Wikipedia:Sex, Religion and Politics

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Wikipedia seeks to provide a "Neutral Point of View."

In some areas, including articles referring to sex, religion or politics, this is nearly impossible.

Editors "know" the "truth" and generally do not even realize the degree to which they are inserting specific points of view into articles. The theory is that others will seek to balance such, but with the huge number of articles, that goal is impracticable.

This essay seeks to make users aware of "red flags" about POV in articles, to establish that while NPOV is a goal, it is not always found, and to make editors aware of their own POV issues.

Why the problem exists[edit]

Wikipedians are, in general, human. Thus, Wikipedia has pro-this and anti-this editors on almost any controversial topic. Some editors seek to be totally neutral, which means they invariably catch the most flak from everyone else.

People with extraordinarily strong views tend to see anything deviating even slightly from those "truths" to be "rank heresy." Thus a person who is a strong believer in "belief A" will regard anything slightly away from that belief as being "extremely wrong" and even people with close beliefs will be regarded as anathema. Folks with really disparate beliefs are scarcely more anathema to "true believers" on any controversial topic.

How to recognize the problem in articles[edit]

Wikipedia has strong rules regarding "biographies of living persons" but even those articles can run afoul of the problem.

Look first of all for trivial matters given great weight in any article. Frankly, if the matter is expressed in strong language, but appears not to be that important to you, disregard the strong language. Mark Twain is often credited with saying that whenever he wanted to emphasize anything, he always wrote "damn" as an adjective, knowing that his wife would edit it out. Wikipedia has no such wife.[1] Twain did, however, write "In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders." (1893 notebook)

Second, look for claims of criminal acts (not just by individuals) where no courts have convicted the person or group of the crime.

Third, look for "value judgments" made in any article. Wikipedia prefers that opinions be ascribed to those holding the opinion as much as possible, but that is not always followed.

Fourth, look for use of contentious labels and adjectives with "colored" meanings - such as "extreme," "Nazi," "fascist," "Communist," "homophobic," "denialist," "cult," "hater" and the like. The words may be correct, but do not assume they are correct without examining the sources. This means not just reading the source, but also looking at who wrote the source. WP:RS requires only that a source be "reliable." It does not, indeed cannot, require that any source be "truth."

In all such cases, look at the citations given, and examine them with a critical eye. Wikipedia is not a substitute for reading about a topic! And if something looks like it might be there because of someone's point of view, ignore the claim.

Advice to editors[edit]

Edit from all points of view on any topic as best you can! This means that you should look for positive as much as negative information about any person or group. If you are "pro-belief A" then make sure that nothing you write asserts that "belief A" is "true" or "correct."

If each editor followed this, ArbCom would soon be out of business.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Or at least it's been attributed to Twain.[1]