godaddy web

What’s wrong with Wikipedia articles dealing with war-time Italy?



For those of us who have either had the good or bad fortune to be a Wiki editor, one quickly understands that there is a subtle and often not so subtle sub-narrative lurking beneath many of the articles dealing with Italy’s wartime involvement. While no doubt, the majority of Wiki editors  write in good faith, there does exist a misguided minority who are almost completely devoid of good faith, good practice and even, common sense. Instead, they display an unhealthy adherence to only one side of the conflict.  They are shameless promoters of the now largely defunct view that the Italians were completely useless and ineffectual during the war, which was definitely one of the biggest and most successful lies of the century. For such people, Wikipedia acts as a spring-board for their Allied self-promotion and gestalt while they cherry-pick as many useful references as possible to promote their particular partisanship and biased stereotyped views and attitudes not only towards the Italian military but even Italy’s leadership and political/diplomatic involvement in that war. In a word, they invariably and consistently highlight their successes to the point of absurdity while downplaying Italian successes to a minimum. Likewise, they downplay Allied failures almost out of existence while highlighting Italian failures to an illogical degree.

Through such badly written and misleading articles, Wikipedia is not only doing a disservice to real history but is actively stifling a truer and more accurate representation of the war and Italy’s part in it. Millions of people around the world use Wikipedia as their first port of call if they want information quickly on any given subject, such as the North African campaign, or the invasion of Albania and Greece. Many internet users of Wikipedia will naturally assume they are getting reliable and unbiased information, but nothing could be further from the truth. Often what they get are references from notable and reliable historians mixed in with an assortment of unreliable, biased, problematic and filtered information, much of which has been twisted, slanted and cherry-picked in such a way as to suit the nationalistic biases and egos of the editors themselves.

One notorious example is the Wiki article , the Greco-Italian War.  Apart from being badly written and structured, the content is mainly quotes and paraphrases piled on top of each other. These are held together by the cement of some pretty awful editorializing and commentary that contains extrapolations and interpretations that more often than not, try to present the Italian military and its leadership in the worst possible light while waving the flag of Greek nationalism. It is simply an embarrassment to read. The article is so obviously pro-Greek and vehemently anti-Italian that any sensible reader with a modicum of intelligence will see it for what it is.

Not only does it lack neutrality and any semblance of objectivity, but it lacks neutral language, a balanced structure, an impartial tone, due weight and consideration of differing views, cherry-picking of sources, and so many other faults that are just too many to list here. In summary, the Greco-Italian War article makes a mockery of the very ethos and guidelines of Wikipedia itself. (See Wikipedia Guidelines here).

This particular article is held hostage by a small clique of Grecophiles with Greek-sounding usernames who have simply confiscated the entire article and laid claim to all editorial rights to it (which is against Wiki policy) so that it is well nigh impossible to actually improve and cleanse it of its many defects. It would better to delete such articles entirely and start again.

But what is really sad is that these so-called “editors”,  who are obviously amateurs with little idea how historical articles should be structured and presented in a balanced way, are not even aware of the damage they are doing to Wikipedia’s reputation. Such articles should be treated with a large pinch of salt and approached with a great deal of skepticism. If one seriously wants to understand Italy’s role in the war, its aims and limitations, its successes and failures, one should avoid such Wiki articles like the ‘Greco-Italian War’ because fundamentally they are flawed and represent the Anglo-American and Allied point of view to an absurd degree.

Indeed, even Wikipedia itself makes the claim that it is NOT a reliable source of information,

And one can see why. It is the reason why university professors forbid their undergrad students using Wikipedia articles as a reliable source for their essays and dissertations.   Academics often shake their heads at the amount of misinformation many Wiki articles do contain, and nowhere is this truer than in articles dealing with war and politics, because often, nationalistic priorities and personal proclivities simply take over. Even well-intentioned contributors and editors have a hard time putting aside their own idiosyncratic biases and patriotism when writing or editing such articles.

So, in the end, like  the truly  awful ‘Greco-Italian War ‘ article, one  simply cannot take such articles seriously because they have been undermined and tainted from within. One hopes that such editors who have a clear and partisan agenda will wake up to themselves and realize the harm they are doing to Wikipedia’s good name and reputation.

So my advice, my sincere advice, is to avoid reading Wikipedia articles dealing with Italy’s involvement in the war, or read them with a large and healthy dose of skepticism, even cynicism, and always always consult other sources of information for balance, neutrality, objectivity, depth and detail. I would urge internet readers to go behind the scenes and read the Wiki “Talk” pages of such articles and you will see yourself how haphazardly they are constructed and maintained.

