The Propaganda Model and Wikipedia
By Wade Frazier
The Internet’s primary information source today is Wikipedia, which was founded in 2000. In 2020, depending on how the ranking is performed, it is the fifth or seventh most visited site on Earth and the second most visited in the United States (“USA”), behind YouTube. Wikipedia is visited more than a billion times each month in the USA alone. Wikipedia’s co-founder, Jimmy Wales, publicly advocated for it to become a project that utilized the Internet’s inherent democratic nature, in which people could contribute, no matter their professional standing, and most Wikipedia contributors are anonymous.
A search for “Edward S. Herman” through Google, for instance, unfailingly produces Herman’s Wikipedia biography as the first result. I became Herman’s biographer when I offered, on his lifetime’s last birthday, in 2017, to improve his Wikipedia bio, which was libelous then and remains so to this day. Herman accepted my offer, but never lived to see my efforts. As I write this, in July 2020, I am Herman’s first and sole biographer. That was not my intention. I hope that I live to see a professional biography produced on his life, but what I have written will have to suffice for now. Simultaneous with this essay’s publication, I published a revised biography.
I attempted to improve Herman’s bio and related Wikipedia articles, including the Manufacturing Consent and Propaganda Model articles, but my changes were all erased, so that a Wikipedia reader could not even see what I wrote. Such use of the erasure feature at Wikipedia is considered an extreme measure and is rarely used. Herman’s work on how the media produces propaganda is confirmed by Wikipedia’s articles on his life and work and what happened to my attempt to improve them. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (“PM” – and today known as the PM) was developed to describe how the USA’s capitalistic media performed, not the behavior of a non-profit organization for which most of the work is performed by volunteers. This essay will explore how Wikipedia’s conduct conforms to the PM’s predictions, which the original PM was not designed to explain.
In the West, the idea of democracy goes back to Classic Greece and Athens, and in the modern period, the aftermath of the English Civil Wars in the 1600s gave the “rabble” a voice in their governance, to the consternation of elites. Chomsky has long discussed that as the coercive ability of English elites declined after the English Civil Wars, controlling what the public thought became their goal. Violence was no longer a viable means of governance, and Chomsky has portrayed the propaganda systems of democratic societies as performing the function that standing armies do for dictatorships. The USA’s Bill of Rights mirrored the English Bill of Rights from the preceding century, which included the provisions for freedom of speech, the right to bear arms to defend against the government, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and other aspects of freedoms that American citizens at least nominally enjoy.
Chomsky and Herman’s first joint effort was subjected to the one of the most shocking censorship incidents in the last half of the 20th century, as a publishing company was put out of business by its ownership to prevent the book’s publication. In that work, they repeatedly noted the double standards of reporting that the New York Times used, particularly regarding the wars in Indochina. In that effort, they also presented a framework that classified “bloodbaths,” based on their political-economic utility, which are:
Constructive: crimes that directly advanced American interests, so were celebrated;
Benign: crimes perpetrated by allies, client states, and states with little American political-economic involvement, so were ignored;
Nefarious: crimes committed by enemy regimes, so were denounced;
Mythical: a subcategory of nefarious bloodbaths, which were crimes that were either not committed by enemy regimes or were minor events inflated into legendary status.
In 1979, in their joint effort that immediately preceded their Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (“MC”), which was an expansion of their censored work, Chomsky and Herman sketched the main features of what became their PM. In that effort, they described the “beauty” of the “democratic system of thought control,” as contrasted with “clumsy” totalitarian systems. The authors wrote that democratic systems work far more voluntarily and subtly, by providing what seems like vigorous debate, but which never challenges the invisible assumptions, which in the USA included fictions such as the USA’s imperial benevolence. In 1981, Herman published Corporate Control, Corporate Power, which studied corporate power relationships, and Herman considered that such studies formed the PM’s root. In 1986, Herman named his incipient PM a “propaganda model,” and further developed the pairing analysis that he employed in MC and afterward. In 1988, Herman and Chomsky published MC, which introduced their PM and was clearly their most famous joint effort and Herman’s most famous work, and it is Chomsky’s most famous political-economic work.
Chomsky insisted that Herman’s name appear ahead of his on MC’s cover, to reflect Herman’s greater contribution to the effort. Chomsky has long been hailed as the world’s most cited living academic and scientific author. His work has influenced fields as diverse as psychology, philosophy, and computer science, and he is known as the “Einstein of linguistics.” He is an international celebrity who lectures to packed venues globally, and is the only living human who can be credibly compared to Einstein. Chomsky is also compared with Socrates, and although Chomsky himself resists making the connection, his political and scientific work are related and have been argued to form the foundation of a new kind of social science. Future historians will likely place Chomsky in the ranks of Socrates, Newton, and Einstein in the history of Western thought. For generations, Chomsky has had ready access to all media venues outside of the USA, and was always the most famous member of that writing partnership, by far. Subsequent mentions of MC could entirely omit Herman’s name, which Herman readily accepted.
MC was published in the last years of the Cold War between the USA and Soviet Union, and the collapse of the Soviet Union reduced the relevance of the PM’s fifth filter, which was anticommunism in the PM’s initial presentation. In the 2002 edition of MC, the authors acknowledged the weakening of anticommunism as the PM’s ideological filter, and that it had been largely replaced by the Reagan era’s “miracle of the market” belief. In a 2009 interview, the authors noted that anticommunism had somewhat diminished since the Soviet Union’s end, but that the “‘war on terror’ […] provided a useful substitute for the Soviet Menace.” Another proposed ideological filter since the disintegration of the Soviet Union has been “humanitarian intervention” to justify military aggression and proxy wars. Chomsky stated that he always felt that the PM’s anticommunism filter was too narrow, and should have been more generalized, to portray an external malevolent threat to frighten the citizenry to “huddle under the protection of the domestic power.”
Herman was one of the earliest writers to address the impact that the rise of the Internet had on the mainstream media. In the last essay published in his lifetime, Herman argued that the rise of the Internet and the dominance of monopolistic companies such as Google and Facebook were regressive, as far as journalism and media freedom were concerned, and Herman ended his lifetime’s last published essay with:
“The Propaganda Model is as strong and applicable as it was thirty years ago […]. The Propaganda Model lives on.”
Since Herman’s death in 2017, several works dedicated to his memory have been published (1, 2, 3, 4), most of which examine the PM’s continuing relevance, particularly in the age of the Internet, and the general conclusion has been that the PM is more important and germane than ever.
Chomsky argued that the PM was only a special case of the structural constraints that all intellectuals in capitalist societies are subjected to. The PM is essentially a conflict-of-interest model, in which the ideal in democratic societies – the media’s objectively informing the public, so that the citizenry can make knowledgeable decisions – is subverted by antidemocratic influences, which Herman and Chomsky identified as owners, advertisers, the news sources themselves, attacks on the media when they fail to conform to the dictates of those three interests, and the ideological milieu, which was anticommunism during the Cold War and variously became the “miracle of the market” and antiterrorism after the Cold War ended. The portrayal of Russia as a grave threat to the USA has had a revival in the past decade, even though it no longer has a communist economy. The media’s treatment of Russia was the subject of the last essay that Herman published to the Internet in his lifetime, and was one of his regular subjects in his last years.
Wikipedia is a nonprofit organization that does not accept advertising, so the PM might seem to have limited applicability. But since Herman’s Wikipedia biography today is propaganda, and virtually all efforts to improve that biography, even to remove clearly libelous statements, have been defeated by Wikipedia’s editors and administrators, there are profound filters working at Wikipedia. First, this chapter will discuss the PM’s original filters and their applicability to Wikipedia, then other filters will be discussed, including filters previously suggested to enhance the PM, and filters that seem unique to Wikipedia.
