Swastika - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

May 04, 2005


If you start going through the Swastika edits, one by one, and only a maniac would at this point, you see points raised, links created, statements made, and then slowly, over time, they're removed.

A link between the Nazi Symbol and Socialism is put up, and later, someone called "Nlight" calls it "presumed nonsense" and removes it. Why? Who the heck is Nlight? Well, someone who couldn't take it anymore, apparently. But if you go look back at his older entries about himself, you see he's a computer geek from the northwest. Why did he remove the link between socialism and nazism? Because he felt like it. Because he "presumed" it was "nonsense", according to the edit. So now [Dr. Rex Curry] has to become a content defender, putting back his socialism link with a citation of it. But now here comes Rasmus_Faber, about 20 minutes later, to undo [Dr. Rex Curry's] work and return it to the non-socialist link. What is called a "revert war" then occurs, with [Dr. Rex Curry] trying desperately to keep his entirely valid Socialist Party link about the Swastika alive while Rasmus Faber (who is, as his page says, a software engineer) repeatedly stops his changes from staying.

Throughout "The Battle of January 31", the changes go back and forth between [Dr. Rex Curry], Rasmus Faber, Nlight, and Mrdice, who, as far as it can be surmised, simply jumps into the Melee to "help" Nlight's valiant attempt to not link Socialism with the use of it by the Nazi Party. (Mrdice, by the way, gives up on editing Wikipedia in early 2004, leaving behind a legacy of zip-and-run edits where he accuses, demands, dictates and runs away, with none of that boring, time-wasting need to show any authority or reputation with his subject.)

And lo and behold, that little nugget of information is lost, the work of four people working at odds with each other over a battle, all of them located all over the world, fighting over what actually might be a real fact.

The story of the swastika's entry continues after this, for over 1,200 edits. Dozens of people are involved, lots of facts are lost, many are gained... and you would be hard, hard-pressed to show why many of these folks should be editing the Swastika entry in the first place. Calling this "open source" and comparing it to programming projects is borderline insane: open-source programming projects have a core team with goals in mind that they state clearly, who then decide what gets in and what does not get in. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not, but people with anonymous IPs can't just come in and fundamentally redo the graphics code on the program and then disappear, never to be seen again.

This is what I mean; you have a brick house that, from a distance, looks decently enough like a house that people say "see, community building works". But what isn't obvious on the surface is how many times those bricks have been pulled apart, reassembled, replaced, shifted, modified, and otherwise fiddled with for no good reason other than battling an endless army of righteous untrained bricklayers who decided to put a window there... no, there... wait, no window at all. If you declare the final brick house a "victory" while ignoring the astounding toll of human labor required to get it so, then you are not understanding why I consider Wikipedia a failure.

And all of this wouldn't be important at all, if we didn't start to see the Wikipedia definitions propogating throughout the internet, being something you get automatically on a lookup from Trillian or Yahoo using it as a way to get facts. That goes beyond scary.. it borders on negligent.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a documentary website to take care of. It's waiting for me, and nothng gets done unless I work on it... which is just fine with me.

Posted by Jason Scott at May 4, 2005 02:08 AM | TrackBack


Whoops; I apparently had a poorly configured upgrade of my weblog software, and it was eating comments. If you commented, please repost.

Posted by: Jason Scott at May 4, 2005 11:07 PM


An "A+" for you on this essay, too.

I can't decide which essay I like more, this new one or your previous one about Wikipedia:

"The Great Failure of Wikipedia"

Thank you for honestly sharing your thoughts -- and for educating the public as to the sad facts about


PS I also think this point you made, below, is extremely important. I hope EVERYONE will pay close

"And all of this wouldn't be important at all, if we didn't start to see the Wikipedia definitions propogating throughout the internet, being something you get automatically on a lookup from Trillian or Yahoo using it as a way to get facts. That goes beyond scary.. it borders on negligent."

Posted by: SummerFR at May 4, 2005 11:11 PM

Wikipedia is just one corner of an increasingly amazingly gigantic web of information. The statistics are astounding; Wikipedia alone has far more information than did the entire Internet not so many years ago.