Not all Wiki articles dealing with Italy during the war are terrible – many are reasonable and at least make an attempt at fairness, neutrality and balance.  Others are passable, but are still beset with this persistent Anglo-centric and Allied point of view that distorts Italy’s real role in the war.  Unfortunately too many Wiki articles present such a skewed history of that war that they have more in common with the old war-time propaganda partisanship of  “we” against “them”.

It is simply not history.

See below some of the incredibly partisan comments of several of these shockingly biased editors below. Now remember, these Wikipedia editors are supposed to be fair and balanced in what they write about both sides of the conflict:

Below is Dr K.  Notice some of the adjectives he uses to describe Mussolini and the Italians: “voyeur”, “impotent state”, “impotent leader”, “abject failure”, “floundering leader”. With views like this, can one honestly say he’s going to treat Italy’s role in the war with impartiality, fairness and balance on Wikipedia?

“…unduly emphasises minor points in what was an epic failure of the Italian fascist war machine and its floundering leader who personally witnessed and admitted this epic failure of his country, standing helpless at the top of a hill watching the routing of his army like a voyeur in the impotent state of not being able to do anything about it. Why concentrate on these minor points about an army who successfully withstood this onslaught by the Italians and not concentrate on the reasons for this abject failure of the Italian fascist war machine and its impotent leader?” (Dr K)    

This Wiki editor below (BMK) thinks that Mussolini should have thought about his reputation on Wikipedia before launching any wars. This guy is definitely going to write objectively on Wikipedia:

There is a bias against World War II Italy” – You mean that we are determined to call Mussolini a fasscist dictator? …. or what? If Italy didn’t want “negative” articles in Wikipedia perhaps it shouldn’t have put the Fascists into power and then, just as things were going as badly as they could possibly go, conveniently switched sides to the Allies. Unfortunately for the consciences of the Italiian people, their decisions were at every instance a day late and a dollar short, and their motivations were about as base as they could be. BMK (talk) 10:04, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

This delightful editor (with another Greek-sounding username)  uses the word “pathetic” to describe the Italian military. Yep, he’s definitely another “impartial, fair and balanced” Wiki editor:

It’s no wonder that not a single work terms the pathetic Italian performance as victory. Why should this confuse the reader?Alexikoua (talk) 18:09, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Or what about this comment by yet another Wiki editor called Cplakidas (funny how they often seem to have Greek-sounding usernames) describing what he thinks of the Italians on a Talk page:

Oh what a shame that we Greeks were not also able to bully and attack minor states, preferably those whose armies fought barefoot and without an air force, whom we could gas at will. What a shame that we did not have a stronger ally to bail us out whenever we got stuck due to poor planning and leadership (i.e. always) and then be able to pose both as victors and as better than them (because we did not kill quite as many people or torch quite as many villages) afterwards…

His one saving grace though was when he finally admitted that:

you have a point in that the Italian war effort is stereo-typically over-maligned and slandered (Cplakidas)

Above is just a small sample of Wikipedia editors on the Talk pages. Now Wikipedia editors are supposed to demonstrate impartiality, fairness and balance. But do they? Many of them have demonstrated a real partisan approach and have expressed a palpable disdain for Mussolini, his leadership, his generals and the Italian military and society. Odds are they are not going to write objective, neutral, impartial and balanced articles about Italy during the war.


I believe it is important to keep a record of such “fair and balanced” editors like Dr K, BMK and Alexikoua. But there are others (also with Greek-sounding usernames) who should be monitored and censored as well.

I am not against fair and honest history, but if the above examples serve as an indication of their (pre-existing) beliefs and attitudes of the Italian role and performance in the war, then my friends, I can only allow you to judge for yourselves.


  1. Daniel Baines says:

    I have a working version of my Commando Supremo game. It is a ‘retro’ game, but with modern game dynamics underneath. Once I complete the Scicily and Italian Somalia scenarios, it will be a recreation of all battles where Italy was the main belligerent. It is available for download here

    Somebody said I should advertise it here. Can I ask how I do that? I went to the wargamers forums and it said I can’t start a new topic.

    The game is perfect as a two player. It isn’t as complicated as some games, like the ones with all those hexagons. It is designed to be easy to play for those of you without the time to read a novel of rules, but complex enough that it is devilishly difficult to master. It is based on the RT Smith original ‘Vulcan.’ It is designed to automate all those board games that are out there!