First, the original PM’s filters…
There is nothing else like Wikipedia on the Internet today, and it is by far history’s largest encyclopedia, with millions of articles that receive billions of visits each month. Although Wikipedia is nominally non-profit, its co-founder, Jimmy Wales, is a fan of Ayn Rand and her homage to capitalism. Wales met his current wife, who was Tony Blair’s secretary, while speaking at the capitalist conference at Davos, to provide an example of how cozy with wealth and power Wales is.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, is staffed by academics, Internet entrepreneurs, and the inventor of the Wiki, and might seem democratic, but as with all organizations, following the money can be an informative exercise. The leading donors to Wikipedia include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (which helped establish, along with the Rockefeller dynasty, the direction of orthodox cancer research and treatment in the past century, which has been anything but auspicious, in my opinion), which donated $3 million, and in 2018, Amazon donated $1 million. Amazon uses Wikipedia’s content in its Alexa application. There are interlocks and dependencies with tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft, and Wikipedia has publicly solicited funding from those sources. So-called philanthropic arms of those organizations have been deeply involved with Wikipedia, and one current board member worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Bill Clinton when he was president, and here is a more thorough review of Wikimedia’s board members. While Wikipedia may be nominally non-profit, it is dominated by corporate relationships and corporate-related “philanthropic” organizations. While such relationships may seem reasonable, Wikipedia can hardly act independently of those interests, and such relationships surely impact Wikipedia’s presentations regarding such “donors.” Most, and arguably all, non-profit companies have been compromised by funding issues, particularly prominent ones, and Wikipedia is no different in that regard.
Wikipedia does not accept advertising, and on this issue, Wikipedia may seem free of an influence that corrupts the corporate media. However, Wikipedia has often become free advertising for corporations, as articles about corporations are often managed by themselves, although surreptitiously, and other conflicts of interest in editing Wikipedia have been uncovered, such as the CIA’s and FBI’s editing of articles, which is further discussed below. So, while Wikipedia may seem free of advertiser bias, it has effectively become a public relations conduit, while seeming to be objective, and in that way, it is an integral aspect of corporate and government messaging.
In this area, Wikipedia’s policies form an interlock with the mainstream media, so that Wikipedia has become a de facto conduit of the propaganda that Herman and Chomsky spent their lives exposing. This is a structural issue, and is reminiscent of the “concision” excuse for why Chomsky is almost never in the American media, which Wikipedia even has an article on. Wikipedia has a policy of using only “reliable sources” for its articles. What is a reliable source? As the administrator (“admin”) who erased my changes to Herman’s biography and related articles stated, reliable sources are mainstream sources. If the mainstream produces propaganda, Wikipedia’s purpose is to summarize and present such propaganda as the truth, like a parrot. That nearly says it all about Wikipedia.
My experiences with Wikipedia clearly demonstrate that Wikipedia provides its own flak to its editors. I had experience with an Internet troll in another venue who became a noted Wikipedia editor, and such editors almost always hide behind their anonymity. At least my Wikipedia admin assailant was a real person, but he was one of only a few that I encountered at Wikipedia. Virtually all of the rest were anonymous. Wikipedia itself has been relatively immune from litigation, as it claims that it is not responsible for its content, so may seem impervious to flak coming from external sources. The primary reason for anonymity on the Internet is to avoid flak or be able to easily inflict it, so Wikipedia is in the middle of that fray, not above it.
With the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union, anticommunism and/or anti-Russian sentiment declined in the USA, to rise again in the 2010s. Wikipedia’s overriding ideology is evident in Herman’s bio, if nowhere else. The pro-capitalist stance of its founder, and Wikipedia’s many corporate interlocks and other influences, have understandably helped make Wikipedia a conduit of Establishment views.
Various academics have proposed additional filters to the PM’s original five. Some are listed and discussed below.
In 2018, Daniel Broudy and Miyume Tanji proposed a sixth filter to the PM, which they called “System Security.” Their proposed filter was based on how the USA’s national security state had eroded civil liberties to the degree that whistleblowers who exposed the USA’s murders and other imperial crimes abroad, and its illegal citizen surveillance, such as Edward Snowden, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, and Julian Assange, were not only not honored for their courageous acts, but were persecuted to the extent that Snowden lives in asylum in Russia, Assange is, in the words of Chomsky, being “murdered by the British government” at the USA’s behest, and Manning spent eight years in incarceration. Manning’s latest stint behind bars of more than a year was because Manning refused to participate in Assange’s prosecution. Manning was also fined more than $250,000 while she was behind bars, for which the government demanded immediate payment.
In more innocent days, the CIA’s and FBI’s edits to Wikipedia were relatively easy to spot. Similar to how the USA privatized covert action soon after overthrowing Iran’s government, there is no doubt that the same interests are actively debasing Wikipedia’s content, but using agents with no obvious link to them, to provide plausible deniability. If all of the conflicts of interest at Wikipedia, among their editors and admins, were exposed, it would be the Internet scandal of the decade.
Even though Wikipedia joined in a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, the spooks have surely and thoroughly penetrated Wikipedia, and its culture of anonymity makes Wikipedia a particularly soft target. The situation regarding the Philip Cross account, and Wales’s defense of Cross, discussed below, makes the System Security aspect of Wikipedia clear, as anybody who challenges American imperialism and the United Kingdom’s enabling role gets smeared at Wikipedia by Cross, including Herman. Cross may be the most visible and notorious Wikipedia editor, but Cross is far from the only one.
The racism reflected in the massacre list that my friend and I tried to improve upon in 2007, further discussed below, was unequivocal. That list is almost unchanged, 12 years later, and is a testament to the racism of Wikipedia’s editors and admins. Herman’s Jewish ethnicity may seem unrelated to his life’s libelous treatment at Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is also notable for its hagiographies of Third Reich scientists, and even those who performed human experiments in the death camps could get off easy. That Herman’s Wikipedia biography is libelous (Herman is even called a denier of genocide), while death camp Nazis received whitewashes of their backgrounds, is a telling contrast.
In 2015, the Atlantic published an article on the sexism among Wikipedia’s editors, which has also influenced Wikipedia’s content. Even Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director wrote an article on Wikipedia’s sexism, and her article began with noting how a woman Nobel laureate’s bio at Wikipedia was rejected, as the laureate was not deemed “notable” enough until after she won her Nobel Prize in Physics. I write about sexism in my work a great deal, but have not focused on that issue at Wikipedia, other than to note that all of my assailant editors and admins have been men, to my knowledge. The so-called gender gap at Wikipedia does not appear to have gotten any better since 2015. It is also an endemic issue in high-tech.
Agency is the idea that journalists act as agents of various interests in their reporting, particularly their advocacy of the interests of political and economic elites. Herman and Chomsky argued that the perpetrators rarely even understood what they were doing, as they had digested their indoctrination to the degree that they unconsciously conformed to the PM’s filters in their work, without any flak or other management needing to be applied to their efforts. That idea is applicable to Wikipedia’s editors and admins. However, there is also a great deal of willful agency, in that the editors and admins are consciously working on behalf of various interests but have not disclosed it, which the anonymity at Wikipedia, and in the Internet in general, abets. Hiring editors is a standard practice at Wikipedia. I just entered “Wikipedia editing for hire” into Google, and nearly the entire first page of results was about companies that edit Wikipedia for hire, and about half of the results were ads by such editing companies. Editing Wikipedia is big business. Amateurs at Wikipedia are going up against professionals, working on behalf of their clients, and who don’t disclose their conflicts of interest. That is an example of the agency filter at its extreme.
Academics consider the technology filter to be secondary to the PM’s primary filters. An example of the technology filter is when Washington Post promoted a neo-McCarthyite effort that prompted the leading Internet platforms to rewrite their algorithms so that traffic was dramatically reduced to hundreds of targeted sites. A few technological tweaks, based on a libelous propaganda campaign, virtually wiped out alternative media sites, as the power of monopolistic sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter was ominously evident. That Washington Post is owned by one the world’s richest men, whose path to riches was the “creative destruction” of so many businesses, is no coincidence. An example of Wikipedia’s censoring technology was when my changes to Herman’s bio and related articles were erased.
F. Other filters
Other filters seem unique to Wikipedia, such as its “reliable source” policy, and another one is “notability.” In those Atlantic and Los Angeles Times articles discussed above, it was acknowledged that female scientists have generally not been notable enough for Wikipedia until they win Nobel Prizes. When Christopher Black’s Wikipedia biography was deleted at Wikipedia, further discussed below, the notability issue was the rationale. Although he is one of the most important and courageous human rights attorneys on Earth, who defended the USA’s imperial targets, Black was not “notable” enough for Wikipedia. Black is one of Herman’s coauthors.
