Friday, February 15, 2008

THE BLANK PAGES OF WIKIPEDIA

It seems that it is not enough for Fairfax Jerusalem Bureau chief Ed O'Loughlin to have the power to determine the worthiness or otherwise of any given item of news from the region he covers (and to be selective in the way he presents the news that he chooses to deliver to his readers). Now, he wants to obliterate any mention in Wikipedia, of any criticism of the partisan way in which he wields the power he has to make such determinations.

Some interesting communications have appeared in Wikipedia following a further attempt by Mr. Adon Emet to have O'Loughlin's (now) controversial biography re-included in the on line encyclopaedia [See here, here and here]. These outline the discussions taking place between various contributors to Wikipedia as to whether Adon Emet's biography should be included on the site. The censors seem to have prevailed.

The following is a message attributed to O'Loughlin (I have no reason to believe that it was not submitted by him and naturally if he were to say that it was not, I would retract it forthwith). O'Loughlin considers the article about him to be "based entirely on partisan sources and falsehoods". He claims that if this article were published by "people who have to publicly stand over and justify what they say" then "it would clearly be actionable". Here is the full text of the message as supplied to me:-

Dear whoever you all are

My name is Ed O'Loughlin - this is my real name, I stress - and I am the subject of this article.

The article as it has appeared in its various manifestations in recent months is a starkly one-sided attack on my personal and professional character which is based entirely on highly partisan sources and falsehoods. The moving forces behind it are anonymous people who do not have the integrity to reveal their identities or interests, and whose malicious intent is quite clear from their contributions to the discussion pages and their vandalisation of posts expressing differing views.

I note that the article has already been deleted once on precisely these grounds, and I am puzzled as to why it has now been re-instated. If it were published in the "old media" - which is to say, by people who have to publicly stand over and justify what they say and suffer the potentially severe personal consequences, such as loss of livelihood - it would clearly be actionable.

Please note that my work has been repeatedly critiqued in the public domain in Australia for the past five years and in that time not one factual error or instance of bias has been substantiated.

Please also note that every newspaper reporter covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to stand up to a level of vexatious attack from interest groups and ethnic partisans unknown in any other posting. Nevertheless, all the complaints against me to our internal ombudsmen and to the Australian Press Council have been dismissed as entirely without merit, including one (Press Council number 1305, December 2005) which went to full arbitration. My employers, whose commitment to truth in journalism comes second to no media organisation in Australia or indeed the world, has seen fit to extend my contract here from the original two years to five years and counting.

I am, overall, an admirer of the Wikipedia project but I am disturbed to see how easily it can be manipulated by those hell-bent on imposing their personal beliefs, without regard to balance or empirical truth. I recently watched an episode of the Colbert Report in which the presenter demonstrated the pitfalls of what he terms "wikiality" by editing the page on African elephants to assert that their numbers are exploding. I now understand what he meant.

I am requesting that this article be deleted. If anybody wants to write about me in future I would expect them to at least have the courtesy and guts to put their real name to their writing, as do I. If the article is not deleted I expect this letter be prominently displayed both on the front page and on the discussion page, and that the letter be protected from the vandalism which has been such a marked feature of this supposed debate.

Yours, Ed O'Loughlin, Middle East Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age .

PS contrary to what he or she is allowing this community to believe (see extract from the administrator Avraham's talk page below), “Adon Emett” is not using his or her real name. Unless, that is, the contributor in question really is the Hebrew “Lord of Truth”.


I'm disappointed and surprised that Mr. O'Loughlin is upset that an article could possibly have been written "based entirely on partisan sources and falsehoods". It's something that many newspaper readers come across quite often these days in the mainstream media and that includes stuff that's written by people who have to publicly stand over and justify what they say.

I'm even more disappointed that Mr. O'Loughlin failed to elaborate as to what part of the article was "based entirely on ... falsehoods" and what part of it was "actionable"? Or was the entire article a malicious piece of fiction?

Just to recap, the article appears here.

Did the author get something wrong?

Was O'Loughlin not born in Toronto? Has he not been based in Jerusalem covering news events in Israel and the Palestinain territories (OK at least some news events)? Has his reporting not received criticism from media commentary groups? Was Michael Danby misquoted? Was O'Loughlin not nominated for a "Dishonest Reporter" award by Honest Reporting, a media monitoring group with approximately 140,000 subscribers?

Certainly, the article is critical of O'Loughlin but I'm scratching my head trying to understand what is false and what is actionable about what this innocuous piece actually says. We live in a democracy where the exercise of free speech is a given so why the need for such a stupid demonstration of power? Why the censorship? Why make such a fuss about it?

Frankly, the only thing I can fully comprehend is the role of Wikipedia editor Eleland (is that his or her real name?). Eleland is apparently a Hizbullah supporter and, given that this group of murderers (thankfully reduced in number by one this week) disdains the freedoms we take for granted in our society, it's clear why he or she worked so hard to consign the whole thing to the Blank Pages of Wikipedia.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

They gave him a 3 year extension?

This can not be serious!!!

Anonymous said...

They gave him a 3 year extension?

This can not be serious!!!

Anonymous said...

IMO the message could not possibly have been written by Ed O'Loughlin. Surely, he's not that arrogant or stupid!

Gulliver_on_tour said...

Congratulations, you've Fisked him right up.