Framgate as the Dreyfus Affair

Fram has been compared to the iconic villain Javert from Les Misérables, who obsessively pursues his nemesis Jean Valjean, released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

But looking through the cast of characters on the Framgate talk page, I’m not so sure.  This week the German-speaking Gerda, who adores Eric Corbett and the c-bomb, has proposed not to refer to the toxic Wikipedia culture as “toxic”.  (I propose the alternate term “fluffy bunnies”, with a search-and-replace to be done by a special civility bot). If that wasn’t Orwellian enough for you, Pine, who has worked his way through the various mailing lists attacking whatever women he found in leadership positions, is now posting his cringe-worthy missives to the wikimedia-l mailing list in their entirety.

Maybe the Framgate episode has a better parallel in the Dreyfus Affair, which divided the French culture, and eventually left the old guard in the dust.

Dreyfus was subjected to a vicious show-trial and imprisoned on the notorious Devil’s Island.



The majority of prisoners sent to Devil’s Island did not survive their first year.

To the old guard of the nationalist right, Dreyfus, “the Jew from Alsace”, represented everything they loathed.  They had evidence of his innocence, but they suppressed it. Since the dossier against him was so slim, evidence was fabricated. An officer who did an independent investigation, Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart, discovered the real culprit was a French officer named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy who had been selling secret documents to Germany.

Res judicata

But the General Staff would not listen. To them, the matter was “res judicata“. A closed matter because it had already been adjudicated.

Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart was transferred to Tunisia, and later arrested. Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted in a closed court session after a 3-minute hearing.

An interesting phrase, res judicata. According to the Wikipedia article for the Dreyfus affair,

Picquart communicated the results of his investigation to the General Staff, which opposed him under “the authority of the principle of res judicata”. After this, everything was done to oust him from his position, with the help of his own deputy, Major Henry [who had forged the document against Dreyfus -GD]. It was primarily the upper echelons of the Army that did not want to admit that Dreyfus’s conviction could be a grave miscarriage of justice. For Mercier, then Zurlinden and the General Staff, what was done was done and should never be returned to.

This might be an interesting phrase to remember the next time the arbcom refuses to answer their email.

A similar phrase is Res judicata pro veritate habetur, “A thing adjudged is regarded as truth.”  It is pretty much the opposite of “mistakes were made”. 

Dreyfus was eventually exonerated and freed, but not without rioting in the streets. But the old guard was finished.  Even though the right-wing authoritarian military for the moment remained in control of the political system, their days were numbered.  The Dreyfus Affair is credited with the emergence of various socialist parties, the Zionist movement, and the French League for Human Rights, among others.

And Wikipedia? A police state where the admins, instead of enforcing the policy, now believe they have the authority to create policy through banning and blocking people whose criticism they do not agree with.  So now it only remains to be seen which pogroms, this time against women, and anyone who defends them, will gain traction with which Wikipedia criticism sites, and which ones will end up backing “business as usual” and the abusive and authoritarian rule of the ‘old boyz club’.

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