Tag Archives: Gary Delgado

Wiki-worlds Need More Women & Less Snarky-ness!

Delete Wikipedia Toronto What is it about the Wiki-worlds that seems to encourage no boundaries, let it rip, snarky-ness?  I don’t get it, but I’m pretty sure it needs to be fixed.

Two cases in point:  New York Times editor Bill Keller’s piece on Julian Assange and Wikileaks and the “calling all women” initiative at Wikipedia’s 10th birthday bash.

I’m sure I’m the only one, but the Times when over board this weekend with “all the news the elites can eat!” as their new slogan, and they did so without the least hint of irony.  Here they are doing an “insta-book” on their redaction of the Wikileaks documents triangulated to them via Julian Assange, and they are selling the insta-book for money, but they then think that they should also distance themselves from their golden news goose by making fun of him, trivializing his real situation, and thereby acting like their inside baseball slams that he was a “source” rather than a fellow “journalist” has some meaning to the poor readers.  They think he is paranoid because he is moving all around London believing he may be followed or others are trying to get him, but he’s in jail now and in fact there’s every reason to believe he was being pursued.  They are offended in equal measure when their reporter first meets him in London because he was (a) tall and (b) smelled a bit ripe.  They need to get past their hangups with being short, ok?  And, is it now part of the Times style book under Keller and his snarky crew to comment on the scent of every “source.”  Might have to rewrite a lot of the reports from other climates without the air conditioning of the Times building in New York.  They make a big point that Assange didn’t trust them.  Hmmm….given how they so demonstrably were dealing with him, seems Assange was perfectly tuned into them.

So for the Times, how about learning a little, “just the facts, ma’am,” huh?

And, speaking of the facts, Wikipedia celebrated its 10th birthday and enormous accomplishments, but could not escape recognition of the fact that of their huge army of contributors, only 15% are women, and that’s a problem.  They make some claims about what they are doing about that but part of the real problem, I’ll bet is once again the snaky-ness quotient.  If anyone has ever tried to correct an error in Wikipedia, good luck and I hope you are ready to quit your full-time job.  It’s an endless maze of contention as you try to correct something and endure the aims of others trying to distort the story.  I learned all about this in the ACORN-wars with the right.  Eventually you throw your hands up.

Small example.  I learned recently that Gary Delgado, the first great organizer I ever hired at ACORN, had even written Wikipedia to try and get them to correct the listings in various spots that he and I were co-founders of ACORN.  I had just sort of shrugged, though it is a little vexing when so many people try to go to Wikipedia as the source for real information.  Eventually in the push with the right and others with different interests, Wikipedia simply doesn’t allow changes to be made at all, so whatever is wrong, becomes wrong forever (or a while), who knows?

For a while my daughter and some of her friends took it as a project to try and fix the ACORN listings on Wikipedia.  Talk about the “wall of hate” they were scaling, wow!  They ended up stepping back because no one had time to keep up with the haters out there and their project to defame and distort.

So, I love the call for women to step up and make sure that “their facts” are welcome at Wikipedia, but unless Wikipedia can control the contention and the misogyny of too many folks who contribute but have a horse in the wrong race, this is going to still be an unregulated and unfriendly environment for folks more comfortable with snarky than the facts in Wiki-world.


Farm Workers in a Box

9781596914605Orange Beach It’s not a happy experience reading Miriam Pawel’s book on the United Farm Workers Union, The Union of their Dreams, but for those of us in the work, it’s worth the climb no matter how unsettling the view.  I reached out for her through Google triangulation in order to seek permission to excerpt the book in a coming issue of Social Policy, so I’ll leave the real discussion of issues raised in the book for the magazine.

My old comrade, Gary Delgado, had recommended the book and given me a come-on line about Cesar Chavez’s vision of building a Poor People’s Union, which piqued my interest and sent me to Amazon, but that was a tease.  The power of this book is the picture it paints of the unraveling of the United Farm Workers from the inside with Cesar Chavez as the primary string puller of the demise.  Marshall Ganz in his book on the farm workers opened the window a crack sufficiently to confirm some of the stories one had heard over the years.  Reading Pawel, I suspect he had no choice, especially given the multi-part series in the Los Angeles Times a couple of years before which opened the box on the Game, Synanon, and Chavez adaptation of the tool as an internal disciplinary device within the union.  Other recent writers took different angles on the story, but Pawel’s book will reshape the debate for professionals and impact the discussion on Chavez’s legacy for everyone else.

Perhaps its tangential but I couldn’t believe how much of Pawel’s book was inarguable because it came directly from tapes of National Executive Board and other meetings and conferences, hidden conveniently right out in the open at the Wayne State University labor archives in Detroit.  Chavez is clearly on record questioning the work and loyalty of long time staff and even organizers and leaders working at the time of the meetings themselves.  It’s almost a Richard Nixon – Rosemary Woods repeat.  What were they thinking ?  How could the vaunted UFW Legal Department have allowed them to have those tapes?  How did they prevent these tapes from being regurgitated in the hundreds of lawsuits and injunctions filed to stop the union?

The other major sources are the private papers of Chris Hartmire, former head of the ministry supporting the farm workers, and Eliseo Medina, all of which included letters back and forth with Chavez and each other, as well as the kind of self-serving notes and unsent letters and memos that most would have lost or destroyed over the last 30 to 40 years.  Undoubtedly they kept what they had because they knew they were playing a small part in something historic, but…gee?

The Farm Worker culture was to keep the union business inside the union, which makes good sense for institutions under constant attack.  I wonder now if many of the principals didn’t have one eye on history, including their own role, and the other on the grape.  There’s more to come before we find a real balance to this important story and the role of everyone who played a part in both the dream, the history, and its real tale telling the best we can be and the most human we often are.