LE POUVOIR A ACCOMPLI DANS UN INSTANT
CE QUE SIX ANNEES DE RAISON
N'ONT REUSSI A ACCOMPLIR
My secret and arbitrary removal from the English Wikipedia needs to be publicly documented, as a warning to others. After six years and many thousands of hours of careful work I woke up one day to find myself banned, without even the courtesy of a warning that I was being investigated or an explanation for that ban. At first I thought it was a hoax, as there is a strong juvenile element to the community. It was not a hoax. It took most of the day to find out what had happened.
Finally, looking over the contributions of a few editors with whom I had been wrangling at the Kenneth McLaren article, I discovered a discussion at the ANI board alluding to my work on gay history and quoting me out of context. Seeing that there had been conversations about me behind my back and having by now determined that the ban was the result of those discussions, I sent a note to ArbCom contesting it:
- I contest the ban on the following grounds:
- 1. I was not informed of the discussion and was unable to present my point of view.
- 2. LGBT history is a legitimate topic and pederasty is a legitimate subtopic.
- 3. My actions and positions have been falsely represented, I never have supported or defended illegal activities of any sort. In my
- six years editing I have avoided pedophilia topics and debates as largely outside the purview of LGBT history, which is the topic I edit.
- Furthermore I request that the AfDs on the various articles I have edited be suspended (see list on page indicated above) until I can properly participate in the discussion and bring the matter to the attention of other LGBT editors.
This is the answer I received in return (the name of the sender is deleted, as I do not want to personalize this discussion):
- Dear Haiduc,
- The Arbitration Committee decided to ban you independently of the discussion on the administrators' noticeboard. A review of your contributions convinced us that you were engaged in advocacy to legitimize sexual activity involving minors. We have a longstanding policy of ending that advocacy where we find it.
- Our decision is final and is not subject to further discussion.
The accusation that I was "engaged in advocacy to legitimize sexual activity involving minors" is utterly false, and to the extent that it is publicly aired (as it has been), it is defamation of character. I have been engaged in documenting historical pederastic relationships in the belief that publishing information on the historical incidence of such relationships would result in greater understanding OF the phenomenon, not support FOR the phenomenon. The incidents I documented, properly referenced, showed the disturbing aspects, as well as the admirable aspects of this side of human history. It is irrational to think that one could be pro or con an entire category of relationships that range from murderous abuse to tender nurturing.
It has NEVER been my intention to promote legalization of what is now illegal, nor do I believe that underage children should be subjected to the sexual attentions of adults. That is an aberration. Furthermore, pederastic relationships that are now legal, in other words with young people ABOVE the age of consent, in order to be truly legitimate should also be ethical in nature, something that is not usually discussed.
The fact that I have been banned for promoting something that I do not support is a theater of the absurd. I have become a screen for the projections of others' disturbing mental constructs, among them habitual prowlers of pages on the history of pederasty who specialize in suppressing legitimate information that presumably makes them uncomfortable. We may fairly ask, what kind of individual obsessively haunts the halls of gay history and vandalizes them? And how can we best help such people? I doubt it is by indulging their fixations.
As for the ladies and gentlemen of ArbCom, people who have spent untold amounts of time and energy to struggle to the top of the power heap, they can only have based their ban on some imagined ability to read my mind, since they had nothing else to go on. But in doing so, they have shown themselves to be terrible mind readers, since they have ascribed to me motives that have nothing to do with me or my work on Wikipedia. These alleged motives of mine are nothing else than a solidification of their own personal anxieties and prejudices.
For the six years that I contributed material on this topic, and many others, to Wikipedia, most attempts to squelch my work failed because they had to combat in the open arena of reason and debate, and they were invariably exposed as the work of bigotry, ignorance, prejudice and aggression. The only reason that this last attack succeeded is that it was carried out in secret, behind closed doors, with no community participation or debate. It was one final belch of the same beast that has been laboring all along to suppress the encyclopedic information that I was contributing to ... the encyclopedia. Exasperated that reason alone was unable to dislodge me from the editorial staff, they resorted to the one sure weapon of last resort - brute force.
Along the course of my long life I have lived under many government in many countries. It is a sad fact that most of those governments were ultimately thuggish. For a while Wikipedia was exempt from that rule, probably because it was carried along by the idealism of the pioneers that began this project. But it was only a matter of time until the thugs worked their way to the top. The inconsiderate, brutish and capricious way they have dealt with my work confirms my characterization.
The way in which this matter has been handled reveals the political functioning of Wikipedia as authoritarian in nature, and supportive of the same restrictions on the free flow of information as the culture which spawned it. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that power within Wikipedia is distributed to those who want it, instead of by random appointment, such as the way that juries are selected. We need to ask why some people want and need power over others, and whether such people can and should be trusted with that power.