In MC, after presenting their PM, Herman and Chomsky produced research results that tested the PM’s validity, and the media’s double standards were laid bare. From worthy and unworthy victims to legitimizing and meaningless elections to promoting the non-existent KGB involvement in the assassination attempt on the pope to the media’s role in the Indochina wars and their aftermath, the double standards that the media applied could be extreme. The media’s behavior went so far past hypocrisy that Herman began using “chutzpah” to describe it. As discussed below, “chutzpah” is an apt term to describe Wikipedia’s behavior.
This chapter summarizes Herman’s and Chomsky’s stances on various issues, so that the misrepresentations of their work at Wikipedia and elsewhere, which are often libelous, are more easily understood.
Chomsky made that simple ethical principle clear in his work, going back to his first political essay of note, on the responsibility of intellectuals. In 2019, a book commemorated the 50th anniversary of Chomsky’s essay. In his Powers and Prospects, Chomsky again addressed the issue, and framed it as one of simple ethics (which Chomsky called a “moral duty”), and Chomsky first discussed Soviet intellectuals. Chomsky wrote that if a Soviet intellectual during the Cold War:
honestly described American crimes, that was fine but not praiseworthy; a Soviet intellectual’s responsibility was to expose and discuss Soviet crimes, not American ones;
ignored American crimes, it did not matter; an intellectual’s worth is not measured by castigating enemy regimes for their crimes;
denied or downplayed American crimes, it was also a trivial matter;
ignored or downplayed Soviet crimes, it was a criminal act.
Chomsky then applied the same framework to American intellectuals, and expressed surprise that he continually needed to make his position clear. In Chomsky’s ethical framework, the greatest crime that American intellectuals could commit was ignoring the American state’s crimes. As Chomsky (and Herman) saw it, the highest duty of intellectuals is to focus on their state’s crimes, because that is how their citizenship becomes useful, as such activities can help mitigate the crimes and help prevent future crimes. Also, their home nation has been history’s most globally dominant empire, while pretending that it wasn’t one, which added further motivation to their exposures of their state’s crimes.
From their earliest political-economic works, Herman and Chomsky contrasted American rhetoric and actions, and the double standards that the powerful use to justify their crimes.
Those bloodbath categories turned Chomsky’s principles on their head, as they reflected the ethical bankruptcy of the American state. While Chomsky and Herman’s initial work emphasized the American state’s crimes more than the media’s treatment of them, subsequent works began exploring media complicity in the American state’s crimes, particularly since their first work was suppressed in spectacular fashion.
In their second work, which was an expansion of their first censored one, the first volume largely focused on the American state’s crimes, unrivaled since World War II, while the second investigated their presentation through the American media, and particularly how the American media attacked enemy regimes, with exaggerations and fabrications. Chomsky and Herman showed how the media regularly committed the two greatest crimes that public intellectuals can make: downplaying their state’s crimes while overstating or inventing the crimes of enemy states. That is what wartime propagandists do. The second volume finished with the observation of the media’s Orwellian feat of turning the USA from a genocidal invader into an innocent bystander of events in Indochina, and even a leader in advocating human rights. In their second joint work, the outline of what became Herman and Chomsky’s PM was evident, which they called a “general theory of the Free Press” at the time.
More so than Chomsky, whose range of thought may be unequaled on Earth today, Herman focused on the media, as that special case of American intellectual behavior. Herman admitted to me that he neglected the connections between energy and economy, which is one of my work’s primary themes, and I readily forgave his tight focus on the media. Herman was arguably the best media analyst on Earth, even into his 80s, so his plate was already full.
Chomsky and Herman began their After the Cataclysm with the statement that the book’s focus was not on the objective facts of postwar Indochina, but how the media dealt with the available facts, and they restated that approach several times in the book. Their focus was not on who the heroes and villains were in postwar Indochina, but how the media treated the events. While Chomsky and Herman wrote After the Cataclysm, Time tried to elicit Chomsky’s support for the Khmer Rouge, in preparation for their Cambodian genocide article. Instead, Chomsky sent Time a list of the media’s lies about postwar Cambodia, some of which Time was responsible for. Time could not find any academic who supported the Khmer Rouge when it published its article. Chomsky and Herman finished After the Cataclysm by repeating their work’s concern, which was analyzing the American ideological system, not assessing Indochina’s postwar regimes.
In MC, several case studies were presented, which tested the PM’s predictions, and Herman and Chomsky’s first and most famous was on “worthy and unworthy victims,” which was primarily Herman’s work. That study assessed the American media’s attention paid to priests who were murdered by governments. The study showed that a priest’s murder in an enemy regime was given more than 100 times the media attention that a priest’s murder in a client regime received. Also, the quality of coverage was dramatically different, as worthy victims were given sympathetic, even hagiographic, treatment, while unworthy victims could be portrayed as deserving their murders, even American churchwomen who were raped and murdered by members of El Salvador’s national guard, when the Reagan administration was promoting El Salvador’s “fledgling democracy.” The next case studies were on subjects that Herman had previously written about: the contrast in election coverage in client and enemy regimes; and the media’s coverage of alleged KGB involvement with the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, which had no basis in earthly reality, but was prominently promoted by the media until the fiction collapsed in the courtroom, while the myth lives on.
Today’s scientific ideal is proposing hypotheses and then producing evidence to test their validity. The social sciences present challenges to hypothesis testing not generally found in the physical and biological sciences, and Herman and Chomsky examined paired examples in most of their PM testing. Chomsky suspected that the PM was “one of the best-confirmed theses in the social sciences.” After MC was published, Chomsky discussed the PM at length, and made several observations and predictions.
Chomsky posited three orders of predictions, the first of which was on how bloodbaths would be treated in the media. That prediction has always been confirmed, and particularly that “nefarious” bloodbaths were subjected to overstatement and invention, which could be lies of commission, not omission, which is the safest propaganda method, as lies of omission can be plausibly deniable. That is why lies of commission are defended as vigorously as they are, and those exposing them suffer from the greatest attacks. The second-order prediction was that studies such as those found in MC would be absent in the media, and that even a mention of them would not be found, as such discussions would threaten the foundational assumptions of the entire media enterprise. Chomsky called such discussions “dysfunctional” to the organizations, and that: “The ‘Propaganda Model’ in fact predicts that it won’t be discussable in the media.”
Chomsky observed that in testing the PM, they had to let the media choose the situations in which they argued that they were checks on power, not subservient to it. The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal were two examples in which the media portrayed themselves as public-interest servants who earned hard-won victories over the corrupt elite, and even helped remove a sitting president. However, when those events were studied, they still strongly confirmed the PM.
The PM’s third-order prediction was that exposure of the facts would elicit no reaction for constructive bloodbaths, “occasionally noted without interest in the case of benign bloodbaths; and it will lead to great indignation in the case of nefarious bloodbaths.” That third-order prediction is the one most pertinent to this essay, as the bulk of Herman’s Wikipedia bio is devoted to his exposure of the facts in three “nefarious” bloodbaths: Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda.
Before presenting the editorial treatment of Herman’s Wikipedia bio and related articles, the articles’ structural failures merit review, especially Herman’s bio, which is far more distorted than the other articles. Comparing the version I wrote versus Herman’s Wikipedia bio today should make the structural failings of his current bio obvious, but is worth some comment. On a positive note, before my involvement, his bio was worse than it is today.
