Wikipedia talk:Civil POV pushing/Archive 5

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 6

Proposal: restrictions on SPAs?

Since POV-pushers, civil or not, are often single purpose accounts, what if there was a mechanism that could be used to keep SPAs on a short leash? I'm thinking something along the lines of SPAs being limited to 2RR, or if an article is already on 1RR probation, then SPAs would be limited to 0RR on that article, etc.

I imagine the hard part would be coming up with a way to fairly classify an account as single-purpose. It could be a simple as any relatively uninvolved admin declaring the account SPA and imposing a 2RR restriction, or as complicated as creating something like a WP:Single Purpose Account Noticeboard where an editor would have to be "nominated" and evidence would be presented for and against, etc. Restrictions need not be automatically applied to every SPA, and maybe there could or should be a requirement that there also be strong of evidence of disruptive behavior (like a dirty block log) for an SPA to be put on 2RR. And very new accounts (appropriately defined) would be exempted, until the new user's editing pattern to becomes apparent. And of course, for editors that have been deemed SPAs, there would have to be a way to appeal the decision, especially if they have changed their editing pattern and no long are SPAs.

I anticipate that some people will object to the above, noting that many SPAs make valuable contributions to the narrow range of topics they edit and that there is no requirement that editors take on a broad range of topics. These are good points. W/R/T the first one, I would argue that 2RR restriction won't hinder productive, non-warring SPAs. W/R/T the second point, I'll note that in my experience, most disruptive, POV-pushing, system-gaming editors, civil or otherwise, tend to be SPAs, and there is a need to strike a balance between respecting the reality that some good-faith editors have narrow interests on one hand, and protecting the project and its editors from problematic editors who contribute little but disruption on the other hand. Yilloslime (t) 23:23, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

You will also have to find a way to define whether long-standing editors who were not SPAs in the past, but now only edit in a narrow area, have become SPAs. Also, if you define the topic broadly enough, you could make many people out to be SPAs. Some people on both sides edit almost exclusively in the "global warming" area. Saying that you are "right" should not be a defence to being labelled an SPA. It should also be noted that accusations of SPA-ness verge seamlessly into accusations of tendentious editing and ownership. There should also be ways of addressing people who edit to a very high volume (85-90%) in a single area, but dabble in other areas, either because they do like to take a break sometimes, or deliberately to avoid SPA accusations. My view is that everyone should take a break sometimes, and trust others to do the work needed. Having the same names come up time and time again on both sides is very tiring for those watching, and it does discourage other editors (both new and "established") from getting involved. I've often thought about what it would take to start editing one of these contentious areas, and I've often quailed in the face of the effort that would be involved. Maybe a guide along the lines of: start by reading the talk pages and FAQs, start by doing minor typos and copyediting work, and then, after a few weeks or months, start a discussion or two, but stick to those discussions and see them through to the end, instead of starting forest fires everywhere? Something to help more people get involved, as ultimately, the only thing that fixes these sort of messes is more (reasonable) people getting involved, not less. Carcharoth (talk) 07:59, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
You can get a taste of it at User:Filll/WP Challenge, without all the fuss and bother and having to read so much.--Filll (talk | wpc) 16:43, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
One problem is that single-purpose account isn't really the best name for the problem. Lots of our best articles are written by single-purpose accounts. The problem is agenda accounts, and I've considered writing a separate essay by that title. If one's single purpose is to add encyclopedic information about the plays of Anton Chekhov, then there's no problem. It's when the single purpose in question is relentless advocacy for one side of a controversial issue that a problem arises, which is why I think that "agenda account" is a better title. Everyone starts out life as a single-purpose account, but relatively few people start out as an agenda account. MastCell Talk 20:21, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Lyme disease provides a good example (not sure it would be prudent to write about that in an essay though). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:22, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, you might tick someone off! -- Kendrick7talk 22:32, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
"Agenda Account"! Great idea and a great name! Speaking as a largely content editor who could be described as an SPA in a particular area - restrictions on SPA's as such or on percentage of edits is an unworkable idea and would, frankly, be offensive. I've got huge percentages of edits helping get mildly obscure psych topics up to GA or FA and I certainly won't be the only one. Also - some experts only edit in their areas and have no interest in others. Well fine. Fainites barley 21:01, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree with MastCell and Fainites: restricting SPAs would be barking up the wrong tree. There may be a strong correlation between SPAs and undesirable behaviour, but rather than targetting SPAs, let's delineate the undesirable behaviour and target that. Ideally, the descriptions of behaviour will be objective, measurable, and such that if the person changes that behaviour the person will no longer be causing problems.
Here are some ideas for descriptions of undesirable behaviour:
  • Seldom contributes material which gains consensus.
  • Often repeatedly reverts, but the version they revert to rarely ends up staying in the article long-term.
  • Takes up more than a fair share of the space on a talk page.
  • Belongs to an identifiable group which is already over-represented at the article in terms of percentage of editors versus percentage of that POV under due weight, and also frequently reverts or takes up more than a fair share of space on the talk page or both. This is similar to the concept of "agenda account" but I think is more useful and more objectively definable.
Since opinions vary about how much weight a given POV should have under NPOV, I don't think it's a problem if someone's edits always tend in one direction: they're simply trying to move the article towards what they believe is NPOV, and are balanced by other editors with different opinions. If an article really is very biassed, would we want to limit someone who constantly tries to correct that?
We would have to be careful with "seldom contributes material which gains consensus" since it could be used by one faction to exclude all members of another faction from editing a page; however, if a system of checks and balances can somehow be established, then I think there may be value to placing restrictions on editors who take up a lot of other editors' time arguing about things on the talk page but whose edits rarely or never gain broad consensus.
Targetting SPAs would catch some very good editors as well as ones with undesirable behaviour. I think it's a mistake to say that good editors don't need to do 3 reverts (although I follow 1RR myself). They may need to fight agenda accounts or something. An editor under a restriction might be attacked by being constantly being reminded of their restriction, and might leave. Besides, SPA may be difficult to define, depending on how broad or narrow a subject area is considered to be and how many edits outside that area are required. Coppertwig (talk) 23:14, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
On some of the less popular topics a sane editor can be entirely alone with one or more POV pushers. They are required to attempt to reach consensus politely on the talkpage. Even the most sane and obvious of edits will not get consensus. Its very difficult to think of how to spot this behaviour on the basis of some sort of calculation without someone having a modicum of understanding about content. Fainites barley 06:38, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes, and that may be good reason to reject my first two suggestions above. On the other hand, they may be salvageable. Occasionally broader consensus is obtained, for example with article-content RfCs. If sanctions are to be applied, one would hope there would be a broader consensus at least at that time, or at least the participation of an uninvolved admin, who would (one hopes) recognize sane and obvious edits.
Some additional possible descriptions of undesirable behaviour:
  • doesn't compromise (This one may also have to be rejected, for similar reasons.)
  • repeats the same arguments :-)
  • frequently or without good reason, re-opens discussions about things that have already been decided
  • says things likely to cause hurt feelings
Coppertwig (talk) 01:48, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

