Wikipedia talk:Words to avoid/Archive 1

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Unless somebody can provide a good reason not to, I will move this article to the wikipedia namespace. --maveric149, Saturday, April 6, 2002

wikipedia or meta? Seems to me that this kind of debate is all over meta, and needs to be, e.g. as part of discussion of vocabulary and governance.
You're probably right about meta - lets see what everyone else thinks. --maveric149
Yes, move to meta. jheijmans
No, don't move to meta. English-specific. Deco 02:02, 28 May 2005 (UTC)

Words to use

The below was written at "Words that should not be used in Wikipedia" or something like that:

Why the title of this page might be misguided:

  • Even very loaded words can be used carefully to achieve NPOV discussions of controversial topics. See profanity for a perfect example (that I've worked on) of how even touchy words can be used wisely.
  • It is better to discuss how to use words appropriately, rather than to advocate the word not be used at all - since no one listens to us about that in the larger/real world.

I agree, on the basis that words such as "linked (to)" are necessary in a work in progress. One should be able to state that things are related, despite not having a source to specify that relationship. See: Wikipedia:Words to use. Hyacinth 02:33, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)


(about Boston Tea Party): What on earth are you talking about?? Did they kill any civilians by any chance? By this logic you'll be calling a pickpocket a terrorist soon. I urge you to show any real evidence to the claim that labels of "terrorist" often depend on whether the terrorists were successful in their efforts. --AV

user:Lee M re: Boston Tea Party "terrorists": facetious reply: They probably poisoned a few innocent fish....
Attacks on property, without killing or injuring anyone, could still be considered terrorism. Suppose instead of flying planes into the WTC, they had placed a massive bomb in the basement, set up in such a way that it would go off in two days, and no one could possibly remove or disable it without setting it off. They then tell the authorities. The authorities evacuate the WTC and surrounding buildings. The bombs go off two days later, destroying completely the WTC, but no one gets killed or injured, but billions of dollars of economic damage are caused. The terrorists release a communique saying "this is payback for [insert your favourite U.S. misdeed here]". Wouldn't that be terrorism? -- SJK

The Earth Liberation Front does stuff like that on a small scale, and they "are terrorists" according to the FBI, but clearly not according to the DOD, who is interested only in groups that do bodily harm. Presumably if the "economic damage" (whatever that is) was extreme, it could be argued to have done bodily harm, e.g. people shooting themselves for losing jobs, etc., but by that logic so did the Enron collapse, and the DOD would have to go bomb office towers in Houston or Chicago. Definitions of "terrorism" that don't require direct bodily harm to non-combatants are simply broken - the Boston Tea Party and the Earth Liberation Front don't qualify.

Wanted ? Here it is: do you know a single person who calls Resistance Movement during WWII "terrorists" ? Taw

Sorry I don't have a hard cite on this, but I seem to recall that the Nazis actually did call the resistance fighters terrorists. The Nazis lost. Therefore we say that the resistance fighters were "freedom fighters" not "terrorists".
Sorry, all wrong. First, we don't call them freedom fighters, we call them resistance fighters. Second, we don't call them terrorists not because they won, but because they weren't. If Nazis called them terrorists (and that is yet to be shown), they were simply wrong. --AV
Sorry again, terrorists are the ones who use terror. Very simple, so why not use that word when it fits?
all governments use terror by definition - terror of law enforcement and covert action by the military, even-handed or otherwise, which is also used against civilians, and may well terrify them, and be intended to do so. The issue is legal vs. illegal terror, not terror vs. not, when the word "terror" is used by governments. But governments can't comprehend a world where they aren't doling out the terror.
Reagan called the "Contra" characters "freedom fighters", but they were arguably terrorists. - 24

"It's a legitimate word with well-defined meaning. Dictionaries, encyclopaedias, textbooks on political science, etc. will readily provide definitions. So will most governments, who tend to see it as something like "doing bodily harm for political reasons without actually being a government." When governments accuse each other of "[state terror]?" you are over the line into political science and no definition will help you."

To describe this as utterly ridiculous would be to severly understate. This definition would say that a guerrila war conducted exclusively against military targets would be, on the part of the rebels, terrorism, and on the part of the government, a war. Even if the rebels attacked non-military targets in an illegal way you would have to say they are guilty of war crimes, not terrorism, and the law is very clear on this point. If you do not see how this word has been corrupted by political interests, if you are not aware of how the U.S. has come up with lists of terrorist organisations based in chief on its own political interests, even including groups such as the CSRP, which is purely involved in advocacy (of course, it mostly turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Fujimori regime the PCP was battling in that time), you are guilty of overwhelming naivete. -- Daniel C. Boyer

The definition of terrorism is "the use of force or destruction of property to advance a political or religious cause." The Boston Tea Party was definitely this. I say this against most of my fellow Americans' views, only because I want to get this out of the way. Davidizer13 16:20, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

That may be someone's definition of terrorism, but there is no agreement on the definition of terrorism. I would point out that your definition is so broad that Matthew 21:19 would arguably make Jesus a terrorist, assuming someone owned the fig tree. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:02, 21 September 2005 (UTC)


I was looking at 1944 and I noticed how frequently Nazi is used to describe German military forces. I find this offensive and inappropriate, this is comparable to referring to US forces in Iraq as "Republican Forces" or to US forces in Bosnia as "Democrat Forces". Likewise, referring to Iraqi forces as "Baath Forces" would be inappropriate. German troops of World War II should be referred to as Germans, not as Nazis. Many of them were not Nazis and many of them were killed for disagreeing with the Nazis. Dietary Fiber

Many Germans would rather not be associated with the genocidal Nazi Germany but if you don't like it then change it. This is a wiki if you haven't noticed. --mav

I thought you might want to form a consensus on the issue before I changed it. Dietary Fiber

This isn't that important - both terms are unambiguous. Besides if anybody didn't like your edit it is very easy to revert. --mav
Axis powers (linked as [[Axis powers|Axis]] would be a good solution, when talking about the Axis side as a whole. "German" is the best solution when talking about the specific German forces. "Italian" is the best solution when talking about the specific Italian forces. "Japanese" is the best solution when talking about the specific Japanese forces.
Similarly, when talking about the allied side, Allied powers (linked as [[Allied powers|Allied]] would be a good solution, but when referring to specifically British forces, use "British", etc. Martin

I removed the below to talk because I think that it was meant to prove a point, not as an actual suggestion. I am trying to clean this page up to the point where it can be a useful style guide and not just a list of arguments. DanKeshet


Be careful with use of the verb "to be". Remember that sometimes "seems", "appears", "is said to be", "is believed to be" are more accurate.

(discussion follows:)

The above discussion stands as evidence that we should never use the word "is" in a wikipedia article. Two people arguing about "what is" or "what are" can take up infinite attention. In the time you took reading this, a child probably in Africa has died, and s/he "is" more important than this kind of argument. So write your articles in E-Prime, the subset of the English language minus all forms of "to be."

I can see that in a lot of cases, but what about:

  • Shakespeare was born in 1564.
  • George Bush is the president of the United States.
  • The number 19 is prime.
  • Ducks are birds. (Substitute: "Scientists classify ducks as birds"?)

By your system, I should not even be allowed to give the day of the week! ("Today is... ")

This is an excellent objection, because it actually reinforces the point about "is".

In fact, Shakespeare may very well have been born in any of several years. We know his baptism date, but not birthdate. George Bush will not be President several years from now, so the "is" statement would then be incorrect. The number 19 is prime, so this is a rare example where "is" may be justified.
I think the point here is that what seems to be a truth to one person may not actually be the truth, or it may change with time, and so forth. (David)

E-Prime is, frankly, ludricrous. One must be careful with the verb "to be", and be on the lookout for other verbs which are more descriptive, but to ban it completely is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. -- Tarquin

Further: take something like "Malting is a fermentation process applied to cereal grains". Korzybski would presumably have us write "Malting refers to the process ...". But malting doesn't refer to anything. The word "malting" refers to something. So it's now "The word 'malting' refers to the process ...". Needless, fussy overcomplication. A bad case of Haddocks eyes.


The word 'cult' is very loosely used in today's society. The media frequently refers to the 'cult' of fashion, the 'cult' of Star Trek and so on. General usage seems to be for any group or thing or idea that inspires a dedicated following among a smallish subsection of the population, rather than reserving the term for religion/s. Karen Johnson

The text page mentions the Sc word, so I'm inclined to comment. There exist neutral and well working definitions of cult that do not involve the cult's belief systems but its methods of operation and its relation to and the way it sees and treats members and outsiders. Of course such definitions rightly include the Cult of Sc, so given your level of fear from the ligitious cult you might shy away from those definitions altoghether.

Full discclosure: I personally consider the Cult of Sc a dangerous, morally reperensible and occasionally criminal organization. YMMV - but explicitely calling them "not a cult" in your article is taking sides already. Tom Cruise notwithstanding they are anything but a well respected religious organization. Wefa

Maybe there should be a disambiguation page that splits the definition of religious cult from the things with "cult" following. It's a suggestion... Davidizer13 16:23, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Unencyclopedic and uninteresting may be useful additions. -- User:Docu


"30% of British households have pets; 1.5 million of these are dogs"

I found a similar construction in Newsweek.

"Nazi Germany had set up 300 concentration camps or prisons"

I found this exact phrase in the Holocaust exhibition of the Imperial War Museum, except that it was referring only to Poland and had a date. I decided that was irrelevant.

"2,000 civilians killed or injured"

This was said by a journalist about some long-past disaster - probably not 2,000 though. There was in fact 1 killed and the rest injured, though. r3m0t 12:41, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Controversy - Questioning the wisdom of folding debates into the narrative

I am seriously questioning the wisdom of always folding debates into the narrative. The classic example that I will use to illustrate my concern is the separate criticism and support sections in the alternative medicine article. I believe that this article should be an allowed exception to this guideline. The advantage of using separate sections allows other editors to directly link to these sections in other articles as a type of HTML bookmark. An example of this would be as follows.

(See criticisms of alternative medicine for details.)

I used this bookmark link in Terms and concepts in alternative medicine. Thus, I am thinking about changing this guideline by providing for some exceptions. What is your take on this issue? -- John Gohde 19:43, 5 May 2004 (UTC)

I support not only providing for exceptions, but maybe taking this section out altogether. I have seen several articles where editors antagonistic to the subject matter begin taking shots at it in the first sentence, even before the topic is properly introduced, and never let up. Sneaky POV can be very effectively inserted by where you say it as well as by what you say. Specifically, the first paragraph should be reserved for contextualizing and establishing, and should be sacrosanct from controversy and negative views, except perhaps for a mention of "controversial." Then, while it is possible that negative views may flow smoothly into multiple points in the narrative, it is far better to corral criticisms into a separate section if they would otherwise interfere with the main narrative. The purpose of the article is to explain, and it is certainly no endorsement of a controversial topic to explain it fully without injecting venom, even attributed venom, at regular intervals. It is virtue, not vice, to hold off from the criticism until the reader has understood fully what is being criticized. --Gary D 02:09, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Is the word "Scandal" in an article's title POV?

Recently, the article Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was renamed Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse reports because some users found the word "scandal" in the title to be pov. But wikipedia has dozens of articles with the word "scandal" in the title, including Watergate Scandal, Lewinsky scandal, Whitewater Scandal, Harken Energy Scandal, Quiz show scandals, Olympic Games scandals, Mutual fund scandal (2003), Accounting scandals of 2002, Teapot Dome Scandal, Black Sox Scandal, and many others. So should the word "scandal" be removed from article titles? Or is the word "scandal" inherantly pov? (For more details, see the article's talk page.) Quadell 13:55, May 19, 2004 (UTC)

The word is not necessarily POV. If an event is very widely described by others as a scandal then that may very well be the best article name. Sadly many people understand NPOV to mean "never call a spade a spade". Pete/Pcb21 (talk) 15:05, 19 May 2004 (UTC)
I raised the issue and, after nearly a week of discussion, moved the page. My intention was not to whitewash or minimize the seriousness of what happened. Quite the opposite: my issue with the word "scandal" is that I believe it trivializes the seriousness of the matter, which is far beyond "scandalous." As noted on the talk page, the dictionary definition of "scandal" is
1. A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society: a drug scandal that forced the mayor's resignation. 2. A person, thing, or circumstance that causes or ought to cause disgrace or outrage: a politician whose dishonesty is a scandal; considered the housing shortage a scandal. 3. Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior; disgrace. 4. Talk that is damaging to one's character; malicious gossip.
"Scandal" is typically used for crimes that are victimless, or for whom the victim is something vague like "the public treasury," and focusses, not on who was hurt by the scandalous acts themselves, but who was embarrassed by the public disclosure of those acts. We do not normally use the word "scandal" in reference to criminal behavior involving personal injury to victims.
The word "scandal" is typically used for incidents of sexual misconduct (Senator Wilbur Mills caught with a stripper in the Tidal Basin), bribery (Albert Fall giving Harding's cronies preferential treatment on Teapot Dome leases), etc. Quadell lists some examples above of how the word "scandal" is typically used. More can be found via links from the article Scandal. As I noted, we do not speak of the My Lai "scandal" or the Black Hole of Calcutta "scandal" or the Japanese-American internment camp "scandal," and Cecropia noted that Wikipedia speaks of the Iran-Contra Affair, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Oil for Food Allegations, the Dreyfus Affair, etc.
Further discussion welcome. I ask those who don't like the present title to propose specific suggestions. Dpbsmith 15:34, 19 May 2004 (UTC)
Whilst I appreciate your point, it doesn't really answer mine, which was that we as editors of Wikipedia shouldn't abitrate on what an event is called - it is better to follow in the footsteps of others if we can. '"Abu Ghraib" scandal' currently gets 220,000 Google hits (not bad for an event so young!), suggesting that the dictionary definition doesn't quite capture how the word is being used in practice. I would prefer the original wording. Pete/Pcb21 (talk) 16:46, 19 May 2004 (UTC)
My opinion is that, if anything, scandal is POV by virtue of being far to polite a term. I think Human Rights Violations or Geneva Violations - something of that sort would be more accurate. --bodnotbod 22:08, May 21, 2004 (UTC)
In general, maybe it's best not to used the word "scandal" in a current events article? Give history time to decide whether or not it's appropriate. Just my 2 cents. Crazyeddie 00:36, 2004 May 24 (UTC)

Linked and related

Shouldn't we avoid the term "related" too? This is also vague. Not only linked. What kind of relation is important. Causal or just a correlation, spurious relationship etcetera. Andries 21:08, 26 May 2004 (UTC)

Is it just me or does the article page look like the talk page is supposed to? Are zero's comments supposed to be in there?

Removing "Rights" section

I have removed the following:

Use of 'X rights' can imply support of the opinion that X is a right. Instead, drop 'rights' or use a more neutral term. For instance, change:
'abortion rights' -> 'abortion'
'gun rights' -> 'gun laws'

This is inaccurate at best. There are plenty of people who believe that women have the right to have abortions, but few people actually support abortions in and of themselves. Is there a way to phrase this that doesn't make it seem like those who support the right to abortion support the act itself? [[User:Meelar|Meelar (talk)]] 05:47, Dec 17, 2004 (UTC)

Use of word 'claim' instead of 'say'?

Some time word 'claim' is used instead of 'say'. The word 'claim' sounds that it is not recognize. Let's say I say: I claim that car is mine. So it means that this car is not 'currently' mine. So how the word claim should be dealt with.

Zain 18:29, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Well, the fact that your car is yours is verifiable and undisputed. So we could simply say "This car is Zain's". Generally, claim should be used for situations where the truth is unknown and disputed ("Bush claimed that his move would decrease the budget deficit, but Democrats disagreed. [[User:Meelar|Meelar (talk)]] 19:59, Dec 21, 2004 (UTC)
Your example mentions about future which is always claim. But I am talking about more present let's say Bush claimed War on terror is justified instead of Bush said war on terror is justified. Now First one gives the sense, it is not right. To give an example where claim is not very disputed. Bush Claimed 9/11 was a terrorist act instead of Bush said 9/11 was a terrorist act. Now here if we use claim it will seem that quite probably it isn't. So when to use it (if to use it). If left on personal judgment will cause edit war who dispute?
Zain 20:54, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
In cases like this, it is essentially left to personal judgement. If there's serious disagreement, it's handled through the usual chain found at Wikipedia:Conflict resolution. Hope this is helpful. Are you having a specific dispute about this? Best wishes, [[User:Meelar|Meelar (talk)]] 00:37, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)
Actually there was a word 'claim' I wanted to change it in to 'say'. But only if, I can have find an easy reference to help me argue in my change. By the way, I have some serious disputes. I have made an entry in 'Request for mediation' in attempt to solve it If you can help me in it, or guide me in it. I'll appreciate it very much
Zain 06:19, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Comments regarding use of the word naturally

I am moving the comments included below from the Wikipedia: namespace article to the Wikipedia Talk: namespace. Charm © 01:27, Dec 27, 2004 (UTC)


Use naturally for "in a natural manner," such as:

  • Plutonium may occur naturally.
  • Obsidian is a type of naturally occurring glass.
  • Cultural anthropologists assume that human beings are naturally social.

or to indicate an artificial but convenient conceptualization:

  • Machiavelli's life falls naturally into three periods.
That sounds like the first meaning to me and quite acceptable. --zero
No, it implies that dividing Machiavelli's life into three periods is the only acceptable way to look at things. What if someone believes that Machiavelli's life had four major periods? Is that 'unnatural'? --Egomaniac
I don't think there is any presumption of exclusiveness when one says a particular way of looking at something is natural: one simply means it is not contrived. There may be several natural ways of looking at Machiavelli's life, alongside a tremendous number of needlessly complex ways. ---- Charles Stewart 09:04, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Do not use naturally for "wouldn't you just know it," such as:

  • "Naturally, Protestant critics have jumped on this bandwagon."

Do not use naturally for "without a doubt," such as:

  • The point of Brahms's work has naturally been lost by critics.
I agree this one is bad. --zero

I can see times when it would be ok: "naturally, he was delighted to be awarded the Nobel Prize" ;) -- Tarquin 09:33, 20 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Care to run that by Sinclair Lewis or Marlon Brando? --Calieber 13:28, 26 Sep 2003 (UTC)
But in that sentence naturally doesn't add any information, clarify anything, or make the article easier to read. It just makes it sound chatty, (much like 'of course'). --Townmouse 00:17, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Why can't we start with saying that we should use neutral, precise, unambigous words?

