Philip Cross edits Wikipedia, all day every day. Over 130,000 edits: Christmas Day, Eid and the Champions League Final no less productive for him.
His targets are extremely narrow: critics of the Iraq War, critics of Israel, basically everyone who couldn’t nod along to The Sunday Times opinion section. Most notably, he is completly obsessed with the Scottish politician and radio host George Galloway, having edited, reedited and cut information from Galloway’s page over 1,800 times.
On the other hand, right-wing columnists – overwhelmingly employed by Rupert Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times – have seen Wikipedia pages created, monitored and protected by Cross. He holds the highest number of edits of the page of Times columnist Melanie Phillips, mostly trying to dissolve talk of her climate change denialism (‘insufficient evidence provided to suggest this is a notable part of Melanie Phillips’ work’), her belief that the Good Friday agreement ‘rewarded terrorism’ (‘cited Melanie Phillips’ claim of “myth”‘) and removing large chunks of her well-sourced history of homophobia and Islamophobia.
As Craig Murray has pointed out, Cross’ edits are synchronised in a flawless waltz with whatever Times journalist and investment banker Oliver Kamm is up to online. Pro-Israel, pro-literally every Western military endeavour neocon daddy Kamm is very much the embodiment of his online agenda.
Cross is an avid Zionist with a special interest in safeguarding the extremely conservative Board of Deputies of British Jews whilst sowing seeds of distrust amongst leftist Jewish groups who oppose the State of Israel such as Jewdas. He is responsible for 344 out of 358 edits of the page of Greville Janner, a former MP and Lord and once a chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews who is alleged to have raped or molested 25 children. Criminal proceedings against him ended with his death in 2015, and his page is quick to stress his innocence that he maintains on a technicality in spite of very damning evidence.
Who is Cross?
Just a week after offering a small bounty on the identification of the man who was in control of a public summary of his life for over a decade, George Galloway successfully discovered that Philip Cross is, in fact, Philip Cross.
There is no panel of rogues behind the account; no team of outsourced internet trolls, just a man who willingly spends his life editing a website.
The question is simply the man’s motivations, financial, personal or otherwise.
This internet loner who spends all day in front of a screen like a 14-year-old World of Warcraft addict boasts a network of powerful friends that would make any Fleet Street bigwig jealous. Iain Watson of the BBC, Nick Cohen of the Guardian and the aforementioned Oliver Kamm all follow his unverified account @philipcross1963, which had only 294 followers at the time of writing.
The Wikipedia Response
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has voiced his lack of interest, sometimes boiling over into frustration, in this particular affair on Twitter. A libertarian Ayn Rand worshipper, Wales founded Wikipedia on the concept that the ‘free marketplace of ideas’ would pit individuals of different opinion together and reach a consensus. However, when the system is being gamed to this scale, using whatever resources Philip Cross has behind him to make a full time job (or several) out of astroturfing a website, there can be no retort. The inevitable result is that Wikipedia becomes hijacked by Goliath at the expense of David.
Sure – there is very little evidence of any such thing and Wikipedia remains a robust and open platform for reasoned debate. You clearly have very very little idea how it works. If your worldview is shaped by idiotic conspiracy sites, you will have a hard time grasping reality.
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) May 16, 2018
Facebook are currently making plans to incorporate Wikipedia into a project that will counter Russian ‘fake news’; but Wikipedia’s reputation as the ‘internet’s good cop’ is completely unjustified. Its chaos theory model of two viewpoints clashing and always reaching a compromised middle ground may work on a micro scale, but as the world’s front door to all knowledge, racking up 18 billion page views a month, it is susceptible and evidently suffering from a huge aggregation of power to the Murdochs of this world who have a vested interest in framing the narrative.
Perhaps ironically self-aware, Cross counts the co-author of Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent Edward S.Herman within his top 100 most edited articles. As Aquila89 complains on the talk page, only two sentences on Herman’s magnum opus remained uncut at the time; the rest of his biography consisting of hearsay and vague smears about Herman being a Pol Pot sympathiser backed up with nonsense.
The suppression of Manufacturing Consent – a bible of self-censorship and internalised assumptions that mould a nominally free market of ideas like Wikipedia into an establishment-friendly environment without any need for coercion – serves as the perfect metaphor for the astroturfing of Wikipedia.
Jimmy Wales can’t dismiss complaint forever, especially considering the service he provides relies on donations. People are becoming aware of the machinations happening behind the scenes and will demand that Wikipedia hold its editors to a higher standard.