A complementary essay in prototype form

These tips from HatlessAtlas could make a useful essay, dealing with pov pushers by pointing them in the right direction to work within policy and produce useful work. This seems to me to be a good approach, encouraging editors to present sourced information that can be the basis of productive discussions. Any tips on how to make the tips into an essay, as in Category:Wikipedia essays? . . dave souza, talk 16:53, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

Civility

Just to let you know, there's a discussion ongoing on Wikipedia talk:Civility#Should established users be treated different? which might interest you, since it deals with an aspect of the civil POV-pushing problem. -- ChrisO (talk) 20:31, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

"Civility is disputed"

You are focusing, in this essay, on a particular effect, in my view, a particular strategy, but this strategy and effect is largely due to our founding principles.

  1. Democratic point of view: The weakness of pluralism and democracy is that it can be, under the right circumstances, mob rule. Democracy, prior to the 19th century, was thought to be a code word for mob rule virtually in every nation on earth. After the American and French revolutions, it came to be the enlightened view. This much is common sense, but it is vital to remember that both of those nations, and every nation that has had democracy, has sought public education and other instruments of mediation.
  2. If an underlying culture is intolerant, a democratic form becomes demagogic or tyrannical. The world has recoiled in surprise and shock when "democracy" has been introduced into nations with exclusive religious cultures. Among the first things that Algeria ended up doing was having people who oppose democracy win democratic elections. Ronald Reagan argued that the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua couldn't be valid, because, according to his a priori understanding, all socialists are anti-democratic. (Reagan was wrong, of course, as the Sandinistas proved when they allowed themselves to lose power at the ballot box, not via "contras.")
  3. Whenever a project like this one goes global, when cultural walls are invisible, then it is absolutely inevitable that persons who have a monolithic view, or persons who believe in a messianic sense of rightness, or people who believe that wars are fought with knowledge will be present.
  4. Insisting on "citation" is no more a guarantee of NPOV than insisting on "civility." As someone who grew up in the US south, I know full well that there were "publications" that lied. I'm not talking about [yourmagazinehere], but about things put out by the Klan and the groups fragmented off from the Klan. They had magazines. Someone could "cite" them and be both stupid, hateful, and wrong. From the very first day of the mania for citation, I opposed it as silly. It, in a way, obscures our experts by insisting only on the false paper idol.

What you're up against, Raul, is the fact that we have editors who either lack the culture of neutral information or who are possessed by the spirit of the True Believer. I'm sure that many would be terribly polite, so "Civility" won't do a damned thing about them, and they can "cite," so that's no answer. The answer can be, as it always has been, solely upon expertise and disallowing any power to accrue around an editing group. It's hard to do. We either have to have actual arbiters of real expertise (and yet we can't ask them to prove their bona fides), or we have to disperse editing clusters (although without any policy to make them toddle off).

Folks have tried Projects, Civility, and Cite to prevent things like nationalist editors, true believers, and gurus, but none of those will work. The process that should work is the RfC.

Finally, and I know I'm going long, "Civility" is nonsense from the start. Its indisputable bits are common sense and need not be stated, and the rest of it is a license to block. There is a time, in all conversation, for protest, for vituperation even, as these are normal parts of rhetoric. We must never use "civility" to mean "deference," which is how it is most often used, and must instead address things as they are: the edits, not the editors; the articles, not the writers. Geogre (talk) 14:41, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Started work

I have started work on Wikipedia:Agenda account. I think this should be worked on and codified to the point where at least we have a way of pointing out to people why their behaviour is a problem. I'm sick of telling them, I think most of those above are too. User:Xiutwel was the latest for me (see Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Arbitration enforcement/Archive26) but there are others, notable user:Pcarbonn who wrote a piece in a fringe journal on a fringe science topic boasting that he had successfully had Wikipedia's content changed to better reflect the fringe not the mainstream POV. It's no secret that I consider long-term civil POV-pushing to be one of Wikipedia's biggest problems and a leading source of burnout, I would like to see it codified in a form which can be agreed on so that perhaps we can start the process of pushing back. It took around two years to finally get Xiutwel banned from his obsessive advocacy of fringe nonsense and conspiracy theories, and that is one of the rare cases where we actually managed to get rid of the POV-pusher rather than hounding off the editors whose patience he wore out (see Geogre's comment above). Guy (Help!) 22:14, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Lead editors

This sentence in the remedies caught my eye: "Where consensus cannot be attained through normal wiki processes, the arbitration committee can designate "lead" editors who have considerable expertise on that article or topic. Lead editors would be empowered to direct discussion, determine consensus and designate discussions as closed."

If the scope of this were to be expanded, I think it might be one of the keys to success. For example, if Raul were to be designated the lead editor for global warming, and were backed by Arbcom to implement some version of the policy outlined by this page, then many kinds of timewasting could be shortcut. Foolish RfCs could be closed out of hand; editors deemed to be SPAs could be warned/blocked as needed, and so on. Arbcom would have to reconfirm all designated lead editors periodically. Essentially this is recruiting specialist volunteers to represent arbcom in situations where arbcom's authority is needed but the time expenditure is unreasonably great. Delegation to someone with a well-defined remit is the natural answer to that kind of resource problem. Mike Christie (talk) 17:06, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