Today, in Herman’s Wikipedia bio, his academic career merits one sentence, even though he authored or coauthored some landmark works, which had far greater importance and notability than most publications presented at Wikipedia. But, Herman’s primary “notability” understandably remains his work with Chomsky, although Herman’s writings were notable before collaborating with Chomsky. In the preface to the 2014 edition of After the Cataclysm, Chomsky and Herman wrote that the most important part of their first uncensored jointly authored books, by far, was their work on the American-sponsored genocide in East Timor, as the exposure of American-backed crimes could have spurred the American government to stop supporting the genocide, which in fact happened 20 years later. The authors noted that East Timor was rarely mentioned in reviews of their work, as well as their coverage of the USA’s many other imperial crimes, which was the focus of The Washington Connection. They noted that in “dramatic contrast,” a huge effort was devoted to their chapter in After the Cataclysm about postwar Cambodia, as their critics tried to find an error in their work or made the case that Chomsky, and to a lesser extent, Herman, were Khmer Rouge apologists and genocide deniers. Not only were all such charges clearly false, Chomsky later stated that with all of the scrutiny devoted to their chapter on Cambodia, nobody has been able to find even a “missed comma.”
Ignoring East Timor and obsessively focusing on Cambodia exactly conforms to the PM’s predictions, as the East Timor genocide was a “benign” bloodbath, while the Cambodian genocide was a “nefarious” one. Ironically, but arguably consistently, the media produced defamatory propaganda as a response to the exposure of the media’s propaganda. Herman’s Wikipedia bio mirrors that propagandistic treatment today, as there is no discussion of Herman’s writings on East Timor, the largest section of Herman’s bio is on Cambodia, and that section leads with a link to “Cambodian genocide denial.” Not only that, there is no discussion in Herman’s bio that the PM predicts that treatment, which is further discussed below.
The Cambodia section of Herman’s bio also stated that After the Cataclysm was “one of the most supportive books of the Khmer Revolution,” when it explicitly wasn’t. Time unsuccessfully tried to bait Chomsky into voicing support for the Khmer Rouge, so who could make such a preposterous claim? That statement came from Sophal Ear’s master’s thesis. Ear’s primary “notability” comes from attacking Chomsky. But that false statement is presented in the Cambodia section as responsible criticism. The source is not notable, according to Wikipedia’s professed standards, and the claim is libelous. The other critique of Chomsky and Herman’s Cambodian writings came via a self-published site, Mekong.net, which is about as “notable” as my site is, and is not nearly what Wikipedia deems a “reliable source.” In Ear’s master’s thesis, which is also quoted in that Cambodia section, he also claimed that Chomsky and Herman’s media critiques were a ruse, so that Chomsky’s “favorable position towards the Khmer revolution would be hidden by the cloak of criticizing the print media's biases.” Ear ignored the explicitly stated purpose of After the Cataclysm (and subsequent work, such as MC), to instead read Chomsky’s and Herman’s minds and declare that their work was secretly about supporting the Khmer Rouge, even though they had already been overthrown by Vietnam when After the Cataclysm was published. That is a conspiracy theory about Chomsky and Herman’s work that has no supporting evidence. That is hardly the stuff of a credible biography, but more like tabloid fodder.
The other sections of Herman’s bio also focus on his treatment of “nefarious” bloodbaths, in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It is only in the last discussion of Herman’s bio that the terms “constructive” and “nefarious” are even mentioned, when that framework was established in Chomsky and Herman’s first joint work. Perhaps predictably, I had to introduce that framework at Wikipedia, and I did it twice (1, 2). It will likely never be allowed in Herman’s bio, as the presentation of that framework would expose the bio’s ideological slant, but, so far, my additions have not been reverted. “Reverted,” in Wikipedia’s parlance, is to delete changes to an article, but the removed changes could be found by reviewing the article’s version history.
In summary, the structural failures of Herman’s Wikipedia bio are those of emphasis. His academic career merited a sentence, his vast writings on “terrorism” and the media’s propaganda treatment of elections, depending on whether client or enemy regimes held them, his editorship of the award-winning Lies of Our Times, his three decades of writing for Z Magazine, his writings on Russia, Latin America, and many nations that the USA has targeted and militarily attacked, are barely mentioned, if at all. Instead, most of his bio is devoted to his exposures of “nefarious” bloodbaths, while not stating that they are “nefarious” bloodbaths, while also libeling him. To be fair, the last section, on Herman and Peterson’s The Politics of Genocide, is the closest thing to a fair presentation of Herman’s work in that bio, and the PM section at least sticks to the facts, but there is a story behind that, discussed below.
The book that initiated the global campaign to falsely portray Chomsky and Herman as Khmer Rouge supporters has a small Wikipedia article, which does not mention that campaign. That propaganda campaign had a far higher profile than the actual book enjoyed, so at least mentioning it seemed prudent. When I made the revision to that article, I added a section on that campaign, which was quickly reverted. Instead, the Cambodia section of Herman’s bio links to a section on “Cambodia genocide denial,” which is a very curious denial, as nobody of significance denies it today. The only “denial” was when almost nobody outside of Cambodia really knew what was happening. The extent of the genocide only began to become clear after Vietnam’s invasion overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Because the hated Vietnamese ended the genocide, the USA supported Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge into the 1990s. The Khmer Rouge’s primary supporter was the American government, after they knew that Pol Pot and his crew were genocidists. As Chomsky has written, Cambodia was the target of a propaganda campaign, and the central claim of the campaign – that the Khmer Rouge committed genocide – later turned out to be accurate. However, that does not reflect well on the media. Chomsky has stated that deliberately lying and being right by accident is not the same thing as telling the truth.
Interested readers can see my article revisions before they were erased, for how more reasonable article structures might appear, particularly for Herman’s bio.
The next chapter will explore the double standards that Wikipedia’s editors and admins have applied, primarily on situations that I was involved with. Herman’s “chutzpah factor” is arguably only an outcome of the other filters at work, and not a filter in of itself, but the implementation of astounding double standards is an important dynamic in how Wikipedia gets filtered.
There are many accounts on the Internet that address Wikipedia’s hypocrisy and other failings. For instance, in that previously mentioned Atlantic article on Wikipedia’s sexism, when a female editor was sexually harassed, she complained to Wikipedia, which resulted in Wikipedia’s banning her. The below narrative is primarily concerned with my experiences with Wikipedia.
I produced an unabridged version of my experiences with trying to improve Herman’s Wikipedia biography, here. To make a very long story short, I was an alternative and free energy revolutionary in the 1980s, and my former partner mounted the biggest run ever made to bring alternative energy technology to the marketplace, as he put the world’s best heating system on people’s homes for free. I met my future partner as his effort was being wiped out by a government-media alliance in my natal city, waged on behalf of the local energy interests. I soon became his partner, and we pursued free energy, which means abundant energy that is harmlessly produced. We soon attracted global interest, and after my partner rejected a billion-dollar offer, delivered by the CIA on behalf of “European interests,” to shut down our operation, our nightmare truly began, which was perpetrated by another government-media alliance (with provocateurs infiltrated into our organizations (1, 2)), waged on behalf of private interests once more.
My partner was lucky to survive the experience, while my life and the lives of many others were wrecked and even shortened (1, 2). My youth and idealism allowed me to survive that experience with my health and sanity relatively intact. At the tail-end of that ordeal, I went to work for the largest privately owned medical laboratory in the USA, which was almost immediately attacked by a similar government-media alliance.
In early 1990, I heard an interview on talk radio in Los Angeles, which announced a new magazine that Herman edited, and my media studies began later that year, when I subscribed to it. The next year, I met a former astronaut who was beginning his own free energy investigation, and we eventually co-founded an organization to educate the public on the free energy issue. Soon after my revolutionary days, I learned that free energy and related technologies such as antigravity are likely older than I am, and that became common knowledge among my associates, although the media will never report on any of it. In 1992, I first contacted Chomsky. I first contacted Herman in 2001, soon after I also contacted Howard Zinn. They were all among my most gracious correspondents, and their behaviors lent weight to my opinion that they are among the greatest humans that my nation has yet produced.
In 2007, I tried to improve a massacre list at Wikipedia that was racist and wildly unbalanced. A friend and I introduced massacres of Native Americans that were omitted from that list. We provided the first additions to that list with scholarly support, to watch them all be reverted by the editors and admins in mere days.
In 2009, I became my astronaut colleague’s biographer, and got his NASA bio published, as well as improving his Wikipedia bio, which was a sorry excuse for one before I got involved. It took several years before I was finished with trying to improve his bio, but it finally became something that I could live with.