Clearly Wikipedia succeeds at some things & fails at others. I don't see why there should be any controversy about it, except that various people have various stakes in it being somehow more or less than it actually is.

I personally enjoy the aesthetic of Wikipedia articles. They have a distinct voice to them. It's not the voice of an Authoritative And Comprehensive Encyclopedia, to be sure, but it's not just arbitrary rambling & opinion, either. Wikipedia articles have a pervasive tone of *compromise*, especially on contentious pages. Things are written in a way that gives hints at all of the various wacky views on the subject, while staying noncommittal.

You're surely correct that there's been lots of pointless bickering & revert wars & all sorts of other nonsense surrounding the Swastika article-- but in my glancing at the edit history I can't help but feel like the overall *course* of the thing is that it's been gradually becoming an increasingly useful & interesting article.

Is it the best possible article about the history of Swastikas? No. Should it be deified, tattooed on the insides of our eyelids, required reading for all schoolchildren? No. But-- is the world better for having it than if it didn't exist at all? Yes, I think it is.

Wikipedia's only a failure when compared to some unreasonable goal-- answering everyone's questions about everything, eliminating human ignorance forever, resolving the Ultimate Truth of Things once and for all. It's perfectly successful at being a nice fun little informative website.


Posted by: Mungojelly at May 5, 2005 02:01 AM

Mungo, you speak with the blissful hum of the consumer, delighted his product comes to him with such apparent ease, aware there might be controversy in the distance and fretting ever-so-slightly before returning to your happy place. That is fine.

My issues with Wikipedia were always procedural, and have turned a little bit concerned because people are starting to use Wikipedia as an academic source and point of information without being aware how arbitrary and problematic its setup is. The response of "well, they shouldn't do THAT" is not sufficient, since work with Trillian and Yahoo are ensuring this problematic architecture is being obfuscated.

Again, as I said in my posting, I do not dispute that the final product seems fine and is very likely fine for people to use, but it comes at an enormous toll of time and effort to achieve what it does achieve. Assuming people take any time to type, the Swastika article alone represents days and possibly weeks of lost productivity (depending how you measure them) which are not reflected in the final work, and as my extremely cursory overview shows, facts and additional information are obliterated simply by erosion by people with no personal stake in the subject or in-depth knowledge of it, eventually driving out people bringing in views or researched information. Sometimes the resultant work is deep and informative... often it is not.

I am reminded of a review of a certain video camera, which was reknown for being pretty inexpensive and making good output, where the reviewer said "this camera does not help you learn to be a cameraman... it teaches you how to run this camera alone". Wikipedia's procedural faults, complete anarchy as regards contributions, and sometimes-bizzare social rules do not teach people to become good researchers or writers... it teaches them how to be good Wikipedians, or to get the hell out.

Saying "Well, you ask for the impossible and we should be happy with what we have" is not an answer; it is a platitude. It is also very, very in line with the Wikipedia approach and outcome. I personally do not live by it. So there you go.

Posted by: Jason Scott at May 5, 2005 02:15 AM

- I think that it weakens your argument to use such a culturally/politically/racially/religiously charged symbol. Of the half-million entries in the wikipedia, I would assume the 'Swastika' one would be very high on the controversial side. If I were doing research on the Swastika, I would certainly recognize this and draw from many sources, as any schoolchild is taught at the library. (This is absolutely true of the "Disputed" ("NPOV") topics in the Wikipedia, but of course many other types as well. Would you draw research on the Swastika using only Britannica? Do you think that the editors of the Britannica didn't have lots of discussions and changes and arguments over what the Swastika entry should say?)

Your argument seems to really only be of relevance to these types of "hot topics" - thankfully, the open system allows me to see these arguments which are taking place.

- I think it is unfair to refer to Wikipedia usage as "negligent" Who said that it is providing what you call 'facts'? Does your BBS Documentary have disclaimers all over it that say "THIS FILM IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS FACT - IT IS MERELY THE VOICES OF SEVERAL PEOPLE STATING THEIR HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE, EDITED TOGETHER BY ME" I doubt it. People watching it should know better, just as people gathering information from any source should.

