My general understanding of Wikipedia’s NPOV policy has always been that information is supposed to be presented neutrally and fairly. The NPOV article bears this out:
All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. This is non-negotiable and expected of all articles and all editors.
Just because a source is reliable does not mean it should be included. All articles must adhere to Wikipedia's neutrality policy, fairly representing all majority and significant-minority viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in rough proportion to the prominence of each view. Tiny-minority views and fringe theories need not be included, except in articles devoted to them.
Several people here seem to be arguing that the manner in which reliable sources present something is how Wikipedia should present it—meaning, if said sources present something in a biased manner, even outright ridiculing the topic, then such ridicule can be copied directly into Wikipedia, suddenly becoming “neutral” simply because it came from “reliable sources” demanded by Wikipedia’s NPOV policy.
That is an incredibly disingenuous reading of the NPOV policy: It sounds like the kind of convoluted lawyering someone would engage in in order to find a way to inject their own biases into an article. NPOV requires both neutrality in Wikipedia and neutrality in the reliable sources one cites. If your reliable source ridicules a topic, find a better reliable source.
Sometimes the article title itself may be a source of contention and polarization. This is especially true for descriptive titles that suggest a viewpoint either "for" or "against" any given issue. A neutral article title is very important because it ensures that the article topic is placed in the proper context. Therefore, encyclopedic article titles are expected to exhibit the highest degree of neutrality.
Using a pejorative name that the opponents of a theory use to label said theory, no matter the fringe nature of the theory, cannot possibly be justified as “representing fairly” a topic. There is absolutely no way someone can claim the word denialist is non-biased. It’s an ad hominem designed to make someone draw conclusions about a topic before they even start reading about it.
I can’t find an exact policy on this, but to me, the most intuitive policy for naming an article would be to use the name a group uses for themselves, with redirects in place for alternative names, including biased ones as used by their opponents. Some people have recommended using the word dissidents in this article title, but such terminology often has a positive connotation to people: Political dissidents are often portrayed as people who are brave enough to stand up against the status quo. So that’s not NPOV either. I would recommend renaming the article simply Alternative AIDS theories, which is the most neutral term I can think of.
And, if it’s true that these alternative AIDS theories are not “significant views” or are “fringe theories,” then the Wikipedia NPOV policy seems to lead to the conclusion that there should be no article at all on this topic, not one that ridicules the topic with a title of “AIDS denialism.”
Note that I came to this article looking for information, having clicked the link on another AIDS article, and have little foreknowledge of this topic other than a vague understanding that some people question the HIV–AIDS connection. I don’t have a dog in this fight on one side or another, other than to improve Wikipedia. I only looked at the title and the first paragraph before dismissing the entire article as so biased as to be useless for learning anything about this topic.
Actually, the way reliable sources present a subject is the neutral way to present a subject. "Neutrality" does not equate being kind to all viewpoints. To water down the only scientifically accepted viewpoint on the topic would be introducing an editorial bias against the reliable sources. Further, there is absolutely no person, no source, nothing of human creation, that is without bias. To assume that we mere editors can fashion an unbiased article, or even an unbiased title for this article, is simply...wrong. And that's why NPOV tells us to go with reliable sources. It prevents us from having to worry about the bias issue. If the reliable sources are biased, then so be it. A little further down the naming section of NPOV that you cite you'll find "Wikipedia article names should use the most neutral term that is widely used in reliable sources." It's been shown several times in the archives that "AIDS denialism" is precisely that term. The NPOV policy itself gives a two examples of articles that have have very loaded titles, and they do so because those are the most commonly used terms by reliable sources.
Another way you can think about this is to try and imaging the course of discussion that would take placed, depending on the understanding of NPOV. If editors were supposed to weed out the bias in reliable sources, the debate would have no end - no logical conclusion. No matter the arguments presented, there would always been accusations of bias from somewhere. But if neutrality is simply going along with reliable sources, the debate can actually end. It only gets complicated when multiple reliable sources are in opposition with one another, and this is certainly not such a case. Someguy1221 (talk) 06:38, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
And that explanation completely ignores the “fairly representing all majority and significant-minority viewpoints” part of the NPOV policy.
