Progressive Information Project: History Commons

President George W. Bush's response to the NSA wiretapping story The purpose of the Progressive Information Project is to more widely share resources and information created to advance progressive causes. A lot of good work is being done,

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President George W. Bush's response to the NSA wiretapping story

The purpose of the Progressive Information Project is to more widely share resources and information created to advance progressive causes. A lot of good work is being done, but the average progressive often doesn't learn about it or know what is available. This series is designed to help alleviate that problem.

History Commons is one of the most data-intensive websites on the Internet and it is an invaluable research tool not just for history, but the type of history that progressives are most interested in. The site has a particular focus on more recent history (mostly post 1970) and includes mostly political events, particularly those of high importance and significant controversy. The purpose of the site is stated as:

  • To provide a means for members of civil society to monitor the activities of powerful entities, such as governments, large corporations, and wealthy and influential individuals. In this capacity, the website should be regarded as an IT toolset that enables members of the public to operate as a sort of people’s intelligence agency. To initiate an investigation of a certain issue, entity, or event, a user first creates a timeline project. The user then becomes the project manager of that project and begins adding events, entities, and relationships. The data is displayed as a chronology. Project managers can define an unlimited number of category sets and categories that s/he can use to classify the events. This gives the data some structure and makes it more readable for visitors.
     
  • To further blur the line between readers and journalists. This website, like blogs and other applications that allow self-publishing, allows Big Media’s former audience to assume the roles of content creators, editors, and publishers.
     
  • To increase the efficiency of information production. This project is premised on the notion that collaboration in a networked “open-content” environment can greatly improve the efficiency and quality of information production in the public sphere as it allows contributors to build upon and improve the work of others in real time as part of a global community. This arrangement allows the production of information to take place at a level of efficiency comparable—if not superior—to that of the capital-intensive efforts of hierarchically structured private enterprises. The Center believes this improved efficiency is socially significant because products resulting from this system of production are inherently more democratic than those of the private sector since they are created by a much broader spectrum of interests and perspectives.
     
  • To increase the efficiency of information acquisition. Another objective of the Center is to increase the efficiency of research by reducing the tendency for researchers to duplicate the efforts of others. All too often, researchers—largely because of a fragmented historical record—needlessly spend a significant amount of time and energy bringing material together and identifying relationships, even though this work may have already been done by someone else. By collecting a mass of extensively cited data, this website should reduce the frequency of duplicated efforts.
     
  • To reduce the fragmentation of the historical record. This project seeks to help reduce the fragmentation of the historical record by connecting events whose temporal and spatial relationships are often obscured by a mass of contradicting and disconnected literature, the biases of the media, and the tendency for important past events to be relegated to the annals of forgotten history. By reducing the fragmentation of the historical record, this project hopes to reduce the amount of time it takes for the public to acquire a full and coherent picture of an event or issue.
     
  • To create a “history commons.” All the data in the History Commons database will be exportable into XML so it can be used by other individuals and groups for non-commercial purposes. As such the historical data collected by contributors and stored in the History Commons database will serve as a sort of commons for historical data.
  • The website is published by the Center for Grassroots Oversight, which is a 501(c)3, and began in late 2006. A massive amount of information has been posted on the site since then. Nearly 20,000 historical events have been cataloged on the site, as well as 5,000 people and organizations. The main format of the website are timelines that have extensive detail and information about the specific event, that are painstakingly documented and sourced, using legitimate mainstream sources. The list of major topics covered so far includes:

  • Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq
  • Iraq Under U.S. Occupation
  • War in Afghanistan
  • U.S. Confrontation with Iran
  • Iran-Contra and Arms-for-Hostages Scandals
  • Complete 911 Timeline
  • Prisoner Abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Elsewhere
  • U.S. Domestic Terrorism
  • 2001 Anthrax Attacks
  • Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks by Intelligence Agencies
  • Global Financial and Economic Crisis 2007-Present
  • Football Business and Politics
  • Neoliberalism and Globalization
  • Loss of U.S. Civil Liberties
  • Domestic Propaganda and the News Media
  • Neoconservative Influences on U.S. Policies
  • U.S. Electoral Politics
  • Nixon, Ford, and Watergate
  • U.S. Health Care System
  • Global Warming
  • U.S. Environmental Issues
  • Genetic Engineering and the Privatization of Seeds
  • Water Privatization
  • Environmental Impact of the 9/11 Attacks
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • The Struggle for Kosovar Albanian Self-Determination
  • U.S. International Relations
  • History of U.S. Interventions
  • A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
  • 2004 Ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
  • U.S. Military
  • Bush administration's treatment of U.S. troops

    Each of these sections is loaded with sub-topics and sub-timelines and each of those is filled with article after article of invaluable information that you can't find anywhere else in a single location.

    The site is an open-source information-gathering hub that is created, edited, peer reviewed and maintained by volunteers. The fact that a volunteer group came up with this massive database of information shows the amazing power of the Internet. As the site expands, they are looking to add new sections:

  • 2012 elections and earlier
  • The Abramoff lobbying scandal
  • Blackwater and the rise of private mercenary forces
  • The Citizens United decision
  • Guantanamo violations and depredations
  • History of the CIA
  • The Murdoch/News of the World hacking scandal
  • Operation Gladio and NATO’s secret armies in Western Europe
  • Political assassinations in the U.S.
  • Social movements
  • SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act)
  • The U.S. Attorney scandal and resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
  • Violence against women in the military
  • Wikileaks and Bradley Manning

    The site is looking for volunteers and accepts donations and it has a blog and e-mail list for updates, a YouTube channel (see an example of the types of videos they include above), and a Twitter feed.

    For more entries, go to the series index. If you have tips, e-mail me at quinnelk@gmail.com

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