- I wonder if you hate our form of government too - that whole 'checks and balances' thing is so obnoxious. The entire system looks like a nicely built house from afar, but when you get close and see all of the changes and revisions and mistakes... How do you like my strawman argument?

Posted by: Frank at May 6, 2005 01:49 PM

Frank, I'll start with you, since it's the easiest to explain/work with.

I entirely agree that the Swastika entry is a pretty weird one, and contains some additional echoes of political and taboo-oriented noise that make it more contentious than the usual entry. But part of how to tell the effectiveness of a system is how it functions under load, and the Swastika entry is under heavy load. When you have an entry with one or two people working with it, then you have what I call the "Advantage of Least Worth", which is where a subject or object that has meaning to very few people ends up being rather consistent in its operation. Just like a piece of code where one person is the entire development team has a very straightforward, monolithic feel to the code because it is, after all, one or two people.

The problem with me going further into this Wikipedia thing is that it's a time sink unlike no other; the point of this entry was to give an example of what I am talking about and why I said what I said. You have looked at it and gone "nah, not valid" and that's fine. I suppose I could run a site that delves deep into the politics and flaws of Wikipedia, but then I think that wouldn't be very helpful AND would in fact, ultimately be stupid since I could be doing positive things with my own sites and works.

Kudos for linking my BBS Documentary in with this entry, although tangentally. At the end of the day, the documentary ends up standing on its own, the work of one person, and then I will be involved in criticism and activity with it from them on. Since I'm releasing it and all its raw footage as Creative Commons, the opportunity for people to take it and refashion it is quite there and quite encouraged.

Yeah, you got a little sarcastic there at the end, but let me at least address where I mean "Negligent". When you start doing things like linking Wikipedia in from chat clients and search sites, you head down the road of starting to obfuscate the source. And it's all well and good to go "don't believe anything you see or hear from the Internet or from your client" but the fact is people are using the Internet to purchase items, shop, research and grab facts, and that trend is not going to diverge; it is likely going to increase. With barely any barrier to entry and with the lack of assigned editors or at least people keeping some sort of Den Mother relationship to areas, there is a lot of wasted energy I do not wish to put into the project.

Posted by: Jason Scott at May 6, 2005 03:50 PM

Just to point out that posting on Wikipedia as an IP can be a way to avoid being watched, tracked or retaliated against by others who wish to escalate edit wars by going after other work. Believe it or not, some people are crazy enough to threaten this.

The WikiInfo page criticizing Wikipedia also claims that admins regularly put users on watchlists to track "problem users", ie. anyone who goes against the groupthink grain. I'd feel better keeping a single pseudonym permanently if the admins were more responsible and protected users from harrassment.

Posted by: anonymous at June 8, 2005 05:12 PM

Although not mentioned above, I was part of the general wiki war over Nazism and Socialism -- a large group of Wikipedians were adamantly denying that Nazis ever even CLAIMED to be socialists.

Editing the Wikipedia is too much of a hassle, its a goddamn waste of time. I wrote a criticism of the Wikipedia at: http://www.kapitalism.net/thoughts/wikipedia.htm
if you want to know more about my opinion of the site.

Posted by: Lir at June 25, 2005 07:38 PM

"Isn't the basic premise of Wikipedia that users write it for the owners for free and the owners get fat from the profits? One of the initial attractions of the Wikipedia idea must have been the free labour, and all I can say is - YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR."

The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, is a non-profit organisation registered in the United States. Before the foundation was established, the operating costs of the service were borne by the founder, Jimbo Wales.

Also, the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, under which all Wikipedia article text is released, pretty much prevent people from making money out of the content. So no one is getting fat from profits arising out of Wikipedia.

Posted by: Mark at August 13, 2005 11:24 AM

It is hard to believe that anyone would deny that the Nazis claimed to be socialists, since the name of their party was "national socialist workers ..." It certainly also true that Hitler never believed in socialism, and that the people within the original Nazi hierarchy who believed in socialism ended up very dead very quickly.

To deny the original _claim_ of socialism by the Nazis is certainly very very disturbing.

