What’s wrong with Wikipedia articles dealing with war-time Italy?


For those of us who have either had the good or bad fortune to be a Wiki editor, one quickly understands that there is a subtle and often not so subtle sub-narrative lurking beneath many of the articles dealing with Italy’s wartime involvement. While no doubt, the majority of Wiki editors  write in good faith, there does exist a misguided minority  who are almost completely devoid of good faith, good practice and even, common sense. Instead, they display an unhealthy adherence to only one side of the conflict.  They are shameless promoters of the now largely defunct view that the Italians were useless and ineffectual during the war, which is definitely one of the biggest and most successful lies of this century. For such people Wikipedia acts as a spring-board for their self-promotion and gestalt while at the same time, cherry-picking  views and opinions to promote their own biased views and attitudes not only towards the Italian military but even Italy’s leadership and political/diplomatic involvement in that war. In a word, they invariably and consistently highlight their successes to the point of absurdity while downplaying Italian successes to a minimum. Likewise, they downplay  and whitewash Allied failures while highlighting Italian ones to an absurd degree.

Through such biased and misleading articles, Wikipedia is not only doing a disservice to real history but is actively stifling a truer and more accurate representation of the war and Italy’s part in it. Millions of people around the world use Wikipedia as their first port of call if they want information quickly on any given subject, such as the North African campaign, the invasion of Albania and Greece, or how to cook scrambled eggs! Many internet users of Wikipedia will naturally assume they are getting reliable and unbiased information, but nothing could be further from the truth. Often what they get are quotes from notable historians mixed in with an assortment of unreliable, biased, problematic and filtered information, much of which has been twisted, slanted and cherry-picked in such a way as to suit the nationalistic biases of the editors themselves.

One notorious example is the Wiki article , the Greco-Italian War.  Apart from being badly written and structured, the content is mainly quotes and paraphrases piled on top of each other. These are held together by the cement of some pretty awful editorializing and commentary that contains extrapolations and interpretations that more often than not, try to present the Italian military and its leadership in the worst possible light while waving the flag of Greek patriotism. It is simply an embarrassment to read. The article is so obviously pro-Greek and vehemently anti-Italian that any sensible reader with a modicum of intelligence will see it for what it is. Not only does it lack neutrality and any  semblance of objectivity, but it lacks neutral language, a balanced structure, an impartial tone, due weight and consideration of differing views, and cherry-picking of sources, etc. In summary, the Greco-Italian War article makes a mockery of the very ethos and  guidelines of Wikipedia itself. (See Wikipedia Guidelines here).

This particular article is held hostage by a small clique of Grecophiles with Greek-sounding usernames who have simply confiscated the entire article and laid claim to all editorial rights to it (which is against Wiki policy) so that it is well nigh impossible to actually improve and cleanse it of its many defects. It would be better to simply delete the entire article and start again.

But what is really sad is that these so-called “editors”,  who are obviously amateurs with next to no idea how historical articles should be written, they are not even aware of the damage they are doing to Wikipedia’s reputation. Such articles should be treated with scorn and ignored. If one seriously wants to understand Italy’s role in the war, its aims and limitations, its successes and failures, one should avoid Wiki articles like the Greco-Italian War  because fundamentally, they are flawed and misleading.

Indeed, even Wikipedia itself makes the claim that it is NOT a reliable source of information and  its articles need to be read in that light.

And one can see why. It is the reason why university professors forbid their undergrad students  from using Wikipedia articles as a source for their essays and dissertations.  Academics often shake their heads at the amount of misinformation many Wiki articles do contain, and nowhere is this truer than in articles dealing with war and politics, because often, nationalistic priorities and personal proclivities simply take over. Even well-intention contributors and editors have a hard time putting aside their own personal biases and proclivities when writing or editing such articles.

So, in the end, like  the truly  awful Greco-Italian War  article, one  simply cannot take such articles seriously because they have been undermined and tainted from within. One hopes that such editors who have a clear partisan agenda will wake up to themselves and realize the harm they are doing to Wikipedia’s good name and reputation.

