I was wandering around the Internet recently and happened upon the Czech version of Wikipedia. What I found puzzled me. I was fully aware of the basic principles of Wikipedia, that Wikipedia is not a democracy and that you can’t demand the right to freedom of speech as we understand it in America, but still - it was a shock.
The Czech version of the Wikipedia (at http://cs.wikipedia.org/ ) is mostly populated by citizens of the Czech Republic - a country which only recently emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. More than 60 years (officially only 42) of living under the Stalinist boot certainly made an impression on all of them: they are still brainwashed beyond recognition.
The Czech Wikipedia is an encyclopedia about flowers, animals and many other non-controversial items. However, there are virtually no articles about their recent history of communist rule because they are considered not only "controversial” but “taboo” as well. If anybody is bold enough to submit such an article (not opinionated or harshly critical pieces, just historically and factually accurate ones), administrators immediately delete it and the submitting user is permanently banned. The reason for this self-censorship is simple: fear. In 1989, communists in the Czech Republic changed their coats - they are not "communist" anymore, but they remain in positions of power. This has the administrators of the Czech Wikipedia quaking in their boots. Until recently the main "sysop" nicknamed "-jkb-" quite innocently admitted on his personal Wiki-page that he was essentially a collaborator with the StB (the Czech version of the KGB) 25 years ago. He did not think much about it because he considered it commonplace. He has since resigned. At least he had the decency to do that.
The situation with the rest of the Czech Wikipedia administrators is not much better. All of them are fervent nationalists (at par with Muslim fanatics offended by a simple cartoon) and simply will not allow any articles related to their country’s recent history to be on their site. It is as if the German version of Wikipedia made no mention of the Holocaust and was allowed to deny the existence of that part of German history. At the same time the Czech encyclopedia sports pathetically subservient, overblown and exaggerated biographies of their current leaders and politicians (Havel, Klaus, Svoboda, etc) that would be comparable only to the official biography of Kim Il-sung in the North Korean Wikipedia (if there was one). When you consider that the Czech (then Czechoslovak) government voted for "legal continuity with a previous communist regime" in 1990 then it’s no real surprise.
To use an old Yogi Berra maxim "You can observe a lot by watching." I am watching them a lot. The most amazing (and deeply disturbing) thing in the Czech Wikipedia is the currently running trial (they call it arbitrage) of their former colleague and fellow-administrator Vit Zvanovec, who had a falling-out of favor in a fashion not dissimilar to the 1950’s political trials in Czechoslovakia (Slansky et al.). That sentiment is still running in their veins - trying somebody, bombastic talk about imaginary crimes and real punishment. The only thing missing there are the bewildered crowds of proletariat demanding death for the accused in the "Psovi psi smrt!" (Dogs deserve to die like dogs!) manner of late Czech writer Marie Pujmanova. Everything else is eerily similar - judges, accused, non-existing crimes, and the oh-so-Czech mannerisms. The judges in the proceedings insist on using and being addressed by their infantile nicknames, but accused is using his real name - Vit Zvanovec. Every time the accused uses the real names of the judges, he is "called to order", immediately reprimanded and also immediately punished by being temporarily banned from posting - it is a Kafkaesque absurdity bordering on sheer ridiculousness. All of the involved are, at least according to Czech standards, educated people: Accused Zvanovec is a 31-year old lawyer and his tyrants are all university-trained people, one of them is even a Catholic priest (no idea if he was ever a member of Pacem in Terris).
I myself had a few skirmishes with that bunch of dictatorial stooges as well - but comparatively miniscule ones, especially compared to Zvanovec. The Czech Wikipedia had no information whatsoever on anything related to the recent history of the country while under communist rule - I have no doubt that this "omission" was quite intentional. So I showed up and started making a fuss about the lack of articles about heroes of the communist resistance - namely Radek and Josef Masin, recent political prisoner Vladimir Hucin, dissident Petr Cibulka, and a number of exiled writers and artists. Such an ‘oversight’ was in my view unimaginable and simply unforgivable. So I did the right thing and started articles about each of them. Yes, I was the first.
As expected, the leftist clique of administrators did not like it one bit. They screamed in ways that would make a horror movie director proud. I was threatened, harassed and eventually repeatedly blocked – an action that would probably instill fear in any ordinary Wikipedista with a permanent residence in the Czech Republic. Well, not my case - so I pressed the matter and after some time the articles about the Masin brothers, Hucin, Cibulka and others were included in the Czech Wikipedia. However, they are not in my original wording: they are mangled and distorted by Czech newspeak, but at least they are there.
My latest exercise in futility on the Czech Wikipedia was my attempt to insert new articles with definitions of the terms Neo-communism and Anti-Americanism. Everything on the internet is very fast as you may know: I inserted the original article at 21:31 on 9.2.2006 with about 500 words explaining the terms in relation to the current Czech Republic. By 23:19 on 9.2.2006 the article had been completely reworded by the Marxist goon squad of administrators, reduced to few sentences (none of the mine) with completely opposite meanings than originally explained and twisted into the position that the term is not valid anymore and is applicable only to some commie relics far to the east - not in the Czech Republic.
The elimination of my article on anti-Americanism was even faster - it took a mere 4 minutes and was completely deleted by an administrator with the telling pseudonym “CHE”. Is it possible to pick more Marxist nickname, with the exception of calling yourself "Stalin?" A note was attached explaining that there is an existing article about anti-Americanism, explaining that it was something about a protest during the Vietnam War. Surely there is nothing even resembling anti-Americanism anywhere in today’s world!
For my sins (and perseverance) against this Marxist bunch of sandbox dictators that run the Czech Wikipedia I was of course due for some kind of sophisticated punishment (as sophisticated as the feebly pre-pubescent leftist Czech mind can understand it): they created an article about me and filled that with all manner of lies, false accusations, libel and outright hateful information and prevented me from deleting any of it. I guess they never heard that something like this had happened before – the case of John Seigenthaler Sr. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Seigenthaler_Sr._Wikipedia_biography_controversy) where patently false statements were also inserted into an article about him by some irresponsible punk. Legal action followed, libelous statements were corrected and some arrogant behinds were subjected to a well-deserved kicking.
Unfortunately the current administrators of the Czech Wikipedia cannot clean up this mess because they are the creators and producers of it. They will not resign voluntarily (being the communists that they are, they will attempt to sit there forever just like Brezhnev-era apparatchiks) and Wikipedia's central command in Florida is about as willing to act as Kofi Annan's United Nations. As we know from Russia, "perestroika" never worked - because it was expected that the communists would make themselves into honest and productive people - instead of liars and thieves. I am predicting that the decline of the Czech Wikipedia (on which many critics surprisingly agree) will continue until the point, where current administrators will have to be forcibly removed and replaced. There is no other way in the post-communist Czech Republic. They will accept it well - after all they are used to it. That’s how the things work over there.
Since the ultimate solution to this problem in nowhere to be seen, the only temporary band-aid for the time being is simply to ignore the Czech version of Wikipedia, because at its current level it is nothing more and nothing less than another mouthpiece of communist and leftist propaganda from Eastern Europe.
Ross Hedvicek, author of several books and hundreds of articles, lives in the U.S., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org