(As the one who authored the above suggested remedy) Yes, I completely agree. Raul654 (talk) 17:09, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
Hmm, I think that sounds like a good thing to try at least. Wouldn't even have to get Arbcom involved (although they could request someone to be appointed lead editor as a remedy). Lead editors could be appointed trough a different community process, like rfa, etc. After X days, a new lead editor would have to be appointed (possibly the same as before) if still necessary.
You could then appeal to some other instance (arbcom?) if you feel the lead editor was chosen inappropriately. That might be more robust and arbcom could deal with better things?
Apis (talk) 09:29, 5 February 2009 (UTC)
And if the disruptive editors disagreed with the lead editor's decisions, we would do what exactly? WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:59, 6 February 2009 (UTC)
I would expect them to disagree with the lead editor most of the time. Perhaps the lead editor would not be subject to 3RR restrictions on that article. Other possibilities exist, such as giving the lead editor the ability to limit disruptive editors to editing only the talk page, with enforcement via block, or having the lead editor refactor talk page discussions to eliminate disruptive edits, but the 3RR exemption would be quite powerful and might be enough. Mike Christie (talk) 02:16, 6 February 2009 (UTC)
I've worked on pages where a 3RR exemption is enough, although any two editors could do the same. I've also worked on pages where 3RR is irrelevant: the problem is that nobody agrees, and even though the action is primarily on the article's talk page, it's still hopelessly broken. Perhaps a decision that only the lead editor was allowed to edit the article at all would help. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:48, 8 February 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that's another possibility. Essentially this approach would require Arbcom to assign to the lead editor whatever powers they felt would address the perceived needs of the case. Do you think this is worth suggesting as a proposal at the current Arbcom enforcement RfC? Mike Christie (talk) 02:55, 8 February 2009 (UTC)

This is one of the worst suggestions I've yet seen. Some of the worst "civil POV pushers" on this site are empowered members of the community. I don't need to name names. Binning neutrality might cheer those who want to push the scientific POV, but this is the end of the wiki if it ever passes. And having a beauty contest to allow you to escape 3RR? OMG no. It's bad enough as it is without having article owners. Grace Note (talk) 07:10, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

The Scientific POV?.. You mean facts? I'm not sure I think 3rr exemption would be good, and as I said, I'm not sure about arbcom either. But it would be nice if an expert could be appointed temporarily and rule in content disputes. Currently a handful of POV pushers can halt and degrade entire subcategories of articles in order to promote a minority and/or unscientific view. Someone (an expert) who can rule-out obvious nonsense and admins who are willing to enforce such rulings would be a relatively low impact solution. How many productive editors have left already just because a few trolls ruin all constructive work?
Apis (talk) 02:38, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Another example

Wikipedia:Mediation Cabal/Cases/2008-09-02 Relationship between religion and science shows another wrinkle where sanctions are demanded against editors for acting properly within policy, and Catherine Yronwode who edits as Catherineyronwode (talk · contribs) and 64.142.90.33 (talk · contribs) has joined in with a demand that editors be blocked for removing unverified information from articles! . . dave souza, talk 11:29, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Tag team

Hi, we are inviting interested editors to participate in the writing of the Wikipedia:Tag team essay. It would be good to get as many eyes as possible, so we have our best shot at adequately defining the scope of the problem, as well as offering suggestions for remedies. Right now the essay is heavily in flux, so feel free to jump in and make changes. --Elonka 23:35, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Rename?

I was thinking the name (civil POV pushing) might be a bit confusing. It might lead some to believe the civil POV pushers are problematic because they are civil and not because they are POV pushing. And that isn't really what this is about, it's just that the uncivil POV pushers get blocked and thus aren't a problem. So maybe it would be better to rename the page to POV pushing instead? It's after all the POV pushing that is the problem and not the civility policy (in itself).
Apis (talk) 08:56, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

Difficult one. I'd been thinking of raising this myself; it is certainly beyond POV pushing as such; it's really about non-neutrality coupled with a rather pathological toolkit of argument styles such as WP:SOUP whose intent/effect is to make other editors want to disengage because participation is too complex / tedious / annoying / time-consuming. The "civil" bit is also a little inappropriate: few such editors are actually civil, only insufficiently incivil for WP:NPA to apply. Gordonofcartoon (talk) 19:43, 8 February 2009 (UTC)
I think you're right that the "civil" part seems to throw people for a loop. If you have a better idea for what to call this, I'm all ears. Raul654 (talk) 00:48, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
"Pure" POV pushing, perhaps? That is, POV pushing that isn't also personal attacks? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:49, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Or just "POV pushing". If it's not civil, there are other remedies. Mike Christie (talk) 02:54, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
How about zealous pov pushing or overzealous pov pushing?
Apis (talk) 02:28, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

This problem....

.. drives me completely nuts. Or rather the failure of any effective mechanism to deal with it drives me nuts.

The essay is very focussed on scientific/pseudoscientific issues and fringe viewpoints (e.g. PCCTL etc), no doubt particularly au point to the original editors. But based on my experience, I think it needs a much broader scope, since a wide variety of topics are subject to this kind of desperately time wasting POV pushing. --Slp1 (talk) 23:57, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Tell me about it! What sort of topics were you thinking about? It does mention poitical and religious views too. Gordonofcartoon (talk) 13:00, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, I've been struggling disparately on Fathers' rights movement, discrimination against atheists, and from what I see, our friend on Dyslexia (and related topics) falls into this category too. I think it can happen on any article where editors have strong personal views to promote, which covers just about everything in this big wide world. --Slp1 (talk) 22:37, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Another aspect of this essay

Another aspect/area that civil POV pushers are active, but is only marginally discussed in this essay are the politics topics. Those articles have as much civil POV pushers as the pseudoscience topics. Issues/problems range from current politics to historic politics and these topics naturally attracts a large amount of civil POV pushing. Seeing this, the essay should also focus politics. Brothejr (talk) 10:30, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Also the Characteristics section seems to be slanted primarily to the pseudoscience and should be re-written in a much broader scope to encompass other areas of dispute besides pseudoscience. Brothejr (talk) 10:33, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Da Costa's syndrome

This is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor case, but it may illustrate some of the damage:

We have identified a single-purpose account, run by an identifiable individual who "just happens" to have a non-mainstream take on a particular set of symptoms. His real article, called The posture theory, was deleted as non-notable through AfD. A few days later, he decided to hang his idea on the peg of "Da Costa's syndrome" (a vague 19th century syndrome, generally considered a psychosomatic anxiety disorder). It's overall an unimportant article for Wikipedia, so we can't justify investing several editors' time and energy into turning it into a little gem of an article and discrediting his personal views. Considering the basic priorities, the goal for this article is to have it not actually be actively wrong while we deal with more important articles, like Meningitis or Mental health.

The SPA editor is no more frustrated with the NPOV-oriented editors than we are with him. He's (finally) mostly given up on getting his name and his website (with his expensive self-published book for sale) in the article. He comes by every week or two and adds bona fide medical publications on the subject -- but always and only those articles which support his particular views. Of course, the condition is entirely superseded, so most of the refs are from before most editors were born.