Use only neutral, accurate, unambigous terms. That summarizes it all. Andries 15:01, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

You'd need to add to avoid deliberately offensive terms too. jguk 17:28, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I know this comment was left ages ago, but I'll respond to it in case others agree. The reason we have an article like this is to flesh out what "neutral" and "accurate" mean in practice. Also, when somebody objects to a non-neutral term, they can point to a longer discussion on why that word isn't neutral or accurate in different contexts. DanKeshet 23:11, Apr 29, 2005 (UTC)

Page damage

The text on the page is doubled up weirdly. Could someone a bit more familiar with the contents please remove the duplicated text? —Ashley Y 09:26, 2005 Jan 16 (UTC)

It looks like in an effort to solve the doubling, User:Vacuum (whom I don't know) removed the section on the word terrorism, with what ended up being a totally misleading edit summary. I presume this was accidental. I have restored it. (It looks like no other material was lost, but someone may want to double check my work.) -- Jmabel | Talk 22:39, Mar 2, 2005 (UTC)
I made my own attempt. In the end, it differed little from yours. Jayjg (talk) 23:06, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Bad Form/Controversy

How about describing relgious beliefs. Should we state, for example, in an article about the catholicism that there is no scientific evidence for the transsubstantia, directly after describing it? To me, it seems better to do that in a separate section. Andries 14:42, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)

In general, I concur, but it's hard to see a hard and fast rule here. -- Jmabel | Talk 04:16, Mar 28, 2005 (UTC)


The word "controversial" gets tossed around rather casually in some articles. Have any editors developed a standard definition of the word for use in Wikipedia? It is currently impossible to assert that something is not controversial, since a dispute over the matter it almost proves the controversy! Cheers, -Willmcw 23:57, Mar 29, 2005 (UTC)


In the Statistics section, an example is given of not using "2,000 killed or injured" due to the ambiguity of how many were killed and how many injured. For the same reason, I wonder if special mention should be made of the word "casualties" (which normally refers to the number of dead and injured). For such an ambiguous word, I find it used very commonly in most forms of media often without further clarification of the proportions of dead/injured. Any thoughts? Cheers. TigerShark 13:01, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  • I always find the vagueness of that word annoying. Clearly, when we mean "dead" we should say "dead", when we mean "injured" we should say "injured". And when we can't sort out the two numbers, it's usually an indication that more research into the sources is in order. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:19, Apr 27, 2005 (UTC)
  • Does the word casualty when used when describing a battle during war include POWs taken by the enemy? Andries 17:00, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Eastern and Western

I think that the words "Eastern" and "Western" are generalizing, vague and inaccurate and should be specified as much as possible though I admit that they can not always be avoided. For example Eastern can be with regards to culture Hindu (incl. Tantra, Vaishnava, Saiva, Agama etc.), Buddhist, Confucius, Japanese, Sikh (incl. Sant Mat), etc. Western culture can be scientific, secular, Christian, Jewish etc. But Chinese, Indians, Japanse can be and are often scientific, secular etc. With regards to geography Eastern can mean Japan, India, China, Taiwanese, Singapore. Western can also include Japan, Taiwan etc. How confusing and vague can we get. Andries 16:48, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  • Certainly words to be careful about, but in many contexts they are clear. -- Jmabel | Talk 04:33, May 1, 2005 (UTC)


Many adjectives are used to show the writer's attitude. Examples are "horrendous", "scandalous" and "evil". Are such words permitted at all? If an act is considered to be horrendous by any sensible individual, would it be allowed to use the word? I've used the word once in the article about Children of the Nazi era, because it's clear now, even to most Norwegians that the treatment of the Nazi children was indeed horrendous. I used it only to point out that there is (almost) consensus now that the treatment was unjust and terrible. Is this a violation of the NPOV rules? I find it difficult to write without using any "colouring" words.

I do not like using those words, it is quite unencyclopedic. State facts please whithout moral judgement. Why don't you write e.g. "The current Norwegian government admits that serious mistakes have been made and there is now a near concensus among the Norwegian people that the treatment of Nazi Children in Norway was morally wrong"? Andries 07:40, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)
"Scandalous" can sometimes be OK when it is used literally, as in having occasioned a scandal, especially in a phrase such as "…widely viewed as scandalous at the time". No? -- Jmabel | Talk 21:46, Jun 11, 2005 (UTC)


I am in mild dispute with User:Loremaster about his use of "reactionary" at Bioconservatism. I believe it to be a generally pejoratitve word; Loremaster either disagrees or doesn't care (hard to tell which). I notice that the word is not currently mentioned on this page; I would have thought of it as a word generally to be avoided. Thoughts? -- Jmabel | Talk 18:10, Jun 25, 2005 (UTC)

By far

I've noticed many articles using the phrase "by far" such as All Bengal Teachers Association: "ABTA is by far the largest teachers organization in the state." IMO, it should simply say "ABTA is the largest...." Should similar uses of "by far" be changed? --mtz206 16:35, Jun 26, 2005 (UTC)

  • Seems to me like "by far" is often accurate. You don't know if it's by a factor of 2 or 5, but you know nothing else comes close. How else do you say this? -- Jmabel | Talk June 28, 2005 21:33 (UTC)


"Casualties" is proper in military history - an army that starts a battle with 100,000 soldiers and suffers 20,000 casualties has 80,000 soldiers after the battle - by definition.

If the article is not addressing military history, then it probably shouldn't be using "casulaties" but should be listing deaths and injuries. Note that casualties, as a military term of art, also includes captives and missing, where missing are often stragglers or deserters. --Po8crg 7 July 2005 00:52 (UTC)


The word "caucasian" to indicate the race of a person is very strange for non-Americans. Please take into account that this an international encyclopedia. Andries 19:18, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

I'm British and I understand the term. I don't really think it is a US v The Rest divide - but I do think it's not as common a word as the easily understood alternative of "white", which should be preferred, jguk 22:00, 18 July 2005 (UTC)
I am also British, and I concur. It isn't unheard-of, but it is still far less common. White is almost universally used, with "of European descent" (whether technically correct or not) the only alternative. smoddy 22:04, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

Is "conspiracy theory" even worse than "theory"?

Given the inappropriateness of just the word "theory" as mentioned in this Wikipedia policy/guideline should "conspiracy theory" be avoided ever more so? The phrase's supporters (amazing there are so many) will illogically claim that some subjects are "objectively a conspiracy theory" but that can't be true given the fact that the phrase has multiple definitions including both a literal and a discrediting one. Generically descriptive words and phrases should not also imply negativity about a subject. Since the phrase is generic and discrediting doesn't that violate WP's neutraly policy on multiple levels? See Wikipedia:Conspiracy theory and Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory. zen master T 18:35, 24 August 2005 (UTC)

Nah, it's a straightforward description of an easily identifiable phenomenon. BTW, I'm glad you were able to show you understand how neutrality works by neutrally presenting the arguments of those who disagree with you; for example, you didn't claim that they were "illogical", or that their views "can't be true". Oh wait, you did do that. Perhaps a review of WP:NPOV is in order, then. Jayjg (talk) 20:29, 24 August 2005 (UTC)
Just to resurrect one of the many arguments that have already been made in this matter, there are many words with multiple meanings, one or more of which are derogatory. For example, the word "black". -Willmcw 21:09, August 24, 2005 (UTC)

When there are complaints of neutrality violations over words and phrases in use in a wikipedia article editors generally work toward finding alternatives. It's very telling the degree and level of misdirection to which Willmcw/Jayjg and their bot like POV gang go to defend the propaganda value of "conspiracy theory" (when I say bot I don't mean sockpuppet, I mean some sort of language parsing/A.I. capability). zen master T 22:36, 24 August 2005 (UTC)

"Very telling"? What does it tell you? Who is behind it all, anyway? Jayjg (talk) 22:38, 24 August 2005 (UTC)
I have no idea. Your position violates wikipedia policy. Articles must cite sources but the phrase "conspiracy theory" does not convey any info on who and by what basis is counter claiming that a theory or allegation is dubious/non-mainstream. The goal with use of the discrediting phrase "conspiracy theory" is to discourage an objective analysis of the subject. zen master T 22:45, 24 August 2005 (UTC)
I cannot make head or tail of the substance of Zen-master's last two comments, but the tone of hostility comes through loud and clear. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:15, August 25, 2005 (UTC)
Either "conspiracy theory" violates wikipedia's neutrality policy and is illegitimately and unconsciously presumption inducing at a language level or it does/is not, there is no need to misdirect away from the issue. zen master T 06:27, 25 August 2005 (UTC)
"[I]llegitimately and unconsciously presumption inducing at a language level"? "[B]ot like POV gang"? So there's a conspiracy to promote the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory", apparently in order to disparage conspiracy theories by labelling them "conspiracy theories." Is that the issue? -Willmcw
You once again exclusively focus on the literal definition of "conspiracy theory", you conveniently ignore the fact that the phrase has a discrediting definition additionally. zen master T 14:09, 25 August 2005 (UTC)
And you, once again, are discounting the fact that many words have addition definitions which may be derogatory. You are saying that, whether or not we intend the phrase in its derogatory meaning, it still unconsciously induces a presumption of discreditation, and that a gang/cabal/conspiracy is protecting that usage. -Willmcw 20:21, August 25, 2005 (UTC)
Yes, but when fellow wikipedia editors point out there are words or phrases in articles that have duplicitous derogatory meanings they are replaced with better/more neutral alternatives except in the case of "conspiracy theory", I merely note that glarring discrepancy. People need to become aware of the extreme degree to which "conspiracy theory" biases a subject and how the many sublte ways its discrediting works. zen master T 21:51, 25 August 2005 (UTC)
I think that "conspiracy theory" denotes that some believe that a conspiracy is afoot, used more in politics.. "Theory" is used more scientifically, i.e. something that is not quite proven and made a scientific law.Davidizer13 16:30, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Would it be neutral to label someone else's theory a "conspiracy theory" in a title in your interpretation? zen master T 20:36, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Unexplained deletion of "conspiracy"

Could Jayjg or Slim please explain their rationale for removing "conspiracy"? I'd also like the opinion of some truly neutral third parties about the appropriateness of "conspiracy" rather than just the same old POV gang (but the POV gangs' opinions and arguments are welcome as well). zen master T 21:57, 13 September 2005 (UTC)

It has been explained to you many times before by many editors, ZM, and calling people a POV gang isn't going to encourage anyone to debate with you. Also, this sentence seemed to make no sense: "It is not significantly noteworthy if a cited allegation involves a conspiracy, especially compared with the high noteworthiness of the specific details of that cited allegation." SlimVirgin (talk) 22:05, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
In addition, Zen-master really needs to explain his rationale for trying to include the word "conspiracy", since it was never on this page before. It seems to be part of his campaign to assert that "conspiracy theory" is a POV term that should be removed from Wikipedia, a view with which a clear consensus of editors here disagree. Jayjg (talk) 22:22, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
I don't bring up your POV gang to offend, I mention it so all third parties are aware of the highly coordinated, obvious and subtle propaganda pushing and research being done on wikipedia. The POV pushing has a certain algorithmic perfection. If you don't understand a sentence we can rephrase it, you haven't justified deletion let alone deletion without explaination. The sentence is trying to say that the specific details of an allegation are more important than the minor point that the allegation alleges a conspiracy. That plus the fact that the word unfairly biases the presentation of a subject should preclude its use in an allegedly neutral encyclopedia. zen master T 22:19, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
Please desist from personal attacks and violations of Wikipedia's WP:Civility policies. Jayjg (talk) 22:22, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
I think Will put it best: "So there's a conspiracy to promote the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory", apparently in order to disparage conspiracy theories by labelling them "conspiracy theories." And how could you know in advance of any allegation that its content is more important than its form? You're right that the term "conspiracy theory" has to be used accurately, but as you don't accept any definition as descriptive of a genre, you have no way of saying when it's used correctly. SlimVirgin (talk) 22:29, 13 September 2005 (UTC)

Responding to the A.I. bot known as Jayjg, I am not making a personal attack, I am instead accusing you, Slim and many others of being a part of a highly coordinated sockpuppetry-esque (if not A.I. or automation controlled) gang of editors that seemingly exist soley for the purpose of propaganda pushing. Jayjg, your arguments seem to be 100% designed to misframe the issue(s) to trick third parties who don't have time to really analyze an issue. Slim's various positions have been inconsistant and have not added up to someone with any core motivations (see below).

My attempting to add "conspiracy" to this page is separate from the "conspiracy theory" issue, this page is titled "words to avoid" not "phrases to avoid" (ha!). And the word "theory" is already a word to avoid but apparently when it matches a pre-programmed propaganda goal it is still allowed to be used in certain places, but not in others. The inconsistency of everything on wikipedia in total gives the propaganda and propaganda research away easily. For the fun of us testing each other please try specifically to construct a logical argument why the "conspiracy" misnomer paragraph I added should be deleted? As always I award negative points for tagenticizing (see slim's paragraph above for a prime example of issue befuddlement). zen master T 22:45, 13 September 2005 (UTC)

LOL! The old "it's not a personal attack when it's true" defense. Very humorous. And adding more personal attacks to your post claiming that you haven't made any was an inspired touch. Jayjg (talk) 20:10, 14 September 2005 (UTC)
Jayjg, your effectiveness at mischaracterization the issue(s) is weakening. I am accusing you of others of violating wikipedia policy on a massive scale, that is not a personal attack. No true rationale run of the mill wikipedia admin would resort to the tactics you and others utilize, the fact that the incidents are most certainly not isolated gives it all away.
Responding to the A.I. bot known as SlimVirgin from way above, nice one, your paragraph above totally befuddles any analysis of "conspiracy theory". The key criteria you are misdirecting away from is whether the phrase "conspiracy theory" is biasing, which it clearly is. What you call a descriptive genre when you mention "conspiracy theory" is really dubiousness induced through association with that genre. The goal with an allegedly neutral encyclopedia (and it's admins) should be to avoid biasing language, not to illogically defend it. Though I repeat my edits to this page involve the problems with just the word "conspiracy" by itself so please stop tangenticizing in at least that way. zen master T 22:45, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
Not sure I totally understood your post, but I do think "tangenticizing", "issue befuddlement," and "conspiracy misnomer paragraph" ought to be added to the page as phrases to avoid. SlimVirgin (talk) 23:07, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
Slim, that was a rather poor follow up attempt at befuddlement, you fail to note the distinction that this is a talk page discussion and not an article. You see an allegedly neutral encyclopedia that claims to have higher standards for actual articles should apply rules and quality consistently, so article titles that have words that already should be avoided such as "theories" and words that should be avoided too such as "conspiracy" clearly violate that rule and the spirit of neutrality generally. What other explanations are there for the all encompasing scale and vastness of the inconsistencies on wikipedia? zen master T 00:22, 14 September 2005 (UTC)
I think "A.I. bot" should be added to that list, Slim; or perhaps to a list of "phrases that are obvious personal attacks". Jayjg (talk) 20:10, 14 September 2005 (UTC)
Once again you still have not come up with any explanation for the deletion of the "conspiracy" paragraph I added, you mischaracterize and focus on framing the issue soley about "personal attacks" because that is the only thing you can do in an attempt to befuddle the issue. No true wikipedian would consistently violate (without a consistent POV) the spirit of wiki using the tactics you and your POV gang employ. zen master T 20:58, 14 September 2005 (UTC)
The burden of proof is on you; you have yet to explain coherently why you think the term should be included. And, as your comments consistently contain personal attacks, I won't be responding further. Jayjg (talk) 23:02, 14 September 2005 (UTC)
Zen-master, your arguments against the phrase "conspiracy theory" have been rejected by a large number of editors, if you recall the poll and people's responses on talk pages. It is you who isn't behaving in the spirit of Wikipedia by constantly trying to rehash the issue. If you have a new argument, well and good, but you can't just keep saying the same thing for months on end. SlimVirgin (talk) 23:09, 14 September 2005 (UTC)

Jayjg, the paragraph speaks for itself, what is your problem with it? "you won't be responding further" but have you ever responded, to anything? Slim, the "conspiracy theory" issue is completely separate wiki policy wise, this page is words to avoid, not phrases to avoid -- the word conspiracy is a word that should be avoided inside an allegedly neutral encyclopedia. Given the controversy and non neutral status and absence of clarity for the word there should at least be some sort notice that mentions the non neutral controversy surrounding the word "conspiracy", right? (please respond to this specific point without tangenticizing). Your repeated deletion without a check in comment explanation is obviously suspicious. zen master T 00:38, 15 September 2005 (UTC)

You're adding material that makes no sense. What does this mean? "The specific details of a cited allegation are more noteworthy than the minor, redundant point that a conspiracy is alleged." How on earth can you know in advance of any allegation that its details are or aren't noteworthy? How can you know, without knowing what the allegation is, that its alleged status as a conspiracy is a "minor, redundant point"? (It's not a "minor, redundant point" when you're alleging Wikipedia-wide POV-gang conspiracies, of course.) And the word "conspiracy" will sometimes be fine, and sometimes won't, but your edit takes no account of that. Finally, if you don't stop the ad hominem comments, I'll stop responding to you. SlimVirgin (talk) 04:14, 15 September 2005 (UTC)
When you claim something doesn't make sense you have to actually make sense yourself. You seem to be (intentionally?) misunderstanding, the sentence is saying don't describe an allegation using the generic non-neutral word "conspiracy", instead describe the specific core details of that allegation. The paragraph did account for "conspiracy" sometimes being ok, it was completely caveatted stating that the word may be a problem, but you even have an insufficiently explained problem with that. Your position, logic and motivation does not compute. Either "conspiracy" has neutrality problems or it does not, you have to prove its neutral or point by point refute the paragraph I added (you already have negative issue beffudlement points so don't bother that technique any more), you and your highly coordinated POV pushing buddies do not debate in good faith. zen master T 06:49, 15 September 2005 (UTC)

I couldn't bring myself to read through all of the above, but let me see if I get the gist: ZM asserts that there is a conspiracy to allow the use of the word conspiracy theory? And that when he suggests that certain other editors are not to be thought of as human, that does not constitute a personal attack? And that several major contributors with rather different styles and interests are really sockpuppets? ZM, did they make fun of your tin foil hat, or what? -- Jmabel | Talk 05:31, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

The gist of the issue is that the word "conspiracy", when used to describe or present an allegation, is not neutral. You and others are trying to thwart my neutrality complaint by implying dubiousness with the very same "conspiracy" or "tin foil hat" genre -- the easy "conspiracy" discreditability propaganda sure is as effective as it is recursive. And I bet a tin foil hat is woefully insufficient, you probably would need at least a magneto style hat made out of lead or similar. A true, non highly POV motivated wikipedia user would have compromised with a word other than "conspiracy" or "conspiracy theory" by now. zen master T 07:47, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

FYI/Update: Jayjg and Slim's repeated deletion of the "conspiracy" entry is still unexplained. zen master T 19:24, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

FYI, Zen-master's repeated addition of "conspiracy" without consensus hasn't been explained either. -Willmcw 21:23, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

avoid "conspiracy"?

