Wikipedia:No trojan horses

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Wikipedia's content policies can be frustrating: You want to put something in an article, but requirements like WP:V and WP:NPOV and/or prohibitions like WP:OR and WP:SYNTH stand in the way. What to do? Sometimes the answer is to try a trojan horse: a fact is wheeled into an article which appears unobjectionable on the outside, but which disguises your real goal. This is a Trojan horse, and is an unwelcome editorial act.

A typical Trojan horse involves an editor who wants an article to make point A. They can't muster an acceptable source, so they insert point B, for which they do have a source—and which insinuates point A. The effect can also be stacked (becoming, presumably, a Trojan Russian doll). Suppose an editor doesn't like Senator Doe; they want to say that Doe is a hypocrite (point A). But that would violate NPOV, so they find a point which invites readers to that conclusion without stating it outright (point B), and add a well-sourced point to the article which in turn points to that (point C). For example, if Senator Doe is a religious conservative, an editor might seek to show them as a hypocrite by adding a date of birth for their child (point C) which implies an out-of-wedlock conception (point B), which in turn implies the conclusion that Doe's personal conduct is inconsistent with his views (point A).

A telltale sign is an insistence on adding a factoid that is sourced but, taken by itself, mundane. For example, that someone grew up in a particular kind of residence (say, a condo) may be too mundane to warrant inclusion; if the type of residence is regarded as a rough proxy for economic status, however (say, a council house, which is funded through public money and is often inhabited by people of lower socio-economic status), the point may be a Trojan horse. If an editor is disproportionately insistent ("But it's true!") about adding what seems to be a minor point, consider the possibility that the point is a Trojan (which is to say, rather, a Greek inside a horse inside of Troy) and justify your removal of it on those grounds. Be careful, however, not to remove relevant information from an article on the sole premise that it is a Trojan horse without being able to support your decision with consistent argument— that is, do not look a gift horse in the mouth unless you are convinced it contains Greeks!

See also[edit]