17:42
If you read a book called "Sweethearts" by Sharon Rich there is plenty of evidence gathered over a period of 20 years to corroborate the facts and to verify that they did have an ongoing affair for over 30 years until her death in 1965.
1 Saturday, 12 November 2011 16:52
Fred Bauder
Never heard of those two. Why don't you put a note on the discussion page of those two articles. If you know the name of the descendent of Stockton, please don't mention it, just say "someone" ...

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