There has been one other accusation leveled at me, that I systematically and consistently falsifed sources. This is a Big Lie, a very effective form of propaganda.
It bears mention that immediately after I was forced out several articles of many years standing documenting historical homosexual relationships were summarily deleted. It is not I but Wikipedia that will end up with egg on its face for this ridiculous and anti-intellectual moral panic. In the mean time, it is clear that queer studies does NOT have a safe home within the pages of Wikipedia. Editors writing on such topics are safe only as long as they stay within the confines of articles on gay culture. But as soon as they begin to weave the fiber of gay history throughout the entire body of the encyclopedia they expose themselves to attack, and to invective, and to demands that they go back where they belong, at the homosexual topics, and stay out of the domain of the straights. In other words, the gay aspects of every facet of existence can safely be discussed where other gay topics are covered, not where they belong, in the article about a given animal, in the article about a given comic book character, or the biography of this or that notable personage whose gayness was or is not his claim to fame but only a little-known aspect of his life. Welcome to the gilded cage.
Finally, this event in which I was found guilty and sentenced before even knowing that I was charged, in a process utterly devoid of the least transparency or the most elementary decency, serves notice on everyone involved with the Wikipedia project that they participate not in a democratic experiment, but that they serve at the pleasure of a junta.
I am publishing this letter here, since the one mailed to Wikipedia headquarters has not been answered.
It is clear that my mugging at the hands of Arbcom and the destruction of homosexual content in a great number of articles that I and others had worked on is a symptom of a lurch to the hard right by Wikipedia, one that is simultaneous and possibly related to the rise of Tea Party know-nothings in the American public arena. It is also significant that no real opposition has been raised against this violation of Wikipedia integrity and principles, suggesting that those who know what is going on have elected to lay low out of fear that the same thing will happen to them.
OPEN LATER TO WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER
New York, March 23, 2010
Dear Mr. Wales,
For the past six years I have been an editor of your encyclopedia. It has been a heady time, full of hope and idealism. Along the way, I learned a great deal about editorial practices and more importantly, about communicating with others. These skills continue to inform my work and my life. I feel enriched and proud to have contributed to your visionary project, and to have collaborated with the many exceptional people I have met along the way. Thank you for all that.
After editing intensively for several years, I had settled back to do maintenance on the articles I had been involved with. Suddenly, one morning in early February I found myself banned. There had been no warning, there was no explanation. It took me the whole of that day to find out what had happened.
I fully realize that my specialty, gay intergenerational relations, made me less than popular, both with those who dislike gay topics, and those who accept homosexuality but find this aspect distasteful. Adding such information, although relevant and properly cited, to articles not primarily on gay history often raised hackles. In some cases the facts prevailed. In other cases consensus eluded us. Nevertheless, for six years my practice of appealing to reason and sticking to the facts served me well enough. And I did not join Wikipedia in order to win popularity contests. But a ban is going a bit far.
My objections to it are twofold. First, this ban is not the result of the open, transparent discussion that is Wikipedia's trademark. Do you condone this behind-the-scenes removal of an editor, this secret kangaroo court rolling up judge, jury, and prosecutor into one, where not only is the accused not allowed to present a defense, but is not even informed of the trial?
Secondly, the accusation flies in the face of everything I have said and done. The reason for my ban, as per ArbCom's belated explanation, was advocacy to "legitimize sexual activity involving minors." But what I have done is to evenhandedly document historical romantic or sexual relations between men and youths, much of the time youths who today would be above the age of consent in most countries. And in the course of past debates at AfDs and other places I clearly stated my view that abolishing age of consent laws is a very bad idea. Since when is throwing an impartial light upon history, and supporting the status quo, styled "advocacy?"
Having studied pederasty closely, I would be the first to point out that much of it is grossly immoral. And as a member of the Wikipedia community since the early days, I have a personal stake in holding Wikipedia to a high moral standard. But the morality of an encyclopedia does not consist of sacking editors of immoral topics and deleting their work. It rests in its intellectual integrity, in treating all topics objectively and accurately.
I am not seeking reinstatement, though an apology and a retraction would be appropriate. I am a published author and I have other venues in which to present my queer studies work, including the type of non-creative documentation that belongs in an encyclopedia. But I am curious to know whether you support this removal.
In closing, I wish to add that I am writing you as "Haiduc" not because I would object to letting you know who I am. That might well lend strength and authority to my argument. I do so because it should not matter who I am, and because what has happened to me should not happen to any editor, regardless of who or what they might be.
With my very best regards,