Lately, Wikipedia seems to have lost many of these markers of objectivity. Is it because the site is now so expansive that it cannot possibly be managed, a kind of failure by success, Roman Empire–style? Stripped of the gestures toward neutrality, Wikipedia is becoming a kind of massive, living artwork: crowdsourced conceptualism. I find it rather beautiful: a bizarre, fictive, everchanging collage. A wabi-sabi Frankenstein text. For example, see the below sentences I've run across in recent weeks:
It has been written, inaccurately perhaps, that German is the only language that allows (us?) to penetrate the horror of Auschwitz, to describe death from within.
That's from the page on Paul Celan. The source cited is a French text; is this the Wikipedia editor's translation, a translation he was unsure of, hence the parenthetical? (Let's be honest, odds are the editor was a man.) Or is this a direct quote presented without quotation marks? And if so, who said it? Shouldn't this kind of obfuscating passive voice by flagged or banned? If it wasn't Celan, and there's no indication that it was, how it is relevant to the page?
The page on the Storming of the Bastille seems to be wholly plagiarized from a British history book (note the formal tone and alternate spellings):
The commoners had formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour cockades (cocardes) of blue, white and red, formed by combining the red and blue cockade of the Paris commune and the white cockade of the king. These cockades, and soon simply their colour scheme, became the symbol of the revolution and, later, of France itself.At the top of this page, an inconspicuous note: "This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (July 2011)" Next to this note, a question mark, not an exclamation point or a red flag. It doesn't seem to have caused much worry in the past few years. (Nothing like the debate over the "the" before "Beatles.")
Then there's Barbara Daly Baekeland, whom I looked up after watching Savage Grace. There's not much information on the Internet about her, but here's Wikipedia's sexist editorializing (italics mine):
Returning to Spain, Barbara accepted the extent of her son's relationship with Cooper, but preferred his developing relationship with a young Spanish girl, Sylvie. However, Sylvie started an affair with Brooks. After discovering the affair in February 1968, Barbara again tried to commit suicide. Brooks decided that he had had enough of Barbara's behaviour, and decided to pursue a divorce. This led Barbara to severe depression and a further suicide attempt, from which her friend Gloria Jones, wife of author James Jones, saved her.
In 1969 she met Samuel Adams Green, with whom she started an affair. Later introduced to her son, noted pop art curator Green was very unimpressed by his artistic capabilities. After six weeks, Green broke off the relationship, although Barbara was still obsessed by Green. She pursued him relentlessly; when she returned to the United States that fall, she walked barefoot across Central Park in the snow wearing nothing but a Lynx fur coat to demand entry to his apartment.British spellings? Check! Slut-shaming? Check!
I hope Wikipedia just gets weirder and weirder as it expands, a kind of paranoid-schizophrenic, Fox News version of the world that, thanks to embellishments and extra u's, is eventually larger than the world.
If you see a good example of Bizarro Wikipedia, please leave it in the comments. I want to collect these.