I was going to post something "however" to add "although" and saw this edit war. The term "conspiracy" has negative connotations, that's an undisputed fact. Wikipedia should not report as fact that something is a conspiracy, since it will obviously be disputed by whoever is being called a conspirator. Any use of the term conspiracy should be limited to reporting someone else's point of view that some group is acting in conspiracy. Some group that's been exposed to have been operating in secret should be reported as operating in secret, not operating a conspiracy. If some notable source says so-and-so was part of a conspiracy, then the article should report that quotation. i.e.

"You cannot blame people for coming up with conspiracy theories," Air America host Chuck D. said [1] of Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan's claim that white people deliberately blew up the levees in New Orleans.

But wikipedia should not simply declare Farrakhan's claim as a "conspiracy theory" because it implies the claim is wrong and wikipedia is not in the business of disputing someone's claim. FuelWagon 21:41, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Is your issue with the word conspiracy then, or the phrase "conspiracy theory"? They're not the same thing. Jayjg (talk) 21:45, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
I don't see anyone saying they are the same thing as far as "conspiracy" as a word to avoid is concerned. "conspiracy theory" takes all the problems with "conspiracy" and adds to it with "theory". zen master T 21:51, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Responding to FuelWagon, historically wikipedia has been in the business of disputing cited claims through the misuse of language. FW, what did you think of the changes I made to your compromise attempt (before Jayjg reverted all of it)? FW, your paragraphs above seem much more clear than the paragraph you posted to the article...? zen master T 21:51, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Regarding user:FuelWagon's point. Using the example of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", it is NPOV to say that this is a conspiracy theory. Both those who think it is factual and those who think it is fictional would agree that it discusses a conspiracy. Why should we avoid reporting that? -Willmcw 21:59, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
Exactly; why avoid a word that has a clear and undisputed meaning? Jayjg (talk) 22:03, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
The point of "words to avoid" is that these words have negative connotations and should not be used as fact to describe someone's claim. The Elders of Zion article appears to report any claims of "conspiracy theory" from someone's point of view, so it satisfies NPOV. The piece that reports the Encyclopedia Britannica's view that the document is bunk is NPOV policy to the letter. This should not be a problem. FuelWagon 22:53, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

ooookkaaayyy..... put the keyboards down and step away from the monitor. I don't know what the bloody big deal is, but I've obviously stumbled upon a piping hot edit war. A fool can tell this has nothing to do with the word "conspiracy" and has everything to do with someone's desire to put "conspiracy" in an article somewhere. Anyone care to share what this is really about? Actually, no, I probably don't want to know. The word conspiracy has negative connotations. that is undisputable fact. No one uses "conspiracy" as a compliment. Wikipedia editors should not use it in articles except to quote someone's point of view. Wikipedia shouldn't call Farrakhan's claim above is a "conspiracy theory". We can, however, quote someone notable who calls the claim a conspiracy theory. How is this anything other than basic NPOV policy? FuelWagon 22:05, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

When people allege a conspiracy has or is taking place, there are ways to avoid the term "conspiracy theory," in an attempt to avoid the appearance of a perjorative meaning. When people claim Bush knew the Twin Towers were to be attacked and did nothing, they are claiming a conspiracy took place. It is simply surreal to argue that the word "conspiracy" not be used in a text that discusses that type of allegation. When, over time, certain claims regarding a conspiracy have been throroughly debunked and have a historic place in the great hall of conspiracy mirrors, then the term "conspiracy theory" is totally appropriate. The Protocols are a prime example. That fact is, most serious scholars and journalists know the boundaries that seperate the serious investigation of conspiracies--which do exist--from the claims of people who make "conspiracy theories" a form of religious devotion.--Cberlet 22:15, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
A claim that Bush knew the WTC would be attacked and did nothing would be a claim of "conspiracy". That would be NPOV. Reporting that claim as a "conspiracy theory" would seem to violate NPOV, given the severely negative connotation of the term. Someone's point of view that calls the claim a conspiracy theory could be reported, however. FuelWagon 22:49, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
Good points FuelWagon (take a step away from the algorithms, not the monitor you should say). But what problems did you have with the changes I made to your paragraph that Jayjg reverted again, your article paragraph is good but is seemingly worded somewhat unclearly (no explicity mention of illegitimately implied bias). The word "conspiracy" is not used as a title in Protocols of the Elders of Zion so Willmcw's example misses the point. Doesn't it make more sense to simple say that the protocols of the elders of zion is untrue or a majority/consensus of scholars believe it is untrue (with citations/facts etc as always) -- the key question is why the need to resort to confusing language to discredit something when you can just state facts directly? An encyclopedia is in the business of stating facts directly, not using confusing language, right? It is redundant and not noteworthy to label something with the word "conspiracy", being literally true doesn't mean there isn't bias. zen master T 22:21, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

alright, I took a quick look at Protocols of the Elders of Zion, it likes to use the word "conspiracy" quite a bit. Many of the uses report it as someone's poitn of view, or at least as "some" point of view, rather than fact. The intro sentence seems to state as fact that the document was faked, which, from reading the rest of the article, is disputed. Unless it is actually established as fact that the document was faked, I would suggest changing this:
For Tsar Nicholas II, who was fearful of modernization and protective of his monarchy, it was convenient to present growing revolutionary movement as a part of a powerful world conspiracy and blame the Jews for Russia's problems.

to this (added text bolded):

For Tsar Nicholas II, who was fearful of modernization and protective of his monarchy, it would have been convenient to present growing revolutionary movement as a part of a powerful world conspiracy and blame the Jews for Russia's problems.
Other than that many of the uses of "conspiracy" are reported as someone's point of view rather than fact, so I don't see it as breaking policy. The idea of "words to avoid" is not to ever use "conspiracy", the idea is to limit it to reporting someone's point of view, which this article seems to do. (I haven't checked the entire article, but the first half-dozen instances I found seemed to do alright.) Alright? FuelWagon 22:23, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

avoid "conspiracy theory"?

So, here's some text from the intro for conspiracy theory

proponents sometimes substitute zeal for logic. ... with the connotation that the theory is unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration.

So, it would seem that conspiracy theory would be something that should be limited to being reported from some source's point of view, assuming it's disputed. This is like writing an article about some pseudoscientific topic. NPOV policy says report the mainstream view as the mainstream view, don't report the topic as factually to be pseudoscience. The elders of zion article seemed to do this already, so there shouldn't be a problem.

Is there another article with vested interest around this policy? FuelWagon 22:37, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

The act of hyping or increasing the "conspiracy" or "conspiracy theory" genre unfairly biases true conspiracies that have been factually established. Theories that are unrelated should not be joined and tainted with dubiousness merely because they allege a conspiracy, facts specific to each theory should be used instead. No one that is genuinely interested in advancing their theory of a conspiracy would resort to using "conspiracy theory" because that would bias it, an honest source's point of view would specifically exclude using "conspiracy theory". Only those that wish to improperly discredit something (inconsistently too) would want to note whether a theory alleges a conspiracy. See Wikipedia:Conspiracy theory and Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory among other places. zen master T 00:10, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Whether a conspiracy is "true" or not isn't for us to say. NPOV policy says we can't say something is "true" if it is disputed. Wikipedia must report the various points of view involved around a particular topic. NPOV policy would also require that we can't say something is "false", either, if it is disputed. We need to report the views of the sources involved. The thing is that when we're not reporting views, we need to use neutral language, and calling something a conspiracy theory in an article isn't neutral. This phrase should be avoided in the text of an article except when it is reporting a view of someone involved in the topic, not an editor. FuelWagon 01:12, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
I mean true in the sense of generally accepted, mainstream and/or there is scientific consensus for it. The labeling of something as a "conspiracy theory" is actually a counter allegation against a theory so we'd need to note who is making that counter claim. If we can't say something is false then "conspiracy theory" is even worse? Is a member of the (bad cop) POV gang going to comment on this discussion or actually debate on the talk page? I note that the obviously wrong status quo remains everywhere currently. You have no comment on or acknowledgement of my "other" questions? zen master T 02:10, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
This is outlandish. Shall we have an entry on the Nazi Genocide that says some people say there was a Holocaust and others say there was not and give both views equal weight? Is this Postmodernism on crack? --Cberlet 02:27, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
NPOV policy does not require "equal weight". It says "we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject" [2]. So, if experts overwhelmingly say the Holocaust really happened, then you can give that view representation in "overwhelming" proportion. Fringe ideas held by fringe groups can be reported in "fringe" proportion. FuelWagon 03:20, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Exactly. And most people believe there is a narrative genre called "conspiracy theory," and are able more or less to recognize one when they see it. Although Zen-master is right to point to its prescriptive meaning, it also has a descriptive one, which has been offered so often on so many pages I won't labor the point here. Because Zen-master doesn't understand the definition — and I confess I'm beginning to wonder whether he understands the difference between prescriptive and descriptive — he insists that Wikipedia not use the term anywhere. He's engaged in original research writ large, samples of which are below e.g. "presenting things using the proper scientific method which does not allow for a premature conclusion of dubiosness [sic] at a language level" ?! SlimVirgin (talk) 06:31, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
NPOV doesn't say that neutral is defined by what "most people believe". Neutral is basically defined by whether or not a term is disputed. if it is disputed, then it is reported as a point of view from those who source it (and represented in proportion to the number of people who hold that view). The term "conspiracy theory" has far more negative connotations than most words listed on the "words to avoid" page, and it shouldn't be considered a neutral term. "Most people believe" isn't the determing factor of what qualifies as "neutral". FuelWagon 07:19, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Please read what I write. The term "conspiracy theory" has a definition, which specialists in the field (largely journalists and the intelligence community) recognize. It's not a question of POV. It's like saying a table is a thing with a top and four legs that we might sit and eat dinner at. Is this dispute continuing because Zen-master, and now FuelWagon, don't understand the difference between descriptive and prescriptive? I've explained it many times, but perhaps not well enough. Or is that you don't accept that the distinction is a valid one? Please say which it is, so we can at least get a better handle on what your objections are. SlimVirgin (talk) 08:59, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
The definition is irrelevant. All the words listed on the "words to avoid" page have definitinos that would technically fit usage in an article. The word "Cult" has a definition that could be applied to many organiazations under the argument that it "fits the definition". The problem with the "words to avoid" is not their definitions (or denotations) but the connotations. "Cult" has a connotation that is extremely negative. No organization should be called a cult by wikipedia. Wikipedia should only report that someone or some organization called some other organization a cult. This isn't about calling a spade a spade because it fits the definition of a spade, it's about calling a spade some word that means "spade" with the connotation of "this is a bad spade that should be disregarded". It's not a neutral connotation, so it does not satisify NPOV. FuelWagon 16:23, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Even if your definition is accurate and/or the only one, which I dispute, that doesn't mean there aren't neutrality or usage concerns. Your dichotomy between descriptive and prescriptive seems designed to misdirect away from the fact that "conspiracy theory" has illegitimately discredited things, how do you explain that? Given just the facts that there exists definition confusion and there exists a neutrality concern controvery over "conspiracy theory" whatever it is you are trying to say should be re-written using alternative phraseology. zen master T 09:11, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
The problem is that you've been saying exactly the same thing for months, with no new angles or arguments. In order to make progress, can you say (a) what your understanding of descriptive versus prescriptive content is, (b) whether you believe the term "conspiracy theory" has any descriptive content, (c) if yes, what it is, and (d) if no, why not? SlimVirgin (talk) 09:35, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
My argument is precisely that the descriptive vs prescriptive dichotomy should take a back seat to neutrality concerns. How you mean to use "conspiracy theory" ignores the reality of the illegitimately discrediting ways in which it has been used -- given that history its use should be discontinued. Though I am not necessarily against what you claim to be trying to do with "conspiracy theory", you just need to use alternative phraseology. zen master T 09:42, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
But could you answer the questions, please, instead of just repeating yourself again? SlimVirgin (talk) 09:52, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Your engineered dichotomy is tangential from the core neutrality issue. When has anyone from the POV gang answered any of my questions? Given the fact that there is even one instance of "conspiracy theory" discrediting something illegitimately it should be excluded from use in an encyclopedia, the phrase is just too dangerous. You appear to be claiming you need "conspiracy theory" to deprogram people, but you fail to realize your deprogramming tool has been used to program people. It's time to throw away the old, tainted deprogramming tool, and be much more careful while inventing the next generation of deprogramming tool. zen master T 17:17, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Actually I've posted this so often, once more won't hurt. This is one of the definitions we've relied on:

The term "conspiracy theory" is used as a description of a particular type of narrative. A conspiracy theory explains a set of circumstances with reference to a secret plot, usually by powerful conspirators. One of the distinguishing features of a conspiracy theory is that it tends not to be falsifiable in the minds of believers. For example, if the claim is made that 4,000 Israelis were warned not to go to work in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and if it's later established that only 10 Israelis were, in fact, ever employed there, the conspiracy theory evolves to include the claim that the Mossad and the United States government have conspired to alter the records, and that the names of 3,990 Israeli employees have been made to disappear. That is, the conspiracy theory represents a closed system and is not amenable to the standard rules of evidence.

This evolutionary growth in the face of evidence disproving the theory is one of the characteristics that distinguishes a conspiracy theory from a matter of simple controversy, an unresolved issue, or an alternative theory. A conspiracy theory is a matter of ideology. The difference between an alternative theory and a conspiracy theory is epistemological. SlimVirgin (talk) 07:32, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Answer me this: why is the first thing that is noted about a certain theory the fact that a conspiracy is alleged? Should non conspiracy theories be titled with "not a conspiracy theory"? zen master T 06:58, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Please try to forget the word "conspiracy." The term "conspiracy theory" is the one with a particular definition and ideological slant. If a term is clearly a conspiracy theory i.e if it more or less fits the definition above, there's no reason not to label it upfront. It's a question of calling a spade a spade, and trying not to call other things spades by mistakes, as I've tried to explain to you over many months in several posts and e-mails. There is a descriptive element to this. If your point is that there are thousands of editors and they might not all understand this, then by all means post the definition above (assuming everyone agrees with it) to the page. But what you're trying to say is that, because you don't understand the definition, there isn't one. Journalists deal with conspiracy theories regularly; investigative journalists deal with them constantly. They learn how to spot them and how to deal with them. They also learn who tends to spread them i.e what types of groups and people (and often the names, as the same names tend to crop up), and they learn to spot the earliest signs of them. You're trying to deny the existence of a well-recognized phenomenon. SlimVirgin (talk) 07:32, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
There is too much danger that the phrase could be used to misdirect away from the truth. I see your point of view but any where the phrase might be used in an article it would be better to use different words to explain the same concept, why do you require using the specific phrase "conspiracy theory"? You are also ignoring the point that titles and encyclopedia articles have to explicitly note who is claiming or counter claiming something, "conspiracy theory" in a title does not allow for this. Do you consider it likely that more than a handful of so called "conspiracy theories" are true? Isn't it better on multiple levels to instead of "conspiracy theory" say something to the effect of "there is scientific consensus X is false" or "critics of the theory X argue it a self rationalizing belief with no basis in fact"? Why resort to one specific, confusing phrase that makes discrediting even the truth so easy? Even if something is false why discourage an analysis of all the facts that prove it is false? If someone is coming to an encyclopedia for info about a theory they are already outside the self rationalizing loop, logic should replace the self rationalizing loop instead of a different loop. zen master T 08:20, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Responding to way above, the proposed paragraph is not giving both views equal weight this is presenting things using the proper scientific method which does not allow for a premature conclusion of dubiosness at a language level. Only those that wish to hide something would use/support a secret language. There is near consensus that there was a holocaust, I've met holocaust survivors and believed them. Regardless, content issues are separate from neutrality requirements of language and I won't be baited into charges of anti-Semitism. The neutrality of language used in an encyclopedia should be consistent and should be unaffected by highly controversial content (that seems like the the definition of neutrality/NPOV). You are basically saying "some stuff is so controversial we have to trick people into assuming it's not true"? That is rather short sighted and can only lead to other problems, such as people thinking it may be true merely because you are willing to resort to duplicitious language. "Conspiracy theory" is just plain wrong. zen master T 02:47, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

It is entirely true that sometimes powerful elites use the term "conspiracy theory" to dismiss legitimate grievances. It is also true that there is a vast body of literature about people and groups of people who embrace a conspiracist worldview and generate conspiracy theories in a sort of narrative projectile vomiting of claims and facts and myths.
Here are just a few examples of books that discuss "conspiracy theory" and its roots:
  • Sir Karl Popper. 1945. The Open Society & Its Enemies. London: Routledge & Sons.
  • Normon C. Cohn. [1957] 1970. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. Revised and expanded. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Richard Hofstadter. 1965. The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0674654617
  • Normon C. Cohn. [1967] 1996. Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." London: Serif.
  • Frank P. Mintz. 1985. The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 031324393X
  • Carl Sagan. 1996. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Random House. ISBN 039453512X
  • Daniel Pipes. 1997. Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes from. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0684871114
  • Daniel Pipes. 1998. The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. New York, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312176880
  • Mark Fenster. 1999. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Robert Alan Goldberg. 2001. Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 030009000
  • Michael Barkun. 2003. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: Univ. of California. ISBN 0520238052
Are all of these scholars and writers part of a vast conspiracy of secret elites to crush dissent?--Cberlet 15:02, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
This establishes a mainstream point of view about conspiracy theories. It doesn't establish a fact. In an article about a court case, you can't report the finding of the court as fact, even though they're the authority. You report the accused's point of view, the victim's point of view, the court's decision as a point of view, and so on. These scholars and writers are no different than "mainstream science", which has to be reported as a point of view on topics of pseudoscience. some crazy individual says the world if flat. Mainstream scientists say its a crock. You can't simply say "It's a crock" just because the mainstream sources say so. FuelWagon 17:33, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Neutral Point Of View

Alright, the discussion keeps going off topic. The only relevant thing here is NPOV policy. NPOV policy requires that neutral wording be used in articles.

