Wishing it away: Matthew Good, a biography and Wikipedia

Matthew Good

Part of being a public figure is that sooner or later people are going to say things about you that you don’t agree with.  It comes with the territory, and the longer you’re going to be in the spotlight the more that’s going to happen.  Hell these days just having a blog seems to be enough for people to give you their opinion on every facet of your life, and that’s fair because if you choose to share it then you’re inviting comments.

The quickly written unauthorized biography is a staple of the music world.  Collecting previously published interviews and then hammering those into some sort of narrative structure to capitalize on someone else’s success.  Want to find out the real story of Trent Reznor, that unauthorized biography of him that I bought certainly did not tell it.  Though to be honest official biographies, or autobiographies, are rarely any more interesting or accurate.

It’s understandable that having an un-official biography written about you would be annoying.  However it’s free speech and anyone is allowed to say almost anything verbally or in print, no matter how badly written or poorly researched.  Matthew Good was never going to be happy about Eric Blair’s Ghosts in the Machine [am], but having his fans remove all mention of its existence from Wikipedia was disappointing [mg].

As much fun as people poke at Wikilality, Wikipedia is a wonderful resource and one that is generally self-regulated to provide accurate information.  The fact is that this biography exists, and while it’s proper to point out that Matthew Good was not interviewed and doesn’t support the biography simply pretending it doesn’t exist runs contrary to the principals of Wikipedia.

From the Wikipedia History of the article on Matthew Good [wp]:

An unsactioned (sic) biography of Matthew Good was written in 2008 by Eric Blair entitled “Ghosts in the Machine”. However, Mr. Good has formally denounced the book, stating that “I wasn’t interviewed or contacted, no member of my family was interviewed or contacted, nor were any of my friends”. Further, Mr. Good states that “I don’t sanction it whatsoever as any representation of me, my work, or my personal history.”

That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement of the book, nor even a particularly good advertisement.  It seems fair and balanced, acknowledging the books existence while not calling the author gay, a thief or otherwise libeling him.

The truth is that the book exists.  For all anyone knows it actually might be brilliant, though more likely it’s rubbish.  Removing it from Wikipedia doesn’t change that.

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