  2. Daniel Baines says:

    Hey Annales! Looks like there definately will be a Commando Supremo game. I just completed programming the Eritrea Campaign. Its beautiful! I didn’t do it intentionally, but the Allied and Italian armies are precisely evenly matched! I just programmed the statistics in for the quality of various units, then looked at how it turned out. As I said I would, I made Italians half quality of Allies, on average. But once I had put all the men in, turned out the allies had 44100, the Axis 81000 at the start. However… the Savoy Grenadiers are even in quality to the Allies. Then, later in the game the Hunters of Africa and the 1st Colonial Division appear. This then makes the Italian Army superior. It is a two player game. If the Axis commander is competent, and actually stands and fights properly, then yes, the Italians will be victorious. Who knew?

    Its more than a game really. Its a complete Encyclopedia of Orders of Battle. Its an interactive OOB presentation really, with a game on the side. And it presents the geography of the battlefield. Its very educational actually. Could be used to teach children history far better than any book, because its fun!

    Its definately going to be ‘Commando Supremo.’ It will model ALL places where the Italians were the dominant player (except Italy itself, as that’s been done to death.) Rommel was subordinated to Commando Supremo, so that’s in. The game will cover Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Crete, Malta, Ethiopia, British Somalia, Italian Somalia, Eritrea.

  3. Daniel Baines says:

    I agree with this article. Lets face it, the Italians weren’t the best. But they weren’t THAT bad at soldiering. For example, I always thought the Commonwealth mopped the floor with the Italians in the East African Campaign. I was just researching it for a computer game I’m making about Italian forces. The Italians suffered 6000 dead for the allied 4000 dead. Not too much difference. The Italians lost their whole army captured when they surrendered, but when they actually fought, they can’t have done too badly. Its much better than the abysmal kill/loss ration the Russians had against the Germans. And the Russians don’t have as bad a reputation for being terrible troops. The Italians lost because they were cut off from their supplies. East Africa was surrounded by Allied troops from the beginning. Libya and Egypt too had terrible supply problems. If they’d been able to supply better equipment, I’m sure the Italians would’ve been just as good as anybody else. Rommel wrote a lot of praise of the Italian soldier too.

    • You are correct in your suspicions, Daniel. The Italian military has been overly maligned mainly because of Anglo-American and German historians who all had an axe to grind or were predisposed to bias in the first place.
      I am reading MacGregor Knox’s Mussolini Unleashed. Not only is there much bias in his writing, but he doesn’t even make a pretense of being fair and impartial.

      Unfortunately, many Wikipedia editors rely heavily on such writers because a) they can’t read Italian and therefore, cannot access Italian sources easily, and b) because they themselves already have an inherent bias and so, seek confirmation of their biases from authors like Knox, who act like a stamp of approval.

      Finally many Wikipedia editors have a mind-set that Wikipedia articles dealing with Italy should not only be critical, but even hyper-critical of the Italians without understanding the true nature of the Italian military mode of operation and preparedness for a war it only had the resources to fight for only 6 months, which turned into 3 and a half years. How the Italians even lasted that long is worth serious study considering their small industrial base. But in the main, Italian successes (and there were many) are often ignored or downplayed; while Italian defeats and set-backs get all the attention of a street parade!

      My advice: don’t believe everything you read. Keep a healthy skepticism! And remember, there are always two sides to consider in every conflict.

      • Daniel Baines says:

        Yes, I’m discovering that about there being two sides!

        When I was first thinking of making the game about 6 years ago, I couldn’t find the Order of Battle in East Africa. Wikipedia seems to have been updated since then. I was also pointed towards this site. Now my programming skills have improved, and I have more material to work with, I started work on the game a few days ago.

        I’m still having trouble finding any info on the disposition of the troops at the start of hostilities in Eritrea though. I could make ‘best guesses,’ but it won’t be as realistic. I know which units are which, but not where each one was at the time.

        But yeah, I was fascinated by how they weren’t as bad as I’d been lead to believe by the article that used to be up on Wikipedia, once some more detailed information arrived. I am going to programme the Italians as worse than Commonwealth, or it would be a no contest win for the Allies, given their inferior numbers. But I’m not going to make the Italians 10 times worse or anything. Probably about half as good. But that will be made up for by superiority in numbers. As for the ‘Hunters of Africa’ and the ‘Grenadiers of Savoy,’ they will be just as good as the allied forces. Should make for an interesting game. I’m going to make it more likely the allies will win, but it will certainly be possible for an Italian win.