Posted by: Seth Kurtzberg at September 19, 2005 03:25 PM

I empathize with your comments, Jason. Following some experiences I had there a few months ago, I decided to never again waste my time contributing anything to Wikipedia.

The problem as I see it is not that there's a low barrier to entry. I personally like the low barrier to entry. If the barrier were higher, a lot of people who actually have something to contribute wouldn't bother. There have been many times that I was led to a Wikipedia article from a search engine, and while I was there, decided to correct spelling and grammar mistakes, or smooth out ackward sentences and paragraphs, simply because it was easy to do and I could see the results immediately. I would not have bothered otherwise.

The problem is that, unlike what Frank previously suggested in his comment, there really is no system of "checks and balances" to speak of.

SummerFR appears to be a crackpot in many regards, but she does make a valid point when she states that there is a marked left-wing/liberal bias at Wikipedia. It's perfectly acceptable to kick someone off of Wikipedia for allegedly being a racist, a neo-Nazi, or just a "right-wing crank"; it's practically unheard of to kick someone off for being an avowed Marxist or Zionist attempting to inject bias of that persuasion into the articles.

Wikipedia claims to be "democratic" in its approach, but in reality, there is a huge double standard at work there. The contributions of someone who is not part of the Wikipedia herd, ideologically speaking, is judged by a whole different set of standards than that of "the majority" (and "the majority," of course, is merely a clique which has succeeded in driving off any dissenting views, either through sheer tenacity or by flat-out harassment.) To put it succinctly: when you're politically incorrect, the normal rules don't apply to you, even if your scholarship and your manners have been impeccable.

Let's take the controversial subject of white supremacy as an example. It speaks volumes about the much-vaunted "neutrality" of Wikipedia to note that such organizations as the ADL (Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith) and the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), who could hardly be described as disinterested parties, publish biographies of white supremacist leaders which are a thousand times more balanced and accurate than their counterparts on Wikipedia.

There is no diversity of political opinion on Wikipedia, Steve. The consensus is left-of-center masquerading as center, with lots of tolerance for the far-left. The far-right has been completely shut out, and those who are right-of-center had better watch their step. Many Wikipedans use the word "bias" as a way of attacking others who don't happen to share *their* bias. In other words, they are hypocrites. This type of hypocrisy, this selective implementation of rules in order to impose the ideology of "the consensus," runs rampant at Wikipedia.

"I understand the misgivings people have about the Wikipedia, but I also believe that there's no perfect resource on the planet, and as far as imperfect resources go, Wikipedia is amongst the best--for _beginning_ your research into a particular topic. Nobody in their right mind would view an encyclopedia of any type as a final resource."

Frankly Steve, this comes off as more excuses for why Wikipedia isn't better than it is. Your attitude is perfectly in line with the liberal/leftist "consensus" on Wikipedia (i.e. egalitarianism at all costs, mob rules, competition is bad, quantity over quality, go along to get along, "one standard for me, another for you," etc). How about raising the bar a little bit?

I subscribe to Jason's pessimism. Wikipedia is doomed to failure, and the herd mentality of its core participants will be its unravelling. Groupthink leads to mediocre product, which Wikipedia already is. There is no place for a mediocre encyclopedia like Wikipedia when there are several well-produced commercial ones and a growing number of specialized "Wikipedias" to choose from.

Wikipedia could have carved out a unique niche for itself as "the alternative encyclopedia" or "the people's encyclopedia," but instead blew it by refusing to acknowledge its own strengths and weaknesses.

Anyone who wishes to discuss this topic further, or just let off steam, is invited to my new message board, The Wikipedia Review, at:

Posted by: Igor Alexander at November 25, 2005 01:46 PM

Maybe it might seem a trivial example (though no more trivial than "Swastika"), but I'm from
Glasgow, Scotland, and the fact that the articles on Celtic and Rangers, (who's fans almost hate each other) remain 99% factual, despite constant discussion and/or vandalism, testifies to the dynamic of arrived-at group consensus.

And Summer - as for your idea that future generations, suffering under the heal of Hitler-Wales, will look back and say "Remember that woman teacher who tried to tell us all about this way back when?", well - don't flatter yourself, I don't really think you'll make such a huge blip on the radar.

