In my most recent Japan Times column (JUST BE CAUSE August 5, 2008), I intimated that I feel rather negatively about Wikipedia (I call it “that online wall for intellectual graffiti artists”). As much as I don’t think I should touch how historians render my history, Wikipedia’s entry on me has been a source of consternation. Years of slanted depictions and glaring omissions by anonymous net “historians” are doing a public disservice — exacerbated as Wikipedia increasingly gains credibility and continuously remains the top or near-top site appearing in a search engine search.
The issues I have with the “Arudou Debito” Wikipedia entry are, in sum:
A “Criticism” section not found in the Wikipedia entries of other “controversial figures”, such as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama — meaning there is overwhelming voice given to the critics and no voice given any supporters for balance.
An avoidance of quoting primary source material just because it is archived on my website, Debito.org — even though it is third-party material published by other authors.
Omissions of books I published months and years ago.
Other historical inaccuracies and misleading summaries of issues and cases.
Privacy issues, such as mentioning my children by name, who are still minors and not public figures.
“Criticism” sources overwhelmingly favoring one defunct website, which seems to be connected to the “editors” standing guard over this entry.
Other information included that is irrelevant to developing this Wikipedia entry of me as a “teacher, author, and activist”, such as my divorce.
Instead, where are the (positive) quotes from the people and published authors who actually have something verifiably meaningful to say about Japan and social issues, such as Donald Richie, Ivan Hall, Chalmers Johnson, John Lie, Jeff Kingston, Robert Whiting, Mark Schreiber, Eric Johnston, Terrie Lloyd, Bern Mulvey, Lee Soo Im, and Kamata Satoshi? Omitting them makes the Wikipedia entry sorely lacking in balance, accurate research, and respect for the facts of the case or the works of the person biographied. It comes off less as a record of my activities as a “teacher, author, and activist”, more as an archive of criticisms.
For these reasons, I will put a “neutrality disputed” tag on the “Arudou Debito” Wiki entry and hope Wikipedia has the mechanisms to fix itself.