Daily Mail Article: Wikipedia or “Wicked-Pedia”?

 

The title of the article by Jonathon Margolis of the Daily Mail on February 15th, 2009 succinctly states the danger:

Wicked-Pedia! Millions trust its every word. But Wikipedia, the error-ridden encyclopaedia, has become a dangerous tool

This quote from Margolis is also revealing:

Iranian history is now a MAJOR target by those who harbor politicaly-motivated agendae. Unfortunatley, it is also a venue for a number of historians and their students (interestingly in the Iranian Studies field) who wish to change the history and legacy of Iran. There are also powerful lobbies of pan-Turks and pan-Arabo-Islamists who often insert anti-Iranian propaganda into the Wikipedia.  Examples of these actions will be discussed below.

Wikipedia: The case of attacks against Cyrus the Great

Saam Safavi-Zadeh and Anna Djakashvili-Bloehm had also warned in the early part of 2009 of the dangers of Wikipedia being used by Eurocentrists (or neo-Orientalists) in their efforts to attack the character of Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder.

 

The Cyrus Cylinder. The wikipedia has been used as a venue by Eurocentric or neo-Orientalists in an attempt at presenting the Cylinder and Cyrus the Great in a more negative light.

There is now evidence that the Spiegel and Daily Telegraph’s racist articles against Cyrus the Great last July were closely coordinated with efforts on Wikipedia against Cyrus the Great. Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm note the following in their article:

“…Note 19 in the Wikipedia article which links to: http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/cyrus_cylinder.html… it is very curious that the above occurred right after the Spiegel/Daily telegraph articles on July15-21.”

The Livius.org link mentioned by Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm states that the entire history of the Cyrus Cylinder being associated with Human Rights is all “imperial propaganda of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

This is exactly what the Spiegel and Daily Telegraph articles said in their aforementioned articles. There are other parallels between Wikipedia and the Spiegel-Daily Telegraph as cited by Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm in their article.

Perhaps most remarkable are the tactics that are being used by Orientalist or Eurocentrist students, professors and lay-persons against Iranian history (in this case the history of Cyrus the Great). Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm cite the following tactics:

1) Ignoring or sidelining any references or researchers that contradict them (including character assassination)

2) Using (or recruiting) as many sympathetic Wikipedia users as possible to enforce a point of view

3) Tireless repetition of particular viewpoints

The good news is that academics are now alert to the fact that Wikipedia has become unreliable, especially in topics related to the Humaities, Social Sciences, History and biographies of persons. Margolis notes that:

One, Professor Tara Brabazon of the University of Brighton, has explicitly banned first-year students from using Wikipedia  –  or Google  –  and insists on them sticking to reading lists.

Too many students don’t use their own brains enough,’ she says. ‘We need to bring back the important values of research and analysis.’

Other colleges have followed suit not only here in Britain but also in America, where the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the University of California in Los Angeles and Syracuse University in New York have all banned the use of Wikipedia as a source for material.

 

Wikipedia and attacks against Professor Richard Nelson Frye

The TalkPage section of the Wikipedia link for Professor Richard Frye has become a virtual battleground. This doyen of Iranian Studies has been accused of being “an Iranian secular nationalist“, a characterization which is unfair, unbalanced and misleading. This is because Professor Frye quotes Arab historian Ibn Khaldun’s observations on the mighty influence of Persian culture on Arabo-Islamic civilization (see article by Kaveh Farrokh on pan-Arabism).  

Professor Richard Frye has also witnessed incisive comments against him in Wikipedia. As noted by Safavi-Zadeh and BloehmWikipedia forums are not monitored or refereed by qualified academics on a full-time basis. Any person (objective or otherwise) can open an account in Wikipedia, enter themselves into any topic and start writing or revising that topic. ”

The frustration against such abusive tactics is duly expressed by a Wikipedia editor who often monitors the actions of revisionists against Iranian history topics and personalities:

Wikepdia is a big headache.. specially countries that do not have a history will find a perfect way to make history and will actually pay editors and organizations to support their edits …”

Examples of abuse cited by the Daily Mail

At this time any historical item and any person (living or deceased) can easily be targeted for character assasination and ridicule via Wikipedia. Note the following four examples cited by Margolis:

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was attacked on Wikipedia when he was falsely accused of having pictures of Adolf Hitler in his room as a teenager. The writer of this false accusation cannot be bought to account thanks to complex Wikipedia forum rules.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the famous comical character of “Borat” who was cited as the president of Kazakestan in Wikipedia.

Former US Presdient George Bush has had his entry changed 40,000 times due to false claims being continually posted against him. As noted by Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm, abusers in Wikipedia often rely on “tireless repetition” to enfore their points of view.

David Beckam has been described in Wikipedia as an 18th century Chinese goal-keeper. It is perhaps no exaggeration to state that any person can now open an account in Wikipedia and write whatever she or he wishes to write against any other topic or person.

Cartoon showing the anguish of “Gary” seeing his information distorted on Wikipedia. Margolis as well as Safavi-Zadeh and Djakashvili-Bloehm have worked hard to expose the maladaptive processes now seen in the Wikipedia venue.

New Course: Art and Architecure of Ancient Persia

 

Kaveh Farrokh will be offering a summer course (commencing June 15, 2009) at the University of British Columbia entitled:

One of the topics discussed in the course will be the Arch of Ctesiphon (located about 40 kilometers from modern Baghdad) and its influence on European architecutre.   

 

 

 The Church of Saint-Pierre built in the 5th Century AD located in modern Isere, Austria. The archways of this structure are parallele to the ancient Sassanian capital at Ctesiphon.

For further information on registration and offerings, kindly contact Ms. Joanne Savory at the University of British Columbia at: joanne.savory@ubc.ca.

The Forgotten and Ancient City of Dastova

 

One of the most interesting ancient sites at Khuzestan is the virtually forgotten city of Dastova. This ancient city is situated approximately 2 kilometers to the south of Shushtar in the province of Khuzestan along the Dariyoon stream.

The site has witnessed human construction activities since at least the Elamite period (3400-550 BC). One recent study undertaken in late 2004-mid 2005 was led by Dr. Mehdi Rahbar which investigated burial practices at the site dated to the Parthian era (250 BC-224 AD). A number of these findings were reported by the Payvand News of Iran (citing from original reports by the Cultural heritage News of Iran or CHN) in April 25, 2005. The Payvand News/CHN reports the following:

Social class segregated even the dead of the ancient city of Dastova, near Shushtar: the rich were buried along their precious objects in beautiful caskets and the poor in dingy conditions somewhere far away from the rich.” 

 


A skeleton at Dastova. The inhabitants of Dastova retained their social status even in the grave. The more affluent dead are seen with superior burial regalia and caskets in contrast to the more “humble” members of Dastovian society. The 2005 archaeological expeditions reveal that the rich and the poor were buried in different graveyards.

 

Dr. Mehdi Rahbar who led the 2005 expedition, noted that:

“…social class played an important role in the city formation, as much as separating the rich and poor even when dead and buried…

Some sources suggest that construction at Dastova city during the Parthian era was mainly undertaken by a certain “Shilhak Inshushinak“.

 


A Parthian pillar in human form at the Shush Museum in Khuzestan, Iran.

More recent archaeological excavations at Dastova can be dated to late 2006 which led to the discovery of a raised platform of brocks and a large structure attributed to the Elamite era. Research continues at this site by a team of students who continue excavation work. Unfortunately, parts of that site have been destroyed by local farmers working on irrigation projects.

There is a general consensus among archaeologists that the Dastova structures may have been intended to accommodate religious ceremonies or possibly sacrificial rites. As noted by Professor Ali Heidari, an archaeologist at Azad University in the city of Shushtar:

Regarding the size of the platform, it could not have been the base of a pillar or the pier of a wall. Most possibly, the place was used during religious rituals. 30 by 30 by 70 centimeter bricks and stucco were used in its construction…Since ordinary people used raw adobe to build their houses, the high quality bricks and materials which were used in the construction of this complex indicate that it must have belonged to people with high social classes. Nevertheless, more studies are still needed for clarifying the case.”

In practice, the real purpose of the structure remains conjectural. Professor Heidari notes:

Our information about this historical site is not comprehensive, thus making us unable to carry out excavations in a specific area. We can only work on those hills which have not been leveled to the ground yet“.

The Elamites were to be eventually absorbed by the Indo-European Iranic arrivals, notably the ancient Persians who settled in the region. The Elamite language was respected by the Persians as indicated by archaeological discoveries revealing the existence of the Elamite language during the Achaemenid era. 

 


An ancient casket at Shush Museum in Iran’s Khuzestan province.

 

Interestingly, Dastova continued to flourish long after the fall of Achaemenid Persia to the Greek invasions of Alexander, and their Seleucid successors. As noted by Professor Heidari:

The inhabitants of Dastova city enjoyed a strong economy. They were mostly engaged in trade relations in 45 AD, and thus imposed a great influence on the economy and business of the region…”

By the early first century AD, the Iranian Parthian dynasty was ruling Iran having displaced the Seleucids from Iran and defeated the Roman invasions of Marcus Lucinius Crassus in 54 BC and Marc Antony in 37 BC.

By the early Islamic era, Dastova was gradually abandoned. The author of the text “Al Ansab” has cited Dastova as having been “A city in Khuzestan“. The same source mentions Dastova as the location from which its famed textiles came from.

9,000 yr old mysterious burial ritual discovered in Iran

 

As reported by the Discoveryon academic website on May 18, 2009, archeologists at Iran’s Sialk Mound recently discovered a mysterious burial ritual dated to approximately 9,000 years ago. Sialk is located in the center of Iran.

The ancient Sialk Ziggurat located near the city of Kashan, is generally acknowledged to be tone of the focal origins of technology, industry and even religious thought in Iran. Recentl discoveries have shed new light on the genesis of religious rituals in ancient Iran.

Iran’s Press TV reported on May 11, 2009 that an Iranian-Polish archeological team have come upon a fascinating discovery at Sialk: a mysterious burial ritual.

Hassan Fazeli (the director of Iran’s Archeology Research Center) has stated:

In this 9,000-year-old practice, four bodies were burned at a heat of 400 to 700 degrees. The ash and remains of the bodies were then buried in a jar…Traces of red petals were found in the jar. Archeologists believe red flowers signified life and eternity in ancient PersiaA burial ritual encompassing burning has never been observed in Iran…It makes the rare discovery of great importance

An ancient skeleton discovered at the Sialk site.

The recent exciting discoveries have resulted in the convergence of a larger archaeological team at the site. These include archaeologists not just from Iran but France, Italy, England and Germany. This new team has been examining the northern mound at the site for a week.

Pottery from Sialk. This particular item has been dated to 1000-800 BC and is now housed at the British Museum.  

Congresswoman Harmon retracts Iran “Separation” Statements

 

According to a report by NIAC (forwarded by Javad Yassari to Iranian.com), Congresswoman Jane Harman has fully retracted her statement on dividing Iran along ethnic-linguistic lines. Specifically, Harman has retracted the portion of her statement regarding the “separation” of Iran’s ethnic groups and regrets the concern it has caused. Harman had recently called on the division of Iran along ethnic lines.

Harmon stated to NIAC:

I was not and am not calling for the creation of ethnic tensions or separation in Iran – nothing would be less productive…Although my comments on Iran were taken out of context, I regret any concern they might have caused…My point was that the diversity of views in Iran should be better understood in order for the United States to formulate the best strategy for persuading the Iranian government not to pursue nuclear weapons development,” 

harman.jpg

Congresswoman Jane Harmon has retracted her earlier comments regarding the division of Iran along ethno-linguistic lines

Harman’s statements supporting Balkanization arose during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference. Harmon’s answer regarding preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was as follows:

“The Persian population in Iran is not a majority, it is a plurality. There are many different, diverse, and disagreeing populations inside Iran and an obvious strategy, which I believe is a very good strategy, is to separate those populations.”

Following Harman’s retraction, Reza Firouzbakht, the Chairman of NIAC stated:

This is an important statement from Rep. Harman…It makes clear that while there are many opinions about how to address the Iranian nuclear challenge, some options are simply not acceptable.”

Credit is given to all members of the Iranian-American community to confront the potential conmsequences of Congresswoman Harman’s statements. Indeed the Iranian diaspora community responded promptly. A petition was quickly circulated which by May 22, 2009 had collected 10,723 signatures.