The phrase "Conspiracy Theory" has a definition that is clearly negative, namely that the theory is "unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration."

Wikipedia cannot declare as fact that something is a conspiracy theory without violating NPOV.

NPOV requires that report the views of the people involved with the topic: "Presenting all points of view says, more or less, that p-ists believe that p, and q-ists believe that q, and that's where the debate stands at present." [3]

The immediate concern brought up after this is that this somehow requires us to give equal weight to both sides of a dispute.

NPOV policy does not require "equal weight". It says "we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject" [4].

Dealing with conspiracy theories is equivalent to dealing with pseudoscientific topics. NPOV policy on pseudoscience says "represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view" [5]

The same approach should be used for conspiracy theories. The majority view can be reported as saying the claim is a conspiracy theory, the minority view can be reported as saying their claim is valid.

Following NPOV policy, "Conspiracy theory" should be a word to avoid when making statements of undisputed fact in wikipedia articles. The rest of NPOV policy makes it clear that this should not be a problem or prevent good reporting on a topic. FuelWagon 16:44, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Sorry to add fuel to this fire, but it's clear from the edit history of Conspiracy theory that a steady stream of contributors seeks to rehabilitate the term conspiracy theory itself from the negative connotations all of us here seem to agree that it certainly carries. What's been discussed here so far is whether or not those negative connotations can be neutrally applied to a given case, say the Apollo_moon_landing_hoax_accusations, by Wikipedia. Well, fine, no-one's seriously going to worry about a Wiki article that allows a morsel of credence to the barking moonbats who believe such a theory, if that's what NPOV requires. But this doesn't help us with the Conspiracy theory article itself, which is repeatedly denuded of any definitive statements by people seeking to reclaim Conspiracy Theory as a respectable category of sociohistorical analysis. What are we to do to help that article stand up, beyond Cberlet's selfless five-fingers-in-the-dyke approach?
the negative connotations all of us here seem to agree that it certainly carries.?
I do not agree that 'conspiracy theory' in and of itself carries negative connotations. I would also dispute your characterization of the discussion so far. I do agree that like many words 'conspiracy theory' can be used in a derogatory way.
The recent edit history of Conspiracy theory seems to me to show editors trying to promote particular conspiracy theories rather than working to 'rehabilitate' the term itself, or to usefully describe the term. Perhaps I have missed your point. Are you recommending some change to Conspiracy theory? Tom harrison 18:08, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Just to clarify this point, sure, these guys may be there to promote their own pet narratives, but only by trying to defend a corner of conspiracy theory as respectable investigation. They are doing it by inserting weasel words into any clear account the article offers for the construction of conspiracy theories (See for a current example, the concluding line tagged onto the Political frustration section). To me, this is the direct equivalent of inserting intelligent design stickers inside biology textbooks. Adhib 14:49, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
I guess I am recommending a change: If we could reach some sort of agreement that the term conspiracy theory carries the same connotations for a narrative's credibility as terms such as fantasy, myth, etc, then the Conspiracy theory article could be much less equivocal about what, exactly, the term describes. Rather than always appending an ... or not, as the case may be sentence to each detail, hopelessly muddying the sense of the article, we could focus on what features a given story must exhibit to cause one to suspect it of being merely a conspiracy theory. Adhib 07:15, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

prior vote

The majority of Wikipedians agree that "conspiracy theory" should NOT be avoided. See Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory/archive2 for more details. Carbonite | Talk 16:50, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
This is a wiki, new editors can dispute old votes. FuelWagon 17:27, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Personally, I wouldn't consider a poll from four months ago to be especially old, but yes, you can dispute previous polls. The reason I linked to the poll was because policy pages should have consensus before changes are made. It's clear that a majority of editors do NOT agree that "conspiracy theory" should be avoided. If a consensus to avoid "conspiracy theory" can be reached on this page, then the policy page should be changed. Otherwise, we need to use the information that we have available, which is that 75% of editors in the poll did not want the term avoided. Carbonite | Talk 17:38, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Uhm, I just double checked, that's a vote about whether or not to keep "conspiracy theory" in the title of some articles. This is about adding "conspiracy theory" to the list of "words to avoid". One does not neccessarily require the other. The point of "words to avoid" is editors should use caution the way an editor should use caution around the word "cult". Just because an editor should use caution doesn't mean the word must be expunged from all of wikipedia. FuelWagon 19:15, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
I rewrote the lead to the Conspiracy Theory page as follows (although it gets rewritten pretty fast:
A conspiracy theory is a theory that claims an event or series of events is the result of secret manipulations by two or more individuals or an organization, rather than the result of a single perpetrator or natural occurrence.
Conspiracy theories often defy an official or dominant understanding of events. Conspiracies do exist, and some are proven in court or through investigative reporting. Sometimes the term "conspiracy theory" is used to deflect legitmate criticism of the status quo. Conspiracy theories, however, even though some come to be widely accepted, are often propounded by advocates who substitute zeal for logic.
Colloquially, a "conspiracy theory" is any non-mainstream theory about current or historical events, often with the connotation that the theory is unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration.
This addresses some of the issues raised here. I realize that the use of the term "conspiracy theory" can be used as a perjorative, and perhaps we could craft a warning that says the term should be avoided when merely used as a perjorative. But censorship of a word is not the solution when matters are so complex. We need to use the term carefully. However, when people claim that Bush was part of a conspiracy to attack the U.S. on 9/11, it is hard to avoid using the term "conspiracy theory" in the description.--Cberlet 18:59, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
This isn't censorship. This is NPOV policy. If you're saying that NPOV policy requiring neutral reporting will censor an article, then there are greater issues here. NPOV simply means that any statement in an article that is presented as fact must be undisputed. If you're working on the "bush knew about 9-11" article, then the people who support that view obviously will dispute calling their view a conspiracy theory, so you can't use that term as fact. You can quote various groups who SAY it was a conspiracy theory, but we as editors cannot use the term as neutral fact. We cannot call an organization like Scientology a cult because they would dispute the use of that term. And we cannot call someone's claim a "conspiracy theory" because the term has extremely negative connotation that would also be disputed by those making the claim labeled CS. FuelWagon 19:15, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
We can call people expressing a theory about a conspiracy conspiracy theorists; it's not the fault of the language that there is an additional pejorative overlay. If you can come up with another convenient and appropriate term to describe what are colloquially referred to as "conspiracy theories", please provide. "Alternative interpretation of reality", perhaps? --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 20:25, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
I looked at the elders of zion article, it uses the phrase "conpiracy theory" just fine. It follows NPOV policy by reporting claims of "conspiracy theory" from the point of view of someone involved. This isn't saying you can't use "conspiracty theory" in an article, this is saying it has negative enough connotations that you need to report it from someone's point of view, not as a fact. That's all. I didn't read through the whole elders of zion article, but it uses the phrase, and it's fine as far as NPOV policy goes. This isn't censorship. FuelWagon 05:04, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
You calling them "conspiracy theories" is your own original research POV. Perhaps the article should say "critics of theory X, such as wikipedia user Jpgordon, argue it is a conspiracy theory", I'd actually be ok with that. If an allegation or theory is cited (and otherwise acceptable wikipedia content) then it deserves to be described fairly inside an allegedly neutral encyclopedia. zen master T 20:34, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Is "conspiracy" neutral?

I am aware of Slim et al's claimed argument that "conspiracy theory" has benign uses but given that illegitimately uses also exist the word is not neutral. I have also considered the possibility Slim's dichotomy is an highly advanced way of beffuddling the issue, especially since she and others never acknowledge that the phrase is not neutral. Given that the phrase isn't neutral it should not be used, especially considering there are other and better ways of phrasing what you claim to be trying to do. zen master T 22:35, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

  • So what do you call a theory about a conspiracy? "Something people would refer to as a conspiracy theory except for the fact that subscribers to the theory of the conspiracy don't want the two words used together"? I'm somewhat inclined to go along with your point of view, but I would like to find some language that you don't find objectionable to describe the people subscribing to the theories about conspiracies. Regardless, I'd find acceptable language such as "be careful when using the terms conspiracy or conspiracy theory in the context of non-mainstream or 'fringe' analyses of historical and contemporary events; the terms carry a pejorative burden that can give a POV tilt when inappropriately used." --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 22:48, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
Just because a term can be used wrongly doesn't mean it can never be used correctly. The term "convicted rapist" is pejorative, and is capable of being misapplied (as are all words), but sometimes it's just an accurate description. I apologize if I'm continuing to befuddle the issue in my highly advanced way. SlimVirgin (talk) 22:50, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

The specific details of the theory should be presented, rather than the minor point that a conspiracy is alleged. Things (mis) labeled as "conspiracy theories" are so much else too. One person's scientific theories is another person's "conspiracy theory", you aren't allowed to paraphrase, using your POV, a description of someone else's theory. Also note there is a way too high danger that "conspiracy theory" could be used to illegitimately discredit things for propaganda purposes. Even acknowledging the "conspiracy theory" genre (when describing a specific cited allegation) is wrong (not neutral). zen master T 01:52, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Did you ever read the definition I left above of "conspiracy theory"? One crucial characteristic is that they appear not to be falsifiable. It is a central feature, something that should be present (in some form) before labeling something a conspiracy theory. The difficulty is bad labeling here, not the label itself. I have to say, Zen-master, you appear not to have read anything about this. You just keep making the same points, which have been addressed time and again. I don't just mean reading here. I mean reading about the genre. You don't seem at all knowledgeable about it. SlimVirgin (talk) 02:19, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Okay, let me ask this: is there anything in the world that you would call a conspiracy theory? If so, why? SlimVirgin (talk) 02:21, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
I did read your definition and it's not applicable for determining neutrality and ignores the danger of truth obfuscation. Did you read my responses, why "conspiracy theory" specifically? I don't see how it could be neutral to allow any direct or uncaveatted use of "conspiracy theory", I am open to determining "conspiracy theories"'s use on a case by case basis in the future but all current titles that use it on wikipedia are wrong (even if the underlying theories are dubious or in need of prescription). Neutrality and truth burying ease concerns trump your claimed deprogramming motivation. zen master T 02:31, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Since there are both "liberal" and "conservative" conspiracy theories, I think that conspiracy theories are balanced for the most part. It's when you get into individual theories that it becomes biased.Davidizer13 16:33, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Two NPOV violations don't magically make a neutrality. If someone has a cited/in good faith theory or allegation it would be unfair to use someone else's words to present or describe it. zen master T 16:55, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Please show good faith and stop writing text on policy page

Note to zen master and FuelWagon: to continue to unilaterally write policy text on the main page while we are having a lengthy and serious discussion on this page with no clear agreement is not a sign of good faith. Please stop it, or there is no reason to continue to have a serious discussion here.--Cberlet 22:52, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

To continue to have you and your POV gang bully people and not take neutrality concerns seriously shows a much worse type of bad faith on your part, not to mention POV gang propaganda implications. Please assume good faith that an in good faith neutrality dispute exists. zen master T 01:47, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Then let the dispute be conducted on this talk page. You're trying to pre-empt it by editing your POV into the page itself. And stop insulting people; it's getting really tiresome. SlimVirgin (talk) 02:22, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
I am really sorry, Zen-master, but I really cannot make sense of your last post. Perhaps you were typing too fast. I was under the impression that discussion on contested text should continue before text is inserted into the main page. I was also under the impression that when an obvious majority held a certain position, that was considered a rough form of consensus. Can you point me to the Wike policy pages on "POV gang propaganda" and "POV gang bully," since I cannot seem to find them. Thanks.--Cberlet 02:25, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
I was talking about the methods you and your friends, without any obvious communication amongst yourself, are employing to thwart discussion and defend the status quo. Why use admin powers to roll back without explanation? Why cite talk page discussion days after the issue started? "Conspiracy theory" has been shown to be non neutral for months now, if you want to just have tyranny by the majority then at least admit it. You do not appear to be assuming good faith when dealing with this lack of neutrality complaint. zen master T 03:18, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
So what you are doing is articulating a conspiracy theory about us, but you do not want to call it that? Why isn't that deceptive?--Cberlet 03:35, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Try to avoid the word "conspiracy," Chip. It's a Wikipedia talk page cabal complicity theory. SlimVirgin (talk) 03:38, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
It hasn't been shown to be non-neutral for months. You lost the poll. And read what you've written because you're right: there is no communication about this issue (that I'm aware of) between the people opposing you, except what you see here. What you're seeing is majority agreement, which has gone against you, and so now you have to explain it away with reference to the very type of conspiracy theories we're discussing. Yet I think you miss the irony of it. SlimVirgin (talk) 03:37, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
A majority vote does not magically make something neutral, though a majority can choose to ignore or misdirect away from neutrality concerns however. Wikipedia works off of consensus which means you should assume good faith for my and others' lack of presentation neutrality complaint. zen master T 03:43, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Slim, why do you need "conspiracy theory" specifically?

(copied from SlimVirgin's talk page) Slim, I read your claimed rationale in favor of "conspiracy theory" but it seems like you can accomplish the same goal while also avoiding non neutral language. Can you please respond specifically to why you need exactly "conspiracy theory"? You haven't ever commented on the danger of "conspiracy theory" making it too easy to bury the truth. I still consider it ridiculous that you brought up the conspiracy "genre" while we were trying to determine the neutrality and appropriateness of words and phrases in a presentation context. If a specific allegation is cited and otherwise acceptable content then a "genre" is not applicable in determining the neutrality of presentation, in fact, the mere mention of that genre is pretty much proof the phrase is not neutral. zen master T 02:20, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Because it would be like writing about a novel, but not being allowed to say it's a novel. "Conspiracy theory" is a distinctive narrative genre. This is the point you keep failing to address, I assume because you're unfamiliar with it, and so you just keep ignoring it. Please address that issue, so we can make progress. SlimVirgin (talk) 02:26, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
The core issues are the neutrality of language and presentation, not the likely highly valued propaganda genre. The title of this sub section was: "Why do you need 'conspiracy theory' exactly?" so your misdirection is increasingly obvious, I added "Slim" to the sub section title to make it even more clear for you. zen master T 02:35, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
What are you talking about? My misdirection, whatever that is, may be obvious to you, but not to me. Do you care to enlighten me? Also, please answer my earlier question: is there anything in the world you would regard as a conspiracy theory, and if so, why? SlimVirgin (talk) 02:48, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Even if I wanted to deprogram someone or describe a definitely untrue theory I would not use "conspiracy theory", it's too dangerous and inappropriately conclusive (the conclusion/assumption is errantly formed by language instead of by facts). And how do you go from you personally regarding something as a conspiracy theory to it being appropriate in a title? If you want me to just state for the record a conspiracy theory that I don't believe is true I will say I don't think Bush himself had foreknowledge of or was complicit in 9/11. It's your turn now to answer why you need "conspiracy theory" specifically to accomplish your claimed goal? zen master T 03:10, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
So you do believe that the Bush foreknowledge claim is a conspiracy theory. Now can you say why? It can't just be because it's not true, because lots of things aren't true but aren't conspiracy theories. What are the essential qualities of that story, in your view, that makes your description of it as a conspiracy theory an accurate one?
As for why I need it to "accomplish [my] claimed goal, I don't know what my claimed goal is, so perhaps if you could tell me that, I could answer your question. SlimVirgin (talk) 05:10, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Sigh. Your claimed goal with "conspiracy theory" is basically to deprogram people that have fallen into believing a false self rationalizing theory, the problem is you can do that without using the exact phrase "conspiracy theory". Please acknowledge the danger that "conspiracy theory" can be used to hide the truth. Given that you do not acknowledge the danger and that your dichotomy between prescriptive and descriptive knowledge seems engineered to befuddle the issue I conclude that you want to keep "conspiracy theory" as a propaganda device for at least a little while longer. Whether I believe that the specific Bush foreknowledge claim is a "conspiracy theory" or not I would never support describing it with that non neutral phrase inside an encyclopedia article. zen master T 05:25, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
This is ZenMaster to Slim: "I conclude that you want to keep 'conspiracy theory' as a propaganda device for at least a little while longer;" "your misdirection is increasingly obvious;" "the methods you and your friends, without any obvious communication amongst yourself, are employing to thwart discussion and defend the status quo."
Thus demonstrating that ZenMaster has a conspiracist worldview in which all of us who disagree with him are easily constructed as a cabal secretly plotting against him. Therefore, in this dualistic scenario, we are evil conspirators while ZenMaster, FuelWagon, and their allies are good--a construction that allows them to relentlessly disregard all votes, all discussion, all community sentiment, all rules of Wikipedia--because they are on a righteous crusade for truth. There is no compromise with evil. Thus there is no point in this discussion, other than to wear down all of us who disgree with ZenMaster, FuelWagon, and their allies to the point where we give up in frustration. Then, as righteous POV warriors for truth, they get to rewrite dozens of pages to reflect their marginal ideas against the will of the democratic polity on Wiki, and the majority view in academia and journalism. I think it is realistic to assume there will be no consensus here, and that when there is no consensus, the text under discussion is kept, which means no entry on the main page is appropriate. That's a shame, since with a little compromise on the part of ZenMaster and FuelWagon, I think we might have crafted a paragraph that was useful. But with a scorched earth all-or-nothing approach--the outcome is often nothing. Reap what your sow.--Cberlet 16:40, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Since when did striving for language and presentation neutrality become a "conspiracist world view"? Slim is the one that is arguing against a dubious phrase by brining up the very same dubious genre associated with that phrase, it's wrong from the beginning. A very dubious and non neutral genre is being brought up to defend a phrase against charges of lack of neutrality, that doesn't make sense. Association with the "conspiracy" genre is exactly how the phrase "conspiracy theory" may illegitimately discredit a subject, the cart should not go before the horse. Will any pro "conspiracy theory" folks please acknowledge at least the potential that "conspiracy theory" can be used to illegitimately discredit a subject? zen master T 17:43, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

I think that clearly conspiracy theories do exist and can be identified in many cases; That there are difficult edge cases does not invalidate the category. I think things that are clearly conspiracy theories should be called such. It may happen that something is inaccurately characterized as a conspiracy theory; But rather than a blanket recommendation to avoid the word I would prefer to see disagreements worked out in the normal course of editing. I would not support including the words 'conspiracy' or 'conspiracy theory' in the list of words to be avoided.

