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Advocacy articles as used in this essay refers to a subset of articles on controversial subjects which, by their nature, include strong opinions as a substantial basis for the article, and are not therefore based on determinable facts. The generalities in the essay WP:Advocacy deal with a general concept, but do not deal with the specific subgroup of articles discussed below, nor do they present questions as to how WP should deal with such articles.
Such articles form a huge percentage of POV and other editing issues, as well as the bulk of the ArbCom workload.
Currently, NPOV and other tags are used to temporarily denote specific issues in articles as including unbalanced points of view. These tags are generally removed by consensus of those editors who hold the majority position on an issue, thus hiding the real problems with the articles.
The articles which are the subject here are those for which placement of a temporary NPOV tag is substantially insufficient to alert users of Wikipedia that there are major issues concerning the content of an article.
Purpose of Wikipedia
WP:Purpose states "Wikipedia's purpose is to act as an encyclopedia, a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge."
The question as to whether advocacy of specific beliefs is "information" is debatable. The Scientology articles contretemps shows the problem clearly, although that is not the only area where advocacy has been a major problem.
What is "information"?
One use of "information" is that it is facts. Once "opinion" is added as being information, the blurred lines can lead to point-of-view issues – even with the proviso that the "opinion" is fact only when clearly identified as opinion, this proviso is not always adhered to.
Another use of "information" is "information does not have to be accurate; it may be a truth or a lie, or just the sound of a falling tree" (from Information, and used as an example only, not as a recursive use of Wikipedia). Clearly such a broad definition is useless when it comes to conveying "knowledge."
What is "knowledge"?
Absent any real accepted-by-everyone definition, we have two primary choices. Plato's "true belief" or the more modern "facts known about a subject." The former is, however, one basis for the "advocacy article" problem.
Articles with POV issues which are not specifically "advocacy articles"
Clearly many articles have POV debates - including, but not limited to, any discussions about people or places associated with any controversy at all, politics, religion, sexual practices, economics and the like.
WP:Advocacy suggests that "consensus" is a valid solution. Unfortunately, consensus on advocacy articles is difficult. Articles whose very nature is "all people ought to do thus-and-such for the common good" have trouble when skeptical sides are presented, and even more of a resistance to actual counter-positions.
Where the primary focus of the article is on factual material, rather than on opinions of anyone, no matter how important or unimportant they may be, the current WP standards about balancing points-of-view may well be sufficient.
Where the primary focus is on non-factual material, material which is primarily based on opinion or interpretation of facts whose interpretation is questioned. or is substantially based on Plato's "true belief", we have a problem, and it is those articles which are here named "advocacy articles."
Proposed or possible courses of action
- Status quo ante. Let them stay, even though they form a very large, and growing, part of the various debate processes on WP.
- Provide a new label for them which is not removable by any consensus of editors within the article (as they may well be "true believers" on the topic). Such a label would say, more-or-less, "This article may contain advocacy for a specific view or views which is not based on unquestioned fact." This would allow such intrinsically unbalanceable articles to remain in mainspace.
- Provide a general disclaimer for all articles saying "This article may include opinions not necessarily based on objective fact."
- Bar all advocacy articles as determined by ArbCom from mainspace unless they are clearly marked as "advocacy." Such articles would not need to adhere to NPOV once marked, but other articles with differing views would be accorded the same benefit.
- Create a firewall - an en-Wiki project separator - two rooms in the same house, one room with stable articles not attracting battlefield disputes. That room in the house would have "stable status" - awarded on request to articles and if given the article is moved to that room. So creating a room in the house without rudeness or edit warring. Users if they wanted could log in only to that room. The other sector, the disputed, the biased, the opinionated articles would all sit in the other room. The objective would be to get the article out of that room to the stable non battlefield room. The only way to do this in some sectors would be to create a truly balanced article that had fair coverage of all positions so as all partisans could be satisfied with it, rather than what some sectors do now which is have to constantly defend the bias in an article through constant blocking of objectors, article protection and tag team edit warring and sometimes just pure weight of numbers.
Please feel free to add other examples or proposals to this essay, as its sole intent is to demonstrate that a problem does exist, and that it should, at some point, be dealt with.
An argument can be made that the "firewall proposal" in particular would not help, because all Wikipedia articles are *already* supposed to adhere to NPOV, so this would just create a license for non-neutrality, and editors could pay lip service to the desire for neutrality while not following it in practice. Similar counter-arguments apply to the other proposals for change.
(please add any clear POV-attracting articles below)
- Hugo Chavez and related articles
- George W. Bush military service controversy
- Climate change denial
- Climategate, officially "Climatic Research Unit email controversy"
- Scientology articles
- Prem Rawat articles
- Falun Gong articles
- All Israel-Palestine controversy articles
- Tibet articles
- Astrology articles and biographies
- All articles related to Communism, Anti-Communism and all topics based on any political spectrum
- All articles concerning cults, religious subgroups, and orthodoxy