Wikipedia’s page on the term “big lie” has been expanded with mention of Donald Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. Previously, the page focused on the Nazi Party using the term to describe what they claimed were false allegations Jews spread to vilify Germany following World War I, which helped fuel antisemitic sentiment in Germany and led to the mass slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust. Attempts at removing mention of Trump’s claims in the Wikipedia article have been repeatedly undone.
Many details in the article’s section about Trump’s fraud claims do not cite sources using the term “big lie” as a label. The Wikipedia section also extensively quotes a Democrat House manager in Trump’s second impeachment using the “big lie” label to claim Trump “incited an insurrection” at the Capitol on January 6.
Created in 2003, the “big lie” Wikipedia article from its inception had been focused on the term’s usage by Adolf Hitler and other Nazis to describe narratives they claim were used against Germany by its supposed enemies, particularly Jews. It was later expanded to note allegations of the Nazis themselves employing a “big lie” to further their own agenda, including spreading antisemitic narratives. However, in 2021 a new addition was made using the “big lie” term to describe Trump’s claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 Presidential election.
Added in the fourth and fifth edits by a year-old account, the new section not only singled out Trump, but also Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) for their Congressional challenges to Electoral College votes from states where there were alleged improprieties. Cruz and Hawley used the objections to push for a commission that would have investigated the allegations before inauguration day. The characterization of the claims as a “big lie” was toned down to note it was merely described as such, but initial attempts to remove mention of the election fraud allegations from the Wikipedia article entirely were repeatedly undone.
Several early attempts at expanding the brief section were blocked, such as attempts to mention allegations about Trump supposedly owning Hitler’s Mein Kampf for its reference to the “big lie” technique, Biden likening Hawley to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, or a researcher framing fraud claims as “racist” due to focusing on cities, which have large black populations. Mention of Trump’s fraud allegations in the article introduction was rejected at first, but following a contentious discussion it was added back to the introduction. Editors questioned whether recent use of the term regarding Trump was significant enough to warrant mentioning so prominently in an article mainly about history.
Further expansion succeeded with an editor citing Dominion Voting Systems using the “big lie” term in their lawsuit against Trump’s lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani over allegations he made that the company’s voting machines were used for fraud. Another editor in early February cited two New York Times articles claiming they were “a detailed overview of the attempt to subvert the election of the United States” and treating this characterization as fact. Several editors objected by noting neither article actually contains the term “big lie” at any point, but a slightly modified version of the material backed by those citations has remained.
During Trump’s second impeachment, where Democrats used the “big lie” term to accuse Trump of “incitement to insurrection” in reference to the storming of the Capitol by protestors supporting his allegations of fraud, one editor noted their use of the term in the section and added a lengthy quote from House impeachment manager Joe Neguse (D-CO) invoking the term. The resulting combined material relating to impeachment took up over half the section of the article. One editor argued extensively quoting one Democrat in the section was giving the statement undue weight, in violation of Wikipedia policy, but other editors rejected the argument and repeatedly restored the lengthy quote.
Editors also worked to distance the “big lie” term from its original usage by adding a long quote explaining how it was the Nazis who engaged in the “big lie” instead. The article’s introduction was also significantly expanded with material advancing this narrative to where more of the introduction concerned claims about the Nazis using a “big lie” than them using the term to vilify their claimed enemies. After social media users drew attention to Wikipedia’s inclusion of Trump’s allegations in its “big lie” article, editors repeatedly tried to remove the section, but it was repeatedly restored.
Trump’s fraud allegations have been the subject of considerable dispute on Wikipedia with editors slanting content about the allegations in an effort to discredit them, by taking allegations or comments out of context or presenting blatantly false information about the allegations. Editors also suggested the attempts to challenge the election results constituted a “coup” attempt. Following the storming of the Capitol, editors added the article about it to categories and navigational boxes about coups and coup attempts. Outlets that reported on the allegations have also been targeted, with Newsmax being banned from use as a source after its reporting on fraud allegations prompted a surge in its audience.
Previous smear campaigns against Trump have also relied on Nazi comparisons. Editors repeatedly added ICE detention facilities to a list of “concentration camps” on Wikipedia, echoing Democrat narratives about his tough immigration policies and went so far as citing “Holocaust experts” supposedly approving of the label, though their expertise has been questioned. Trump’s condemnation of attacks on white South African farmers were used to add him to a list of “white genocide conspiracy theory” advocates with Wikipedia’s article labeling it a “neo-Nazi” theory at the time. Some editors also spread conspiracy theories about Trump administration officials embedding the “fourteen words” white nationalist slogan into government announcements.
In recent years, Wikipedia has been criticized for exhibiting a left-wing bias, including by its own co-founder. Numerous studies and analyses have identified such a bias on the site. Cases of Trump and other conservative figures being smeared on Wikipedia contrasted with editors on the site supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Antifa, and Biden’s 2020 campaign, lend further credence to allegations of bias. Corporate media, however, have praised the outlet and mainly criticized it for “diversity” issues, including when discussing its political articles. Media, academia, and Big Tech, have even relied on Wikipedia for information. At the same time, Wikipedia’s “verifiability” policies have been invoked to purge conservative outlets, including Breitbart News itself.
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.