I doubt that I can contribute usefully to this discussion, so pardon me if I do not respond. If there is a vote, someone please let me know on my user talk page.--Tom harrison 18:44, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

"conspiracy theories" exist only to improperly debunk something and the danger of hiding the truth is way too high. A scientist arguing in favor of their theory certainly wouldn't use the term, what gives you the right to rewrite or recharacterize another person's cited claims? In a debate side A makes their case, and side B responds, a fair summary of the debate would not allow for side A's argument and position to be characterized using side B's POV. If someone has a problem with the dubiousness of a theory they should focus on discrediting the citations, logic and facts surrounding that theory, not misusing language and violating neutrality. Even if a theory is highly dubious you still should not resort to non neutral language (what value is a neutrality policy if there are exceptions?). If just one person disputes a theory's status as a "conspiracy theory" then wikipedia can not state it as an absolute. Wikipedia presents Flat Earth neutrally, it does not make sense, given what proponents of "conspiracy theory" claim, why there is so much resistance to applying that same core standard to politically controversial articles as well. Not to mention there are a host of other words and phrases already in use on wikipedia that state something is non mainstream or dubious without using confusing language, why do you have to use exactly the phrase "conspiracy theory" to convey dubiousness? (being literally true doesn't mean the phrase is neutral). zen master T 19:12, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
  • Please provide a useful replacement for "conspiracy theory" for dubious and/or fringe theories about conspiracies. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 19:27, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
There should not be any distinction between fringe theories that allege a conspiracy and fringe theories that don't. What is the encyclopedic requirement for that distinction? Are all theories that allege a conspiracy automatically dubious in your view? In my view, all theories and allegations should be judged by the quality of their facts, citations and the people alleging them (perhaps). Non title worthy possibilities include: "non mainstream theory", or "this new theory X has not yet gained much acceptance amongst the scientific community", or "critics of theory X say it is a self rationalizing rumor with no basis in logic or fact". As far as titles go they have to be neutral and should not conclude anything about a subject, any debunking or statements that conclude it's not true or imply it's dubiousness must be made inside the article in sentence form, just like what Flat Earth does. If wikipedia followed a consistent neutrality policy the improperly conclusive title Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda would be disallowed as well. If an allegation or theory does not have much acceptance perhaps it should be titled generically or specifically to avoid being improperly conclusive in either direction, such as "alternative Y theories" or "scientist X's theories about Y". Perhaps a caveat in the title is ok such as "AIDS biowarfare theories"? zen master T 19:55, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
If it's a theory about a conspiracy, it's a conspiracy theory. Things that aren't theories about conspiracies aren't conspiracy theories. Y'know, you've been having this conversation for months now, and I just happened to look in ("Words to avoid" is something I pay attention to, though it wasn't on my watchlist until recently). It's hard to tell if you're right or you're wrong because of your tendency to invoke theories of conspiracies regarding the people who disagree with you on this topic. I think I'm actually more on your side than not on this, but you're not making it easy. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 20:09, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Being literally true does not mean the phrase "conspiracy theory" is also neutral or fair. Whether a theory alleges a conspiracy or not is an irrelevant fact as far as presentation neutrality and descriptive fairness are concerned. Why is the fact that a conspiracy is alleged the most noteworthy thing about a theory, shouldn't the specific details of the theory and its citations and any facts be more noteworthy? Counter allegations shouldn't go in titles, but I agree there is the danger of premature conclusiveness in both directions. If the people alleging a theory don't call it a "conspiracy theory" by what wikipedia policy are you allowed to recharacterize it? Allegation is likely better than theory separately. Why are fringe theories that do not allege conspiracies allowed to have titles that do not imply dubiosness (assuming the theories have equivalent fringe status)? zen master T 21:31, 18 September 2005 (UTC)


I removed a passage that's strangely written and looks wrong:

Text like "A asserts Y. However, according to B, Z." implies that the latter assertion is truer or better than the former one. Avoid this construction in favor of simply stating: "A asserts Y. Others, including B, believe Z.", although even the simple order of presentation raises concerns about neutrality.

It isn't true that the use of "however" suggests that what follows it is correct or better. It depends on context; "however" just means "on the other hand" or "whereas." SlimVirgin (talk) 05:03, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

I was told that I need to get consensus to add a word to the page. Shouldn't you get consensus to remove a word from the page? Or does policy and consensus not apply to you, SlimVirgin?
This wouldn't have anythign to do with the fact that I quoted this very piece to you a day or so ago here [6], saying your use of "however" is POV just like this article says. How convenient that a day or so later, you are deleting that very entry. FuelWagon 05:09, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Yes, you drew my attention to it, and it sounds like nonsense, so I came here to look at it. Also, I didn't use however in the sentence you were deleting, as I recall. The problem with your writing, FW, is that it rarely makes things clearer. SlimVirgin (talk) 10:10, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
On the bright side, however, it gave you another entry for the attack page you've compiled on me, [7] which I'm sorry to say makes for dull reading. I may have to launch a few personal attacks on you to spice things up. SlimVirgin (talk) 10:17, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Response to Fuel Wagon

Replying to this

I agree with FuelWagon here, "conspiracy theory" violates basic NPOV policy. FW, you mean to say above that the majority's view can be reported as saying that the others' claim is a conspiracy theory? (no one would self label their theory a conspiracy theory, minority or not...). Though, if the majority was really trying to fairly disprove or logically debunk a theory would they really resort to the word "conspiracy theory"? And doesn't NPOV policy state alternative word choices should be considered when there are neutrality concerns over certain words and phrases? Why does the majority have to use the exact phrase "conspiracy theory" specifically, if the counter claim of "conspiracy theory" is cited then that is ok, but why not "unfounded" or "non mainstream" or "false" or "self rationalizing theory with no basis in fact"? zen master T 21:40, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
Um - ZenMaster...didn't FuelWagon just ask you to not respond in this section?--Cberlet 03:16, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
So? He thought I disagreed with him but I do not, though I do question his, Slim's and most everyone's rationale. And actually, he didn't ask me specifically not to post there, he seeems to be portraying my posts elsewhere as tangential or he will ignore them or he just wanted to start a new section or maybe I have been offending the propaganda gods or some such. Cberlet, isn't moving someone else's talk page comments super taboo? Please don't do that. Anyway, I look forward to any movement towards increased presentation neutrality, as well as looking forward to reading the debate on the issue in FuelWagon's new NPOV section at the very bottom... zen master T 05:44, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
Ummm--ZenMaster--I did not move your comments, FuelWagon did.[8] You might have checked that before charging me with a WikiCrime, but then that would have required actual research... --Cberlet 13:45, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
Ok, sorry. Though you seemed to construe an even stronger form of talk page censorship than what fuel stated/asked for but I digress. Anyway, I like how everyone is downplaying the implications and usefulness of "conspiracy theory" but I am enjoying the NPOV debate below so far. When are slim, jay, willmcw, and others going to comment in the section below, they have historically been highly interested in this issue...? zen master T 15:25, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

NPOV and conspiracy theory

OK, so I'm going to let Zen Master carry on whatever arguments he wishes in his own sections. I'm going to start my own section in an attempt to keep this strictly on the topic of npov policy. And I'm going to ask Zen Master to make any arguments or counter arguments in a new, different section. The above threads seem to show a tendency to go dozens of levels deep and do not appear anywhere closer to resolving the dispute.

NPOV policy requires that neutral wording be used in articles.

The phrase "Conspiracy Theory" has a definition that is clearly negative, namely that the theory is "unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration."

Wikipedia cannot declare as fact that something is a conspiracy theory without violating NPOV.

NPOV requires that report the views of the people involved with the topic: "Presenting all points of view says, more or less, that p-ists believe that p, and q-ists believe that q, and that's where the debate stands at present." [9]

The immediate concern brought up after this is that this somehow requires us to give equal weight to both sides of a dispute. NPOV policy does not require "equal weight". It says "we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject" [10].

Dealing with conspiracy theories is equivalent to dealing with pseudoscientific topics. NPOV policy on pseudoscience says "represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view" [11] The same approach should be used for conspiracy theories. The majority view can be reported as saying the claim is a conspiracy theory, the minority view can be reported as saying their claim is valid.

Following NPOV policy, "Conspiracy theory" should be a word to avoid when making statements of undisputed fact in wikipedia articles. The rest of NPOV policy makes it clear that this should not be a problem, and makes it clear that it would not prevent good reporting on a topic. The "Elders of Zion" article is a good example of an article that uses the phrase "conspiracy theory" well within the spirit of NPOV policy. FuelWagon 20:57, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Hmm. I guess my question is, is the colloquial use (as defined in Conspiracy theory) so dominant? (I just read the intro to that article; I bet that first sentence is the result of a lot of intense discussion, because it's really bad.) Can one no longer use the term "conspiracy theory" in a scholarly context because of the pejorative connotations? I think it's sufficiently useful a phrase that it should be used cautiously. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 06:11, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
Gee, thanks. I'm the one who keeps re-writing the lead on the Conspiracy theory page to try to stop revert wars. Feel free to try to write a better lead that isn't a magnet for battles. Fenster, and several other reputable scholars actually spend considerable time talking about the perjorative use of the term as a way to support the status quo, so that angle cannot be dismissed, even though some supporters of this notion are fanatics. I think FuelWagon is trying to find some way to deal with this is a policy statement, which might be useful if carefully crafted.--Cberlet 12:43, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
  • No offense intended, of course; but that sentence really just seems to replace the word "conspiracy" with everything after the 15th word in the sentence. I.e., a sentence designed by committee. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 17:59, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
I enter this discussion with foreboding, because I think there have been, along the way, some serious distractions from the core issues. But I do want to say, as the author of a book at least tangentially about a topic of relevance here (THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO URBAN LEGENDS), that the colloquial use of the term is in fact so dominant, and so clearly pejorative, that as a practical matter it overshadows everything else on the landscape. Whether intentionally or not, the phrase sends the message "What follows is the opinion of fools and lunatics." We do ourselves a disservice by pretending that message does not exist or is not being sent, and thus we should not state as a fact that X is a conspiracy theory. (It is perfectly acceptable, of course, to gain consensus for a passage in an article that X is held to be a conspiracy theory by groups A, B, and C, and even to point out that A, B, and C are sources who represent the majority or mainstream view.)
When Hollywood uses this term as a title for a thriller about a mentally ill person who happens, through an extraordinary coincidence, to stumble on one truth among his hundreds of delusional obsessions, we should think twice before using it casually to describe facts in an encyclopedia. That kind of multi-million dollar investment on the part of the studio is a pretty clear indication of the way that the term has in fact settled itself in common parlance. So yes, I would say that the scholarly context has been pretty much overruled now. A language is a river, and terms do change in meaning, emphasis, and import over time, as this one has.
I believe User:FuelWagon has hit the nail on the head here -- and also that discussion of POV gangs and cabals and suchlike are unhelpful to this discussion.BrandonYusufToropov 13:06, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

I just wanted to chime in here. It's true that there are cases where the phrase "conspiracy theory" is inappropriate. But let's address the 800 pound gorilla in the room: The use of the phrase in 9/11 conspiracy theories is appropriate. It's disappointing that people are changing this page with the intention of steering policy towards rewriting 9/11 conspiracy theories (and similar articles) in a more sympathetic tone. There are cases where the phrase is correctly used, so we should not warn people against using it. We certainly shouldn't do so with specific articles in mind. Rhobite 16:45, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

Exactly. Jayjg (talk) 18:19, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
"in a more sympathetic tone", uhm, how can it be a more sympathetic tone if it follows NPOV policy and reports the views being held by those who say them? You can say the mainsream sources (insert list) view the claim that the WTC was actually laden with explosive planted by the US government as a "conspiracy theory". This is the same as saying mainstream science views claims of perpetual motion machines to be "quackery" (assuming some notable scientist used that word). FuelWagon 18:41, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
The theories listed on that page are conspiracy theories because they accuse governments of secretly conspiring to carry out the 9/11 attacks. This is a conspiracy theory by definition. I think discussion of that article should take place on Talk:9/11 conspiracy theories (it has been discussed at length there already). I just wanted to point out that in my opinion, this is the ulterior motive for adding "conspiracy theory" to the list of words to avoid. Rhobite 20:25, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
Sure, and there are plenty of organizations that some editor could argue that said organization fits the definition of the word "cult". That does not mean we can use the word "cult" in articles as a neutral term. The definition isn't the only concern here. The negative bias associated with the word "cult" is enough cause to avoid calling a cult a cult. wikipedia must instead report that someone else called the organization a cult. The same thing applies to conpiracy theory. FuelWagon 20:56, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
The issue is that it is much harder to define a "cult" than it is a "conspiracy theory". Jayjg (talk) 21:00, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
No, the issue is that "cult" and "conspiracy theory" are perjorative. FuelWagon 21:40, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
Almost any word can be used in a pejorative way; the question is, is there a non-pejorative and meaningful meaning as well? Or, failing that, is there a term which is non-pejorative and has they same meaning. In this case, the answers are yes to the first, and no to the second. Jayjg (talk) 21:55, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
"Almost any word can be used in a pejorative way" Uh, sure. Right. What language are we refering to? Since your premise is so obviously false, I'll just ignore the rest. FuelWagon 23:38, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
"Sure" "it" "is". May as well continue reading; tone and context can make any word pejorative. The question is whether one has to make an effort to detect the sneer. I'm trying to figure out why this issue is so contentious; "conspiracy theory" is undeniably a loaded term; the only issue is just how loaded it is or isn't. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 17:33, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Leave aside the 9/11 article issue. (I haven't been editing there for months, anyway. I personally don't care where it goes.) What, specifically, is the downside to, instead of saying definitively that something "is" a conspiracy theory -- saying that X group **holds it to be** a conspiracy theory? Why, if I may ask for specifics, is that a negative? BrandonYusufToropov 15:34, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

example of when not to use conspiracy theory

Here is an example of when not to use the word "conspiracy theory". In the Terri Schiavo artile, there is a section that reports on Carla Iyer's affidavit. Iyer says a number of things about Michael wanting Terri dead, about the hospital staff helping him, about the police ignoring her complaint. She says that they were all working together, the police did nothing, and her boss fired her. One could argue that her affidavit would qualify as a conspiracy theory. But none of the major people involved in the case use those specific words. The article instead reports:

(Judge) Greer wrote that they (Iyer's claims) were "incredible to say the least" and that "Ms. Iyer details what amounts to a 15-month cover-up".

An editor should not introduce the term "conspiracy theory" to describe Iyer's affidavit except if it were to report some source's point of view of the affidavit. Calling her affidavit a conspiracy theory would certainly be disputed. Reporting what Judge Greer said is indisputable. FuelWagon 17:35, 20 September 2005 (UTC)


The above discussion about "conspiracy theory" has gone on at enormous length and, as far as I can tell, has generated more heat than light. I would sure appreciate if each side would attempt a reasonably short (less than 250 word) summary of what they are saying. Even though this is a talk page, I suggest editing the explanations "main page" style—that is, we are trying to hash out a joint statement, not one person's inviolate comment—but that people only make substantive edits to the side toward which which they are sympathetic. I'm going to write two headings and a topic sentence each to get this started, but people should feel free to reword even the headings. (And if there really is a third position, feel free to "split" that out, too.) -- Jmabel | Talk 05:53, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

For allowing the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia articles

The phrase "conspiracy theory" should be allowed in Wikipedia articles because there is no better way to characterize the claim that significant events were caused by a small number of powerful actors colluding in secret behind the scenes.

Against allowing the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia articles

The phrase "conspiracy theory" should never be allowed in Wikipedia articles because it is inherently pejorative and no view should be dismissed out of hand.

I don't think anyone was saying "never" user the phrase conspiracy theory. If so, I missed it. FuelWagon 15:38, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Alternate text proposal 1

The phrase "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia articles should be used with caution. When describing a particular claim, the term should be cited to a reputable published source. It should be avoided when used merely as a perjorative description of a claim. In titles it should be used only when the page text describes specific claims of a conspiracy in which it is asserted that significant events were caused by powerful actors colluding in secret behind the scenes. --Cberlet 15:32, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

I'd agree with this. And it probably gets under the word limit as well. longer explanation below. FuelWagon 12:10, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
This sentence is worded verbosely and contradicts the previous two sentences: "Its use in titles should be used only when the page text describes specific claims of a conspiracy in which it is asserted that significant events were caused by powerful actors colluding in secret behind the scenes". How does that jive with the requirement that use of the term is cited from a reputable published source? Descriptive use of "conspiracy" is really side B unfairly characterizing side A's allegation in a summary of a debate which shouldn't be allowed for multiple reasons. I like Cberlet's first three sentences otherwise. zen master T 15:40, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Conspiracy theory should be avoided in statements of fact

NPOV policy requires that neutral wording be used in articles. The phrase "Conspiracy Theory" connotes that the theory is "unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration." Wikipedia cannot declare as fact that something is a conspiracy theory without violating NPOV.

