I envision a day when the Encyclopedia Britannica and even basic printed dictionaries will become banned material.
People will hide them in their basements, in their attics. A family secret, the children will see them for the first time by flashlight. Maybe the windows will have to be blackened, so the neighbors will not accidentally see the family engaged in illicit activity.
My stomach clenches in agony when I see Encyclopedias piled up next to the garbage bin. No one seems to want them anymore. Why take up so much space on a shelf? If you need to look something up, today we can just ask Google.
I cringe when I see kids copy-paste text from Wikipedia for their homework. Do they know that the information posted there is fluid? Anyone can sign up to be a contributor. Usually, the material will be fairly accurate, the knowledge of the masses is significant and new contributors will correct mistakes in submissions by previous contributors.
But what happens when the subject is controversial? Who decides when the information is correct?
Facts cannot remain solid when it is “narrative” that rules.
The cyber War for Reality is being overlooked but this is what will define our understanding of the world. It is no longer the individual’s desire for knowledge that defines how much or what quality of information is consumed. Our information is controlled, as is the access to it, and what comes up in our search is what we conclude about any given subject.
Entries on Israel, Jerusalem, Palestine, the Temple Mount etc. are constantly being changed by Wikipedia warriors, trying to solidify their “narrative” and, eventually, influence the answer to the “question of the Jewish people”.
Google algorithms are designed to bring up the “best” the most “correct” or “beneficial” search results. But who defines what is the most correct?
Recently I got a message saying: do a Google image search for the term “White couple”, you will be stunned by the results. I was certain the message was a hoax but I did the search anyway. The results that came up DID stun me.
Most of the images were of mixed race couples. Obviously, the results would have been reasonable, had I searched for an image of “a couple”. That search could reasonably include any combination of race, ethnicity or even gender but here I asked Google for one thing and what I received was something else, the result Google deemed “best”.
Interestingly it seems that Google has also tweaked the results for the term “American Inventor” in order to highlight African-American inventors. This seems like an excellent idea. We should know about these people and their contributions to society. The question is, what happens when the search results are tweaked in a way we consider negative, for example, discriminating against other people or ideas?
Facebook is one of, if not the largest media curator today. Facebook algorithms are designed to keep users on Facebook. This means that the algorithms ensure that users will see material that they like – which is exactly how the echo-chamber is created. Unless the user initiates specific actions to see information unlike that of which they have previously liked, they will only see material that reinforces the opinions and views they already hold. All other information will simply not appear in the Facebook feed.
Unlike Google, Facebook has publicly discussed their attempts to control information in ways that are beneficial to the user. “Community Guidelines” have been instated to keep harmful or abusive material from the public forum. Users who come across offensive, abusive or inciting material can report it to Facebook and, supposedly, it will be removed, for the good of all.
Here again, we return to the question of who is controlling the information? Who decides what is compatible with “Community Standards”?
As an individual user, it seems to me that Facebook has some pretty strange ideas about community. According to the results I have received after reporting offensive and hateful material, Facebook seems to think that Holocaust denial and inciteful hate speech against Jews, particularly Israelis, is normal “community” behavior. I don’t think any of the posts I have reported have been removed. The fact that incitement on Facebook has recently been the deciding factor in driving many terrorists to murder Israelis does not seem to register on the Facebook radar or conscience.
Our Wikipedia world is dangerous. Facts slide away in the update of a Wiki page. Information is curated by faceless people or organizations deciding what to present to us. How is it possible to hold on to the truth when it is other people who define for us what is true? Or tell us that there is no truth, or that everything is true, depending on what “narrative” you are basing your truth on.
The only answer I know is to do things the Jewish way. With books that don’t change. With memory and oral tradition. With parents pro-actively teaching children what they know to be true because they saw it, because their parents saw it, lived it. Holding on to the truth, even while others slide into the abyss of whatever is “politically correct” at the time.
The task before us is enormous. Who even knows what to do in order to begin?
I have made my own attempt to re-teach definitions of a few keystone concepts: Zionism, Palestinian, narrative, West Bank, Wailing Wall, feminism. All of these terms have been perverted to mean something other than their original intention. Pull them out of the lies and the false empires built around them will crumble. There are more such concepts, of course, but these seem to be a good place to start.
In a Wikipedia world, in a world where my outlet to discuss the injustice of Facebook is – Facebook – is there any hope of building a solid truth based, fact-based, reality?
I shudder to imagine the world that will be created if we do not try.
6 thoughts on “The dangers of a Wikipedia world”
I talked with a student once, a few years ago, who told me that there were no books in their home. Only movies of books, televisions and computers. The kid had no interest in reading a book. The word “sad” does not even come close to what I felt for that hid.
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The thing that bothers me the most when doing these types of searches is when they rewrite history to fit a view or agenda. With only non-printed sources created / edited by people with a particular bent it becomes easy to push an agenda. Yes, someone can come along and correct it, but it’s just as easy for someone to come along and change a correct entry to something else.
The only thing we truly own and that which cannot be stolen is knowledge. It really pays to keep an eye on one’s sources for information. Every generation has a taboo subject and accounts regarding that topic tend to be watered down or even worse erased. It’s a shame that the younger generation often relies on inaccurate and glossed over accounts to form their opinions which perpetuates the inaccuracies. This is why having a personal library is so important. It is not until one realizes the truth is lost that one knows the value of the missing piece in the history puzzle.
Great blog post. Totally agree!!!
My only addition to your idea of a personal library is listening to parents and grandparents while they are still around to tell us what they know
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“Facebook seems to think that Holocaust denial and inciteful hate speech against Jews, particularly Israelis, is normal “community” behavior.” – unfortunately, in real life, Holocaust denial and inciteful hate speech against Jews, particularly Israelis, IS normal “community” behavior. 😦
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Posts Tuesday at 10:40
Thanks and couldn’t agree more-