No editor has ever supported his view. Five editors have directly told him that using Wikipedia to promote his personal ideas is not accepted. We've been at this for more than six months, and he's undeterred in his overall goal.

But what sort of support do we get from the broader community? We get responses that add up to "Y'all play nice, now." "It's a content dispute: you should 'work for a consensus'." "You could just keep removing the stuff he adds; it's not like your time and energy is worth anything." "Surely nobody would deliberately add original research, because adding original research (*gasp*) violates Wikipedia's policy."

Yes, of course all of this violates a variety of policies, guidelines, and cultural conventions -- notably WP:CONSENSUS, WP:NOR, WP:NPOV, WP:COI, WP:RS, WP:TRUTH and WP:COPYVIO, in this case. But my existing attitude readjustment tools apparently don't reach as far as Australia, and the editor remains unscathed.

It's back at WP:COI/N for a second go-round. I expect no practical improvement: he's not particularly rude, so why bother blocking him? Unless I'm willing to undertake a concerted campaign to drive away the editor by convincing him that Wikipedia is controlled by a particularly rude version of the Wicked Witch of the West, then I'll probably still be removing the same cruft and leaving the same explanations and warnings on talk pages at the end of the year.

And that, BTW, is the only effective solution currently in place: When I am no longer willing to put up with this self-promoting nonsense, I can team up with other disgusted editors to be so mean and rude to the SPA that he leaves in disgust. It's not just the good editors who can be driven away by bad behavior. Unfortunately, every time someone resorts to that approach, Wikipedia's reputation is damaged.

We need another solution. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:25, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

Seconded, and an update for general edification. The issue has been finally settled (I hope) by an indefinite block. It went to an RFC (which had a strong consensus, to no effect, that the editor concerned should edit articles away from pet topic). The problem trundled on with continual griping (invariably lengthy) on Talk pages while the editor wrote a personal new draft of the article (critics unwelcome). Then he chose to put it back against consensus into mainspace. Finally I raised it at Requests for Arbitration. They were cautiously moving toward accepting before the cavalry arrived in the form of admins who were prepared to bring blocks, ultimately an indefinite one for disruptive conduct.
This has taken about a year to settle. At one level, I don't blame anyone: it could argued that any particular report (e.g. at WP:ANI) only sees a snapshot of the situation and it doesn't look too bad. But on the other hand, the user hasn't been remotely civil. For six months, he has openly flouted WP:AGF and WP:NPA and WP:CIVIL, with an extended userspace attack on two editors called The Motivations, Strategies, and Tactics of my Critics, and inflammatory language like editor X's "web of deceit" and "juvenile duplicity" and editor Y "swinging through the wiki trees beating his breast and yelling his typical bark". And yet you get admins looking at this and saying stuff to the effect of "Oh, I don't see anything here that really constitutes an attack or serious incivility."
And that's not even factoring in the exhausting effect of long-term contact with procedural nitpicking, obfuscation, misquotation, multiplying mess of detail, etc (e.g. "user A says at diff B that my version is wonderful", then you look at the diff and find user A said no such thing, or did but the quote is out of the context of other editors saying it was crap; so you say so, and get back 1500 words of WP:SOUP saying why it doesn't mean what it seems to mean, and how it's just another example of my critics using their tactics to silence me, and anyhow the procedure wasn't conducted properly because Bilbo von Booger who you got banned because he supported my case said at diff D that ... and so on and on and on and f***ing f***ing on).
As WhatamIdoing says, we need another solution. Gordonofcartoon (talk) 16:57, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Conclusion - addressing POV problems

GTB: I don't think that's right. I think that most POV pushers really believe what they claim to believe.
F: Yeah. So what?

Good question; see below.

Haemo: What matters is the effect on the encyclopedia, and that's the same either way: the encyclopedia is compromised, corrupted, made to look ridiculous, or even all three at once.
F: Correct.

Well, what matters is their effect on the encyclopedia, which is negative either way, and also how we go about stopping them, which might differ in the two cases. I'm pushing in the direction of identifying and studying specific strategies in a more scientific way that we have, hitherto. I may be wrong, and if so, we'll find out, but I suspect that there will be better strategies than identifying "bad guys" and topic-banning them. I'm open to testing both kinds, any kind of strategy. Maybe not any kind...

GTB: Regardless of one's opinion on that question, there are going to be different strategies.
F:Well different strategies have to be tried. Because we cannot continue under the present strategies which are ineffectual and based on a complete lack of knowledge of this venemous situation that the vast majority of Wikipedians are blind to and unaware of.--Filll (talk) 04:40, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Well, I'm pretty much in agreement there.

Is part of the misunderstanding... does it seem to you that I'm suggesting professionalism as a the solution to neutrality problems? I'm not, and I haven't been. I was brought into this whole discussion because I saw people saying that "the community is obsessed with civility" and that what we need is more people "willing to call a spade a spade". I disagree with those claims.

I disagree that the solution is to downplay civility and assumption of good faith, and I said so at that RfC, and I'll continue to say so until I'm shown wrong. That can happen, and I'll facilitate my being proven wrong, if that's where things go.

The fact that I oppose incivility and accusations of bad faith doesn't mean I'm think promotion of "CIVIL" and "AGF" is the solution. It's just that we shouldn't begin our search for a solution by hobbling ourselves and handing ammunition to POV pushers. That's foolish, even though it's a completely understandable reaction to frustration. The high level of frustration is an indication that we need serious solutions. The beginning of a serious solution, however, is to commit to approaching it as serious professionals. Am I wrong? -GTBacchus(talk) 22:55, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