My sincere advice, is to avoid reading Wikipedia articles dealing with Italy’s involvement in the war, or read them with a large and healthy dose of skepticism, even cynicism, and always always consult other sources of information for balance, neutrality, objectivity, depth and detail. I would urge internet readers to go behind the scenes and read the “Talk” pages of such articles and you will see for yourself how haphazardly they are constructed and maintained.

Not all Wiki articles dealing with Italy during the war are terrible – many are reasonable and at least make an attempt at fairness, neutrality and balance.  Others are passable, but are still beset with this persistent Anglocentric point of view that distorts Italy’s real role in the war.  Unfortunately too many Wiki articles present such a skewed history of that war that they have more in common with the old war-time propaganda days of “we” against “them”.

It is more narrative than history.

See below some of the incredibly partisan comments of several of these shockingly biased editors below. Now remember, these Wikipedia editors are supposed to be fair and balanced in what they write about both sides of the conflict:

Below is Dr K.  Notice some of the adjectives he uses to describe Mussolini and the Italians: “voyeur”, “impotent state”, “impotent leader”, “abject failure”, “floundering leader”. With views like this, can one honestly say he’s going to treat Italy’s role in the war with impartiality, fairness and balance on Wikipedia?

“…unduly emphasises minor points in what was an epic failure of the Italian fascist war machine and its floundering leader who personally witnessed and admitted this epic failure of his country, standing helpless at the top of a hill watching the routing of his army like a voyeur in the impotent state of not being able to do anything about it. Why concentrate on these minor points about an army who successfully withstood this onslaught by the Italians and not concentrate on the reasons for this abject failure of the Italian fascist war machine and its impotent leader?” (Dr K)    

This Wiki editor below (BMK) thinks that Mussolini should have thought about his reputation on Wikipedia before launching any wars. This guy is definitely going to write objectively on Wikipedia:

There is a bias against World War II Italy” – You mean that we are determined to call Mussolini a fasscist dictator? …. or what? If Italy didn’t want “negative” articles in Wikipedia perhaps it shouldn’t have put the Fascists into power and then, just as things were going as badly as they could possibly go, conveniently switched sides to the Allies. Unfortunately for the consciences of the Italiian people, their decisions were at every instance a day late and a dollar short, and their motivations were about as base as they could be. BMK (talk) 10:04, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

This delightful editor (with another Greek-sounding username)  uses the word “pathetic” to describe the Italian military. Yep, he’s definitely another “impartial, fair and balanced” Wiki editor:

It’s no wonder that not a single work terms the pathetic Italian performance asvictory. Why should this confuse the reader?Alexikoua (talk) 18:09, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Or what about this comment by yet another Wiki editor called Cplakidas (funny how they often seem to have Greek-sounding usernames) describing what he thinks of the Italians on a Talk page:

Oh what a shame that we Greeks were not also able to bully and attack minor states, preferably those whose armies fought barefoot and without an air force, whom we could gas at will. What a shame that we did not have a stronger ally to bail us out whenever we got stuck due to poor planning and leadership (i.e. always) and then be able to pose both as victors and as better than them (because we did not kill quite as many people or torch quite as many villages) afterwards…

His one saving grace though was when he finally admitted that: you have a point in that the Italian war effort is stereo-typically over-maligned and slandered (Cplakidas)

Above is just a small sample of Wikipedia editors on the Talk pages. Now Wikipedia editors are supposed to demonstrate impartiality, fairness and balance. But do they? Many of them have demonstrated a real partisan approach and have expressed a  palpable disdain for Mussolini, his leadership, his generals and the Italian military and society. Odds are they are not going to write objective, neutral, impartial and balanced articles about Italy during the war. I believe it is important to keep a record of such biased editors like Dr K, BMK and Alexikoua. But there are others (also with Greek-sounding usernames) who should be monitored and censored as well.

I am not against fair and honest history, but if the above examples serve as an indication of their pre-existing beliefs and attitudes of the Italian role and performance in the warthen my friends, I can only allow you to judge for yourselves.

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