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What do Wikipedia and Mel Gibson have in common?

28 May, 2007

What do Wikipedians and Mel Gibson have in common?

They think they have a clue about history and really don’t care if they get things entirely wrong as long as they agree with their friends that they’re right. And that other people believe them.

At least it’s so bad that if I don’t catch my students plagiarizing it, I can still flunk them for using really, amazingly, pathetically wrong information. Because, yeah, we all know that the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were one and the same. Er … yeah.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 May, 2007 1:42 am

    But have you ever have a student cite Mel Gibson?

  2. 28 May, 2007 2:40 am

    Ha. I have, ProfGrrrrl. (On an assignment involving Stanley Fish’s interpretive communities and Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Sadly, there was *reason* to cite Mel Gibson on some aspects of the project, but the student still managed to cite him in a manner that was wholly inappropriate.

  3. 28 May, 2007 3:09 am

    Only in class, profgrrrl! I get a lot of questions about Braveheart (it’s all a lie and Gibson will burn in historians’ hell). I really ought to do some reading on Passion plays and then see if there is anything valid to compare, but that’s not for another semester or so!

  4. 28 May, 2007 1:38 pm

    Gibson will burn in historians’ hellOh, most certainly! He’s right up there, along with Dan Brown (who at least flirts with the concept that what he wrote is fiction, but still manages to convince far too many people that the Da Vinci Code is “real history.”

  5. 29 May, 2007 2:29 pm

    who at least flirts with the conceptBut doesn’t his preface or frontispiece or whatever say that everything contained in his book is the truth, including, I suppose the cartography of modern Paris (which, btw, he gets wrong).I’ve tweaked a few wikipedia posts (oddly enough, on a Carolingian topic: the last sentence on Ratramnus of Corbie is mine. Perhaps you might do something similar?

  6. 29 May, 2007 2:58 pm

    Once upon a time, when the wikipedia was young, and hopes were shiny and bright, I contributed a great deal to the wikipedia. I’ve recently gone in and tweaked, but have had my changes reverted because my detailed reasons for the changes (things like, “this is the most currently accepted version”, and “the version reflected in this article has been rejected for twenty years (see authors X,Y,and Z)”) aren’t seen as good reasons. Ironically, I’ve seen, “historiography changes, and this is the version most people are familiar with, and it may well become accepted again in future” — this when I pointed out that the interpretation was a Rankeian nationalist one. Or, I’ve had people cite books at me to show my interpretation is wrong. They even cite good books. But … OK, on one of the articles on a particular group of Germans, a book written by a good friend was cited. I picked up the phone, and said, “Friend, did you mean X, when you said Y in your book on Z?” He said, after a dumbfounded silence, “That’s not a serious question, is it?” I was happy that we agreed, but I couldn’t convince the person quoting my friend’s book that When he used the word ‘France’, he was referring to the modern geographical area, and not at all implying that Clovis was French.Unfortunately, most of the articles I’d be likely to tweak (or which I originally wrote, but have been re-written to something entirely unrelated) tend to be the articles that attract people with an agenda. There’s a lot of irredentist motivation at work there. Check out the controversy on Copernicus’ nationality, frex — it’s lasted for years!

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