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Saturday, 27 December 2008 01:00

Is Wikipedia perpetrating prejudices against Native Scholars?

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In the midst of a heated debate over the now almost-defunct Aryan Invasion Theory, I came upon Subhash Kak's wikipedia page. For those who don't know much about Dr. Kak, n 1979 he was tenured as Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. In 2007, he was appointed head of the Computer Science department at Oklahoma State University.
Besides having done research work on Cryptography, Neural Networks and a host of other technical subjects, Dr Kak is also an accomplished Vedic Scholar (perhaps a natural corrolary to his ethnic background of Kashmiri Pandit). I personally came across his writing in a ground-breaking book titled "In Search of the Cradle of Civilization", that made a very convincing argument to warrant questioning the established academic norm of where Civilization originated (the Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece area).

I discovered an excellent online magazine for writers in 2001, now very popular as Sulekha.com. Back in those days, Sulekha actually promoted some top quality authors and boasted of contributing luminaries such as Dr. Lalita Pandit, Dr. Subhash Kak, Prof Antonio de Nicolas, Manoj Das, Rajiv Malhotra, Sankrant Sanu, Arjun Bhagat to name a few. Again, for those readers without much background into these writers, they are public domain intellectuals and/or academic scholars with an Indic background (with either specializations in their field of expertise on an Indic topic or as part of the Indian Diaspora).

One of the most influential of this august group was Dr. Kak (those who are interested would like to check out his work on Sulekha.com -- HERE).

Anyhow, coming back to the topic of this article, I was aghast to read what kind of treatment this gentle scholar has recieved in the hands of the "author(s)" of his biography on Wikipedia. You can read the entire biography here -- [[Subhash_Kak]].

Here's my read on this matter, which I posted under the section "Negative/Biased Journalism" in the discussion on this page -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Subhash_Kak

 

Negative/Biased Journalism

This article is a very typical case of biased journalism. I will quote specific examples within this article that try to show Dr Kak in a negative light (and attempt to subtly ridicule his scholarly positions vis-a-vis the conformed norm of established academic autocracy).

For instance, the section under "Political Background" (which incidentally is the first section ascribed in this biographic entry, although his field of expertise is Science) --

Political background Kak takes a staunchly conservative stance politically, supporting Indian "nuclear deterrance" against China, opposing (what he terms as) "socialist ideas" in the Indian constitution, the "Soviet-style ideas of the Congress party" and "terrorists from across the [Pakistani] border".[1] He has (sarcastically) been called "one of the leading intellectual luminaries of the Hindu-nationalist diaspora" by Alan Sokal (2006), in the course of a discussion in which Sokal discusses pseudoscientific aspects of Hindutva ideology, under which he includes of some of Kak's work.

See the usage of quotes and paraphrasing from others, and how this entire paragraph drips of negatives and bias.

Again, under the section "The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda", we see judgements being made --

Kak's archaeoastronomical claims have the effect of significantly extending the Vedic period, postulating the arrival of ethnic Indo-Aryans to the 7th millennium BC. This claim is in blatant contradiction with mainstream Indology and historical linguistics[7] and science historians[8]

The usage of the sentence, "This claim is in blatant contradition with mainstream Indology" effects a sense of incredulity. This article is obviously a politically inspired hatchet job, not an unbiased biography of a highly talented and intellectually honest scholar (of both Computer Science, as well as Indology).

Let us look at similar biographies of other eminent personalities and see if this mode of negative journalism is repeated --

I give you the page of Michael Witzel for instance. Notice how his page starts --

Contents [hide] * 1 Biographical information * 2 Research * 3 Criticism * 4 California textbook controversy over Hindu history * 5 References * 6 Publications o 6.1 Vedic Texts and Early Indian History o 6.2 Later Indian History o 6.3 Linguistic Studies, Substrates o 6.4 Textual Studies, Religion o 6.5 Comparative mythology o 6.6 Hindutva & Indus Inscriptions

The first item after his biographical information is the Research he has done, not the author's opinion of his Political persuasion.

 

To which the "author" promptly responded --

as it happens, Kak isn't notable as a scholar (although the article does have an "Information theory" section), but as the author of pseudo-scholarly pamphlets with a political bent. The article should of course reflect this. Kak isn't an Indologist (hence it is rather pointless to compare this article with the Michael Witzel article). He is a computer scientist dabbling in Voice of India type propaganda literature in his free time. --dab 

I foresee a great battle brewing...we cannot let fascists take hold of how scholars such as Dr. Kak are portrayed in a public domain encyclopedia such as wikipedia!