So, I was well-acquainted with Wikipedia’s shortcomings when I wished Herman a happy birthday on what turned out to be his last one, in April 2017. I also observed how abysmal his Wikipedia biography was, offered to help improve it, and showed him my astronaut colleague’s Wikipedia biography. Herman admitted how disgusting his Wikipedia biography was, asked me to help improve it (but insisted, with his characteristic integrity, that I was under no obligation to), and that was all the encouragement that I needed. I immediately devoted my spare time to studying his work, in depth, to prepare for writing his biography.
Herman soon went silent as his health failed. He died later that year, and never got to see my efforts. For several months after Herman’s death, I worked on his biography, and then I spent about 100 of hours of effort in preparing improvements to his biography and related articles at Wikipedia. In July 2018, I finally published them, to see them all be erased by that admin in mere hours, as he used flimsy and faulty logic, while making false accusations, insults, and even swearing. Other than being Herman’s fan who had corresponded with him, none of the other admin’s charges regarding my work on Herman’s bio were valid, as he played policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. When I began the process, Herman did not have a Wikiquotes page, so I made one, and it is about the only fair treatment that his work gets in the Wiki-universe today, as his voice is finally heard, free of libel and misrepresentations. So, not all is lost in the Wiki-universe.
That rude admin also erased much of my work on my astronaut colleague’s biography. Fortunately, even as a stub, my astronaut colleague’s Wikipedia bio today is not libelous, and is a vast improvement over what it was before I got involved. I’ll have to live with it as is. But his biography is now silent on what he considered his most important work: free energy and its transformative potential. My remedy will be to make a Wikiquotes page for him (I did so, in August 2020), as I did for Herman, and at least some of his free energy views will be in the Wiki-universe, especially since his personal website disappeared from the Internet in 2020, despite my repeated offers to host his site. I saved some pieces of it (1, 2). I believe that the only editorial “crime” that I ever committed at Wikipedia was on my astronaut colleague’s biography, that is a little story in of itself, and that situation is doubly ironic, as the words that the admin erased were that astronaut’s own words.
One of my pupils witnessed what happened, protested my treatment, and was banned from Wikipedia himself, once again on false pretenses. But he persisted, enlisted famous help (who was surprised by the “aggressiveness” shown in erasing my work), and five months after the original erasure of my work, Wikipedia unerased my changes. They are all still reverted and may never appear in Herman’s bio or the related articles, but at least Wikipedia’s readers can see what I wrote, if they do a little digging.
Long before I published my changes at Wikipedia in July 2018, I knew that I was in for a battle. For instance, the dominant editing of Herman’s bio was through an account named “Philip Cross,” who might be Wikipedia’s most infamous editor (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). While the person exists, the edits made under that account are very likely not all his. He has not had a day off from editing in several years, and has made far more than 100,000 edits. The Philip Cross account likely represents an operation, not an individual, which may well be intelligence related. “Cross” is very lawyerly in “his” work, understanding all of the intricacies of Wikipedia’s policies, but “Cross’s” work on Herman, for instance, is libelous. Wales has defended Cross a number of times, and they serially edited Jeffrey Epstein’s biography, soon before his “suicide.” It was interesting how much they were both interested in spinning that issue, which tainted British royalty. When the founder of the White Helmets operation was found dead, Cross immediately began editing the founder’s Wikipedia bio, as Cross spin-doctored it on behalf of his deceased ally. Some authors in that numbered list above have noted the happy coincidence that Cross’s political stances mirror Wales’s.
Cross has been the most active, prominent, and malicious editor of Herman’s bio, but is far from the only one. Below, I will discuss some of Cross’s specific edits to Herman’s bio, and the double standards that Cross used when editing Wikipedia.
I covered that issue at length in a post to the talk page of Herman’s bio, which was at least not erased or hidden. I published it in conjunction with my changes to Herman’s bio, and similar to Chomsky’s third order prediction of the PM, for the Establishment response to the exposure of the facts for “constructive bloodbaths,” not a peep has been heard from the assailant editors, that rude admin, or Cross. Cross’s editorial crime, which is still reflected in Herman’s bio to this day, has passed unaddressed and indeed unmentioned by that gang of editors of Herman’s bio, or that rude admin. It is also worse than that, as when other editors tried to remove the misleading account of the censorship, the gang of editors immediately reinstated it. One of the most outrageous instances of Western censorship in my lifetime has been effectively censored in the bio of one of the censored authors.
Cross’s misrepresentation of the suppression of Counter-Revolutionary Violence was indefensible, which is why it has passed in silence at Wikipedia, but it was far from Cross’s only editorial crime on Herman’s bio, and Cross was far from alone in making Herman’s biography into the libelous article that it is today. One issue in particular has been used to smear both Herman and Chomsky: their writings about Cambodia. The Cambodia section of Herman’s bio is led by a link to “Cambodian genocide denial,” and in all writings at Wikipedia about Chomsky and Herman’s treatment of postwar Cambodia, the primary sources are Sophal Ear and Bruce Sharp. Sharp runs Mekong.net and is about its only contributing author. Mekong.net is a one-man show, like my site is, and it clearly does not meet Wikipedia’s reliable source standards. Sharp is a former janitor who self-admittedly does not have scholarly pretentions, and his work shows it, with lurid essay titles, such as accusing Chomsky and Herman of being “evil scholars,” while misrepresenting their work. Ear’s work on Chomsky is not notable, and is clearly libelous. On the Internet, the only essay that I am aware of that addresses Ear’s and Sharp’s writings on Chomsky and Cambodia is this one, by Joshua Buermann, which is written in a humorously sarcastic style.
Buermann’s essay was primarily concerned with assessing the accusations directed at Chomsky and Herman ever since After the Cataclysm was published, and the pertinent questions are: “Are they genocide deniers and supporters of Pol Pot?” Buermann agreed that Chomsky and Herman were primarily concerned with the media’s treatment of postwar Cambodia, which was made clear in the first paragraph of After the Cataclysm. Both Ear and Sharp dismissed the book’s clearly stated purpose with specious logic and took Chomsky and Herman to task for their presentation of the objective reality of postwar Cambodia, when that was not what they presented, nor was it the purpose for writing After the Cataclysm. After the Cataclysm is the immediate precursor to MC in the Chomsky-Herman canon, and the themes are similar, if more developed in MC.
To make matters worse, Ear and Sharp cited works to demonstrate that Chomsky and Herman were wrong about their assessment of postwar Cambodia, but they cited works that were published after Chomsky and Herman’s book was. Buermann noted the irrationality or dishonesty of criticizing somebody for not addressing something that did not even exist at the time. Ear and Sharp were nearly silent on what Chomsky and Herman specifically addressed in After the Cataclysm: the media’s treatment of postwar Cambodia. Ear’s and Sharp’s works were illogical on multiple levels, and they perpetrated the straw man argument. It is easy to read Chomsky’s and Herman’s work, read Ear's and Sharp’s, and see how Ear and Sharp consistently miss the point of Chomsky’s and Herman’s work, to be charitable about Ear's and Sharp's errors.
It is noteworthy that Ear was a Cambodian refugee who fled to the USA when the USA supported Pol Pot, but his targets have primarily been Chomsky and the United Nations, while going easy on his adopted nation and his employers, which has often been the American military, which created the Cambodian catastrophe in the first place. That is a curious focus for his work.
Buermann concluded that Chomsky and Herman performed reasonably regarding the question that they posed, on the media’s performance. As Chomsky later noted, before they published After the Cataclysm, they sent the manuscript to Cambodian specialists, and nobody made any significant criticisms. There was nothing to honestly and rationally dispute about their investigation of the media’s treatment of postwar Cambodia. But, that did not stop the propaganda bandwagon from rolling over Chomsky, and to a lesser extent, Herman. They suspected what was coming and tried to forestall it, to no avail.