Some editors argue that if a claim fits the definition of a conspiracy theory, then wikipedia should be able to report it as a conspiracy theory. Similarly, an editor could argue that some organization fits the definition of "cult", and therefore wikipedia can report an organization is a "cult". This is the editor's point of view. Given the perjorative nature of both terms (cult and conspiracy theory), it can be assumed that an organization would dispute being called a cult and someone would dispute their idea being called a conspiracy theory. Therefore an editor must limit use of these words to reporting someone else's point of view. "Psychologists overwhelmingly call XXX a cult" or "the FBI dismisses ZZZ as wild conspiracy theories."

This follows NPOV policy, which requires reporting the views of the people involved with the topic: "Presenting all points of view says, more or less, that p-ists believe that p, and q-ists believe that q, and that's where the debate stands at present." [12]

The immediate concern brought up after this is that this somehow requires us to give equal weight to both sides of a dispute. NPOV policy does not require "equal weight". It says "we should present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject" [13].

Following NPOV policy, "Conspiracy theory" should be a word to avoid when making statements of undisputed fact in wikipedia articles. The rest of NPOV policy makes it clear that this should not be a problem, and makes it clear that it would not prevent good reporting on a topic. Mainstream points of view can be reported as saying some claim is a conspiracy theory. The The Protocols of the Elders of Zion article is a good example of an article that uses the phrase "conspiracy theory" well within the spirit of NPOV policy. FuelWagon 15:36, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

That leads inevitably to constructions like: "The author John Q. Nutbag postulates that the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the U.S. Postal Service have been secretly shaping the course of world events for the past 40 years. Some consider this a conspiracy theory." Of course it's a conspiracy theory! There's no "some consider" about it. It's a theory about the existence of a conspiracy--what the hell else could it be called?
Negative connotations or not, "conspiracy theory" is one of the most prosaic phrases imaginable--it describes what it purports to describe, and there's no better way to describe it. Let's not discard it in a misguided attempt at--well, at whatever it is that's being attempted here. --PHenry 03:23, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
PHenry, "conspiracy theory" is actually describing something in the way you intend to describe it (POV). Allowing its use in titles is akin to a debate summary allowing side B to recharacterize side A's position using the most unflattering of adjectives. Even if an allegation does literally theorize a conspiracy that doesn't mean the phrase is neutral. The NPOV policy exists for exactly these kinds of situations. If someone truly desired to factually debunk a so called "conspiracy theory" they would not themselves resort to duplicitous language. zen master T 04:38, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
I suggest reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion article. It does exactly that, except without being quite so unweildly as your version. The thing of it is that an article such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion takes the requirement to present a point of view of one side and uses it to actually report more information and make the article better. Your "some say" example is a very poor example of what NPOV would look like, especially given that "some say" is often considered a weasel phrase for unnamed sources which often is used by editors to cover up the fact that they didn't do any hard research to get good, notable, quotes for the article. FuelWagon 03:35, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
Whether we are talking about the "Protocols", the Popish Plot, or the various theories surrounding the assassination of JFK, the term "conspiracy theory" is correctly used in articles and, where applicable, in titles. Like every phrase in the english language, it should be used with care and not as a careless epithet. Like many words or phrases, it also has pejorative connotations. But we shouldn't perform linguistic somersaults in order to avoid the simplest phrase to express an enduring concept. -Willmcw 08:49, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
I'm of the same opinion as Willmcw and I'm definetly against listing "conspiracy theory" as a word to avoid.
Peter Isotalo 13:12, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
I completely agree with Willmcw as well. Jayjg (talk) 16:33, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
I suppose this is a place for a me too. Dalf | Talk 04:52, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
'Conspiracy Theory' is a useful term that should be used appropriately. Calling something a conspiracy theory that is not one is just a factual misstatement. Wikipedia deals with disagreements about facts every day through the normal editing process. I see no reason why we cannot do so in this case. If people disagree about a particular use of the term, they can resolve their disagreement through the normal editing process. I oppose listing 'Conspiracy Theory' as a word to avoid.
I think it is correct that we should only use 'Conspiracy Theory' to describe what is in fact a conspiracy theory; It is also correct that we should not use the word in a pejorative sense; But then we should not use any word in a pejorative sense, and we should always be factually accurate. 'Alternate text proposal 1' is itself innocuous; But I am concerned that singling out 'Conspiracy Theory' for a special warning could be misconstrued.Tom harrison 15:00, 22 September 2005 (UTC)
Re: "only use 'Conspiracy Theory' to describe what is in fact a conspiracy theory' -- this again ignores the manifest negative connotations the term has acquired in popular discourse. I do not believe it is possible any longer to avoid using the term in a pejorative sense.
Explanation, please, as to how come I can't, by the same reasoning, use "Cult" to describe what "is in fact a cult"? BrandonYusufToropov
Because 'Conspiracy Theory' is unambiguously defined as a matter of semantics. Cult is not. There is room to debate how to define and what criteria are used to describe a cult, where as any theory that postulates a conspiracy is by definition a conspiracy theory. Dalf | Talk 04:55, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
Being literally true that an allegation involves a conspiracy still doesn't mean the phrase is neutral, the phrase has more than one definition. In every descriptive context it is used to discredit by those that wish to discredit it (POV cart before the neutrality horse). An allegedly neutral encyclopedia should instead use fair and neutrally descriptive words to describe and present all cited allegations and theories. All debunking or discrediting should come from facts. If there is any disagreement over the lack of neutrality of descriptive words used, wikipedia policy requires us to find more neutral, more generic or more specific words. zen master T 06:20, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
The concept of a cult is much more abstract than the concept of a conspiracy theory. They are not equivalent - please don't compare them as an example. While there are many definitions of what constitutes a cult (usually a list of criteria), the definition of a "conspiracy theory" is much clearer. Rhobite 16:19, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

"Conspiracy theory" already should be avoided because of "theory"

There is an existing wikipedia policy ("theory" being a word to avoid) that already supports the avoidance of "conspiracy theory". Though, I am sure the POV gang will disagree but their inconsistencies against wikipedia policy are obvious, "conspiracy theory" apparently has some value left to someone. If "theory" already should be avoided, and "conspiracy" is less neutral that it, it's rather obvious that the even less neutral than the sum of its parts phrase "conspiracy theory" itself should be avoided too. zen master T 17:14, 22 September 2005 (UTC)

Can we address this directly?

What, specifically, is the downside to, instead of saying definitively that something "is" a conspiracy theory -- saying that X group **holds it to be** a conspiracy theory? Why, if I may ask for specifics, is that a negative? BrandonYusufToropov 14:29, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

::Uhm, because "conspiracy theory" has the connotation that the theory is crackpot, untrue, to be disbelieved, to not be taken seriously. It is not for wikipedia to make that call. FuelWagon 17:06, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

:::I think the three of us are in agreement here that "conspiracy theory" isn't neutral though there may be some confusion. FW, I interpret BYT to be asking what is wrong with stating exactly who is counter claiming that a theory is a "conspiracy theory"? He's asking the pro "conspiracy theory" side the question. zen master T 17:40, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

FW, you can strike through your own comments if you've changed your mind, but please don't delete them, or delete zen-master's. I reverted your deletion. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:10, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, thank you for your continued presence here. Obviously it would have been a heinous crime to delete my own comment or Zen master's reply to it, especially when it turned out that zen and I were in agreement that my original comment was mistaken. Oh, it is so important to keep that around though, and I rest easy at night knowing that editors such as yourself are on guard for the abuses that would surely occur if an editor were allowed to delete his own post on a talk page. FuelWagon 15:14, 24 September 2005 (UTC)

Is someone going to answer BYT's question? Why are some folks against requiring that a counter claim have a cited source? zen master T 21:45, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

Can we address this directly? Still unanswered

What, specifically, is the downside to, instead of saying definitively that something "is" a conspiracy theory -- saying that X group **holds it to be** a conspiracy theory? Why, if I may ask for specifics, is that a negative? BrandonYusufToropov 14:29, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

There is no downside, Brandon. Of course those who wish to label certain claims as fact to be "conspiracy theories", rather than rely on the words of notable sources, have not yet given their opinion on the matter. FuelWagon 15:17, 24 September 2005 (UTC)

Deafening silence

Okay, I seem to have written this question poorly, so I am going to pose it again in the hope that it will generate some clear responses.

  • I am planning to add a sentence to this article suggesting that anyone who uses the term "conspiracy theory" in a WP article provide some information about which group or person holds the theory in question to be a conspiracy theory.
  • If there are editors who believe this proposed edit of mine to be a bad idea, I'd appreciate some specifics here as to precisely why you think it is a bad idea.

Many thanks, BrandonYusufToropov 12:40, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Would you like to post the text you are proposing to add? Thanks,Tom harrison 15:29, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
How about this:
Conspiracy theory. The term conspiracy theory is now used in many ways, some of which are pejorative. If you choose to describe a theory or idea as a conspiracy theory, cite a group or individual who has proposed that the idea or theory in question fits the criteria. (See Conspiracy theory.) For example, "Critics of the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the actual assassin of John F. Kennedy have dismissed as a conspiracy theory the suggestion that a second gunman shot the President from the grassy knoll."
If there are editors who believe this proposed edit of mine to be a bad idea, can you please share here the specific reason why you think it is a bad idea? BrandonYusufToropov 19:52, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
The text does not address the issue of using the term in article titles, which is clearly also an issue here. Dalf | Talk 20:15, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I could be wrong, but I thought the current approach was to allow editors of individual articles to make determinations about how to use the term in titles on a case-by-case basis. BrandonYusufToropov 20:20, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Terrible, terrible, terrible idea. There is no subjective component to the concept of a conspiracy theory. None. If X is (1) a theory that (2) proposes the existence of a conspiracy, then X is, QED, a conspiracy theory. To require that someone somewhere be quoted or referenced before we can say that a theory of a conspiracy is a conspiracy theory is as ridiculous as requiring us to say that "Two plus two is, according to Elvis Presley, four." Whether the phrase has a negative connotation--and I am not conceding that it does--is a separate matter entirely that has no bearing on the denotative meaning of the phrase. --PHenry 03:10, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
PHenry, you are the one that is pointing out that someone else's theory alleges a conspiracy for the purpose of discrediting it, that is POV. It's misdirecting away from neutrality concerns and away from an objective analysis of a subject if you focus on only the literal aspect of a phrase with multiple definitions. zen master T 04:11, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
"For the purpose of discrediting it"? Where have I tried to do this? Whom am I trying to discredit, and how? Seems to me all I've done here is point out that the phrase "conspiracy theory" by itself does not discredit anyone or anything. What is your basis for making this accusation against me? --PHenry 05:22, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Yes, just the act of pointing it out is POV, especially considering the phrase has more than just a literal meaning. Generally speaking, wouldn't a word or phrase that has only one unambiguous definition be preferred over a phrase that has multiple literal and discrediting (ambiguous) definitions as far as clarity is concerned? Why can't we use alternatives to "conspiracy theory" that mean the same thing? I think the mental language confusion really centers around how the mind thinks of the words "literally" and "true". You may be too exclusively focused on only the gut reaction thought that the phrase "conspiracy theory" is "literally true" so it must be true if it alleges a conspiracy, but that is only part of the picture, the phrase "conspiracy theory" can be illegitimately discrediting and non neutral in a conclusive sense even if true in a descriptive sense, do you see the distinction there? "Conspiracy theory" is ambigous (and non neutral) precisely because it is both conclusive and descriptive, we need to use words or phrases that are one or the other but not both. Using "conspiracy theory" in a title is akin to putting the POV cart before the presentation neutrality horse. Supporters of "conspiracy theory" in titles are effectively arguing the Flat Earth article should be renamed to "round earth" because the earth is literally truly round, right? But that would be obviously wrong, we have to neutrally present the fact that people theorized the earth was flat at one point in time. I am not necessarily disagreeing with your/Slim/Jay's motives, I am disagreeing with your non neutral/ambiguous method of presentation that does not adequately disassociate description from conclusion. zen master T 07:22, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

One more thing, if someone points out that a theory alleges a conspiracy so literally must be a "conspiracy theory" then they have actually committed an act of categorization, which is POV. The Flat Earth article could be categorized as a "false theory" but we don't do that in the title because it is not a title's place to categorize, only to describe. zen master T 07:38, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

"There is no subjective component" Of course there's a subjective component. From Conspiracy theory
Colloquially, a "conspiracy theory" is any non-mainstream theory about current or historical events, often with the connotation that the theory is unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration.
You don't need to "concede", the phrase has negative connotations by definition. FuelWagon 03:19, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Using Wikipedia's definition for a term to decide how Wikipedia should define the term seems rather tautological, doesn't it? Here's the definition from "A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act." Where, sir, are the "negative connotations" in this definition? Wait, here's one from Encarta: "A belief that a particular event is the result of a secret plot rather than the actions of an individual person or chance." Nope, no negative connotations there, either. Seems to me that if the phrase has negative connotations by definition, it should be a lot easier to find a definition with negative connotations in it!
A conspiracy theory is what it is: a theory about a conspiracy. Whatever connotations you choose to bring to it are your business, and you shouldn't expect the rest of us to be bound by them. --PHenry 05:22, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
whatever connotations are your business? What sort of magical thinking is this? You just declare that any negative connotations are "in my head"? It's just a coincidence that Mel Gibson's movie was about wacko's in tinfoil hats? It's just coincidence that wikipedia reflects that same negative meaning? I didn't write the wikipedia entry for "conspiracy theory". Are you saying it is incorrect? Are you saying that the negative connotations mentioned in the wikipedia article is "original research"? That editors just made it up? That the phrase doesn't have any negative connotations associated with it? Please, you might as well be telling me how wonderful and splendid the emporer's new clothes look. FuelWagon 03:32, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

"is now used in many ways"? In how many ways is it used? Also, your proposal seems to entirely do away with the simple meaning of the term, that it is a theory about a conspiracy. Jayjg (talk) 20:27, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Ah, yes, the "definition point of view". Did you not know that every word on the "words to avoid" list has a definition. And in every case, an editor could claim that their use of the word fits their definition, and therefore it is alright to use "cult" to describe scientology, for example. The only problem is that Scientologists would dispute they fit the definition. Therefore, you cannot apply the "definition point of view" argument if your definition would be disputed by their definition. If an organization claims that the US government is hiding alien bodies in Area 51, then it's a claim. If they actually describe their own claim as a "conspiracy theory", then you can call it a conspiracy theory because they do not dispute the use of the phrase to describe their claim. If they don't use the phrase, then you can't use it as undisputed fact. No, you do not get to apply your definition over theirs. If they dispute the phrase or if they do not use the phrase to describe their claim, then you can't call it a conspiracy theory as a fact. These folks might refer the Area 51 to involve a "conspiracy", and therefore you can call their claims a "conspiracy" without dispute. BUt you cannot call them a "conspiracy theory" unless they do as well. FuelWagon 02:36, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
In what way is a theory that postulates the existence of a conspiracy not a conspiracy theory? And if a theory that postulates the existence of a conspiracy is not a conspiracy theory, then what is it? --PHenry 02:29, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
if an organization fits the definiiton of cult, why not call it a cult? Because the definition is being applied by an editor rather than some outside source, and that is original research and/or POV. If the organization disputes that it is a cult, then wikipedia cannot call it a cult. If a group disputes that its claim is a "conspiracy theory" then wikipedia cannot call it a conspiracy theory. FuelWagon 02:37, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
There is ample disagreement about what the definition of a cult is, which makes it difficult to say with objective certainty whether an organization fits the definition of a cult. There is no significant disagreement about what a "conspiracy" is (two or more parties acting jointly and covertly to commit unlawful or immoral acts), and there is definitely no significant disagreement about what a "theory" is. So if there's an honest-to-God theory that proposes the existence of an honest-to-God conspiracy... what is it, if not a conspiracy theory? --PHenry 02:51, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
That would work except for the fact that "Conspiracy Theory" is a perjorative of the likes of Mel Gibson's movie, guys wearing tinfoil hats, etc. i.e. a conspiracy theory is not meant to be taken seriously, it is untrue, it is totally false. So, the only way your argument works is if you conveniently pretend that a conspiracy theory is a perjorative. It would be sort of like arguing that someone meets the definition of the word "nigger" because they meet the definition of african american but completely ignoring the fact that the word also happens to be an insult, a perjorative. FuelWagon 03:01, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
The problem is that it can be used in a non-perjorative sense as well. Most of the "words to avoid" listed do not say "never use this word" but "use with care and here are some guidelines for how to use it. That is the case with the word Theory itself. In cases where words have cloqual as well as scientific meaning, the editor should be clear how they are using the word and they shoud be sure that they are not violating POV in doing so. As long as the use is factual I don't see why it shoud not be used. Part of the proble is that linguistically it is the best term in some cases and going to obvious pains to avoid could jsut as easilly be read as an endorsment of whatever idea is being putforward as much as using it might imply somethign else (even when strictly speaking the use is not pejorative. Dalf | Talk 04:46, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
This should fix any issues with article titles fairly easily. An article titled "Area 51 Conspiracy Theories" could be renamed "Area 51 Conspiracies" (since they are likely claiming the government is covering up a conspiracy) or "Area 51 Disputed Conspiracies" (to reflect that the claim of teh existence of a conspiracy is disputed by other points of view). But to title the article "Area 51 Conspiracy Theories" is to automatically invoke the perjorative connotation of the phrase that what you are about to read about Area 51 is completely and totally false and contains not a grain of truth to it. FuelWagon 02:36, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
FW, the word "conspiracy" by itself also has neutrality issues. Also, it is inconsistent that "theory" is less a neutrality problem but it is already listed here as a word to avoid. zen master T 04:22, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
With respect, Jay, I don't really see how enumerating the various usages serves the purpose here, which is to come up with a concise guideline. So -- I'm not really sure your question is relevant. Also, the whole point is that the "simple meaning" you identify above is no longer the primary meaning of the term as it is applied in common parlance. In fact, I'm not really sure where the text I propose suggests that the "simple meaning" you mention has been done away with. BrandonYusufToropov 20:35, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Brandon, I have a concern about being required to say who calls it a conspiracy theory. For example, of the theory that Israelis and/or Jews were warned to stay away from the World Trade Center on 9/11, what would we say? This is believed to be a conspiracy theory by — supporters of Israel, supporters of the U.S., all right-thinking people? The term "conspiracy theory" does have a meaning; it is a descriptive term. I'm not sure there's a need to say who uses it of any particular narrative that fits the definition. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:36, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Slim: It would look something like this: Columnist Robert Novak [14], among many others, dismissed claims that certain groups had advance warning of the 9/11 attacks as a conspiracy theory. BrandonYusufToropov 10:35, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
So in a system strictly requiring such refrences, a informed reader (one who knows of the strictures) might assume that RObert Novak is the only one dismissing the idea? I think the case given is a bad example for your side because I think it is totally NPOV to imply that it is generally dismissed as a conspiracy theory, followed by an arbatrattly larger or small list of refrences in the footnotes. In some cases there really *IS* a general dismissal of the idea publically. The general dismissal (what you are calling pejerative connotation) is a fact. In the case given not many people would dispute that the theory of the conspircy above is generally dismissed (even among people who think it true). Given that citing as you ahve is POV as it denys that fact that nearly everyone (porfessinal and laymen) do not believe it to be true. So this is a case where the cloqual meanning AND the strictly scientific one are both relavent. Dalf | Talk 04:59, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

