User:Leprof 7272

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The Treachery of Images
La Trahison des images
(Ceci n'est pas une pipe)
Artist René Magritte
Year 1928–29 (1928–29)
Medium Painting, oil on canvas
Dimensions 63.5 cm × 93.98 cm (25 in × 37 in)
Location Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (78.7). On public view: Ahmanson Building 2nd Floor].

After more than a decade here, and more than 10,000 registered edits (>50 created pages, edits on >1700 unique pages)—96% of which, edits with summaries—and less than 60 total hours blocked over that time, this former faculty contributor has taken indefinite leave of Wikipedia, over differences in educational philosophies and priorities, and fundamental objections over the empowerment of small groups of individuals to make far-reaching decisions (for individuals, and for the encyclopedia) without clear paths for decision review/appeal.

The matters culminating in disagreement here are being taken forward through channels to the Foundation, and only if arguments made find purchase there, is there chance for return of this contributor.

Meanwhile, substantiated trends at the English encyclopedia—toward (i) hiding informed judgments regarding the quality of articles from viewers, and (ii) allowing for appearance of unsubstantiated visual and textual material as valid content—will undoubtedly continue.

Readers in general and educators in particular are therefore encouraged to apply increasing caution, as this institution has failed to show itself to be transparent about itself and the quality of its products.

It is with deep regard for those who labour hard in support of content fully sourced to appropriate and reputable sources, and in doing so rise above the deeply flawed status quo standards of fairness required here, to a standard more adequately deemed just—to these I wish a fond farewell. Leprof 7272


I am a professional with training that allows for new content generation and for editing scholarly content. I began editing while in a professional (professorial) position that had associated public service, and have continued as my real-world work became focused on the reliability of information (and as my circle, youth especially, have raised questions on widely varying subjects germane to their interests and lives).

I edit articles with a view to accuracy of article scope, emphasis, and details, based on the preponderance of scholarly information available—per WIkipedia policies on verification, derived from secondary sources as much as possible. This is true whether I edit out of professional concern in my areas of scholarly training and experience, or respond to a reader concern about an article (where my editing is based on general scholarly training, and often in consultation with others that are subject matter experts). See Biographical and Wikipedia interests, below, for more information.

In general, I am deeply committed to the notion that we as editors are expected to be editors, and not authors—presenting not our own ideas and intellectual constructions, but instead accurately representing verifiable information from the best published sources (see Wikipedia policies/guidelines… below). Our failure here, to hone to this foundational policy expectation of the encyclopedia, alongside other major scholarly transgressions—e.g., our tolerance of plagiarism, and our failures in transparency with the public—will commit us to mediocrity, if a way forward is never found. (And the very structure of this information space, with its bottom-up, consensus-driven mode of decision-making, seems to make this lowest common denominator quality commitment a certainty.)

A particular concern when editing within my professional area of drug discovery is reader safety in relation to articles that present information about medicine, science and technology. For instance, in articles relating to recreational drugs, natural products, etc., I will edit to make clear toxicologic information, the consequences of chemical/pharmacologic experimentation or indulgence, and the like.

Finally, consistent with the above, and au courant, I am committed to calling attention to the widely acknowledged principle that images are simply a different, but still clear form of data and information, to which Wikipedia policies regarding the need for verification and the prohibition of original editor research should apply—i.e., that Wikipedia should not, on the sly, be publishing novel ideas, slipped in because current, firm policies/interpretations do not require that the information content contained in images to be based on verifiable sources. This effort began in the subject areas that currently allow self-publication of scientific and medical imagery (because of the potential for inaccurate medical information, and the issue of patient privacy and consent involved).

The matters mentioned in this lede are mentioned because of their currentness, but also to encourage contact from others with similar convictions. They also introduce the formal, more thorough statements regarding my biography and interests, presented below.

This user is a member of the Association of Non-Idiocratic Wikipedians.

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Content of which I am inexplicably proud, along with date posted[edit]

Completely missed boats: How, apart from condoning plagiarism, we oft get it wrong[edit]

Sophie's Choice (novel)[edit]

Extended content
Section on "Controversies" surrounding the novel, at Sophie's Choice, prior to edits first week of Nov. 2015:


As recently as 2002, the book was pulled from the shelves of the La Mirada High School Library in California by the Norwalk-La Mirada High School District because of a parent's complaint about its sexual content. However, a year after students voiced protest and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the school district requesting that the district reverse its actions, the book was reinstated.[1][2]

  1. ^ "A History of Fighting Censorship" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. 2006. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  2. ^ "Banned Books Week: September 25-October 2". UCSD. September 22, 2004. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 

Section on "Controversies" surrounding the novel, at Sophie's Choice, after edits first week of Nov. 2015:


At publication

Sylvie Mathé notes that Sophie’s Choice, which she refers to as a "highly controversial novel," appeared in press in the year following the broadcast of the NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978), engendering a period in American culture where "a newly-raised consciousness of the Holocaust was becoming a forefront public issue."[1] She goes on to note that with regard to the Holocaust (Hebrew, Shoah):

Styron’s ideological and narrative choices in his framing of a novel touching upon the “limit events” of Auschwitz, considered by many to lie beyond the realm of the imagination… spurred a polemic… which, twenty-five years later, is far from having died down.[1]

Here, the reference to a "limit event" (synonymous with "limit case" and "limit situation") is to a concept deriving at least from the early 1990s—Saul Friedländer, in introducing his Probing the Limits of Representation, quotes David Carroll, who refers to the Shoah as "this limit case of knowledge and feeling"[2][3]—a concept that can be understood to mean an event or related circumstance or practice that is "of such magnitude and profound violence" that it "rupture[s]... otherwise normative foundations of legitimacy and... civilising tendencies that underlie... political and moral community" (the oft-cited formulation of Simone Gigliotti).[4]

The controversy to which Mathé is specifically referring arises from a thematic analysis which—in apparent strong consensus (e.g., see Rosenfeld's 1979 work, “The Holocaust According to William Styron”[5])—has Styron, through the novel (and his interviews and essays, see Inspiration and themes, above):

  • acknowledging Jewish suffering under the Nazis, but attempting to reorient views of the Holocaust away from its being solely aimed against the Jews, toward its encompassing Slavic and other Christians (hence the Sophie character's nationality and Catholic heritage);

that is, it has him insisting on seeing Auschwitz in particular in more universal terms as "a murderous thrust against 'the entire human family.'"[1][5]

Styron further extends his argument, again with controversy, proposing:

  • that this more general view of the barbarism of Auschwitz (and in particular the fact that Slavic Christians were caught up in its program of forced labour and extermination) obviates the need for Christian guilt and sets aside historical arguments for Christian anti-Semitism as a causative agent in the Holocaust, and
  • that the camp's role in forced labour justified its comparison (e.g., in the writings of Rubenstein) with the American institution of slavery, even allowing the latter to be viewed more favourably.[1][5]

Speaking of Styron's views as set forth in the novel and his nonfiction work, Rosenfeld refers to them as "revisionist views" that "culminate in Sophie’s Choice" with an aim to "take the Holocaust out of Jewish and Christian history and place it within a generalized history of evil,"[5]:44 and it is this specific revisionist thrust that is the substance of the novel's initial and persisting ability to engender controversy.[1]