That Ear and Sharp are the two primary authors cited at Wikipedia demonstrates the issue’s legitimacy. Buermann devoted another page of his site to the dishonesty and irrationality of academic attacks on Chomsky’s political work. In 2002, Buermann delved into Chomsky’s writings and criticisms of his work. I did the same thing, a decade before Buermann did. Herman and Chomsky wrote prodigiously and controversially, so what might they have gotten wrong, and did their critics make valid points? I rarely found any criticisms of Herman’s and Chomsky’s work that had any merit. It was nearly all lies, misrepresentations, and fallacies of logic. I eventually fielded similar reactions to my work. Incidentally, about 20 years ago, Ear heard from me about his work on Chomsky; I was unhappy with his libelous attacks on Chomsky’s work.
Ear and Sharp are clearly not notable or credible sources for critiquing After the Cataclysm. So, why are they the primary sources of Wikipedia’s critique of it? That is where Cross comes in.
In 2012, Cross added those libelous statements from Ear’s Master’s thesis, and defended it by stating that it has been “much cited, despite its lowly origins.” Cross also added the reference to Mekong.net the day before he added the Ear quote.
The PropOrNot smear campaign, which the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post promoted, was a devastating blow to the alternative media, and the other tech giants joined ranks to reduce the traffic to those smeared sites. AlterNet was a casualty of that neo-McCarthyite effort, as its traffic plunged by two-thirds, and it was sold the next year. I predict that history will not look kindly on the White Helmets operation, which is clearly a propaganda operation that was founded by a member of British intelligence. While spin-doctoring the Wikipedia bio of the White Helmets founder, Cross deleted a reference to an AlterNet article, while calling AlterNet not a “reliable source.” At AlterNet’s own article at Wikipedia, it can be seen that NPR named AlterNet one of the five best news sites on the Internet in 2001, and AlterNet won several awards.
I recently had the “honor” of having Cross hunt for Wikipedia references to my work, and he deleted one, here, soon before I wrote this essay, as my writings have struck a nerve at Wikipedia. Briefly, my site and Mekong.net are roughly equally notable, although my work could be argued to be more notable. For instance, an academic journal published the 2001 version of my Columbus essay, soon after I contacted Zinn about it. What is significant about Cross’s deletion of a Wikipedia reference to my site, while he added references to the likes of Sophal Ear and Bruce Sharp, is that my essay that he deleted the link to is considered the last word on the subject, ever since I first published it in 2007. I have seen it referenced in newspapers and books since then, and nobody with any credibility has ever disputed that essay, as the evidence that I used is easily reproducible and in the public domain. On the other hand, Ear’s and Sharp’s writings on Chomsky and Herman are misleading and even libelous. But Ear and Sharp are reliable sources, while AlterNet and I are not. Those are merely some of Cross’s behaviors that cross Herman’s line from hypocrisy into chutzpah.
Several weeks before adding the references to Ear and Sharp, Cross added another libelous quote to Herman’s bio, on Herman’s work on the Srebrenica massacre, and specifically Herman’s formation of the Srebrenica Research Group. Cross added an assertion by Marko Attila Hoare in FrontPage Magazine, which is at the extreme right end of the ideological spectrum, is run by David Horowitz, and is not considered to be a reliable source at Wikipedia. In the same article in which he called Chomsky a genocide denier, Hoare stated that the purpose of the Srebrenica Research Group was to “propagate the view that the Srebrenica massacre never happened.” Herman wrote prolifically on the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the West’s contribution to it. But readers will search in vain for even a hint in Herman’s writings that the “Srebrenica massacre never happened.” Readers can see for themselves the report by the Srebrenica Research Group, and Herman wrote the report’s preface, conclusion, and other chapters, as well as edited it. What the Srebrenica Research Group did was examine the evidence on the Srebrenica massacre, which was another “nefarious” bloodbath, and show how the massacre of perhaps 800 men got inflated into a “genocide” (and the Serbs evacuated the women, children, and elderly before the slaughter began, which alone defeated any kind of “genocide” label). Herman coauthored a book on the media’s double standards for the use of the word “genocide,” and the disparities that Herman and David Peterson adduced are the greatest that I have seen in the social sciences.
Hoare is arguably more notable than Ear is, but in an infamous way. Hoare’s greatest claim to fame was working for the Yugoslavian war crimes tribunal, which is notable for its many judicial irregularities. Hoare specifically worked on the tribunal’s indictment of Slobodan Milosevic, which is one of the more outrageous legal maneuvers in the past century, as it was announced during the USA’s unprovoked bombing of Serbia. Hoare’s writings are easy to find on the Internet, to see his work’s tenor. Hoare’s statement on the Srebrenica Research Group’s purpose exemplifies his credibility. Herman, as he had done since the 1960s, focused on the double standards of treatment more than the objective reality. Herman wrote that the Racak “massacre” was a “mythical” one, in his and Chomsky’s framework, while the Srebrenica massacre was “nefarious.”
Herman wrote about one event that really was part of a genocide, which happened only a few months before the Srebrenica massacre. Unlike the fantasy numbers of 8,000 men being executed at Srebrenica, Paul Kagame’s forces actually did slaughter around 8,000 men, women, and children in a Hutu refugee camp. Like East Timor and Western awareness, virtually nobody in the West ever heard of the Kibeho massacre, as it was committed by an ally, not a demonized target such as Serbia. Kagame’s forces slaughtered millions of people, but it was a “benign” bloodbath, so it has largely been unmentioned in the Western media, while Kagame is feted as a heroic figure.
In summary, those are among the chief libels in Herman’s Wikipedia bio today, all authored by Cross. Perusing Cross’s other edits shows how petty and vindictive they can be. One last example should make the issue clear. When Chomsky’s career is finally finished, and the corpus of his work sits beside Einstein and Socrates on the shelf of the history of Western thought, he may well be most famous for MC, even though Herman was the primary author. Since Herman’s death, I have read three scholarly works that discussed the PM and were devoted his memory. But in Cross’s view, Herman’s political and media writings do not merit the term “scholarship,” so Cross deleted it from Herman’s biography.
Before I made the edits to Herman’s Wikipedia bio and the related essays, I was well aware of the editing trend on Herman’s biography, beyond Cross’s contributions, and I saw the same jingoist orientation among the editors that I saw when making those changes to the massacre list a decade previously. I was not very optimistic, but the rudeness and irrationality of the admin who erased my changes was shocking to even me. Having the prosecution make faces at me while I was on the witness stand makes my Wikipedia adventures pale to insignificance, but I admit to being surprised at the reaction’s vehemence, which continues to this day.
The rudeness and dishonesty around Herman's Wikipedia bio was memorable, but the incompetence of that gang of editors was also noteworthy. As an example, before the admin erased my changes, another editor bragged about how many times he had edited Herman’s essay, and wrote that I was taking it too easy on Herman. That editor claimed American Indian heritage, which I thought might make him a little more sympathetic to Herman’s work, as his heart was always with this world’s downtrodden, wherever they were. This editorial situation can all be seen on the talk pages of Herman’s bio. That Indian’s edits already demonstrated that he did not understand Herman’s work. In early 2019, Herman’s bio could not even get the PM’s number of filters right, as it listed four, when there are five. In late 2019, somebody finally corrected Herman’s bio to list the five PM filters. When that fix was finally made, that Indian editor reverted it! Not only did he revert it, he also wrote, “You’ll have to prove to me that ‘flak’ is a filter.”
When Wikipedia is not erasing contributions such as mine, following the edit history of an article such as Herman’s biography can be an education on how Wikipedia makes propaganda. I also noticed the disingenuous emphasis on process over content, particularly by that rude admin. It is similar to what I have seen Facebook do, as they claim that they are not responsible for the content on their sites, even when exercising editorial control. An example is when that admin deleted my astronaut colleague’s work on stellar occultations, dismissing mention of that work as “hagiography,” even though it was published in venues such as Science, which is the house organ of American science, and my colleague was a prominent figure in that field.
Philip Cross constantly stated Wikipedia’s rules to justify his edits, but “his” astonishing double standards in treating sources, while adding multiple libelous statements to Herman’s bio, displayed Cross’s fidelity to them. Clearly libelous statements have stood since 2012, were inserted by an editor that Wales has repeatedly and crassly defended, and there is no sign that they will ever be removed, while my corrections of such libelous statements are erased in a few hours, while using faulty logic and false “facts” to justify it, accompanied by insults, threats, and swearing. Chutzpah, indeed, and I was only the latest editor who made a futile attempt to remove the libel from Herman’s bio.