Update: Had a look at the Jeb Bush Wiki, and lo-and-behold, a lot of Summer's stuff is STILL

Posted by: Camillus McElhinney at November 30, 2005 12:10 AM

Good point. WikiPedia is a popularity contest, not a useful resource.

You can see their paranoiac worldview in action in response to an ANUS page someone (not I) created:


I find this article very revealing as well:


There's an anti-WikiPedia board here:


WikiPedia is bullying by the crowd. WikiPedia is a popularity contest. WikiPedia is disorganized, oversocialized garbage. Whatever it is, it's not an encyclopedia.

Posted by: S.R. Prozak at December 9, 2005 08:50 PM

It seems to me that the claim about the connection between socialism and the swastika was not well sourced. Merely because someone puts something up on a website does not mean that it merits inclusion in an encyclopedia. I think that if a better source was found, with supporting evidence, then that bit would have been included, and the edit war avoided.

As for your main criticism - my response is, so what? Yes, the swastika article required a tremendous collaborative effort. It took a lot of time from a lot of people. So what of it?

Posted by: alex at December 30, 2005 01:41 AM

My policy on this thread has not been to reply to stuff in it, as it became quite a mess. But I'll respond to yours.

The connection between socialism and the swastika (or more accurately, the use of the swastika in a way that referenced the socialist party of Germany) was plenty well sourced on that website. You can't just say "this isn't valid, it's just on a website" when there are a million other edits that go "this is valid, I got it from a website". That very lack of standards is what I am referring to.

In the Swastika article, the guy who deleted it called it "nonsense". But he's just a guy. Any guy, in this case just someone who came along, decided all by himself it was garbage, and then deleted it. He was worse than "something up on a website". He was just a random person undoing someone else's work.

Your response of "so what" is a very effective method to dispel anyone's opinion without having to, you know, regard it. So to you, I say "You don't see what I see. So what?"

Posted by: Jason Scott at December 30, 2005 02:58 AM

I've just read this through (and had email from Jason on another topic in the middle).I am "User" of Wikipedia and am preparing to announce my permanent departure from it as a New Year's Resolution.I'd like to point out that SummerFR was wrong about Jeb Bush having Florida's first website (www.state.fl.us was there before he was elected,under Governor Chiles).Also,I NEARLY left years ago (I was mollified by a misapprehension that my concerns were taken into account) over edits of mine drawing attention to a certain anti-Zionist bias in the diplomatic community were reverted by those who considered an absolutely unique diplomatic slap should not be remarked on as in any way unusual...so I don't see that the community bias supports Zionists.(Anyone who tries to be less than positive about the increase in acceptance of homosexual relationships,however,is in for a rough ride).

My camel-breaking straw was the treatment of two articles I created from nothing about areas I have a specific expertise and international reputation in.Enough people insisted on adding duplicative or unsubstantiated material and formatting conceits that I was considered to be "vandalizing" the article for repairing the damage done by the "consensus".Coupled with a lot of other gripes...I've had it!!

Posted by: Louis Epstein at January 1, 2006 06:07 PM

Thanks for your response.

To answer the points in order:

I. If it was the sources on that webpage - rather than the webpage itself - that documented the socialism-swastika connection, that editor should have cited those sources (reading them first, of course) - and not the website - in his justification.

Yes, there are millions of edits which cite a website and do not get reverted. What separates them from this edit is that this edit is: a) controversial b) not widely known. It is quite natural that if you want to insert such a piece of information into the article, you need to have a stronger case than if you inserted an inoffensive/widely known piece of information.

II. I'm not dispelling your opinion. And I see exactly what you see: wikipedia articles are A LOT of work, and a large part of this work is NOT content generation.

What I don't understand is why you think this is a major criticism. Yes, producing wikipedia articles is a lot of work. Do you have a model for a wiki to follow which would generate content of comparable quality with smaller amounts of work?

Posted by: alex at January 3, 2006 01:41 AM

These and many other answers will be given at my Notacon speech in April.

