Wikipedia:Political dispute

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

This is not a policy. It is not official, just contains recommendations.

A political dispute is different from a standard NPOV dispute. It involves not just disagreements of personality or perspective, but matters that, in the real world, people physically fight over. Accordingly, they also come here to diligently reduce their casualties in the real world by getting more people on their side. These people don't give up, calm down, or cool off. They are here specifically to push a particular view, and will not give up for good. They will at most back off for a while, subtly adjust the scope of articles, then renew their attack at a later time when their opponents are not watching.

As Wikipedia becomes better known and more widely read, and as people begin to see it as a service that is influential in the formation of people's beliefs, it will more and more be the case that politics and religion cause troll wars and constantly renewing edit wars. If they fail to push their POV, they leave, again temporarily, until they can come back with more on their side.

We will likely never completely agree even on "what is political". So review the following positions and arguments (see m:TIPAESA structure) on this issue, and add more that reflect your views and opinions, that will continue to co-exist, and maybe never collapse to consensus. That's not the ideal wiki page or Wikipedia policy, but that's politics!

Position: This really can't be avoided. Politics defines what people care about enough to fight about. As they start to care more what is said here, they will grow more adamant about it,
Argument FOR: some use every propaganda technique in the book to promote their own view, and suppress others.
Argument AGAINST: Many controversial issues have been resolved already, why should new ones be different?
Counter-Argument FOR: almost all of these had only two or three users involved with them. Some articles like Scientific method are just not settling down, it's been in an active state of flux for about three months. And yes, science and its status is certainly political.
Position: there will be not just differences of view and perspective, on sources and such, but differences on who is to be trusted and allowed to participate.
Argument AGAINST: Such measures as temporary page protection can serve to prevent a neutral article from being utterly vandalized or denatured. This doesn't require anyone be totally excluded.
Counter-Argument FOR: It is unlikely that anyone will abandon their political views, and hold off from some future attack that wears down their opponents.

Some feel that an "edit war of attrition" where the side that has more time and typing speed eventually "conquers" an article, is the inevitable outcome of no policy that deals specifically with disputes so serious as to command loyalty from fanatics.

This is particularly significant with regard to the Wikipedia:list of central issues. A political shift in those articles tends to create a shift in many other articles, which over time can alter what we here see as neutrality itself.

Position: We can expect more and more calls to define such concepts as libel, hate, harassment, mental illness, revisionism and such in ways that probably serve some specific agenda.
Argument FOR: never mind "expect", it's happeing now. Such terms are sadly already in use now by some Wikipedians, and perhaps they are in some cases appropriate.
Argument AGAINST: that's true but why be concerned? The existence of such terms itself reveals some such agenda: see psychiatry and anti-psychiatry, free speech and hate speech. The debates are not just about "what is right" but "who is allowed to speak", and indeed "what dictionary are we using". This is a normal part of using language. Just forget it.
Position: Neutral point of view solves these problems magically, or at least so well that we don't have to take particuarly virulent disputes more seriously or have any policy beyond that of the NPOV dispute measures. The origins of disputes are of no interest here.
Argument FOR: Hey, we dealt with User:JoeM and other such overtly non-neutral characters. There have been no disputes that have led to expanding political fronts and conflicts yet. Why would we expect it to happen now?
Counter-Argument AGAINST: It's happening all the time, but as long as people don't call each other names, we don't care. But if we are serious about pushing to 1.0 then that deadline of a CD-ROM release will make people more and more likely to try to make sure that their side is "on top" as of that high-investment release. So some measures and anticipation are required now to deal with this, or even just to detect it.
Argument AGAINST: NPOV takes active work to uphold. We have a special responsibility at Wikipedia. That is, to represent points of view that are not our own, fairly. These may be views of people who are long dead. The objects or The Other may be the mentally challenged or uneducated or digitally divided. The views may be those of Asians, or blacks, or women, who are under-represented here.
Argument AGAINST: NPOV is only a part-answer. It is simply not enough to ask for neutrality between those views that are presently expressed, we must seek out views that are not fully expressed, but widely held, and reflect them. Otherwise our credibility is lost.

Regardless of the positions one takes or arguments one accepts, it remains particularly important not to lose our neutral perspective with respect to religion, ethics, or politics itself. These are central issues. We have done an admirable job so far of sorting out the various theories of civics and preventing differences on these issues from irreconcilably tearing us apart. But tension and differences and stakes are all increasing, and extra attention is required.

As a policy, we suggest only reading the political virtues of Bernard Crick, and finding ways to apply them to your work at Wikipedia. For instance:

  • Perform a self-assessment of how your conflict resolution behaviour stands up to those virtues as ideals – are you as prudent as you can be? lively?
  • When confronted with a difficult dispute in which you are mediating as third party, call attention to those virtues and assess behaviour by those standards rather than "who is right" or "who started it"
  • Encourage work on articles on those concepts as troll bridges. For instance, leave a page that politically-opposed parties wish to work on protected, until they both come back with some edit that improves an article on mediation, arbitration, compromise, or other article that describes the political virtues.

Over time, those who are involved in a political dispute over articles in Wikipedia will thus be exposed to the best way to solve such disputes in life: prudence, conciliation, compromise, variety, adaptability, liveliness – and a hearty sense of humour.

"To be a good Wikipedian, be respectful, overly combative, self-critical, vulnerable, hortatory, ambitious, and analytical." – User:The_Cunctator