Heroes of the 2010s: Wikipedia

It got better as the internet got worse.

Mother Jones illustration; NurPhoto/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

The staff of Mother Jones is rounding up the decade’s heroes and monsters. Find them all here.

Late at night, I read about obscure mob figures. When federal agents busted a bunch of Gambino associates a while back and announced a few had been spotted visiting an imprisoned Mafioso named Frank Locascio, I researched him and guys associated with him. In a few clicks, I learned that Nicholas “Little Nick” Corozzo, a former rival of John Gotti, just got of prison. While watching The Spy recently, the movie starring Sasha Barron Cohen as a real Israeli spy, Eli Cohen, in Syria in the early 1960s, I factchecked it. (Not bad, though Syrians beg to differ.) Then I read about the Six-Day War until I fell asleep. Obviously, I did all this on Wikipedia.

This was the decade we learned to hate the internet, to decry its impact on our brains and society and to detest the amoral organizations that dominate it. Facebook steals our data and abets Trump’s lies. Amazon is a brick-and-mortar–crushing behemoth, like the Death Star but successful. Instagram is for narcissists. Reddit is for racists and incels. Twitter verifies Nazis. Amid this horror show, there is Wikipedia, criminally under-appreciated, a nonprofit compendium of human knowledge maintained by everyone. There is no more useful website. It is browsable and rewards curiosity without stealing your preferences and selling them to marketers. It is relaxing to read. 

It’s wrong sometimes, sure. But you can check the sources. It has footnotes. Some pages need more information? You can add some. Countriesinstitutions, political figures, or people who are just very big fans of those politicians may manipulate it. But because it’s transparent, they get caught. (Also Wikipedia has rules against “conflict-of-interest editing,” which you can read about on Wikipedia’s entry for “Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia.”)

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia spent the 2010s, getting better and bigger. It reports having gone from 59 million pages to more than 377 million in the last decade. It is a hero of the 2010s, because while the internet mostly got worse, it kept getting better, reminding us that the web can be a good thing, a place where we have instant access to endless information, a true project of the commons at a political moment when the very idea of the mutual good is under assault.  

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate