User:Belchfire/essays/Identity politics and Wikipedia
|This page is an essay, containing the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors on the Neutral point of view policy. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.||
|This essay in a nutshell:
Because Wikipedia aims to be a neutral compilation of verifiable, established facts, editors are called upon - and are expected - to ensure their work complies with Wikipedia's core content policies. First among those policies is that all Wikipedia content must be written from a neutral point of view. Because editors are human beings, each with their own individual bias, achieving a neutral point of view often requires a conscious effort. However, some editors make a conscious effort to do the opposite, and intentionally edit with a specific, focused bias. This essay will discuss a particular type of biased editing, that which is based on identity politics.
The spirit and the intent of this essay is drawn from the Neutral point of view/FAQ:
- 1 Defining the problem
- 2 Assessing the damage
- 3 Remedial action
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Defining the problem
Special interest editing is special
"Identity politics" can be defined as "political arguments that focus on the self-interest and perspectives of self-identified special interest groups". Because adherents are both self-identified and self-interested, identity politics on Wikipedia creates a conflict of interest, and there can be no credible claim to generally altruistic motives when a special interest bias is present.
Many editors work more or less openly from the standpoint of a particular political philosophy or political viewpoint, but this does not necessarily mean that their editing is non-neutral (although, it often does). However, a general political bias is inherently different from a bias based on identity politics, in that those holding a political bias are self-selecting and may change their opinions over time, whereas identity politics is usually grounded in immutable characteristics and tends to be permanently aligned in a single direction. One result of this difference is that special interest editors are not interested in discussion that may not lead to their preferred result, and are generally not reasonable in their approach to editing Wikipedia.
Special interest groups and their agendas
Special interest groups are most often based on:
Those pursuing the agenda of special interest groups may engage in biased editing of articles concerning:
Ways to spot editing motivated by identity politics
Special interest editors are often single purpose accounts, or fall just outside the criteria for single purpose accounts. They tend to spend an inordinate amount of time editing controversial articles. Sometimes their editing stays within behavioral guidelines, but often it does not. Special interest editors will often take a long-term interest in articles that are near and dear to their cause. They will often give themselves away by their inability to disengage or their unwillingness to recognize that there may be valid opinions differing from their own.
Editors motivated by identity politics frequently:
- Appear to judge the reliability of sources based on content, rather than the sources themselves
- Project bias on others in discussions
- Add loaded words or prejudicial language
Editors motivated by identity politics sometimes:
- Engage in revisionism
- Improperly assign undue weight to material that supports their aims
- Improperly claim that material not supporting their aims is on the fringe
- Seek to re-weight minor details by moving them in or out of an article's lead
- Continue to argue their point after an opposing consensus has emerged
- Edit-war, edit disruptively and/or edit tendentiously
Editors motivated by identity politics seldom:
Assessing the damage
How identity politics disrupts Wikipedia
Special interest editors are not concerned with the quality of the encyclopedia, seeking instead to use Wikipedia as a platform to further their own agendas. Because special interest editing is inherently contrary to Wikipedia's goals, it is disruptive by its very definition.
How identity politics damages Wikipedia's credibility
Wikipedia already has a well-documented problem with low credibility and lack of authority, and the actions of egregiously biased editors increase this problem out of proportion to their numbers. In particular, conflict of interest in political topics on Wikipedia is an issue that has been well-documented in the media. The damage done to Wikipedia by a public perception of unreliability in one area spills over to the rest of the encyclopedia, and the value of the work done by all contributors is diminished as a result.
Strategies for editors
- Always remain civil when dealing with biased editors, to preserve your ability to escalate effectively when necessary
- Assume good faith, but don't be afraid to call a spade a spade. (With civility, of course.)
- Diligently report edit-warring. Consider giving the stop sign template at 2RR
- Do not view account longevity as an impediment to issuing appropriate user warnings
- When appropriate, use the Single Purpose Account tag to de-weight the Talk contributions of clearly biased editors
Recommendations for administrators
- Do a sensible cost-benefit analysis on behalf of Wikipedia as a whole when considering how to react to behavioral issues
- Learn to recognize those in need of mentorship, and suggest it to them
- Realize that not blocking an edit-warrior, for any reason, always imposes a cost on the encyclopedia
- Realize that editors are not equal
- The Decline of Wikipedia, and more, The Signpost, November 23, 2009
- Former Contributors Survey Results, Wikimedia Foundation, April 2010,
Around half of editors leave solely for personal reasons; Other half left for 'community' or 'complexity' reasons, in roughly equal parts; 'Community critics' felt that other editors harmed their experience; Bad interactions with editors who were stubborn, biased, reckless, etc.