Politics Magazine

Today’s Truth

Posted on the 16 March 2014 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

I spend a lot of time on Amazon. My job is one of those where it is a legitimate form of research—finding authors, seeing what’s already available on any given topic, checking prices. It’s kind of like those old, heavy tomes, Books in Print. Only lighter and faster. Of course, Amazon also lets anyone become an author. Often I’ll spy a name that I don’t recognize even after years of being in biblical studies. Many of these books are written by someone with a keyboard and an ego, but no real training. Then I came across what is surely a death-knell to civilization: books that are collected and printed articles from Wikipedia. Yes, that’s right—the source your professors told you never to cite is now available in book form. University Press (university-press.org) sounds like a reputable publisher, but as the website explains, this is a place to get Wikipedia articles on related subjects bound in book form. Author not included.

I don’t wish to single out University Press; many individuals and small-time publishers exploit the fact that just about anyone can generate enough words to constitute a “book.” Long before Johannes Gutenberg was an ink-blot in his parents’ eyes, books were hand-written. That was a form of natural selection since most of the populace was illiterate. A thousand pages written by hand are authoritative by any measure. The printing press gave rise to publishers—the gatekeepers of wisdom. The publisher decided whether ideas were worthy of print or not. Of course, I’m a bit of a hypocrite for writing such things, since most of what I’ve published has been declined a time or two before being accepted. In any case, the role of the publisher was to ensure the accuracy and orthodoxy of the book. Thus it was from Gutenberg to Wales.

Wikipedia is the first stop on many a quest for new information. With a high search engine optimization, and a built-in collective corrective, in theory Wikipedia should be mostly accurate. Depending on when you access it. A few years back I was researching a historical individual when I came across a sophomoric comment about said individual’s paternity. Since anyone can edit, I deleted the statement and read on. Still, since that time, doubts have haunted me about the combined wisdom of the human race. To hear politicians tell it, universities are merely liberal propaganda tools and the truth resides in politicians’ mouths only. I shudder at the implications. It used to be on Amazon that I knew the books had been vetted by some kind of expert reader (although they even let such as me work as an editor in the industry). Now each item has to be examined closely. For depending on the day and hour, the great wiki of truth is ever changing.

From Wikipedia, of course.

From Wikipedia, of course.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog