Recently, Wikipedia’s been getting some decent press, including an article in the New York Times magazine. I’ve never been much into Wikipedia. Like everyone else, I’ll take a look at it for an overview of a topic or to nail down a specific fact, but on religious or controversial topics, Wikipedia is a hopeless morass of bias. I guess it’s no surprise – who would willingly spend time, uncompensated, to produce and edit these kinds of articles. You’d have to have a strong ideological motivation on a given topic to do this kind of work for free.
It came to me though that perhaps Wikipedia does have a better use. I’ve been reading up on Iran recently, trying to understand a nation whose relevance to American and Israeli politics cannot be understated. Getting a Western perspective is easy enough, but to see the country through the eyes of its loyalists, I turned to Wikipedia.
As I read, my assumptions about what the Wikipedia article would look like were largely confirmed. The tone of the article conveys a great sense of pride in Iranian history and culture, even as it whitewashes or even ignores ignominious events. For example, though much is made of Iranian pride in Islam, the actual Islamic conquest of Iran, a 14-year period whose consequences are still felt today, is disposed of in two sentences.
As an American Jew born in Israel, I realized that I was bringing my own bias to the project, and I wondered if I was merely seeing my own biases reflected back, but then I realized a startling omission. The Wikipedia article about Iran has no mention of Hezbollah! The word appears only once, at the very of a very long article, linking to the main Wikipedia article about Hezbollah. See for yourself:
What’s the lesson? Clearly, Wikipedia remains a poor source for unbiased information, but I did find it to be a great window into how Iranian sympathizers see the country. I should probably read the article about Israel next.