GTBacchus: 'I was brought into this whole discussion because I saw people saying that "the community is obsessed with civility" and that what we need is more people "willing to call a spade a spade"'
No one in this discussion, either on the talk page or on the main page, has used the expressions quoted above, so I'm not sure how it is that you were "brought into this whole discussion" because people were saying these things. Perhaps you have this discussion mixed up with another one. Your post is the only place in this discussion where those expressions occur.
The discussion that formed the main content of these pages was helpful, informative, and positive, IMO, and I'm cautiously encouraged by the recommendations coming out of it, as well as by Jimbo's endorsement. At least there's an acknowledgement that someone is paying attention and is supportive of finding a real solution to a real problem. The post-discussion that started with section 25 has added nothing useful to the discussion, IMO, and I regret my part in it. I was exasperated by a failure to move beyond an obsession with the word "civil" toward some actual suggestions of solutions to the real problems that beset us, but I shouldn't have let my exasperation get the better of me. I apologize to the editors who have done such a good job of articulating and exploring the problem here. Thank you.Woonpton (talk) 12:25, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
Woonpton, thanks for your comments. When I said I was brought into "this whole discussion", I'm definitely referring to a larger scope than this page. The comments that brought me to this issue were made at an RfC a couple of months ago, where editors who are active on this page said precisely the things that I quoted. If I've seemed obsessed with talking about civility versus incivility, it's because I have been handed the argument, repeatedly, that incivility is somehow necessary or a good idea, or that our civility policy should be scrapped or at least downplayed. If you never said that, then my comments along those lines have not been directed at you, and I apologize if it seemed that they were. I'm not always the best at articulating precisely what I want to say. -GTBacchus(talk) 14:14, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
As someone mentioned above, there is an immense amount here, and it might not be possible given assorted constraints to respond to it. I guess I am still waiting to see more concrete examples with real substance. Pretend I am from Missouri. In the meantime, I will keep making what I perceive as potential solutions to attempt and placing them out there for consideration in various venues.--Filll (talk) 00:15, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
Concrete examples of what? So far, I've been trying to ask a few questions, and defending myself against claims that I'm in favor of all manner of nonsense. -GTBacchus(talk) 07:54, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

I ask for the same thing from GTBacchus that I ask from everyone; namely, concrete examples of novel approaches to these issues, and concrete examples of their success or failure in field trials. I have found over the last few months that many who make grand pronouncements about this area are quite vague about the details of their purported novel approaches, or have developed their novel approaches based on uninformed intuition and hunches, or have never tested their novel approaches in practice, or when I have observed their vaunted novel approaches in action, they have not performed anywhere near what was advertised. This is not to say that novel approaches do not exist; I made several suggestions of novel approaches to the mainspace version of this page, and I have made several more at the User: Raymond arritt Expert Withdrawal pages. I have listed a few I have seen operate successfully in my draft here. I have observed several admins and editors here who have shown me novel approaches to this issue; in particular I was quite impressed by User:Silence but I have also been impressed by User:KillerChihuahua on occasion. So I know that new approaches exist, because I have seen it. I just think that it is to our advantage to compile the largest possible number of them and to test them in actual field conditions to gain experience with them. --Filll (talk) 15:22, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Then we're in complete agreement. The best suggestion I can make is to create some kind of central discussion area for comparison of different strategies. I'd like to see groups of Wikipedians mindfully select and apply specific strategies, and keep notes on what works and what doesn't. What I know now is that I've got my ideas, and other people have got theirs, and that arguing between the two takes us around in circles.

I think the central page should be called something like "Dispute Resolution work group", as opposed to "Expert Withdrawal" or "Civil POV pushing", which are focused on some of the right questions, but which carry weird baggage.

I don't know whether your second paragraph above ("I have found...") applies to me, since I haven't proposed any novel approaches, "vaunted" or otherwise. I've disagreed with the idea of scrapping civility, or that "the community is too obsessed with civility" (which turned out to be code for "the community is too permissive of wikilawyering"), and I've suggested that any successful approach should involve professional behavior,. I have got some approaches in mind that I'm looking forward to testing on articles such as Homeopathy and Chiropractic, and I'll be in a position to do that when I've laid some more ground work. However, any idea that my arguments for professionalism consist of suggesting a "novel approach" is sorely mistaken. -GTBacchus(talk) 17:27, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Characteristics

IME, paradoxes are a fertile ground for this problem. Paradoctor (talk) 15:00, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

WP:CRUSH

I've added a new shortcut because it's more mnemonic, and I think it captures the essence of what happens with Civil POV Pushing. The Civil POV Pushers post such a volume of argumentation that ordinary, decent editors are crushed by the weight of words and wastage of time, and are driven off. Jehochman Talk 02:02, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

I think what I said above is especially relevant. Huge volumes of talk from a small number of editors can be problematic. Jehochman Talk 02:37, 21 January 2011 (UTC)
It can be. Maybe I'm part of that problem. Let me admit: I get wordy. But remember the saying, "A lie gets halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on." It can work the other way: civil POV-pushers can also intimidate with a concise sentence that misconstrues guidelines and policies in so many different ways that a detailed, multi-sentence rebuttal is the only way to address the errors. Then those civil POV-pushers can say, "Be careful -- you might be accused of WP:CRUSH if you keep going on and on the way you have." Yakushima (talk) 05:05, 5 February 2011 (UTC)
Post "crush" Civil POV Pushers may then enshrine the new "consensus" into the talk page FAQ and any future requests for discussion are then dismissed via "Read the FAQ" statements (with little or no explanation). ArtifexMayhem (talk) 18:50, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, I've noticed that, on a few liberal POVs like global warming being "mostly caused by humans". The idea that most scientists support the UN's position / environmentalist position / pro-Kyoto protocol position is then enshrined as common knowledge, and any complaint from a scientist or mathematician of bias in scientific organizations or journals is immediately deleted.
I thought Wikipedia isn't supposed to settle controversies (but see List of misconceptions). How can contributors get away with taking one side on this? --Uncle Ed (talk) 19:42, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
Ed, anthropogenic climate change isn't a "liberal POV". That may be at the root of your confusion here. MastCell Talk 20:38, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I meant the belief that most global warming since 1850 is anthropogenic, which in the US is held 2 to 1 by liberals, and opposed 2 to 1 by conservatives. Is that clearer now? I can get the poll for you if you haven't seen it. --Uncle Ed (talk) 20:44, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
I understood you, but I don't think you understood me. Just because one political party opposes a scientific finding does not make people who accept that finding partisan. The relevant poll numbers are simple: anthropogenic climate change is accepted by somewhere between 95% and 100% of people who actually study the climate. Liberals may be more willing than conservatives to accept that finding, but the finding itself is not partisan. MastCell Talk 21:30, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
MastCell, perhaps I wasn't clear when I mentioned global warming. I did not mean (1) the view that a discernable amount of warming is due to human activity, such as spewing CO2 into the air - but (2) the view that most warming is due to human activity. Your reference to acceptance of "anthropogenic climate change" looks to me like you thought I meant the first. Is that how you took it? --13:58, 24 June 2011 (UTC)
Ed, "enshrined as common knowledge" is a different topic, IMHO. Feel free to hit my talk page if you'd like to have an extended discussion on that topic :) ArtifexMayhem (talk) 21:38, 23 June 2011 (UTC)

POV pushing

This essay would probably be more useful if it were renamed to Wikipedia:POV pushing and the civil POV pushing made a subset of it. There are many POV pushing behaviours that are not associated with being civil, and it would help to cover them here. I've said more on this here. Also, it is confusing that WP:PUSH redirects here and WP:POVPUSH redirects to a section of Wikipedia:NPOV dispute. Which in turn links to WP:Advocacy. Surely WP:PUSH and WP:POVPUSH should point to the same place? Carcharoth (talk) 08:01, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

Good points. Civil POV pushing is in the eye of the beholder. Uncivil is pretty obvious to everyone - though a lot of people get away with it. CarolMooreDC (talk) 01:27, 21 January 2011 (UTC)
Well, ever since the original NPOV policy was changed from "describe all views fairly" to add "in proportion to the prominence of each", POV pushers have seized upon this as a legal pretext to suppress views which they label as "fringe". For example, they deny that controversy exists in the global warming (or "climate change") field, siding with those who claim that the science is settled.
It shouldn't matter whether someone has an ideological or financial motive to advocate or criticize a scientific idea. I would hope we would be able to describe all scientific views fairly, paying careful attention to falsifiability and reproducibility of results. Considering that a top journal rejected a paper critical of AGW theory, even after it passed peer review - solely on the grounds that it "would not be of interest to our readers" - is indicative of the possibility of bias in the scientific world.
Wikipedia should not, therefore, endorse either side in the dispute but rather report what each side says, and summary its evidence and reasoning.
Or is it by definition "POV pushing" to ask Wikipedia to describe a minority view, when only 5% to 20% of scientists question (what seems to be) the majority view? What is the threshold? --Uncle Ed (talk) 14:15, 24 June 2011 (UTC)

Musings

If there were a simpler way of topic banning editors who have been heard on a topic, were unable to provide reliable sources to substantiate their points, but kept talking - then methinks this problem could be dealt with. I deal with a fair number of topics and editors that circle around this idea and the biggest failings are a failure to appreciate what a reliable source is for a regular article, what a parity source is for a fringe article, and why a failure to find discussion in mainstream scholarly literature is an excuse to dismiss a topic rather than start rooting around in suspect webpages and 6th-tier sources. If a source appears, and is legitimately dismissed as inadequate, that should be the end of discussion. Just some musings, these issues are cropping up in an article I'm working on/with/against right now. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 16:36, 16 June 2011 (UTC)

Very much agree. There is a process of natural selection at Wikipedia: blatantly disruptive editors are removed, leaving those who have learned a few survival rules. They push and push and push, and wear out useful editors. I noticed an excellent draft essay at User:AGK/Arbitration and content and am hoping the community will recognize that new approaches are needed to avoid having Wikipedia end up being dominated by civil POV pushers. Johnuniq (talk) 08:14, 17 June 2011 (UTC)

Although many wikipedians might not like to admit it, the primary problem is the fundamental policy of consensus itself. When you allow a group of random people to attempt to form some agreement as to the contents of an encyclopedia article there are bound to be those who aren't rational and intellectually honest. Not everybody is intellectually on the same playing field and when you pair the dumb with the brilliant the dumb are going to prevail. In practice what happens is that the dumb tend to be more fervent in getting their way and the smart unwilling to argue with a brick wall forever. Unfortunately, those intellectually dishonest amongst us are growing in number and soon I suspect wikipedia will be completely inundated as their numbers continue to grow in the admins group. The solution to this problem though is simple. You merely have to get rid of consensus and replace it with a hierarchical based system. If wikipedia users were subjugated to an online test that assigned a score to their ability to be intellectually honest and reason, than a voting system based on such scores could be created. Those with higher scores could trump article writing decisions of lower ranking editors when disagreements arise. Problem solved. Consensus could then be relegated amongst only those editors within the highest of scores.

The only problem with this idea is that it would require wikipedia to have an adequate test written outside the collaboration of wikipedian editors. There would have to be a large pool of questions so that sockpuppets couldn't determine the correct answers through trial and error and would require periodic retesting of users. The test would also not be able to have standard IQ questions since such questions can easily be answered by dishonest people. Instead the focus should be on questions that gauge ones ability to separate one's beliefs, politics, cultural norms etc. from plain truths. Most of the people I have dealt with on wikipedia simply are unable to do this. For example in politically related articles you often see users argue one position when it paints their political parties in a favorable light, but then take the exact opposite position if they perceive it would make their party look bad. They don't care about whats true or not only with how it would be perceived. This type of intellectual dishonesty can easily be weeded out via a series of questions whose correct answers would require users to admit truths that they don't want to be true. It wouldn't be too hard to gather a large collection of editing decisions made by past users that clearly reflect dishonest decision making and create a test based on that.Chhe (talk) 10:38, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

Might be a good idea in principle but you're never going to get consensus for it. The only way it could happen is if WMF decide WP is getting so bad they need to impose a solution unilaterally. Peter jackson (talk) 10:37, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

Civil POV Pushing is in the eye of the beholder.

My POV is I want an article to be factually correct and NPOV. If other editors don't, then I'm "Civil POV Pushing" unless I walk away. I have noticed there seem to be admins patrolling controversial articles but they're pretty hands off unless there's an edit war. Self-appointed "lead editors" exist now. They are WP:OWN and WP:NINJA. It's hard to see how ArbCom would have the time to do an adequate job of vetting these editors. I believe the solution is tighter enforcement of existing rules, starting with reliable sources. That means no sources who are affiliated with the subject. Primary sources have parity with secondary sources when it comes to determinations of fact. And most of all, if reliable sources are in conflict, an assertion cannot be made in Wikipedia's voice. As they say, you're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Brmull (talk) 10:49, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree what's needed is enforcement. But
  1. who's going to enforce policy?
  2. what can be done about vagueness?
On the examples you mention, I'm not entirely sure what you mean. A source published by a political or religious group would count as self-published, and so subject to the restrictions given in WP:SPS. But the same applies to primary sources: indeed SPSs are primary sources. Priamry sources are regarded as reliable sources only for straightforward descriptive statements about themselves. For other facts they're not relaible. For example, Nigerian census returns are wildly inflated by tribal rivalry. Similarly, birth cerificates aren't necessarily reliable sources for dates of birth: they may be falsified to make the child seem legitimate, or to avoid a fine for not registering within the time limit. Peter jackson (talk) 09:50, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
In scientific matters there are only 2 categories of information. 1 Relevant facts, and 2 Relevant information. And most readers are running around looking for relevant facts. But you system of organization of information places more emphasis upon the degree of agreement of opinions on subject matters than it does about the clarity of the understanding of the subject matter, and about any known relevant facts. Thus the protocol of presentation becomes more important than the information conveyed in the article about the subject matter. In earlier days, when there were less fact and more opinions, there was more discussion in articles about comparative opinions about a subject matter. And now we're being overwhelmed by irrelevant diversity of information about scientific matters and by the unorganized compartmentalization of subservient matters such as to interfere with finding an getting at the pertinent facts.WFPM (talk) 18:46, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Breast cancer awareness

