Wiki-Battle Field

Not only are supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duking it out in the states, on talk shows, on blogs, and the newspapers, according to The New Republic, they’re fighting on Wikipedia.

There was the day in February when an editor replaced a photo of Hillary on her Wikipedia page with a picture of a walrus. Then there was the day this month when a Hillary supporter changed Obama’s bio so that it referred to him as “a Kenyan-American politician.” But such sweepingly hostile edits are usually fixed quickly by other Wikipedia users. Often, it’s the most arcane distinctions on the candidates’ pages that provoke the bitterest tugs-of-war. Recently, an angry battle broke out on Hillary’s page over whether to describe Clinton as “a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination” or just “a candidate,” since each phrase implies a different shade of judgment on her chances. Five minutes after an Obama supporter deleted “leading” just after 11 p.m. on March 8, another editor put it back. Seven minutes after that, the word was deleted again. Some thirty minutes after that, it was put back. On it went, with different Wikipedia editors debating the significance of Hillary’s delegate deficit on her talk page and accusing each other of introducing the dreaded “POV”– or “point of view,” a violation of Wikipedia’s most fundamental principle–into the article. At around six in the morning, completing the atmosphere of pandemonium, somebody replaced Hillary’s whole page with “It has been reported that Hillary Rodham Clinton has contracted genital herpes due to sexual intercourse with an orangutan.”

The candidates’ Wikipedia pages are second to their campaign web sites in hits. The man who safeguards Clinton’s page is married to a librarian who doesn’t recommend that anyone use Wikipedia.

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Where to Invade Next

Where to Invade Next arrived in the mail with my most recent issue of McSweeney’s. The title itself is flippant and funny. But there ends the flippancy and humor.

The book is a collection of profiles of seven countries and the reasons for military action to overthrow the current regimes. Edited by Stephen Elliot, this 90-page book has a long bibliography, boasting work by two dozen people in researching and writing it.

As an introduction, it quotes General Wesley Clarke who says in the weeks after the terrorist attacks against the U.S. on 9/11 he was visiting friends at the Pentagon when on told him there were plans to invade Iraq. A few weeks later, Clarke returned and was told that there were now plans to take out seven countries in the coming years.

Most of us will never get to see this memo, but we know it exists.

Now, editor Stephen Elliott, authors Jason Roberts, Eric Martin, and Andrew Altschul, and a team of twenty researchers have re-created this document for the present day. Where to Invade Next contains seven essays, 100 percent factual, laying out in stark detail how the arguments for invasion could be made. A biting look at the role of propaganda in foreign policy, this book outlines exactly how our leaders might make the case for war.

It’s not particularly biting. The blurb above comes from the McSweeney’s web site. Presented merely as it is, the book does a very good job of making the case to change the regimes of Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea.

The propaganda of such cases isn’t assessed, critiqued, examined, or even satirized in any way. Presenting straight-forward arguments, absent a context of any kind, advocating for regime change in these seven countries does nothing to debunk, defuse, or demystify the propaganda used to whip up public and political support for such actions.

This is one of those ideas that probably looked good when discussing it and while doing it, but doesn’t look so clear in the warm light of day.

Review – Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence

My review of Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence is up over at PopMatters.

Once a torturer confesses to his acts, what is resolved? Can his victims forgive him or find relief? Can the families of dead victims gain anything resembling closure or justice? What responsibility or role should the state play in all of this?

Political Science professor Leigh A. Payne tries to answers these questions in her book Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth Nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence. Through television interviews, newspaper stories, books, and court testimony, Payne thoroughly examines perpetrator confessions of state-sponsored violence in the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa.