Investigative reporter, author and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen has reported a major new development in the long-running smear campaign that Wikipedia has undertaken against him.
Wikipedia this week rejected a corrected biographical entry for Madsen submitted by a longtime Wikipedia volunteer editor and professional journalist.
Instead, Wikipedia reinstalled the smear-biography designed primarily by anonymous editors using a false birthday and, more important, designed to portray Madsen falsely as exceptionally untrustworthy and unworthy of consideration.
The new biography that was rejected accurately reports that Madsen has recently published op-ed essays in scores of traditional, print newspapers around the United States. Also, he has been an invited national security and political expert on almost all major United States network and cable news channels, including ABC, CBS, Fox News, and NBC.
Wikipedia this week refused to include that kind of career data in Madsen’s bio even though the information, routinely included in bios of other journalists, was documented in the standard Wikipedia submission format. This includes hot links to the specific network programs, newspaper columns, and other sources.
Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner passed the request for comment to a communications aide, Jay Walsh. Gardner has previously said that Wikipedia opposes deceptive entries by opinion advocates and paid “sockpuppets.” Walsh defended all of Wikipedia’s actions, including its practice of relying on volunteer editors who are under voluntary requests to disclose any conflicts of interest.
That answer (amplified below) begs the question of what happens if several editors have a fanatical antipathy to a fairly obscure biography subject, and are able to work with like-minded bloggers and other journalists to create a propaganda-like biography. Any involved in such a plan would have little incentive to step forward with a confession.
In this case, the Wikipedia’s anonymous editor who created Madsen’s bio in 2009 and has tweaked it with hundreds of disparaging edits so far. He has even published a comment questioning whether Madsen ever served in the U.S. Navy.
By contrast, a Navy colleague who served with Madsen and later became a Navy captain has told me that Madsen was an outstanding Navy officer, patriot, and investigative reporter.
More generally, the Wikipedia defamation campaign against Madsen shows a fundamental weakness in Wikipedia’s operations that has victimized many other news subjects and readers. A class on Wikipedia at the National Press Club last summer described major problems especially in bios and political items with the Wikipedia system of relying on anonymous volunteer editors for most content.
I use Wikipedia almost every day because of its useful features. But I published also a three-part series last summer on the problem excerpted below. The most relevant segment was For Trustworthy Commentary, Beware of Wikipedia, Daily Beast, CNN, Poynter — and Many More.
Wikipedia’s treatment of Madsen, a former NSA analyst, parallels its cavalier treatment nine years ago of First Amendment advocate and USA Today editorial page editor John Seigenthaler, show giving a speech in a file photo. Wikipedia falsely described Seigenthaler in 2005 as a onetime suspect in the 1960s assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Seigenthaler responded by writing an eloquent op-ed in USA Today explaining why Wikipedia does not stop character assassins from posting false information.
My series last summer also documented the long history of secret cooperation between U.S. intelligence agencies and the traditional news media to use propaganda techniques on the nation’s domestic population in violation of the agencies’ restriction — in theory — to foreign operations. The column, The Intelligence Community and the DC Media: A Brief Introduction, showed that the Washington Post, the longtime owner of Newsweek until recent years, has been especially involved in high-level cooperation with the CIA.
Madsen, a former analyst at the National Security Agency during his Navy career and non-resident attendee of the Naval War College in Newport, RI, alleges that his cutting-edge investigative stories are at the root of the smears and that the federal government clearly helped generate some of the smears.
More specifically, Madsen has written that the War College has become a hotbed of propaganda efforts to slime national security journalists — including Madsen and Glenn Greenwald — as well as such former NSA employees as Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake and such political office holders as President Obama and Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids region of Michigan who has called for tougher scrutiny of warrantless surveillance of Americans.