How good a job has Wikipedia done with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

... whose entry now hovers around 5,800 words and 151 footnotes? Why not ask Gary Sick, who, according to his Wikipedia biography, is an "American academic and analyst of Middle East affairs, with special expertise on Iran." Sick served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, has written two books on Iran and teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

"Disjointed" is his nutshell review of Wikipedia's Ahmadinejad performance. There's too much on-the-one-hand-then-the-other strained objectivity. Sick says the "wiped off the map" quote was handled well, but not enough attention is given to the political fallout. In addition, the article understates how much Ahmadinejad has beefed up the role of president and implies that his odds of getting reelected are slimmer than might actually be the case.

Still, it's the best Ahmadinejad primer around, says Sick, who then makes a confession: He's a frequent Wikipedia user. "For all its faults, it's a really important addition to the world of political analysis and research. It answers my question nine out of 10 times, and tells me what I want to know about rather obscure bits and pieces of information I can't find elsewhere."

Wikipedia doesn't nail Ahmadinejad, says Sick, but that's because the president and his country are in such flux. "Nobody has the final answers on this guy."

Tom Dunkel

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