Read 25666 times Last modified on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 21:02

34 comments

  • Comment Link ajaaja Saturday, 06 March 2010 12:51 posted by ajaaja

    The Subhash Kak, along with many other wikipedia-sites, is heavily patrolled and observed by Wiki-editors with an axe to grind. It's impossible to make a neutral article out of it without wasting hours there. This article about wikipedia bias points out the same problems:First it is obvious that Wikipedians, especially including admins, are not unbiased editors as you would maybe expect from an encyclopedia. Here are some examples of bias against Hindus:"Why are you giving so importance to a Third World Contry person like Talageri? These religious beggers and low class people don't deserve this much attention." ("Truthlover")"what's happening? Are summer holidays over at American high schools, and all the ABCD trolls flocking back to give Wikipedia grief? (ABCD is a slur, ABCD=American Born Confused Desi)" ("Dab")"your physical location is [[American-Born Confused Desi|not so relevant]]" (but apparently your race is, "Dab", when commenting on a Hindu editor)"the only people that care about [ [ Indian mathematics ] ] are Indians with a collective inferiority complex... Our problem is not with real kooks so much as with second-generation expatriate youths who are shedding their testosterone properly intended for tribal warfare in front of the screen." ("Dab")"imdiversity.com is at least not a Hindu forum, but it seems still to be a lobby organization you'd expect to automatically take the side of an ethnic minority, never mind if their cause makes sense or not." ("Dab")"The articles [[Hindu-Arabic numeral system]], [[Arabic numerals]] and [[Indian numerals]] have been kept separate in order to appease the angry young Hindu editors." ("Dab")One administrator ("Dab") was heavily criticized for saying this on wikipedia:"These are not simply trolls in the narrow sense, they do not pretend to be clueless brutes, it is difficult to believe, but I think they are fully serious. It is pointless to waste time with them, because even if you get them to listen to sense, there are millions of more clueless people where they came from, and especially in India, every sh*thole is getting internet access. I feel for these people, because they are in an actual ethnic conflict, and must feel actual hate, but I don't feel responsible for babysitting them, Wikipedia is not for them."This is a comparatively mild version of wikipedia bias, but it has engendered a lot of controversy. The Indians criticized the admin because he refused to apologize for this comment even after being critcized heavily for it. The same user was also criticized for similar remarks and for his tendency to use ethnic, national and religious attributes of editors when making negative criticisms. As an example he routinely refers to Hindu editors as Hindutva-trolls, -zeaolots, -kooks, -meatpuppets, -propagandists, -sockuppets, -sock army, -crowd and Hindutva editors from hell. (Almost none of the victims of his name-calling have declared that they are Hindutvadis.) It would almost seem that he uses the word Hindutva on Hindus as others would use the word nigger. Further exemplifying that every Hindu and every aspect of Hinduism that he disagrees with is "evil Hindutva", he even puts Swami Dayananda in the Hindutva category, who lived long before Sarvakar. The same admin also criticizes the "Hindutvatis" for their denunciation of [ [ British colonialism ] ], claiming "Hindutva scohlars seem to delight in, what with denouncing British colonialists for imperialistic views". He is also an apologist of British colonoliasm when he writes that India benefited from it because of the railways which helped in times of famines. But of course the railways were built for economical reasons or exploitation, many countrys that were not colonized also got railways (including "third world" country Thailand), and colonized countries are more prone to famines than non-colonized ones. It is not surprising that Indian marxist scholars are also criticized because their theories are deemed to be too "postmodern" and "postcolonial". While claiming to "fight" Hindutva, some of these editors miss the mark and fight Hinduism as a whole. Therefore one administrator claims that Dayananda's writings are recognized as having an element of religious fundamentalism and criticizes Vivekananda for pseudo-science in an article with the poignant title "Hindutva propaganda" that was too extreme even for wikipedia standards (if an article created by an admin can be deleted because of its bias and against the wishes of the admin, it is probably extreme).For references to the above see wikipedia or the Internet, like: groups.google.com/group/alt.wikipedia/browse_thread/thread/ce41d02d19e311e5#

  • Comment Link Dwai Lahiri Friday, 12 June 2009 19:55 posted by Dwai Lahiri

    a little bit of research goes a long way...[url]http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=a7g&q=Marshall+Lentini&btnG=Search&aq=f&oq=&aqi=[/url]

  • Comment Link P. Desikan Friday, 12 June 2009 18:18 posted by P. Desikan

    Dear Dwai, Not only those two definitions, I am afraid, but several other equally colourful ones.Most of us have referred Oxford dictionary or Webster's Dictionary and barring very occasional exceptions, would have been confident that the definition we found was accurate within the scope of available knowledge, like information picked up from a scientific publication from a respected academic institution.Some of us may not be aware that before 1928, the standard lexicographic aid for the English language available in England, was Dr Johnson's Dictionary of the English language. It was one of the greatest works of literary merit in the language and is believed to have included over 100,000 quotations to illustrate the contextual use of several words. But the dictionary was equally famous for a number of juicy, biassed entries, which showed the personal attitudes and prejudices of the author. An example is the definition of oats as food for horses in England and men in Scotland.While fictional works and poems and fantasies are not expected to be entirely truth based in their content and valued more for their readability, beauty and stretches of imagination, dictionaries and treatises of physical, natural and social sciences are generally expected to cater to seekers of truth. But who knows what contemporary readership demands? Regards. Partha

  • Comment Link Dwai Lahiri Friday, 12 June 2009 17:49 posted by Dwai Lahiri

    BTW, Mr Lentini,Are you THE illustrious author of the two entries in the Urban Dictionary, namely:twogandjew?[url]http://www.urbandictionary.com/author.php?author=Marshall+Lentini[/url]Kudos if so...we know now your scholastic credentials. If not...do share?

  • Comment Link Dwai Lahiri Friday, 12 June 2009 17:40 posted by Dwai Lahiri

    [quote]By the way, I don't say "inferiority complex" lightly, as Indians are wont to do in discussing Indo-European studies in the West; one can feel the Indians chafing at the bit in all their long-winded rebuttals, libelous "dossiers" on the terrible Nazi Witzel, histrionic talk of "perpetrating prejudice", etc. This is a problem of mass-psychology much more than archaeology or anything else. Knowledgeable Indians have been saddled with an inferiority complex by their brahmin intelligentsia -- which needs the Aryans to be indigenous to support a victim ideology for Indian national consciousness. This is precisely the diffusion of an inferiority complex through an historical anti-knowledge produced by power. But there are many Indians, I'm sure, who see through this desperate political charade and mischievous, wasteful meddling in historical matters -- who don't see it as some heinous tragedy that Aryans brought their culture to the subcontinent to eventually mix with the civilization already in place.[/quote]Dear Mr. Lentini, you didn't quite disclose your credentials. All you have done so far is attack someone who is not defending himself without provocation. Then you go on to bat for the AIT militia...Dear Medhavis, will someone please respond to Mr Lentini? The re-education of this gent is too long and elaborate for me to undertake given my time constraints. Perhaps he needs multiple "gurus"?Anyway...tell us something that is new Mr Lentini. Your argumentation has been heard, debated and soundly tucked away like the naughty little wayward children they are.There is a plethora of evidence that AIT or AMT or any AxT never happened. There is no archaeological evidence to support the preposterous theories of 19th century Euro-supremacists, nor any scriptural evidence. All we see is an unbroken continuation of the Vedic culture from the North to the South, with pockets of aboriginal/tribal cultures.While you might find the Out of India theory too tanning for your Eurocentric genes, that doesn't automatically offset the lack of evidence of AxT.In any case, my problem with the Wikipedia article was in it's obviously one-sided and bigoted/biased attitude. Any sane person will agree with me.

  • Comment Link Marshall Lentini Friday, 12 June 2009 14:49 posted by Marshall Lentini

    By the way, I don't say "inferiority complex" lightly, as Indians are wont to do in discussing Indo-European studies in the West; one can [i]feel[/i] the Indians chafing at the bit in all their long-winded rebuttals, libelous "dossiers" on the terrible Nazi Witzel, histrionic talk of "perpetrating prejudice", etc. This is a problem of mass-psychology much more than archaeology or anything else. Knowledgeable Indians have been saddled with an inferiority complex by their brahmin intelligentsia -- which [i]needs[/i] the Aryans to be indigenous to support a victim ideology for Indian national consciousness. This is precisely the [i]diffusion of an inferiority complex[/i] through an historical anti-knowledge produced by power. But there are many Indians, I'm sure, who see through this desperate political charade and mischievous, wasteful meddling in historical matters -- who don't see it as some heinous tragedy that Aryans brought their culture to the subcontinent to eventually mix with the civilization already in place.

  • Comment Link Marshall Lentini Friday, 12 June 2009 14:38 posted by Marshall Lentini

    [i]"You are right about the Politicization of History and Indic studies in India, but the fact of the matter is that it has been hijacked by "Brown Sahibs" "[/i]The only "Brown Sahibs" are those wasting their lives supporting a political lie known as Out of India Theory.[i]"who find it very convenient to ignore glaring flaws the established version of Indic history as posited by Max Mueller and his cronies,"[/i]Listen to yourself. "Cronies".[i]"in cahoots with the ink of Macaulay."[/i]Hardly anyone remembers Macaulay. Mueller warrants little more than a dismissal in mainstream "invasion theory" itself. Which is a shame.[i]"So, naturally when the Marxist-leaning "scholars" in India are challenged by native scholars"[/i]Except those Marxist scholars are no less native than your natives. You just don't like their politics, and you've thrown in with the desperate attempts to claim the Aryans for India.[i]" naturally it becomes primary to paint these scholars as being somehow "inferior" to the others"[/i]Which is what you're doing. So you've explained nothing, only restated the prejudice. Indians, for all their passionate love of argumentation, are some of the worst and most unconscionable at it.Well, here's the rub: "Out of India Theory" is a joke in the wide world of Indo-European studies. One can list its Western adherents on one hand, and at least two of those are no better than would-be gurus. We laugh at OIT as we laugh at Estonians pretending their national identity is based on a tribe called "eesti" rather than a toponym given to them by the invading Teutonic Knights. In the same way literate Indians suffer this awful inferiority complex regarding their history; someone told them colonialism lives on in the scholastic legacy of Mueller, so the Aryans have to be indigenous, and the whole bounty of Indo-European culture is a gift of the Indians to the world. What they don't realize is that OIT is itself a reflex of Western "colonizing metanarrative", but from the Western Left, which cannot tolerate substantive talk of Aryans or Indo-Europeans; the notion that the Aryans came from India serves a handful of pseudo-scholars in the West (mostly in the arch-leftist Netherlands) in a mini-crusade to downplay Aryan identity for Europeans.

  • Comment Link rudra Sunday, 07 June 2009 17:05 posted by rudra

    [quote]Wikipedia isn't "perpetrating prejudice" against your native scholars; but when the facts are assembled in a more or less neutral forum, and kooks like Kak and Talageri very rightly come out looking absurd, your only recourse is to see "prejudice" everywhere and flood the internet with self-serving queries like this one.[/quote]Dear Mr Lentini, please enlighten us on your knowledge of what "kooks" such as Kak and Talageri propose and why/how that threatens your locus standii vis-a-vis Indic studies (I am assuming you are an expert in the field). I hope you will share with us your credentials and how/why you consider the named individuals "kooks".[quote] Fact is that from the Indian side, Indian history has been hopelessly politicized, so that any scholarship coming from the West, or any Indian scholarship in agreement with the West, is, to the Indian mind, politicized itself, propaganda, part of an agenda to "colonize discourse", etc. All this results from Hindutva, from brahmin meddling in letters, and from the conservative, anti-marxist Indian middle class. This is particularly unfortunate in that it forces the Indian Marxists (the only scholars who will admit that OIT is a rank petty nationalist fraud; e.g. Romila Thapar) into the arms of the Marxists in Western Indo-European research, or rather, threatens to further cement this ugly shotgun-marriage of cultural Marxism and Indo-European research. Fortunately there is Witzel, and that is exactly why the Indian fanatics never tire of slandering him. Indeed, the only prejudice, the only real slander has been from the "empowered" Indians to the Westerners; the latter are always walking on eggshells for the Indians because they're white, and if they appear to bold about anything, but esp. discussing the origins of Indian culture, they're "colonialist", "perpetrating prejudice", etc. In short, the Indians have been infected by politically correct hypochondria and persecution-mania.[/quote]You are right about the Politicization of History and Indic studies in India, but the fact of the matter is that it has been hijacked by "Brown Sahibs" who find it very convenient to ignore glaring flaws the established version of Indic history as posited by Max Mueller and his cronies, in cahoots with the ink of Macaulay. So, naturally when the Marxist-leaning "scholars" in India are challenged by native scholars who don't buy their gibberish and then produce evidence from the scriptures and with leading archaelogists supporting their stance, naturally it becomes primary to paint these scholars as being somehow "inferior" to the others and having them maligned by adding the term "Hindutva" to their names.[quote]"Subash Kak is obviously a kook, with little knowledge or expertise in physics, history, Sanskrit or indology. Instead of holding fringe and ridiculous figures like Kak or Koenraad Elst in high regards, we Indians should be more appreciative of genuine scholarship - by which I mean not only academics like Witzel, but also scholars at Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vishveshvaranand Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies etc."I'm surprised to see a comment like this. Bravo. Insistence that Western Indology is "prejudiced" is nothing more than "postcolonial" pettiness.[/quote]Hmm...how exactly can you corroborate the stand that Dr Kak doesn't know Sanskrit or is a kook? What exactly IS a kook by the way? Is that a special way of calling someone a Chef? If that is the case then we can assure you Dr Kak's culinary skills aren't in question here, since most of us haven't had the pleasure of having had dinner in his home. We know him from his articulate writings and the fact that we interacted with him for several years on an internet forum such as this and never found him doing ad hominem attacks on the most vicious of his critics (don't for once think that creatures such as yourself are a rarity...in fact they are dime a dozen! Scholars like Dr Kak though are rare and if you had an iota of integrity and/or intelligence, you would be better off studying Dr Kak's works, instead of making juvenile posts such as this).My personal interaction with the editor of the said biography on Wikipedia led me to be convinced that that individual (forget what his name is, some D Bauchmann or something) is a bigot and a bully. Neither of those are desirable characteristics in a human being. I hope you learn from this and turn over a new leaf.Best of Luck in your attempts at Really learning Indology with the help of scholars such as Kak and Talageri.Dwai

  • Comment Link karigar Sunday, 07 June 2009 13:34 posted by karigar

    Nice unsubstantiated ad hominems there, M Lentini...Was your intent just to entertain, or to substantiate with some facts? If the former you've succeeded :)If the latter, than please go thru comments & try to respond to issues...The original "Oh the poor much-maligned West, Tohu shalt be defended at all costs" poster has not shown himself here any more...let's hope for better luck from you...Substance please....

  • Comment Link Marshall Lentini Sunday, 07 June 2009 09:49 posted by Marshall Lentini

    Wikipedia isn't "perpetrating prejudice" against your native scholars; but when the facts are assembled in a more or less neutral forum, and kooks like Kak and Talageri very rightly come out looking absurd, your only recourse is to see "prejudice" everywhere and flood the internet with self-serving queries like this one. Fact is that from the Indian side, Indian history has been hopelessly politicized, so that any scholarship coming from the West, or any Indian scholarship in agreement with the West, is, to the Indian mind, politicized itself, propaganda, part of an agenda to "colonize discourse", etc. All this results from Hindutva, from brahmin meddling in letters, and from the conservative, anti-marxist Indian middle class. This is particularly unfortunate in that it forces the Indian Marxists (the only scholars who will admit that OIT is a rank petty nationalist fraud; e.g. Romila Thapar) into the arms of the Marxists in Western Indo-European research, or rather, threatens to further cement this ugly shotgun-marriage of cultural Marxism and Indo-European research. Fortunately there is Witzel, and that is exactly why the Indian fanatics never tire of slandering him. Indeed, the only prejudice, the only real slander has been from the "empowered" Indians to the Westerners; the latter are always walking on eggshells for the Indians because they're white, and if they appear to bold about anything, but esp. discussing the origins of Indian culture, they're "colonialist", "perpetrating prejudice", etc. In short, the Indians have been infected by politically correct hypochondria and persecution-mania. "Subash Kak is obviously a kook, with little knowledge or expertise in physics, history, Sanskrit or indology. Instead of holding fringe and ridiculous figures like Kak or Koenraad Elst in high regards, we Indians should be more appreciative of genuine scholarship - by which I mean not only academics like Witzel, but also scholars at Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vishveshvaranand Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies etc."I'm surprised to see a comment like this. Bravo. Insistence that Western Indology is "prejudiced" is nothing more than "postcolonial" pettiness.

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