So, you're saying that you wouldn't be able to find a single notable source that would say such a claim was a conspiracy theory? If you can't, then it should be considered "original research" to call something a conspiracy theory when no one outside of wikipedia editors call it such. Again, the elders of zion page somehow manages to always attribute the "conspiracy theory" label to some source, rather than as indisputeable fact. cite your sources. no original research. neutral point of view. report disputed views as views of those who claim them. this is basic wikipedia policy. It shouldn't be a problem except for editors who either don't want to do the work or who want to state as fact that some claim is really a conspiracy theory, with all the negative connotations of being untrue. FuelWagon 21:34, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Brandon, I think your guideline is based on the assumption that in common use the term is pejorative, rather than descriptive, and that there are multiple different meanings of the term, rather than a couple of rather simple, overlapping, and broadly understood definitions. Does that explain it better? Jayjg (talk) 20:52, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Jay: It explains your position better, but I don't think the explanation represents consensus on the way the article should read. BrandonYusufToropov 10:35, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
What do you see the consensus as being? Jayjg (talk) 03:32, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Jay, Slim just used an example of pejorative/discrediting usage within a wikipedia article's title above when she brought up Israel/Jews and 9/11. Even if that theory/allegation/rumor is worthy of being presented as discredited by wikipedia (I agree it is) it still should be discredited by facts, not by simply tricking people into not even thinking about the possibility. If person X proposes cited theory Y it is the duty of an encyclopedia, at a very basic level, to neutrally report what Y is. To do otherwise is unencyclopedic and a double standard. Why isn't "conspiracy theory" ever used to discredit anti-muslim allegations? After 9/11 it was perfectly reasonable to worry that the USA was going to start nuking random countries in the middle east. Given that immediate aftermath of 9/11 it was also reasonalbe to theorize who would stand to benefit from that happening, rumors are a perfectly natural outcome in such an environment. But instead of using ambiguous language to trick people into not even considering the rumors created in the post 9/11 environment of fear, we should instead calm people down (logically) and point them towards facts, to do otherwise perpetuates the post 9/11 environment of fear. Do you want people to just assume something isn't true or to know it isn't true? Are you saying that something like this sentence is so ineffective to the point that the only thing that works (sufficiently discredits) is "conspiracy theory: "there is no evidence 4,000 jews did not show up to work on 9/11"? And anyway "conspiracy theory" only seems like it would prevent new people from believing a self rationalizing theory, I can't see it working against people that have already accepted a self rationalizing theory, so even within Slim's claimed prescriptive desire the diagnosis is wrong. Are Jay/Slim et al effectively arguing that the only thing holding back rampant antisemitism is "conspiracy theory"? I don't see how that can possibly be true, and it's unencyclopedic, a misuse of language and a double standard regardless. You seem to believe that you are using language ambiguity for the altruistic/prescriptive motivation of calming down other people's fears/rumors, but instead it may only be soothing your own fears. zen master T 22:01, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

I agree that a strong phrase like "conspiracy theory" should generally be only used with attribution. It carries connotations of "tin foil hats" and paranoia; it was even the title of a (rather funny) movie with Mel Gibson under that premise. Many people who others hold to be "conspiracy theorists" reject that label for this reason, so it is inappropriate for Wikipedia to simply adopt it.

It's perfectly fine to state, factually, that something is almost universally regarded as a conspiracy theory, if that is the case. But it's rarely OK to simply call it one. Saying that the word has a specific meaning is begging the question: so does "terrorist". Both words have strong emotional connotations; furthermore, "conspiracy theory" has more than one specific meaning, and "delusional system of ideas that is not informed by evidence" is certainly one meaning that people commonly associate with it (just read any mainstream article about conspiracy theories).

I'm not sure it's right to call "conspiracy theory" a "word to avoid"; it is more "a word that should be used carefully". Is there perhaps a page with usage guidelines for specific words?--Eloquence* 07:40, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

It is a "word to be used carefully" in exactly the same sense that the word "cult" is a word to be used carefully, therefore it can be added to the "words to avoid" list. The words to avoid list doesn't say "never use the word cult", it simply means don't call a group a cult as fact, attribute it to a source. FuelWagon 22:55, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
So are we all in agreement here on the proposed change? Have Jay/Slim et al been prevented from responding to me or my points directly or something? Oh and FYI the silence isn't deafening, but it is curiosity inducing. zen master T 02:33, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Brandon, regarding your statement about "consensus", so far it seems that Willmcw, Peter Isotalo, Jayjg (talk), Dalf , Tom harrison, Rhobite, PHenry, SlimVirgin (talk), and Eloquence* oppose adding the phrase "Conspiracy theory" to this page, while zen master T, BrandonYusufToropov, and FuelWagon think it should be included. Have I got that summary correct? Jayjg (talk) 03:41, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Jay: There are people on your list who have not made any comment whatsoever on the language I have proposed, which is what I am interested in discussing. I suggest we let people speak for themselves. Here is the proposed language once again... BrandonYusufToropov 17:52, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Conspiracy theory. The term conspiracy theory is now used in many ways, some of which are pejorative. If you choose to describe a theory or idea as a conspiracy theory, cite a group or individual who has proposed that the idea or theory in question fits the criteria. (See Conspiracy theory.) For example, "Critics of the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the actual assassin of John F. Kennedy have dismissed as a conspiracy theory the suggestion that a second gunman shot the President from the grassy knoll."
I would support this text being used on some Wikipedia page, but not on this one. Your text correctly conveys that "conspiracy theory" should be used carefully, and not in a pejorative manner. However, this page is titled "Words to avoid" and should not contain words that should be used carefully. Carbonite | Talk 18:03, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I do not support including 'conspiracy theory' on the page of words to avoid. I could maybe support some usage suggestions for it, on another page. Tom harrison 18:08, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps we should reconvene this discussion over on Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory? zen master T 18:14, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
That would probably be a more appropriate forum. I don't see any way there's going to be a consensus to add "conspiracy theory" to this page. Carbonite | Talk 18:18, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Ok, I look forward to new debate over there. Though, what about the separate issue of just the word "conspiracy" by itself? zen master T 18:23, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Are people going to go over to Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory to continue the discussion or not? The silence and stringing along of this debate is of the utmost curiosity inducing. Jay/Slim et al's crew have led me right to the point where I am suppose to think that change (neutrality fixes) are going to start happening yet they've technically not changed their position (nor explained themselves nor responded to my points/questions nor apologized) and they could jump in and trump any proposed policy/title change at a moment's notice. I am really only curious to know if I was right all along about "conspiracy theory" not being neutral and you folks were testing me for whatever reason, or if you folks were (are?) truly delusional yourselves about the "prescriptive" value of "conspiracy theory", or whether you want to keep "conspiracy theory" around a while longer which is why you need to string out this whole debate thing, or whether the masses are so sheep like that "conspiracy theory" is the only thing holding back chaos? Either I am completely right about "conspiracy theory" being non neutral or I am completely wrong, the slow under the auspices of compromise "let's consider it a phrase to be careful with and not rock the boat until we discuss it even more on a different talk page" routine doesn't actually make sense. Slim just posted text data below that claims we agreed "conspiracy theory" is ok in titles, yet others have said it is a phrase we should "be careful with"? Apparently being careful doesn't extend to titles? Ahhh I just had a flash of insight (or a little birdy told me), this is all practice for when wikipedia has orders of magnitude more users and your techniques of percentages based obfuscation befuddlement might be much harder? The truth can indeed spread virally. Has some thought be given to teaching people to figure out for themselves when something is a self rationalizing theory so at some point in time there will be no need for information middlemen? zen master T 05:49, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
You've used this odd phrasing, "curiosity inducing," three times now. What are you implying? --PHenry 22:36, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
I mean suspicious and intriguing. zen master T 22:43, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps you'd care to explain clearly what your suspicions are and whom they involve, instead of just endlessly making insinuations? That's not very nice. --PHenry 23:08, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
The suspicions are basically just the question: what political "god" the relevant user account(s) may plausibly be beholden too in situations when it obviously isn't neutrality, who stands to benefit and what purpose does it serve, plus analysis of your various methods. zen master T 04:00, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

This business about conspiracy theory not belonging on this page because ...

... (arguments roughly equivalent to:) "the definition you have proposed suggests careful use of the word, rather than complete prohibition of the word in WP articles..."

Friends, this is mystifying to me. Are we also going to remove "cult" from this page because the text advocates careful, limited usage? Specific answers, please. BrandonYusufToropov 18:36, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

I think you did a pretty good job of summarizing my reasoning; I won't presume to speak for anyone else. "Conspiracy theory" is not to be avoided, but instead to be used carefully. Therefore, it is not appropriate to list it on a page titled "Words to avoid". Whether "cult" is listed on this page is a separate discussion. Carbonite | Talk 18:56, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Okay, let's begin that separate discussion now. Do people want to delete cult given what we have apparently decided about conspiracy theory? BrandonYusufToropov 20:49, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I think that's the right question to ask. It seems to me that everything on this page under the header "Categories" should be better on a separate page, e.g. Wikipedia:Attribute controversial classifications.--Eloquence* 09:46, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

"usage notes"

In the discussion above, Eloquence doesn't like the idea of "Conspiracy Theory" being here because it isn't "to be avoided" and would prefer to simply have "usage notes". Well, the same is true for many words here, and some we didn't put here. Maybe we should move this page (or most of it's content) to Wikipedia:Usage notes for words or something like that. DanKeshet 21:06, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Seems like a very good idea to me. BrandonYusufToropov 21:16, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
That would probably be a more accurate title for the article rather than "Words to avoid". Perhaps we could rename the article "POV phrases and words". "Cult" is a pov term and should only be reported from someone's point of view, rather than calling some group a cult as fact. Or we could rename it "Biased phrases and words". In any event, "conspiracy theory" should only be used in an article as reported from someone's point of view. FuelWagon 03:04, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

"Conspiracy" is also a word to avoid?

I am interested in hearing what people think about adding just the word "conspiracy" to the words to avoid page? The word seems fraught with non neutral danger to me. zen master T 21:32, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

That would make it kind of hard to talk about what Tom DeLay was just indicted for, wouldn't it? --PHenry 00:22, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
Conspiracy is a word with a clear descriptive meaning. There's only a problem with it if it's misused, but most words are problematic if misused. Please drop it, Zen-master. SlimVirgin (talk) 01:26, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
I am not saying it should be completely avoided, I support the change of this policy to "words to be careful with". However, when used in a descriptive sense the word "conspiracy" is problematic. If someone is charged with "conspiracy" in a legal context then that is definitely ok to use. But generally I don't think "conspiracy" is neutral in titles, what do others think? zen master T 04:14, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
It's been agreed that conspiracy theory is fine in titles, so by implication people seem to feel conspiracy is okay so long as it's used correctly. SlimVirgin (talk) 04:40, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
Ha, you're the funny one Slim, where did we agree above that it was "ok in titles"? Is it ok if I disagree here while you folks continue running wikipedia? zen master T 04:48, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
More to the point, it hasn't been agreed that "conspiracy theory" isn't OK for article titles. -Willmcw 20:13, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
But by what criteria are you arguing it is ok? We've established the phrase isn't neutral and no one has refuted that evidence/argument (everyone needs to disassociate disagreement from [in this case lack of] refutation). You can certainly disagree and control content all you want but you can't (successfully) argue the phrase is neutral. And now that I think about it, the only thing you can do is just ignore the issue and try to butress the status quo without arguing any details (that only digs the hole deeper), but this issue concerns neutrality which is something that an assuming good faith [or otherwise untainted] editor would take much more seriously than you folks are, in my interpretation. zen master T 21:08, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Where have we established that it isn't neutral? Is there a rule that all title must only use neutral words? Thanks, -Willmcw 21:36, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

The prime directive of wikipedia is neutrality. I mean't "we" in the sense of all users not committing acts of beffudlement/misdirection and are genuinely interested in working towards consensus. It is highly curiosity inducing that no one is willing to defend wikipedia's honor against charges of lack of neutrality to greater degrees on multiple levels. zen master T 22:13, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
So now you're presuming to speak for all editors everywhere who haven't explicitly weighed in against you? --PHenry 22:36, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
Errr, no, I am saying the "editors" who have weighed in against me do not assume good faith and they seem to be beholden to a god other than neutrality which gives them away (to paraphrase it in religious terms just for fun). zen master T 22:53, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
We use many potentially non-neutral words in titles. "Black", "yellow", "green", "Nazi", "theory", etc. Have we established that "conspiracy" is anything more than a potentially non-neutral word? Why treat it differently than "black"? Does this mean that, if we wanted to to, we couldn't have an article on "Tom Delay's conspiracy indictment"? -Willmcw 22:43, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
There is nothing "potential" about it, cited allegations from nobel prize winning scientists do not deserve to be titled in a discrediting way to begin with. On another level readers should be allowed to form conclusions after weighing facts themselves, language misuse should not be utilized in an allegedly neutral free as in freedom encyclopedia. Your example is somewhat contrived and I've already stated previously that "conspiracy" in a legal context is ok (it's usually written "criminal conspiracy"). Today I am referring to the generic "conspiracy theory" plus "conspiracy" issues and everything and the methods employed by "conspiracy theory's" defenders. The key question is why do we have to use exactly the word "conspiracy" and/or the phrase "conspiracy theory" in the controversial places they are curently being used? zen master T 22:53, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

The word conspiracy doesn't have the negative connotations that "conspiracy theory" does. I wouldn't list conspiracy as a word to avoid, other than to differentiate it from "conspiracy theory". A "conspiracy theory" is used commonly to mean the theory is false, and I would list that phrase as a word to use only as someone's point of view. A conspiracy is simply a group working in secret, or its legal usage such as conspiracy to commit murder, and doesn't bring along with it the baggage that it is false. FuelWagon 03:43, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

We are mostly in agreement here FW. While "conspiracy" is much less a problem than "conspiracy theory" it does not pass the pristine clarity/neutrality test in some situations. zen master T 18:45, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Fanatic is a word to avoid

  • A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
--Winston Churchill

Clearly, Churchill was an agent of the Fabian Society, and George Bernard Shaw was his control agent. Therefore, since this is a conspiracy theory, the word fanatic should be avoided.--Cberlet 01:12, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Well, cited quotations are ok. Descriptively, fanatic is a word we should be careful with, but not necessarily avoid. zen master T 04:37, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Deleting chunk of page was wrong - time for arbitration

OK, I have reverted the deletion of a whole chunk of the main page. A tiny handful of people refuse to abide by the consensus. But they just keep arguing until people give up. The consensus is clear, right? Wrong! They keep talking--to themselves. After talking it over among themselves about how clever they are for a day or two, they start deleting. This is why I posted the sarcastic heading about the word fanatic. I really think it is time to move to arbitration and have this endless debate over conspiracy theory terminated by having the participants who refuse to accept consensus banned for 3 months from editing articles relating to conspiracism. This has tied up multiple pages for many months. Does anyone else agree?--Cberlet 12:18, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Chip, do you think your comments above reflect Wikipedia:Assume good faith?
Also, it sounds as though you're saying there was established consensus here to retain the "Categories" section -- if there was, then I missed it. My apologies.
Finally, the use of the word "vandalism" in your edit summary seems like it might have been a little harsh. Are you really sure that you meant to say that my edit constituted Wikipedia:vandalism? BrandonYusufToropov 13:22, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
So, you propose "banning anyone who doesn't accept consensus". That seems just a tad heavy handed for one edit by Brandon. No. That seems exceedingly heavy handed. Over the top heavy handed. I would like to see some examples of articles that use "Conspiracy theory" as a statement of fact. I keep referring to teh elders of zion article which some how manages to do exactly what would be expected if "conspiracy theory" were a word to avoid. That article reports "conspiracy theory" from various points of view. ANd it does it on a topic that is overwhelmingly thought to be untrue. Yet it doesn't say it is simply a conspiracy theory as fact (and therefore connote that it is some whack job idea to be dismissed). It reports the various POV's that say the "Elders of Zion" is a conspiracy theory. Exactly how hard is that to apply elsewhere? I've heard no actual arguments against adding "conspiracy theory" to the list of words to avoid, to the list of phrases to only use as the point of view of some source. All I've heard about is "consensus" from some time ago, some vague arguments about "definition" that avoid any realworld connotative usage, and that's about it. The only other concern seems to be around article titles using the phrase conspiracy theory. Rather than say "9/11 conspiracy theories" which may as well say "what you are about to read is for entertainment pursposes only" and rename it something less dismissive like "reported 9/11 conspiracies"? Does anyone have an article that uses "conspiracy theory" as a fact, rather than as a POV? Or is this whole obstacle course and threats of arbitration and three-month bans solely revolve around people's desires to have article titles that essential say "you can safely ignore anything in this article as being bogus"? FuelWagon 04:04, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
The fact that you don't agree with the many arguments stated here against adding "conspiracy theory" doesn't mean they have not been made. Jayjg (talk) 13:16, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
The fact that you don't state the arguments beyond the 2 arguments I already listed (1. focus on a limited definition and ignore popular usage and meaning and 2. previous consensus) tells me that you've got no other arguments. Those two are apparently the big it. (1) Folks keep arguing that a limited definition of "conspiracy theory" can be applied by the editor and any negative connotations can be safely ignored, and (2) folks keep arguing "there was consensus before" (and some, like Cberlet arguing that banishment should be leveled against anyone who dare question previous consensus). I'm underwhelmed. Is this the entire basis of arguments? Or did I miss something? FuelWagon 15:52, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
I am arguing that it is pointless to continue this discussion. It has been going on for months on various pages. It goes in endless circles. There are only a tiny handful of editors who want this conversation to continue. The only big vote on the matter showed there was little agreement with the position being argued by FuelWagon, zen master, and BrandonYusufToropov. See discussion and vote here: Wikipedia talk:Conspiracy theory/archive2. When editors refuse to abide by democratic consensus, it is very appropriate to suggest it is time for arbitration and to seek sanctions.--Cberlet 13:21, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Wikipedia isn't a democracy, it's an encyclopedia. consensus isn't written in stone, especially if previous consensus is later found to be producing biased or POV articles. Getting angry and threatening arbitration isn't resolving anything. It may enforce your view, but it doesn't resolve anything. FuelWagon 15:52, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Simply moving the same arguments from venue to venue after losing a vote is hardly a form of building consensus.--Cberlet 17:47, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
it's not like I'm changing venues because I lost the last vote: I wasn't involved in the last vote. And since a previous vote doesn't prohibit new editors from disagreeing, you're attempt to paint this as a "sore loser" misses the mark by a wide margin. do you care to discuss this or do you simply intend to invoke old votes and threaten banishment? FuelWagon 18:34, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Isn't the point of consensus for each side to try to convince the other they are correct rather than just having a vote and moving on? So please do two things for me: 1) try to convince me "conspiracy theory" is neutral, and 2) really consider the possibility and the plausibility that "conspiracy theory" isn't neutral. zen master T 17:54, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill Jayjg (talk) 18:01, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Wikipedia would actually benefit if there were more neutrality fanatics. Is it possible "conspiracy theory" is not neutral and not appropriate in titles? zen master T 18:07, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill Jayjg (talk) 18:09, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Ok, I admit to being a neutrality fanatic so do you have anything else? zen master T 18:12, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

