Wiki Wars

I just had an insight into how our society protects its cultural paradigms. Recently, I’ve blogged about what I call “Bulldozer Archaeology”:


Basically, I’m against the use of any kind of heavy machinery as a tool of archaeology. As I told the lead advocate of bulldozer archaeology in Israel, Professor Yuval Goren; “keep your bulldozer off my history.” My blogging has provoked an academic storm among people who feel that there are two kinds of of human beings on the planet; the enlightened and the unenlightened. According to these, the unenlightened should never use diggers on digs. But the enlightened can because they do it in a “controlled” professional way. The bulldozer, you see, separates the amateur from the professional.

Professor Yuval Goren describing his use of a mechanical backhoe inside archaeological trenches

Some of my film production colleagues found this controversy interesting and created a 2 paragraph entry with 9 references for Wikipedia on “Bulldozer Archaeology”. The entry is balanced and sober. In it Professor Goren is quoted defending the use of heavy machinery in archaeology and Dr. Robert Deutsch is quoted criticizing the practice. After a month of review, the entry was posted a few days ago. But it seems that there are editors at Wikipedia whose task it is to monitor the various entries even after they’ve been approved. And one of these found the entry to be inaccurate and insulting. He immediately gutted the entry and changed it to his own liking. One of my colleagues changed it back. When she was confronted by the editor online, she asked what was inaccurate about the post and she was told that I did not “coin” the term “Bulldozer Archaeology”, as the entry states, and that the controversy was limited to Israel. So even though the editor did not provide any proof that the term had been coined earlier, my colleague changed the word “coined” to “reintroduced” and added a line about Israel.

At this point, the editor put all kinds of warnings on the “corrected” post inviting individuals to make it more “accurate”. Enter Dr. Cargill. He’s a man who spends a good deal of his time tracking my films, blogs and writings. In the past, he’s commented on my kippah/yarmulke, accused me of tampering with Jerusalem mailboxes and invited his readers to metaphorically beat me up. Cargill is also a passionate defender of Professor Goren. So Cargill contacted the editor of Wikipedia, and down went the post to be replaced by a totally censored version of the entry. Suddenly, no controversy was mentioned, all the references to my blog disappeared, and the pro and con views on Bulldozer Archaeology were made to go away. Apparently, Cargill’s objections were deemed to be “objective” while my entire staff was regarded as subjective and blocked from commenting. I wonder if all medical practitioners are blocked from commenting on medical issues because they are working for pharmaceuticals, hospitals and clinics.

The bottom line is that this small skirmish in an academic online war may not be, in the scheme of things, that important. What it does demonstrate, however, is that the thought police is all around us and even something like the “free encyclopedia” comes at a price – freedom. On big and small issues orthodoxy is pushed down our throats and the enforcers trawl the internet, airwaves and other media to make sure that we all think the way we should be thinking. When a truly revolutionary idea manages to achieve a degree of notoriety or fame so that it can thrive despite attempts to destroy it we are witness to a rare miracle.

In the meantime, here is the Wikipedia entry as originally posted:

The debate is now under Wikipedia mediation. As for me, I’m cheering my colleagues on and continuing to lobby against archaeological “cater-pillaging” and for freedom of debate.

About the Author
Simcha Jacobovici is a Canadian-Israeli filmmaker and journalist. He is a three-time Emmy winner for “Outstanding Investigative Journalism” and a New York Times best selling author. He’s also an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at Huntington University, Ontario.