        • The Italians certainly had many tactical victories, but few strategic ones. They needed a far heavier mechanized force, and that included medium to heavy tanks. If they just had tanks, what a difference it would have made!

          Good luck. If I find any sources of information, I’ll email you directly.

          You may want to consider advertising your game here on ComandoSupremo.

          • Daniel Baines says:

            I will when its done. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. I may run into some programing problems. Last time that happened I abandoned game development for about six years! If all goes smoothly though, it shouldn’t take too long to complete it.

            Additionally, its a ‘retro’ turn based strategy game, so don’t expect anything flashy. It usually puts people off when they realize its 8 bit emulated.

            But underneath, it will be a complex game. The combat alogorithms will be extremely realistic, and based on statistics from real life outcomes.

            It basically IS Commando Supremo. You control your forces like you would if you were sitting at main HQ with your commanders around a table, with all those little models on the table representing your forces, and getting reports on how they’re doing.

            So if and when its done, I will advertise it here, yes! I’m sure you guys would love to play Commando Supremo the game!

          • Sounds great! And if it can help educate the public that the Italian Army fought well and hard and was no push-over like the propagandists like to portray it, all the better!

            Good luck with it!

    • Reading Wikipedia you would almost think that the North African Theater was a German-British conflict. I have learned to steer clear of their articles and attempt to find my information elsewhere (rather hard given the scarcity of material on the Italian army in English). Some of the casualties that the articles assign the Italians (thousands dead or captured) vs the Allies (few hundred dead or wounded) are hard to swallow.

      • Most Wiki editors mean well and by and large do a good job. However, to write history is an art in itself. To write bad history is easy, but to write good history (which involves balance, objectivity, neutrality, avoiding sides, knowing what to include and what to exclude, avoiding connotations and emotion-laden words, presenting the evidence in a way that does not favor one side over another, avoiding making assumptions and innuendos, choosing sources widely but critically, etc,.) is very hard to do! Even trained historians often fall into one or several of the above errors. So what chance do “amateurs” have?

  4. Annales says:

    Well we are happy to report that the Wikipedia Greco-Italian War article was entirely revamped and revised and mostly expunged of its pro-Greek/anti-Italian bias. This is due in no small measure to the existence of this site and its benign and enlightening influence upon the perceptions of the Italian war effort.
    For too long, this particular article was held hostage by a nationalistic clique of Greek users who were able to twist and subvert the history of that ferocious struggle.

    They now realize that the Greco-Italian war was not a victory for Greece, nor a defeat for Italy, but a stalemated contest that was broken by timely German intervention.

  5. Annales says:

    Yes, you are correct in your evaluation Pietro. There is still a high level of animosity towards the Italian involvement in the Balkans, as is clearly evident in several Wikipedia articles such as the Greco-Italian War article. So the Italians appear to get it from all sides:

    1) Anglo-American bias

    2) German bias

    3) Greek and Balkan bias

    4) Homegrown Italian bias against Mussolini and the fascist period. The Italian against Italian bias was and is usually a political one because let’s not forget, Mussolini and the fascists put many communists, socialists, liberals and democrats behind bars and generally persecuted them. Many of those persecuted by the fascists went on to become politicians, journalists and academics themselves after the war, so they were not about to write anything favorable or enlightening about the war (and justifiably so, by the way).

    Which I think explains why someone like Renzo de Felice’s biography of Mussolini and his reevaluation of the Fascist period in general, was not well received by those politically left.

    So it is hard to find non-biased, non-pejorative, non-partisan accounts of Italy’s role in the war. It usually takes two or three generations for passions to settle down and for people (including professional historians) to sit down and take another look at the war more dispassionately and with greater distance. It is hard to think objectively about Italy and its unfortunate fascist period if your great uncle who was Slovene or Serb was killed or tortured or dispossessed by the Italian occupation army.

    And yet, like everything else in history, the story has to be told and told as neutrally, impartially and balanced as possible with no vested interests or patriotic axes to grind.

  6. Pietro Raso says:

    From balkan populations (like slovenians, croatians, greeks ….) toward italians, there is still a certain grade of (perfectly understandable) acrimony for the events of WWII and, of course, this is not good for an accurate historic inquiry or article. The situation is even worse because here in Italy there wasn’t a wide and open debate on the war/guerrilla in the balkans, that was dirty and ferocious…a good reason for forget it if you were lucky to come home. So, don’t take Wikipedia for a reliable source…a good advice not only for the pages on italian military history…and, point 2, when you write about history, try to be scientific!

Would you like to comment on this article?
Get a Gravatar if you want your photo to appear with your comment.