Sunday, January 21, 2007


Erik Bornmann and the Wikipedia battle


Bill Tieleman has generously given permission for me to use part of his story here today. For his full write-up, go to:

Erik Bornmann creates controversy wherever he goes - including the online Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Bornmann is scheduled to testify as the key crown witness against former BC Liberal provincial government ministerial aides David Basi, Bob Virk and former government communications aide Aneal Basi in a BC Supreme Court trial starting April 2.

But in the meantime a ferocious battle has been raging at Wikipedia for almost a year over an entry about Bornmann, as well as on the BC Legislature Raids. In fact, the BC Legislature Raids article on Wikipedia does not even mention Bornmann's name, despite his key role in the case!

Bornmann, who faces a "good character" hearing in front of Ontario's Law Society of Upper Canada, where he hopes to practice law, obviously has supporters who are attempting to make the Wikipedia article as non-descript as possible by omitting much controversial information about Bornmann.

I was recently made aware of this to and fro war over words because several articles I've written over the past three years in the Tyee, 24 hours and previously the Georgia Straight were attacked and references removed from Wikipedia by persons unknown.

Wikipedia's unique open-ended approach to information is commendable. Contributors are encouraged to add to or edit existing material in a cooperative quest for knowledge.

Unfortunately, the open nature of the website also leaves it vulnerable to highly biased and motivated individuals to dramatically alter content to suit their interests.

A clear record of what has been happening at Wikipedia on the Erik Bornmann article is documented and available for all to see at


As I already mentioned over at Mr. T.'s place, one of the things I find tangentially interesting about all of this is how hard the Wiki Angels have worked to try and get it right.

In other words, they've done a heckuva lot better job of fact checking and story correcting than, say, the Editors of the NatPost ever did on the Iranian Badge Zombie issue or Bill Keller of the NYT did on about a zillion Judy Miller stories.

So, given that, why is that all we ever hear/read about Wikipedia in the MSM is how shoddy the site is in comparison to their Greyest of Grey Ladies?

Which, of course, is a rhetorical question that requires little further fact checking to answer accurately.
Excellent point gazetteer. I think the reason so many folks in the MSM are 'down' on Wikipedia is simply that they know the answers to your questions - and they're embarrassed.

They further understand that the very 'existence' of Wikipedia 'news' threatens the ability of media owners to guide all discourse in certain predictable ways. Exactly the kind of thing Mark Marissen, Erik Bornman(n) and an equally enthusiastic crew of behind-the-scenes manipulators with other 'political' groups are upset about.

They very much want to continue to play craps with the people while using their own carefully shaved dice.

That so many dedicated volunteer historians and observers are willing to do this important work - and take the flak from folks who like to set the agenda and both write the rules and manipulate (spin) the facts themselves - is newsworthy. It's too bad more 'news' organizations haven't covered what's been going on. Thanks to Mary - who was first on this Bornman(n) fellow, Sean Holman - who was next, and now Bill Tieleman.

Do you think any mainstream media monitors will be pointing this out in the pages of their own papers anytime soon?

Wikipedia is far from perfect and the current entry for 'The Legislature Raids' shows it, but at least there's a battle underway over important principles. I think it's a story that deserves a much wider airing.
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