Posted by: Jason Scott at January 3, 2006 08:11 PM


Thanks for the thoughts. I'm new to wikipedia, and am dealing with controversial content. It's been a bizarre experience. Hope you keep it up. I totally agree with:

"And all of this wouldn't be important at all, if we didn't start to see the Wikipedia definitions propogating throughout the internet, being something you get automatically on a lookup from Trillian or Yahoo using it as a way to get facts. That goes beyond scary.. it borders on negligent."

Posted by: James at January 14, 2006 07:07 PM

I found your website only now, because I was looking for material to support my thesis that Wikipedia is actually quite problematic, because it supports hegemony, or a "tyranny of the majority", if you wish. Therefore I am quite benevolent towards your argument, BUT your example is a very poor one. Why? Because in this particular case the majority was actually correct:

The idea that the Swastika was chosen, because it contains two "s" for "socialism" is not only "presumed nonsense", but actual hogwash. While it is indeed true that National Socialist ideology contained strong socialist elements, all credible sources trace the choice of the swastika back to the idea that the German "race" stems from India, an idea that was purveyed by 19th century historians long before Nazism existed. In fact, the Thule Society, a right-wing authoritarian group of intellectuals, who were contemptous of socialism, used it before the Nazi party was founded as a symbol for their voelkish ideas.

I think your theoretical points are entirely valid, but you shoot yourself in the foot by not checking your sources properly.

Posted by: Thomas Koenig at February 2, 2006 08:15 PM

Always good to know people are finding the website, Thomas.

The example I chose was perfectly fine. First of all, it gets attention, as it obviously did for you and for the thousands of others who read it.

But in the case of the Nazi-Socialist/SS link, the point of the paragraph the guy had in was backed up with posters and a linked webpage. Whether it was true, ultimately or not, there was at least, at the germ of it, a conspiracy or other type theory regarding that link.

With no doubt, any amount of research could encapsulate and then dispel the strength of the paragraph. But you see, that's not what happened. An entirely random person, from a random background, deleted (not refuted it) with a tiny note. And when the original person returned it, he was attacked for doing an "edit war".

Regardless of the ultimate accuracy of the "fact", the methodology for removing it was inherently flawed. That is my problem in that specific context.

If someone shoots into a crowd randomly, the fact he hit a known criminal instead of a baby does not obviate the issue with his punishment/crowd control method.

It wasn't about checking sources, it was about how arbitrary and energy-inefficent the process was as of the writing of the essay.

My feet are entirely fine.

Posted by: Jason Scott at February 4, 2006 03:42 PM

swastika http://rexcurry.net/socialistequation4.jpg

German national socialists did not call their symbol a swastika. They called it a Hakenkreuz, or hooked cross and they used it to represent crossed S-letters for their socialism (see the work of the symbologist Dr. Rex Curry). http://rexcurry.net/swastika3swastika.jpg

Journalists and others (who claim that the nazis defamed the "swastika" symbol) are actually the ones who continue to defame the "swastika" by never explaining what the nazis called their symbol nor what it represented for the German national socialists. The old media pretend that they want to alleviate the problem, but they perpetuate the confusion, and in a sense they ARE the problem, because they will not explain the points above. They are vulgus profanum.


swastika http://rexcurry.net/swastikaequation2.jpg

swastika http://rexcurry.net/swastikaequationfull.jpg

swastika, crooked cross, cross cramponned, cramponnée, cramponny, crampon,  angle-iron, German: Winkelmaßkreuz, ugunskrusts (fire cross), also pērkonkrusts (thundercross), kāškrusts (hook-cross), Laimas krusts (Laima's cross), fylfot, Latvian Seven-Day Ring, double cross, gammadion, tetragammadion, (Greek: τέτραγαμμάδιον), cross gammadion (Latin: crux gammata, French: croix gammée, as each arm resembles the Greek letter Γ (gamma), hook cross (German: Hakenkreuz), sun wheel, sun cross, tetraskelion (Greek: τετρασκέλιον), triskelion (Greek: τρισκέλιον), Mundilfari,  Thor's hammer, Þórshamar, nor bu bzhi -khyil, pinyin wan, Manji