Of course you can’t get rid of bias. But you can present something in as fair a manner as possible. Propagating overt biases from sources, reliable or not, is not presenting something fairly, and any intelligent person can understand that calling something “denialism,” no matter how many times that term appears in sources, and no matter if that conforms to the letter of some Wikipedia policy, is not fairly representing the topic. Any intelligent person not with a vested interest in either side of the debate can look at the terminology both sides uses, and try to find some middle ground. So the mainstream calls the fringe “denialists,” a word most commonly associated with fascists and anti-semites nowadays—which I’d be willing to bet is why they’ve chosen such a term. And the fringe seems to label themselves “dissidents,” most likely in an effort to evoke a positive image of a brave minority standing up to an oppressive majority. Both terms are biased. Neither term is neutral. So in order to avoid looking like Wikipedia is taking sides, one finds a middle ground, a neutral term to describe the fringe: Alternative theories, minority theories, or similar.
But, your explanation is pretty much what I expected. There’s a policy or guideline or rule to regulate and justify every imaginable editorial decision in this project nowadays. People can argue endlessly about what these policies are supposed to mean, like lawyers, and whoever has the most time and energy to devote to it wins. People can dig through policies and find arcane points to justify their positions, no matter how overtly biased or against the spirit of an open encyclopedia they are. And they can mindlessly apply policies, as you said, to end debates.
I seem to remember a time when “wikilawyering” was considered against the spirit of the project. Now we have book-length talk pages debating a Wikipedia article, citing policy after policy after policy to get our way. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sum total of Wikipedia policies is longer than the tax code nowadays—or the entire U.S. Code itself. So be it.
This proliferation of rules and regulations is one of the major reasons I’ve stopped bothering to edit Wikipedia over the past few years. That, combined with the growing hierarchical nature of Wikipedia, has made me completely lose any faith that this project is a free or open encyclopedia anymore. Hmm, where to start. Page creation denied to anonymous users. “Semi-protection.” “Office actions” stepping in and stomping on community consensus. Veteran editors, many with admin privileges, obsessively patrolling pages and reverting changes made by newbies merely out of a sense of protectionism and ego. “Notability” guidelines being wielded by deletionist editors to justify demanding the deletion of pretty much anything. Articles being put up for deletion, over and over again, until the band of editors demanding deletion gets their way. (What’s the record now? Eighteen times for a single article?) Wikipedia is now the pet project of a few hundred people who have slowly manipulated the rules of the game to ensure that they get their way.
It’s especially interesting to watch how, much like in the real world, nearly every move toward more control has been predicated upon high-profile incidents. The Seigenthaler controversy justified denying anonymous users page creation and semi-protection of articles. “Office actions” were justified due to similar privacy complaints. “Vandalism” is held up more and more as a pretext for ever-increasing security.
Amusingly, right when I was in the middle of writing this post, I noticed the message about a “global sysops” proposal at the top of Wikipedia. “Because of … the continued abuse of our wikis, a new global user group is proposed: global sysops. These people would be highly trusted users with a strong track record of cross-wiki contributions.” Just what Wikipedia needs: another class of élite contributors with special powers, justified by the the “continued abuse of our wikis.” The timing of this couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Never has there been a high-profile incident that moves Wikipedia in a more free direction. Each incident only adds more controls, more regulation, and more bureaucracy.
And so, we end up with a policy that says if the sources are hopelessly biased, Wikipedia must be hopelessly biased, too. (Goes right along with those notability guidelines that basically say, if something hasn’t been reported on by mainstream media, it basically doesn’t exist.) Someone brought up the term African Americanvs. the N word earlier. It wouldn’t surprise me if, had Wikipedia been written two centuries ago and in the American South, we’d be debating whether or not an article on the anti-slavery movement ought to be called Abolitionism or N——— lovers. And the second term would probably win.
Of course, I don’t expect anything to change. It’s too far gone. People have long been criticizing Wikipedia about these problems, and they just keep slowly expanding. Wikipedia Watch and Wikipedia Review have existed for years. Encyclopedia Dramatica (which I can’t link to—because of some ridiculous “blacklist”) catalogues some of the more absurd examples of editorial excess. At this point, I see Wikipedia sort of how I look at the ancient Roman Republic: When Caesar and Augustus were first trying to destroy the republic and replace it with a monarchy, that was when it was appropriate to get angry, resist, and try to pull things back in the right direction. By the time Diocletian was wrecking the entire Roman economy with currency debasement and price controls, and lunatics like Commodus were renaming every damn thing in sight after themselves merely to stroke their own ego, all one could do was sit back, laugh at the stupidity of it all, and wait for it to collapse—and maybe build something better from the pieces.
Enjoy your encyclopedia, guys. I think I’m outta here. — J’raxis✆✍ 23:26, 11 January 2010 (UTC)
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