BCA should not be included in the list, it is a single editor currently involved in a dispute who is trying to make a point. It is not comparable to global warming, creationism or other issues which have years of history behind the disputes, a longstanding scientific consensus which is continually attacked by nonscientists, and popular movements which try to use wikipedia to push their causes. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 18:49, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

WLU - Leave me alone. Everywhere I go you or someone else in your posse are right there behind me. You edit war when you don't get your way and you think you're entitled to everything you want. I'm so sick of hearing criticisms from you for everything I do. You don't even consider the possibility of my actions being valid. You immediately think that everything is wrong. I make edits in good faith. So stop it and just leave me alone. Stop stalking my recent contributions. This project page is NOT the place for such frivolous and immature debate, so I will give you all of the reasons once and only once:
I am not illustrating a point. Please stop trying to evaluate my faith. I am improving the page. Spite is not a good reason for a revert. We're talking about edits, not editors. Had I been illustrating a point, that would still be irrelevant anyway if you would just assume good faith.
This is not a single editor. Everyone who has entered that page except for the posse saw and mentioned the serious NPOV issues there. Every single editor besides you and your friends. Most of them have left. This has been for years.
There is nothing about BCA that makes it different from the rest of the list. All of them share one common thing - civil POV pushing. That is all that's important. Some of the things listed aren't even specific pages. The list benefits from solid examples of NPOV issues. It doesn't matter whether POV comes from conflict of interest, pseudoscience, pushing a cause, or whatever. I won't speculate the reason the editors there are civilly pushing POV because I don't do such things. Charles35 (talk) 23:59, 9 December 2012 (UTC)
You are such a child. Please do not ever again follow me anywhere aside from the breast cancer awareness page. There is substantial history, actually, look at the archives on the talk page. Charles35 (talk) 00:14, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
Another way of looking at it is that I understand the issues better than you (which seems to be the case here, [1], [2]). Claiming that opposition to your edits is based on a posse or cabal is not a great way to garner consensus. You may have to accept that your understanding and interpretation of the community's mores is incorrect. My edits and reverts are never based on spite - if I make a change, it is because I genuinely think it improves the page (which you believe as well I'm sure). However making an edit in good faith isn't the same thing as making an edit that is appropriate. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 14:48, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Civil POV pushing is an excellent essay

Wow! What a great essay! I wish that I'd read it 3 weeks ago, if had I then my sanity would not have suffered so much recent damage. I understand that the office of Wikipedia:Town_sheriff does not exist, but how would I go about contacting someone(s) who currently fills the sheriff's function? Deicas (talk) 18:56, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, that's how it tends to go unfortunately :( ...when you deal with civil POV pusher(s), you will begin to question your own sanity and at times start thinking that you might in fact be the problem. If this happens, IME you should take a step back and think about your true reasons for editing. This should give you perspective. If you are truly here to build an encyclopedia, then you are not inherently the problem. You may have gone about it improperly and made mistakes, but that's okay, it happens. However, the people who are not here to build an encyclopedia pose the real problem to wikipedia's "system". Often, they do everything right and rarely make mistakes (if they did things wrong, they would have been "weeded out" already).
In my experience, the best way to deal with civil POV pushing is to simply get more experience editing. The problem with civil POV pushers is that they happen to be very knowledgeable about the way wikipedia works and they know how to game the system and WP:WIKILAWYER without getting caught (again, if they weren't that good at it, they would have been dealt with accordingly by now). They also know the limits, and won't game the system or wikilawyer an unreasonable amount that will get them into trouble. Civil POV pushers have an agenda, and they will utilize the rules to get what they want. This is what will drive you crazy. They will tell you that you are violating all these rules, and they might actually make some seemingly very good arguments. You will likely begin to question your sanity, as you put it. However, they are wikilawyering, using the "letter of the law" too strictly while ignoring the "spirit of the law". They are also probably rhetorically skilled, and will find ways to shift the conversation into a topic that better suits their agenda (ie you might find that you are talking about trivial interpretations of policies or other vague theoretical nonsense instead of the actual content). Do not try to rationally reason with them, as it will only lead you off track and drive you further from a consensus.
Once you start to better understand the policies and all the little in's and out's, you can start picking up on the rules that they are twisting and distorting and bending and blurring. Now, when you recognize their tactics, you can call them out on it. This should make a big difference to your editing experience. You will begin to know for certain that you are not at fault and this should ease your mind. You should also be more equipped to hold your ground in the content dispute. Please know that they will not give you any leeway and they will quickly come to understand your strengths and weaknesses. So if you're really lazy about going and verifying material in sources, they will not make any efforts to verify it for you. For example, they might cite "pages 110-170".
I know you asked for a "town sheriff", but unfortunately I don't know the best place to find one. Very rarely will you find a sheriff that cares enough to take the time to hear your case and begin to understand what the POV pusher(s) are doing. At first glace, most sheriffs will think the pusher(s) are doing nothing wrong. However, if someone really takes the time to understand your situation, they will be able to help (assuming they thoroughly know the rules). No matter what you do, if you hold on long enough, someone will stumble by. Things that seem like curses might actually turn out to be blessings. For example, the POV pusher(s) might report you for edit warring or something like that. However, this will get an admin involved. Hopefully, that admin will catch on and if he or she does, he or she will help you.
If someone does come around and helps you out, you will probably find that they are making all of the same arguments you've been making the whole time, but are citing policies while doing so. This should truly put your mind to rest. Personally, I think the reason why wikipedia is an unreliable source boils down to civil POV pushing. In reality, any person can learn the ins and outs of wikipedia and will have a relatively easy time pushing any opinion they want. They have no fear for their reputation or their license or their job because editing wikipedia can be totally anonymous. Furthermore, not only can they push their POV onto articles, but they can do the same to policy pages, which broadens their POV's influence from a single article to every article.
Good luck. Feel free to ask me any questions as I have a lot of sympathy for people like you. Charles35 (talk) 03:55, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
User:Charles35: Thank you for your response.
1) I am attempting to find, for use in talk page disputation, a policy or guide-line that says something to the effect of "all editors involved in discussing an item in dispute must engage in logical reasoning and rational argumentation" or something to that effect. Can you can you suggest where I might look for such information?
2) I call to your attention the AN/I that I just filed, citing in part WP:CRUSH -- it is the Section 'No rational argumentation at Talk:Paul Krugman "Consensus on inclusion on the Gary Becker quote"' at WP:ANI.
If you have time, I'd be very interested to hear what you have to say about the discussion in dispute. Deicas (talk) 05:42, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Hmm. A rule like the one you're looking for is one that places requirements on editors. This is relatively rare in the rules. For example, it's common courtesy not to add 100 citation needed tags to an article without making any effort to verify the material, but it isn't against the rules. The best thing I can think of is tendentious editing. You might want to check that out.
I will take a look at the dispute. `Charles35 (talk) 14:15, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Specifically this might help. Charles35 (talk) 14:22, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
I'm afraid that there is a hell of a lot of discussion there and on the Paul Krugman talk page, and there's no way I can catch up on the issues. As far as I can tell, I can't see anything the other editors are doing wrong. But that doesn't mean that they aren't doing anything wrong. If you'd like to tell me specifically what you believe the real problems are, I might be able to help. Feel free to create a section on my talk page or send me an email. That is probably a better way to go about it than to continue discussing it here, especially if you don't want the other editors to see what you are saying about them (which is totally understandable and not a personal attack). Charles35 (talk) 15:17, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Charles35: Your refusing to answer good faith questions from other editors reference, above, has been *very* useful. Thank you. Deicas (talk) 01:46, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

