Thursday, May 31, 2018

100 Years of the Russian Revolution, as seen online

Originally this was going to come out on November 7th, 2017 - but everything worked against me, and then May 5th, 2018 was the Bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx (1818-1883), which meant that the first May Day (1st of May) in Bolshevik Russia had the halo of doing it near the Centennial, but by that point the issue of the day was dealing with the new Russian Civil War (1918-1921 or 1922) and trying to make War Communism work (it didn't). This post is a curated collection of links on the subject of the October Revolution as the anniversary came up.

As seen from the Left in association with Jacobin magazine created a Centennial page of links to essays on the subject in Jacobin magazine, alongside their regular coverage of the Revolution in the Soviet history section of their huge website. The World Socialist Web Site did an entire lecture series with David North (separate videos available on YouTube); is Trotskyist. The Baffler published Siddharta Deb's review of China Miéville's October. Miéville himself was interviewed by the Chapo Trap House crew
in May, 2017.  The Russian Reader (written by an anonymous St. Petersburger, "hecksinductionhour") wrote about how the Revolution was being covered by the Australian ABC Radio National. The site continually mentioned that Putin's government planned nothing for the Russian Revolution, linking to this Guardian op-ed about how the Russian government was planning to avoid the Centennial at all costs, a) because it is a far-Right government, and b) the people running it are graft masters.

[post under construction.]

Monday, May 21, 2018

Guest Post: Wikipedia vs. Bill Cosby

This post originally began as a post over at the Wikipedia Sucks! messageboard.

The Bill Cosby case: Wikipedia vs. BBC

by CrowsNest 
So, I just got through watching a BBC documentary on the Cosby case, aired just before his guilty verdict.

Link to a YouTube copy of Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

As ever, it's a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the stark differences between quality information dissemination from a professional outlet, and the sort of garbage Wikipedia serves up, even in massively high profile and controversial cases (which are exactly the sort of thing some people are desperately trying to tell us these days are where the Wikipedia sauce does its finest work). I do this sort of comparison all the time, but the findings are always the same.

For brevity, I'll simply be examining the introduction of the sexual assault case spin-off article, as I think most people would agree that is what most readers of Wikipedia would read when looking for an adequate not too long but not too short run down of the whole thing. Also because it should be the easiest thing for the Wikipediots to get right, since it doesn't need to stray off the core topic, and they are only supposed to be summarising detailed information that should already be in the article body. ... =839558970

First thing that immediately jumped out, was how it totally fails to give a coherent chronology. Specifically, it fails to even mention Constand before Buress, even though the former was the first instance of Cosby facing no criminal investigation despite a very public accusation, which ultimately led directly to the civil suit which led eventually, via Buress etc, to conviction. It actually just drops the mention of Constand in there as a call back from 2015, as if you're already supposed to know who she is.

It also totally fails to acknowledge the media's complete failure to run with Huber's piece, let alone attempt to explain why. Which is easily done when he isn't acknowledged at all in the introduction. That is harsh, given he was the first journalist to look at the Constand investigation, the civil settlement and all the other women who came forward at the time because of it, in the round and think, y'know, this is fucked up, and needs to be written about. That dearth of media attention until a decade later, is a big part of this scandal, the bit which makes it unthinkable if it happened in the present day, and you would know that if the introduction also properly explained Cosby's continuing high profile and adulation in the ensuing decade.

On certain matters, it totally obscures or just plain gets wrong, important details. It doesn't explain why there was a mistrial, it doesn't explain Buress made a direct accusation of serial rape on stage, nor does it identify Buzzfeed as the outlet which sent that story viral (nor even credit the journalist McQuade, whose quick thinking meant we even had a story backed by a recording of that routine). In fact, Christ, this isn't even properly detailed in the main article.

Indeed, given media fear, laxity or whatever, is a big piece of this whole scandal, making it clear that both the crucial pieces by Huber and later McQuade were published in Philadelphia magazine, potentially opening it up to a huge backlash/lawsuit had Cosby done to them what he did to his accusers, you'd think the Wikipediots could have stretched to giving it some credit, above the fold. Not only do they not do that, they don't even notice when someone, perhaps quite innocently, then again perhaps not, inserts the line about what "Adweek reporter Jason Lynch" thinks into the introduction, when he isn't mentioned in the main article at all.

Talking of self-promotion, wierdly, Gloria Allred's name is dropped in there as if she really is just trying to promote herself, whereas the BBC made it quite clear she played a crucial role in these women's fight for justice. While Wikipedia merely states Cosby denied it all, the BBC makes clear that even after Buress, a few short weeks after, Cosby was still trying to use his stature to persuade the media not to even acknowledge this was now part of his story. On the same theme, the BBC of course covered the issue of those who defended Cosby and how/why. And whether a remarkable coincidence or a case of one leading the other, both the BBC and Wikipedia devote significant time to how Goldberg and Phillips evolved their positions. On Wikipedia however, none of this is seen as significant enough for inclusion in the introduction. The introduction doesn't even explain why his deposition was unsealed, which gives important context regarding Cosby's public persona and his eventual downfall in the court of public opinion, well before the eventual trial and conviction which completed it.

Overall, the conclusion is always the same. If you're looking for a good overview of a topic, your time is better spent watching an hour long documentary from the BBC, as crazy as that sounds. Because if you spent any less time than that critically thinking about and indeed fact checking the Wikipedia introduction, you're gonna come away from it being misinformed at best, misled at worst. It is choppy to the point of incoherent, offering no real value beyond what you could manage to piece together yourself in a short session on Google reading news reports. And so really, even if it takes only five minutes to read the Wikipedia introduction, and you come away from that assuming everything you just read was a complete lie and so must be double-checked before you start repeating it yourself in conversation (which, if you don't know, is the legal position of the WMF), who is stupid enough to want to expose their brain to that torture on a regular basis? I do it for the cause. I fear my brain will eventually dissolve into mush because of it.

Google gives millions of dollars to Wikipedia. Think about that, next time you're considering which search engine to make your default, or which driverless car to use to speed you to your inevitable fiery death.

                                  How the mighty have fallen (Strelnikov's favorite Cosby routine.)