The book was pulled from the La Mirada High School Library in California by the Norwalk-La Mirada High School District in 2002 because of a parent's complaint about its sexual content.[citation needed] However, a year after students voiced protest and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the school district requesting that the district reverse its actions, the book was reinstated.[6][7]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mathé, Sylvie (2004). "The "grey zone" in William Styron's Sophie's Choice". Études anglaises, Klincksieck (Pascal Aquien, ed.). Tome 57, No. 4. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Friedländer, Saul (1992). "Introduction". In Friedländer, Saul. Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "final Solution". Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard U Press. pp. 1–21 (esp. 6). ISBN 0674707664. Retrieved 7 November 2015. [See David Carrol citation following, for the relevant quote.] 
  3. ^ Carroll, David (1990) [1988]. "The Memory of Devastation and the Responsibilities of Thought: 'And let's not talk about that' [Foreward]". In Lyotard, Jean François. Heidegger and "the Jews" [Heidegger et "les juifs"] (in [French]). (Andreas Michel & Mark S. Roberts, transl.). Paris, FR: Éditions Galilée. pp. vii–xxix (esp. xi). ISBN 0816618577. Retrieved 7 November 2015 – via Minneapolis, MN, USA: U of Minnesota Press. Quote: [T]his indeterminacy has special significance when it comes to the Shoah, this limit case of knowledge and feeling, in terms of which all such systems of belief and thought, all forms of literary and artistic expression, seem irrelevant or criminal. 
  4. ^ Gigliotti, Simone (2003). "Unspeakable Pasts as Limit Events: The Holocaust, Genocide, and the Stolen Generations". Australian Journal of Politics and History. Wiley-Blackwell. Vol. 49 (No. 2, June): 164–181, esp. 164. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00302. Quote: A 'limit event' is an event or practice of such magnitude and profound violence that its effects rupture the otherwise normative foundations of legitimacy and so-called civilising tendencies that underlie the constitution of political and moral community. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rosenfeld, Alvin H. (1979) “The Holocaust According to William Styron,” Midstream, Vol. 25, No. 10 (December), pp. 43-49.
  6. ^ "A History of Fighting Censorship" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. 2006. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  7. ^ "Banned Books Week: September 25-October 2". UCSD. September 22, 2004. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 

In short, prior to November 2015, the article on this important novel failed completely to capture the chief reason for its controversial reception and continued academic and broad cultural interest—that it presented a markedly different view of a Jewish author regarding the causes and implications of the Holocaust. Granted, Sophie's Choice (novel) was not designated a Good Article—we at WP were making no claim of it being a quality piece of encyclopedic work. But for the article to have "missed the boat" on this very central and widely discussed aspect of the novel, an aspect presented in many citations (see Styron's related works and the article's Further reading section, and the Sylvie Mathé article cited above), and for the omission to have persisted for over a dozen years (2003-2015), is to suggest a serious flaw in the process by which we evaluate articles, and move them along toward being acceptable for public use. My opinion. [Le Prof]

Wikipedia policies/guidelines on source selection, web citation use [reminder][edit]

Extended content
Per the policy section, WP:SOURCE, we are to:

"Base articles on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Source material must have been published... Unpublished materials are not considered reliable. Use sources that directly support the material presented in an article and are appropriate to the claims made. The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. The best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments. The greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source. Be especially careful when sourcing content related to living people or medicine... If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources, such as in history, medicine, and science." [Emphasis added]

Per WP:CITE and WP:CITEVAR guidelines, it is considered helpful (aiding the quality of the article) to

"Improv[e] existing citations by adding missing information, such as by replacing bare URLs with full bibliographic citations: an improvement because it aids verifiability, and fights linkrot.

Finally, per WP:BAREURLS, see [2], we are advised, toward "Helping to prevent future link rot":

"Most importantly, do not add bare URLs to articles—always create full citations with title, author, date, publisher, etc. [Emphasis added]

Thank you for your kind consideration, as you do these things, and tolerate me as I push to see them done consistently, here. [Le Prof]

Futile attempt by this scholar, to argue that WP images are data/content[edit]

For what appears to have been a fully futile attempt to encourage one WikiProject to come to grips with its presentation of self-published information—that it cannot possibly, in the long run, ensure accurate and legally compliant content when editors can post complex, self-generated images with medical content without checks for patient consent, and clear attribution or citation support, see [3]. This is a problem, consensus or no consensus, that will not go away. Le Prof, March-April 2017.

Regarding plagiarism and the tagging that it, and related poor scholarship, demands[edit]

The following was adapted via minimal editing from a response given to a reasonable and thoughtful editor and colleague here, who called attention to the active concern others have expressed over my leaving articles tagged, even heavily, at the end of editing sessions. One principle tag in this case called attention to material cut-and-pasted from a source without attribution. Here, in largest part was my response to being challenged about my tagging behaviours.


I [can only] begin to address [in this challenge to my tagging] the generally prevalent academic concern [I and others share over the paired issues of, first, unsourced, and therefore unverifiable content, and second, the very significant degree of plagiarism that infests Wikipedia together, which are at the root of much that I tag]; these are subjects far too broad for brief attention.

Suffice it to say that WP has created a perfect intellectual conundrum and morass, having:

  • (i) no easily used internal tools for plagiarism detection,
  • (ii) low [overall community standards regarding the acceptability of including unsourced and therefore unverifiable material in initial edits (leaving sourcing to later, follow-on editors), and also regarding the more egregious] cribbing of material from sources, and
  • (iii) perfect ease [established] for outsiders to replicate (mirror) its content, thus making external plagiarism checking a lifelong vocation should anyone be so foolish as to commit to it.

[The fact that Wikipedia has a policy prohibiting and responding to the use of unverifiable information (however weakly enforced), but only a guideline prohibiting and responding to plagiarism, is telling in my opinion. From the persective of one committed to "Doing..." (and teaching about doing) "Honest..." academic work, it's noteworthy that] even sources with Creative Commons status, and out of copyright status, available for free use, carry the implicit legal or ethical stipulations that the source be acknowledged where its information is re-used. One needn't look far here at Wikipedia to see these standard intellectual expectations being broadly, generally ignored.

With regard to [my] use of tags here: Editors have differing philosophies regarding tagging. The preponderant philosophy appears to be,

"We need to hide article imperfections from general readers—making an article appear 'fine' is important, regardless of the issues associated with it, large or small."

As an academic and a person devoted to openness in intellectual endeavours, and one committed to the survival of WP in its next stages of evolution, I oppose this preponderant view, and fight for articles appearing tagged, if there are clear, unequivocal reasons for tagging them. (An unsourced section is an unsourced section. A long section completely drawn from a single source is just that. URL-only citations are a clear problem. Etc., etc.)

[With regard to the overused "just fix it" mantra: In editing articles I come to, as a first interest, or those related articles to which the primary interest is linked,] I always do what I can, quickly, to fix what I see [as being problematic]. But I do not leave an article with issues that will take many tens of hours to address without tags, just because I cannot fix all myself, in one session or set of sessions. We are a community. If we are an honest one, we can endure tagged articles, for the very simple reason that they reflect the real status of the encyclopedia, rather than an impression we would wish to create in a reading, public group of WP users. (Benign and malignant growths that are present in a body need attention called to them, even if they cannot be seen by the casual, external observer—so that intervention takes place.)

Otherwise... I am always committed to seeing tags consolidated, their messages shortened, etc. The truth is, long messages in tags are sometimes the only way to quickly convey issues to a population of editors, first, [where] many are ready to revert at an impulse, and second, where even if more patient, many are fairly ready to act [editorially] without thoroughly reviewing relevant Talk sections.

The bottom line, from me: I will always take concerns of other editors seriously, and attempt to accommodate them, but I will not submit to the notion [that persistence of unverifiable material is acceptable], or that it is acceptable to overlook when information written by others is misappropriated; moreover, neither will I submit to a fundamental philosophy that says that appearance is more important than reality—that readers should be allowed to perceive an article as being without flaws, when in truth it is substantially out-of-compliance with Wikipedia's own limited standards for academic honesty and scholarly attribution, as appear in its policies and guidelines.


I will do further work on this, but it is adequate to refer to, so that I do not have to repeatedly explain and defend, as I involve myself with WP activities. Cheers. Le Prof. [Last edit, June 2017]

Category:Wikipedians in protest