"Conspiracy Theories"

23:10, 15 February 2014 Stax68 (removed term "conspiracy theories" from the list of unacceptable kinds of opinion. Conspiracy claims can be true, justified, sound, etc. If this is intended to refer only to bizarre or fantastical, etc., consp. theories, it should say so explicitly.)

00:59, 16 February 2014 Johnuniq (rv: there is no doubt about what "conspiracy theories" means here; please do not modify essays while engaged in a related dispute)


First, just to be clear, this essay is undoubtedly an excellent treatment of an important topic. 2nd, I'd given up on the dispute you mention (on the 6-Day War page) - faced with a losing battle with (IMO) a 'civil POV pusher'. I wasn't trying to manufacture support for my side in that dispute, which is presumably the point of your second clause, and in fact my edit wouldn't have served to do that anyway. The only connection between the two is that both concern the term 'conspiracy theories', which I have a problem with on general grounds. (Actually, come to think of it, I might return to that dispute when I can find the time and energy, but even if I do I won't be be praying in aid this essay; cogent though it is, it's nt really capable of supporting my case with or without my edit.)

3rd - the main point: there is always doubt about what "conspiracy theories" means. That's why I object to it so strongly. What would you say it means here?

The fact is, the term can be applied to any position which posits a conspiracy or even, by extension, merely dishonest, deceptive, collusive, etc. behaviour. But once it is so applied, it brings with it a huge amount of baggage. There's a long-standing strand of polemical literature from Popper through Hoftadter to Pipes et al., which associates the term with the most lurid kind of fantasy a la Dan Brown; with antisemitism (cf. the idea that 'Arab Conspiracy Theories' is an analytically useful category), even with beliefs about aliens and with global warming denialism, etc., etc. Along with this second highly specialised polemical usage comes a load of psychobabble generalising about 'conspiracy theorists', the 'paanoid style', the 'conspiracy theory of history', and endless cod-methodological criticism of a supposedly homogeneous class of 'theories'and 'theorists'. Applying the term to any view is always obfuscatory and highly prejudicial; it is a broken term denoting an incoherent pseudo-concept. Its only use is as a tool of the very civil POV-pushers you so eloquently decry.

Of course, in this essay you do not apply the term to any particular view; but even by treating it as a respectable term standing for a useful and coherent concept, you inevitably contribute to its continued abuse - albeit inadvertently, and by a tiny increment. Look at that list: "pseudoscience, crankery, conspiracy theories, marginal nationalist or historic viewpoints". All of these explicitly specify an unreliable type of opinion - except 'conspiracy theories', which conveys a nebulous kind of disapproval which is dependant on the penumbra of evaluative and descriptive implications that has come to be associated with it.

One way of looking it this is to consider that the conditions for applying the term, using something close to the plain meaning of the words, has come apart from the inferential role of the concept, which has become fixedby stereotypes and a body of unsupported theory. The essay states: "Often these issues are complicated enough that knowledge of the topic is necessary to identify...conspiracy theories...(One important reason for this is that oftentimes there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding these topics." It's clear that 'conspiracy theories' as used here implies falsehood, but in fact, finding ut that something is a conspiray theory does not permit one to infer that it is false, unless 'conspiray theory' is appplicable only to false theories in the first place. But if you mean to stipulate that you only mean to refer to false, or at least unfounded or unjustified, theories, shouldn't that stipulation be written on the face of the term you use?

You may think this is a lot of fuss about nothing, and I confess I can be a bit of a bore on the topic, but I genuinely do think that the way this term is used has a very damaging effect on the quality of public debate about recent history (it's only recent history; histoians discussing conspiracies in ancient Rome or renaissance Florence are never accused of being 'Conspiracy Theorists!). It has the effect of shutting down debate - and even thought - about the behaviour of powerful organisations like the CIA and large corporations, and about events like the spate of political assassinations that occurred in 1960s USA or the political and economic role of the 'Cosa Nostra'.

People are afriad of being discredited as 'Conspiray Theorists' and this fear in many cases has become internalised into a free-floating aversion to a wide range of ideas; in effect (and, I conspiratistically theorise, in intent) this is an Orwellian debasement of language which renders a whole range of ideas almost unthinkable to very many people. In the 50s, HUAC waged a systematic campaign to coerce opinion-formers such as film-makers, lecturers and writers into toeing the establishment line. Inchoate hostility against 'conspiracy theorists' - which has been helped along, if not manufactired from whole cloth, by those in positions of power - is less heavy-handed but if anything perhap s all the more effective for it.

I'd like to see the term included on lists of 'words to watch' etc., and if I can muster the energy and find the time, I may yet take on the daunting task of arguing that case in the appropriate forum. In the meantime, I ask that you reconsider the inclusion of the term in what is otherwise a cogent and persuasive essay on a crucially important topic. Stax68 (talk) 23:24, 19 February 2014 (UTC)