Wikipedia’s list of “concentration and internment camps” was updated two months ago with a section for ICE detention facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border. A month-long discussion has since been closed in support of having the facilities listed on the page based on Democrats including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez using the terminology.
Under Wikipedia policies, another month-long discussion will likely be required before the section can be removed again. In the discussion, editors supported inclusion by citing Democrats using the “concentration camp” label, which has been recently invoked by the perpetrators of several violent attacks.
During the controversy over President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy last year, which left-wing critics derided as a “family separation policy”, an unregistered user added a section to the page about ICE facilities and this was expanded by another unregistered user. Media coverage in Gizmodo, Vice, and Marie Claire, generally favored the listing and presented it as fact. The media attention led to an “edit war” as editors removed and restored the section, until it was kept out barring a “consensus” in favor of including the section and the page locked.
The debate was re-ignited in mid-June after an unregistered user from the D.C. area restored the section stating “they’re concentration camps” without further explanation. On the same day Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) had begun pushing the term to describe the detention facilities. As with the previous versions last year, the sources cited in every version of the section often did not reference concentration or internment camps, including when making claims of health violations and deaths in the facilities. This would appear to violate Wikipedia’s sourcing policies.
Editors removed the section a few days after it was first added and a new edit war started as various editors began repeatedly removing or restoring the section until administrator “El C” used his advanced privileges to lock the page with the section included. Responding to the fight over the listing, one participant claimed “consensus” for including the section citing the few editors restoring the section and argued removal violated page restrictions, which required consensus for restoring new changes.
When another editor disputed this “consensus” claim, El C declared the section was the “long-standing text” despite only being added two weeks earlier after a year-long absence. In the same remarks he called the detention facilities “camps” and suggested any discussion should presume inclusion by asking for removal instead. While presenting himself as a neutral arbiter, the administrator’s profile page favorably displays a quote and image of late Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
In subsequent discussion on removing ICE detention facilities from the concentration camp list, several left-wing editors cited reports of Representative Cortez using the label as supporting inclusion of ICE facilities on the list. Others cited what was claimed to be a statement from “400 Holocaust and genocide” experts on the subject in support, but one editor noted many were not actually experts in the field and they only permitted using the term. The editor further noted there was no scholarly consensus calling ICE detention facilities concentration camps and that the label was criticized by several Holocaust museums.
Despite these points and other arguments that sources did not support listing ICE facilities as concentration or internment camps, the almost evenly-split discussion was closed by administrator Sam Walton as having consensus for keeping the section. In reaching his decision, Walton suggested objections to listing ICE facilities as concentration camp were “not based in policy” claiming many were either mere disagreement without explanation or simply dismissing reliable sourcing as political rather than presenting more substantive critique.
His only acknowledgment of legitimate concerns involved the list intro stating “refugee camps” were not included, which he suggested should be changed to accommodate mentioning ICE facilities, and such a change was implemented. Due to this decision, any attempt to remove the ICE facilities from the concentration camp list will likely now require a similar discussion to be initiated before it can be approved, leaving the “concentration camp” label intact on Wikipedia for the foreseeable future.
Rhetoric labeling immigration detention facilities as “concentration camps” was recently used by Antifa terrorist Willem van Spronsen who was killed while attacking an ICE facility. This rhetoric was echoed by Antifa supporters on Wikipedia who censored mention of Spronsen’s attack and the Antifa attack on journalist Andy Ngo from the far-left group’s Wikipedia page. One socialist editor even praised Spronsen’s attack. Similar praise came from Dayton shooter Connor Betts, whose Twitter activity was deeply immersed in the far-left’s celebration of violence, including attacking ICE and even sharing a dox list of officers. Left-wing attacks on ICE have included threats against officers and contractors.
Wikipedia’s history of left-wing bias has previously involved pushing inflammatory attacks on Trump and protecting the left’s own divisive rhetoric. It has also previously involved defending violent far-left groups such as Antifa who seize on such rhetoric and attacks to justify their actions. Media and Democratic politicians stoking fears about “far-right radicalization” being fueled by Trump have as much cause or more to suggest they and Wikipedia play a role in far-left radicalization.
(Disclosure: The author has previously been involved in disputes on Wikipedia with several of the parties mentioned in the article)
T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.