Todd Gitlin was also repeatedly quoted, in Herman’s bio and related articles, and in Herman’s mainstream media obituaries, and Gitlin deserves some discussion. Gitlin was a prominent member of what Herman termed the “Cruise Missile Left,” who Herman argued were warmongering “liberals” that hid behind a “humanitarian” façade, whose exhortations for military interventions often coincided with those of the openly imperial pundits, such as the neoconservatives. Gitlin argued for the invasion of Afghanistan and approved of Yugoslavia’s bombing. Gitlin is not quite the imperial “leftist” that Christopher Hitchens was, who also supported the American-inflicted genocide in Iraq while lauding the “humanitarian” precision of cruise missiles, which inspired Herman’s neologism. Gitlin argued that sometimes empires performed good deeds, if largely by accident, as justification for his stances, and he is part of what has been called the “patriotic left.” While Gitlin is notable, his critiques of Chomsky and Herman, as with Ear and Sharp, missed the point of Herman and Chomsky’s work, in my opinion. Gitlin’s criticisms have questionable merit and his work is an example of what Herman and Chomsky regularly wrote about, on the ethical bankruptcy of “liberals.”
I am an accountant by profession, and am about the only one who writes publicly about the fatal conflict of interest at my profession’s core. Herman also mentioned it in his work, for an example of how our writings overlapped before I became his biographer. Enron had wonderful procedures in its policy manuals, but their enforcement was lax-to-non-existent, so those policies meant nothing, and so it is with Wikipedia. Laws were passed (such as Sarbanes-Oxley) when CEOs claimed that they were not responsible for the fraudulent behavior of their companies, in order to hold them accountable. The laws are watered down and barely enforced, but the theory is clear. To hide behind high-minded procedures that are selectively enforced, or not enforced at all, is no defense for fraudulent behavior.
Ever since my work was erased, writing another essay on Wikipedia was on my task list, but I was not sure if I would do it before I updated my online textbook. I also had updating Herman’s bio on my site on my list, and the latest travails of a Wikipedia editor, as he tried to improve Herman’s bio, finally spurred me to write this essay. As I write this, that editor has recently been threatened, chastised, and has gone silent, as I have seen other editors disappear from Herman’s bio when they got attacked like that. What was his crime? He was trying to mention the PM’s predictions in Herman’s bio, which anticipated the attacks that Herman and Chomsky received when they exposed “nefarious” bloodbaths. The predictions are Chomsky’s, from his own coauthored model, and those predictions, just like any scientific hypothesis, provide the basis to test of the validity of such hypotheses. Just as if the bloodbath framework that Chomsky and Herman developed was in Herman’s bio, it would expose the ideological nature of Herman’s bio, mentioning Chomsky’s own predictions in that article would even more thoroughly reveal that Herman’s bio is the result of an ongoing propaganda effort. That rude admin calls this logic “gaslighting,” but Chomsky’s PM predictions are the social science equivalent of Einstein’s predictions of relativity theory. To censor Chomsky’s predictions in that way is the equivalent of censoring Einstein’s predictions of his relativity theory, as a way to dismiss relativity. Herman’s biography stands today as a stark confirmation of Chomsky’s third-order prediction of the PM.
Notability Revisited, and Other Issues
Other authors have noted the logic at Wikipedia that will prevent it from being anything other than an Establishment mouthpiece, and the sourcing issue is a key. If mainstream sources are by definition “reliable,” then the mainstream media’s bias will become Wikipedia’s bias, which has happened. If a Nobel laureate could not get a Wikipedia bio until winning the Nobel Prize, as that finally made her “notable,” then Wikipedia has deep structural limitations, and that should be taken into consideration when reading Wikipedia.
Many mainstream institutions have been subverted, and perhaps the most pernicious kind of corruption is that found in non-governmental institutions, as they are usually non-profit organizations that profess humanitarian goals, which makes their distortions more deceptive than a Madison Avenue ad campaign or a politician’s speech. The two most prominent “human rights” organization on Earth, Amnesty International (“AI”) and Human Rights Watch (“HRW”), were long ago compromised, and whether it was due to funding issues or other influences, such as the intelligence community, is an open issue to me, and it was likely a bit of both. HRW was subverted at its founding in the USA in 1978, as it immediately focused on the Soviet Union, when the USA has been the greatest human rights violator on Earth, by far, ever since World War II ended, when the USA enjoyed unprecedented global hegemony. Also, as Herman wrote, the “liberal” definition of human rights that AI and HRW have adopted is increasingly irrelevant in today’s world. HRW has been involved with many ugly incidents during American interventions and invasions (1, 2, 3, 4), and AI has also adopted the imperial framework for “human rights.” Those organizations enable war crimes, so have become the opposite of genuine human rights organizations. But, at Wikipedia, the reports of both organizations are considered reliable sources. If so-called reliable sources are corrupt, any articles based on their work will be similarly degraded.
Wikipedia has long been a disinformation source on the subject of alternative medicine, and its double standards are vividly evident on that issue. The Quackwatch effort is run by a non-practicing MD who lost a libel suit over being called a quack himself, and whose articles are primarily “notable” for their juvenility and lack of fidelity to the evidence. It is another one-man show. If an alternative practitioner becomes “notable” enough for a Wikipedia article, it is almost guaranteed that the article will be dominated by Quackwatch’s often libelous writings. One of Quackwatch’s targets unsuccessfully tried to get his “bio” removed from Wikipedia, through his attorney.
My family went “health nut” 50 years ago,
as my father tried to prevent a heart attack, and our diet became mostly fresh
food. The change worked, and my father’s health soon became his lifetime’s
greatest. His blood pressure went from abnormally high to “abnormally” low
(but mainstream medicine would now call it
normal), but the booklet that saved his life was banned in the USA in the subsequent decade, for
being “contrary to the weight of informed medical and scientific opinion.”
It turned out that “informed medical and scientific opinion” was strikingly
wrong, that booklet’s information was accurate, and today, that booklet’s
advice is the medical establishment’s first line
of defense against heart disease. Similarly, five years after we changed
our diets, I began a fasting regimen and was ridiculed. Over the years, I
read articles, based on mainstream medicine, which called fasting a dangerous
fad that provided no health benefits. This is another area in which mainstream
science is finally catching up, as fasting is now going mainstream, and a
Nobel Prize was recently won on work on “autophagy,” which fasting triggers.
Similarly, I have been a vegetarian for most of my life, and was ridiculed
over it, witnessed attacks on vegetarians, and today,
vegetarian foods are the hot new capitalist play, with companies such as Beyond
Meat making splashes on Wall Street. If a subject or person becomes “notable”
enough to be covered by Wikipedia on alternative medicine, the coverage is
invariably dominated by Quackwatch attacks and similarly unscrupulous efforts.
So, what is worse, not being notable enough for a Wikipedia article, or if you are, being libeled if you don’t toe the Establishment line? Last year, Christopher Black’s Wikipedia bio was deleted at Wikipedia. I notified Black of the deletion, and he provided a little history of his Wikipedia bio. It was created more than a decade ago, there was initially an edit battle over it, but it finally ended up as something acceptable. Deletionpedia saved the deleted bio, here. Black thought it an interesting “coincidence” that the deletion happened soon after he coauthored a book on the Yugoslavian tribunal. That book’s theme was similar to Herman and Peterson’s work on the subject, and Black was one of Herman’s coauthors. Unlike Hoare, who worked for the Yugoslavian tribunal and participated in the Milosevic indictment, Black helped lead Milosevic’s defense. Black is Canadian and has run for office in Canada and, perhaps most notably, defended targets of the Rwandan tribunal, which was as politically compromised as Yugoslavia’s and even used the same personnel. In an interview in Toronto’s the Star, Black discussed his notification by both Rwandan and Canadian officials that Kagame’s regime placed him on a list for assassination. Kagame’s regime is notorious for its assassinations of political opponents, both domestic and foreign. After my encounters in kangaroo court and with other legal outrages, when even the defense counsel acquiesced to the railroad job, it seemed that the term “heroic attorney” was an oxymoron, but Black is nearly the only one that I ever encountered. Black achieved a client’s acquittal at the Rwandan tribunal.
Black writes prolifically (1, 2, 3, 4), and in notable venues, is internationally sought for interviews, and amazingly won an acquittal in a high-profile and rigged venue, but is not “notable” enough for Wikipedia, while Hoare is. That situation once again suits Jimmy Wales’s political stance. Wikipedia’s failings are so obvious that Wikispooks was founded to provide coverage of people and subjects that Wikipedia does not find “notable.” Black has a bio there, and Herman has one that is not comprehensive, but it is also not libelous. I may work on Herman’s bio there one day, and maybe even Black’s.
The person whose efforts deleted Black’s bio was also a Toronto resident, and in his motion for deletion, he made Wikipedia’s limitation clear: importance and notability are separate issues; you can be the most important person on Earth, but if the mainstream media does not cover you, you will not be notable enough for Wikipedia. The highest council on Earth has repeatedly deliberated on the threat that my former partner posed to the world order, but that council is clandestine and will never have a Wikipedia article, as few of their identities are publicly known. My former partner had a Wikipedia bio nearly 20 years ago, for a short time, before it was deleted, and it was all libel and gossip. I would rather see that he had no Wikipedia bio instead of a libelous one. There is already enough libel on him on the Internet. The most important issue on Earth is not covered at Wikipedia, because the issue and its participants are not “notable” enough. If they are covered, it is with skewed and libelous articles, or it is all dismissed as a “conspiracy theory.”
In this essay, I suggested how Herman and Chomsky’s PM could apply to Wikipedia. What makes this situation ironic or fitting, depending on one’s perspective, is that Herman’s biography itself is an example of the PM’s filters on Wikipedia’s content, with perhaps other filters in operation, while the other articles related to his work are not distorted as greatly, but still fall short of credible encyclopedia articles.
Wikipedia hides behind a shield of opaque procedures and anonymity, enforcing its rules like the most capricious kangaroo court judge, and regularly produces libel. In a way, the situation is similar to Ralph McGehee’s observation about the CIA: it was unsalvageable. Is Wikipedia salvageable? I am not very optimistic, and that is an unfortunate situation and personally disappointing. Like so much of the Internet, Wikipedia is failing to reach its potential and is well on its way to becoming a parody of an encyclopedia. Wikipedia’s behavior on the matter of Herman’s bio will live in infamy.
This issue is distressing to me, for several reasons. I immediately recognized the Internet’s potential, published my first web site in 1996, and worked for Internet companies for more than a decade. I still believe in the Internet’s potential, and my online textbook often refers to Wikipedia, as I chase the biggest event in the human journey. However, I have had to seriously consider removing all references to Wikipedia. I will likely take a compromise position and use Wikipedia as kind of an index for subjects with little political-economic impact, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs, but as my story of life on Earth reaches its human chapters in my upcoming textbook update, I will greatly reduce my references to Wikipedia, as anything with any political-economic relevance, which includes many scientific topics, has been warped, and often to the extent that reality gets turned on its head. In some respects, this entire essay is only a more robust caution for using Wikipedia than I have already published.
In some ways, Wikipedia is a good idea, but several dynamics have ruined it, and perhaps the most damaging is the Internet’s culture of anonymity, which I considered a bad idea from the beginning. I have never written anonymously, and would not expect anybody to take my writings seriously if I did. I consider anonymous Internet writings to be a close cousin to graffiti. I always thought that the culture of anonymity was intended to undermine the Internet’s potential, not enhance it, and my incipient effort rejects anonymity. Today, Wikipedia is riddled with conflicts of interest that would make it a laughingstock if they were all revealed, and because the PM is essentially a conflict-of-interest model, it applies to Wikipedia, even if the conflicts may seem slightly different from those that pervade today’s mainstream media. Caveat lector.
 Herman and Chomsky (1988), Manufacturing Consent, chapter 1.
 Chomsky (2002), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Mitchell and Schoeffel, eds., p. 16.
 Chomsky and Herman (1979), The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, pp. 75-79.
 Chomsky and Herman (1979), After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, p. 30.
 Herman (1999), The Myth of the Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader, pp. 263- 264.
 Herman (1986), Golding, Murdock, and Schlesinger, eds., Communicating Politics: Mass Communications and the Political Process, “Gatekeeper versus Propaganda Models: A Critical American Perspective”, pp. 171-195.
 Horgan (2018), “Noam Chomsky Calls Trump and Republican Allies ‘Criminally Insane’”, Scientific American blog.
 McGilvray (1999), Chomsky: Language, Mind, and Politics, pp. 244-249.
 Herman and Chomsky (2002), Manufacturing Consent, pp xvii-xviii.
 Mullen, “The Propaganda Model after 20 Years: Interview with Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, November 2009.
 Zollmann (2019), “A Propaganda Model for the Twenty-First Century: Structure-agency dynamics and the intersection of class, gender, and race”, MacLeod, ed., Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, chapter 2.
 Barsamian (1998), The Common Good, pp. 41-42. Barsamian produced several books that were compilations of interviews of Chomsky.
 Herman and McChesney (1997), The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism, chapter 4: “Global Media, the Internet, and the Digital Revolution.”
 Herman (2017), “Still Manufacturing Consent: The Propaganda Model at Thirty”, Roth and Huff, editors, Censored 2018: Press Freedoms in a “Post-Truth” World, p. 221.
 McGilvray (1999), Chomsky: Language, Mind, and Politics, pp. 216-220.
 Herman, “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies: The New York Times, 1917-2017”, Monthly Review, July-August 2017.
 Zollmann (2019), “A Propaganda Model for the Twenty-First Century: Structure-agency dynamics and the intersection of class, gender, and race”, MacLeod, ed., Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, chapter 2.
 Broudy and Tanji (2018), “System Security: A Missing Filter for the Propaganda Model?”, The Propaganda Model Today, pp. 93-106.
 Maher, “Wikipedia is a mirror of the world’s gender biases.” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2018.
 Zollmann (2019), “A Propaganda Model for the Twenty-First Century: Structure-agency dynamics and the intersection of class, gender, and race”, MacLeod, ed., Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, chapter 2.
 Pinsker, “The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia – for Pay”, the Atlantic, August 11, 2015.
 Herman’s Beyond Hypocrisy deals at length with that issue, which includes his humorous “Doublespeak Dictionary.”
 Allott, Knight, and Smith, eds., (2019), The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years.
 Chomsky (1996), Powers and Prospects, chapter 3.
 Chomsky (2002), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Mitchell and Schoeffel, eds., p. 18.
 Chomsky (2002), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Mitchell and Schoeffel, eds., p. 17.
 Chomsky (2002), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Mitchell and Schoeffel, eds., pp. 17-18.
 Chomsky (1989), Necessary Illusions, p. 154.
 Blum (2000), Rogue State, chapter 10: “Supporting Pol Pot”.
 Rai (1995), Chomsky’s Politics, p. 28.
 Johnstone, “Narrative Managers in Overdrive After Death of White Helmets Founder”, Consortium News, November 13, 2019.
 Herman (2011), “Preface”, and chapters 1, 8, and 10, The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics.
 Black, et al. (2019), The Hague Tribunal, Srebrenica, and the Miscarriage of Justice. Black wrote the first chapter, titled, ““The ICTY’s Open Contempt for Justice.”
 Black and Crib, “Toronto lawyer claims he’s target of death threat from Rwandan government.” the Star, April 11, 2015.
 Ward, “Canadian lawyer wins legal battle over Rwandan charges”, the Star, February 16, 2014.
 Blinova, “’Good’ bombing: NATO op against Yugoslavia was a war crime – Lawyer”, Sputnik News, October 10, 2018. Talbot, “A reply to correspondence on the Rwandan genocide”, World Socialist Web Site, February 13, 2009.
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