If that were true, you would be fanatically contributing to all of these articles in an effort to wipe out every vestige of bias and non-neutral language. Instead, the list of your recent contributions strongly suggests that the scope of your interest is significantly narrower than "neutrality." --PHenry 18:33, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Wow, that's one of the more pointless red herrings I've read in awhile. why don't you just come out and say that the editors with the most contributions get to decide what the rules are. That would be a little more honest. FuelWagon 18:36, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Responding to PHenry, I only pursue the neutrality problems I know about, other people pursue other issues. What is more "narrow" than (language) neutrality in your view? zen master T 18:40, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

A larger issue...

... and the one I am trying to focus on, Chip, is that there seem to be divergent answers to this question:

  • Does a word or phrase requiring careful thought concerning its use, rather than complete prohibition of the term or omission of the term in the vast majority of cases, belong on Wikipedia:Words to avoid?

We seem to be sending mixed signals on this. Thoughts? BrandonYusufToropov 15:13, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

I think this goes to the heart of the issue--which in my mind is the inability to see nuance, ambiguity, or shades of gray. Clearly, from the context of the entire page, the title should be "Words to avoid...unless you can justify as follows." I would argue that 99% of Wiki editors understand this implicitly. Most editors can live with ambiguity.--Cberlet 15:55, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Can you live with a lack of neutrality? What if the prescriptive diagnosis is wrong? zen master T 16:33, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
To clarify, the section titled "categories" could be renamed something like "POV terms", with a one-sentence instruction added to say "The following terms should be used in an article only from the point of view of some outside source: Cult, Terrorist, Hard/Far, Conspiracy theory, etc. The point is not to not use the word, the point is to get these are perjorative labels and should be used only when reporting that "so-and-so called blah a cult" or "so-and-so considers blah to be an unfounded conspiracy theory". I don't think anyone is suggesting that the phrase can never be used in an article. I haven't. And I've pointed out the Elders of Zion article as a good example of how to use the phrase. FuelWagon 17:41, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Chip's response

Thanks very much for the response above, Chip. I think we are in full agreement on this point. So for instance (and just to clarify), you're saying that no term should be rejected from consideration for inclusion on this page simply because its usage requires, in practice, actual discretion from the writer. Right?

In other words, if I follow your example above, let's say that I propose that Term X should be added to this page, and I provide guidelines for its intelligent use. Basically, I'm saying, "The only way you should consider using Term X on WP is if you follow these specific guidelines." (Implicit, but unspoken message: "Otherwise, avoid it entirely.")

But suppose someone were to say to me, "Yusuf, Term X does not belong on this page -- because what you, Yusuf, are actually saying is how to use Term X. That's not 'avoiding' .. in fact, that's encouraging!"

In that situation, if I read you correctly, Chip, you and I would each refer the person making this objection to the very first words of this article, which reads: There are no words that should never be used in wikipedia articles. Basically, we're telling the person who objects on these grounds to Term X that they have to come up with some other reason for rejecting it, yes?

Question for Chip: Is the summary above accurate?

Question for everybody else: Are we agreed that the opening sentence of the article, 'There are no words that should never be used in wikipedia articles,' really does mean what it appears to mean? BrandonYusufToropov 19:02, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Hi Brandon, I don't quite get what you meant with the summary and question for Chip, but regarding the second question, I'd say yes, that it really does mean what it appears to mean. I can't offhand think of a word that could never in any context be used in Wikipedia. SlimVirgin (talk) 19:14, 30 September 2005 (UTC)
Please call me Yusuf; that's what my friends call me.
What I mean is, anyone who would argue (for instance) that the word cult should not be included on this page would have to come up with some other reason than the following:
Yusuf, the current text relating to the word "cult" merely represents guidelines for usage of the word. Since this text does not explicitly forbid the word from ever appearing in WP -- which is after all what Wikipedia:Words to avoid is all about -- any reference to the word "cult" must therefore be excluded from the article.
In this example, we could conclude people who were unhappy about the prospect of the word "cult" appearing in the article, and objected on the grounds above, would have simply failed to read the article very carefully. And we would reject their argument. Yes? BrandonYusufToropov
Well, I think perhaps the page could be renamed. I find the current title a little Orwellian, as well as leading to the confusion you point to. "Words requiring caution," or something similar, might be more accurate. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:21, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Following up on Slim's idea...

... above, which has been voiced by several people now, how would people feel about renaming the page Wikipedia:Controversial words?

I wouldn't be keen on "controversial," because there are words like "however" on the page. We're trying more to convey the idea of words to use carefully, I think, not that the words in and of themselves are controversial. SlimVirgin (talk) 11:23, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
So what do you think the page should be called? BrandonYusufToropov 11:26, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
I'm trying to think of a neater way of saying "Words to use carefully," or "Words to use with caution," but I can't think of one. SlimVirgin (talk) 11:56, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
What about something like Wikipedia:Words to be used with discretion? BrandonYusufToropov 15:29, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
"Cult", "Conspiracy Theory", "Terrorist", "fundamentalist", and terms like "far right" or "hard left" are POV terms. They can only be used in an article when reporting someone's POV, such as Alice says Bob is a Cult Leader, or Charlie calls Dave a Terrorist. The article as a whole is about various issues with "word usage" as opposed to listing "words to avoid". The section titled "categories", should be renamed "POV terms" with instructions that the words should only be used when reporting the POV of someone. So, I'd say change the article title from Wikipedia: words to avoid to wikipedia: word usage and change the subsection titled "categories" and rename it "POV terms" with instructions added to explain their usage. FuelWagon 16:56, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
I have heard this argument before, and I still do not find it persuasive. I suppose if it is useful there could be a list called POV terms, but I would not support including 'conspiracy theory' on a list of POV terms, or otherwise labeling 'conspiracy theory' as POV. Tom harrison 17:34, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Does that mean you dispute this [15] summary of the term's present usage? BrandonYusufToropov 00:11, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing me to the article; It's interesting stuff. Rudmin makes some valid observations, as well as some not so valid.
Rudmin starts with the assertion that 'conspiracy theory' is pejorative. I do not agree; It can be used in a derogatory sense, and should not be. Neither should any other word be used in a derogatory sense.
I understand that you do not "believe it is possible any longer to avoid using the term in a pejorative sense." I disagree. Tom harrison 13:11, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Conspiracy theory says Colloquially, a "conspiracy theory" is any non-mainstream theory about current or historical events, often with the connotation that the theory is unfounded, outlandish, irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration. This is a common usage of the term, the way "theory" has a scientific definition and is also misused by the public to mean "guess". The phrase "conspiracy theory" is accepted by the public to mean "untrue". And it is POV if the term is disputed by those being labled "conspiracy theorists". If someone claims that the WTC was packed with explosives by the CIA on 9-11 and they don't call it a "conspiracy theory" (they say their claim is true), then we cannot use the phrase "conspiracy theory" as fact, but must report it from someone's point of view to be a conspiracy theory. That's the essence of POV: if someone disputes a claim, you cannot state that claim as fact. If someone disputes a label, you cannot apply that label to them as fact. FuelWagon 18:34, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
I dispute the claim that the phrase "conspiracy theory" is accepted by the public to mean "untrue". By your logic, since I'm disputing your claim, you cannot state it as fact. Does that make any sense? Carbonite | Talk 18:46, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
So, the conspiracy theory article contains original research? The Mel Gibson movie showing conspiracy theorists as a bunch of nut jobs is just a fluke? when you hear the term "conspiracy theory", you hear the equivalent of "report" with no associated meaning as to whether the report is true or not? FuelWagon 18:54, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Are you saying we should assert that 'conspiracy theory' is POV just because you think that's a fact? Tom harrison 19:18, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Are you saying the conspiracy theory doesn't have the colloquial/common meaning I describe? FuelWagon 03:03, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
So you would argue that Israel can't be called occupiers in relation to the West Bank, because they say they are not occupiers. We can only say "according to X, Israel is occupying the West Bank." But we should never state it as fact, or have it in an article title? Did I understand you correctly? SlimVirgin (talk) 18:39, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
If you're talking about this edit, then the "Courage to Refuse" organization should be quoted as saying they will not serve in the "Occupied Territories". Their point of view should be reported in their words and should be attributed to them, as opposed to paraphrasing, interpreting, and misquoting them in an effort to misrepresent their poitn of view or downplay their position. We as editors can only report the various points of view in a dispute. If a fact is disputed, we cannot report that fact, only the differnt points of view around that fact. FuelWagon 18:54, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
I think Wikipedia:POV words might be more to the point for most of these words. In general, these words are fine when communicating clearly attributed views, but are not appropriate in other contexts; in particular, they are a problem when used in the article's narrative voice, without attribution of POV. A few words here are to be avoided for different reasons (inherent ambiguity, etc.); perhaps that should be handled on a separate page. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:18, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Action on neutrality problems with "conspiracy theory"?

Nice slow circular engineered debate above. When is some action going to happen on fixing the glarring neutrality issues with "conspiracy theory" in titles and other places? For third parties just joining this controversy: the phrase is biasing even when literally true. zen master T 16:36, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

One more question: why aren't more of the people that were involved in the Wikipedia:Conspiracy theory voting discussing the issue here? Many seemed to really care about preserving the propaganda usefulness of "conspiracy theory" suddenly back then, around the time voting took place... zen master T 17:05, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, I think many of those people consider the matter to be closed, since there really aren't any new arguments. Personally, I know I'm getting tired of rehashing the same discussion.
Basically, it boils down to a few editors believing that there are neutrality problems with "conspiracy theory", while the majority of editors do not believe there are neutrality issues. It's agreed that the term shouldn't be used carelessly, but there's certainly no consensus to avoid using the term (in titles or articles). This was the result of the vote a few months ago and this is the result now. I don't blame people for not wanting to continue discussing it ad nauseum. Carbonite | Talk 17:17, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
You noticed I posted really fast Carbonite. The issue is not majorty vs minority, the issue is the pro "conspiracy theory" side does not have any logical argument that successfully defends "conspiracy theory" from a charge of lack of neutrality. "Tyranny" seems to me to be the most accurate word to describe the present situation. zen master T 17:28, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
I noticed your post because this page is on my watchlist; not sure my response time is very relevant but thanks for noting it. I think "tyranny" is a bit of a stretch, but you're entitled to your opinion. In any case, you asked for a reason why there aren't more people involved in this discussion and I provided you with one. Like always, just because you don't agree with an argument doesn't mean it wasn't presented. Carbonite | Talk 17:42, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
It was fast for someone that considers the matter "closed", why regurgitate nothing but an old vote unless you are POV pushing? Is it possible your goal in posting here was to make sure you attempted to frame the issue as having already been voted on for the purpose of denying awareness to third partie of the fact that wikipedia presently has glarringly unfixed neutrality problems? zen master T 17:49, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

One more point: feel free to disagree but please do not mischaracterize or misdirect. I am still waiting for someone to defend wikipedia's honor in the case of the lack of neutrality controversy. zen master T 18:18, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

We haven't yet established that there is a problem with lack of neutrality. -Willmcw 21:26, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
I disagree. [16] BrandonYusufToropov 22:14, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Good URL BYT, thx. zen master T 22:24, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Every defense of "conspiracy theory" being neutral has been refuted, the challenge to defend its neutrality is currently being ignored or misdirected away from. It's ok to disagree but you should not sweep neutrality complaints under the various rugs using various sweeping methods. zen master T 21:32, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
I haven't seen any of these refutations. Please list the diffs for them. Thanks, -Willmcw 23:09, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

The burden of proof is on you, as the person challenging the status quo, to demonstrate that "conspiracy" is not neutral. None of us is under any obligation to prove a damn thing. Nevertheless, because I'm such a nice guy, here's a rather significant fact that hasn't been brought up yet: Many of the--for lack of a better descriptor--more prominent believers in the existence of New World Order-style conspiracies whatever you want to call them not only don't consider the word "conspiracy" or the phrase "conspiracy theory" pejorative, but in fact actively embrace them--see for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. In the absence of anything remotely approaching consensus, even among the people who are ostensibly being marginalized by these words, surely Wikipedia policy should be to err on the side of permissiveness, rather than trying to preemptively restrict usage. --PHenry 02:02, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

"The burden of proof is on you, as the person challenging the status quo, to demonstrate that "conspiracy" is not neutral" Uh, first of all, it's "conspiracy theory", not "conspiracy" that is the complaint. Please try to keep up. Second of all, I think that if the wikipedia article for Conspiracy theory doesn't give you a good enough colloquial definition, then it is only with sheer determination to gaze with wonder at the Empororer's New Clothes to ignore Brandon's URL. What you're saying is the burden of proof is on us to convince you and that you refuse to consider evidence staring you right in the face. "I disbelieve" you cry. "It doesn't prove anything". Why, yes, the emporer's new clothes are lovely, aren't they. Brendon's URL meets the definition of a notable source, an expert in the field, and that's enough to say that it is a perjorative. That you refuse to look through galileo's telesope isn't my problem. FuelWagon 03:40, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Forgive me; with Zen going back and forth about whether "conspiracy" is inherently bad or just bad when combined with "theory," I do get confused about what exactly it is we're supposed to be outraged about. Please do keep me up to date on the latest developments; I'll want to know forthwith when I'm supposed to stop using all words that start with the letter C.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that no one considers the phrase "conspiracy theory" to have negative connotations--and yes, you've successfully linked to someone saying exactly that; congratulations and cheerio. There are a lot of words and phrases that are thought by some to be offensive or stigmatized, but that fact alone does not make them "words to avoid." A lot of people think the term "mentally retarded" is offensive, yet it's used all over the place at Wikipedia, mostly with no offense intended. Generally, we trust people to discern overall intent from context, rather than by searching for red-siren words and phrases to pounce on.
I can see developing some sort of "Be Aware" list, e.g. "Be aware that some people consider the term xyz offensive, so use discretion when deciding whether and how to include it in an article." But this is not the right place for something like that. --PHenry 05:06, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Oh the use of "conspiracy theory" is likely part of a highly coordinated disinformation program, anyone that actively supports the term from within the genre is suspect. The refuting is the fact that slim's "genre" argument doesn't make sense logically, she circularly mentions the dubious "conspiracy theory" genre to defend against a charge of not being neutral! In order to be neutral we have to precisely disassociate specific theories that merely allege a conspiracy from the genre precisely because mere association is illegitimately discrediting. Plus, even within the claimed prescriptive motivation the diagnosis and mitigation only (poorly) treat the symptoms, not the disease. The act of tricking someone or discouraging an objective analysis using nothing but ambiguous language only perpetuates and exacerbates confusion, if the goal is to unconfuse an issue you should use a different/better method of presentation. zen master T 02:19, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps the use of the term "conspiracy theory" is part of a plan. "Elites can only stay in power by persuading people that the elite are the source of progress toward goals which the people consider important."[17] That sounds like a conspiracy theory itself! -Willmcw 04:05, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I knew that would happen, Willmcw or similar would go the literal route, the newdemocracyworld site really shouldn't use "conspiracy theory" directly, the phrase is tainted beyond any hope of recovery. zen master T 04:14, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Why are we regarding a small, fringe political group as a reliable guide for using the term? Here's another example, by a key individual, of the material on this website, that supposedly condemns the term "consipracy theory":
  • U.S. corporate and government leaders would never be able to muster public support for turning Israel into a highly-militarized garrison state if they revealed to the American people their true purpose: to use the Jewish state to control the Middle East's vast and rebellious working class and its oil. [18]
"How dare you call that a conspiracy theory! That's a pejorative term!" Uh huh. If we're going to appeal to authority, let's use a more neutral and respected one please. -Willmcw 04:30, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I think the point is to prove that people who believe (insert claim here) would dispute the label "conspiracy theory" because it is perjorative. Alice reports that men never landed on the moon. Bob says it is a conspiracy theory. The question of NPOV policy is whether or not the wikipedia editor can use the label "conspiracy theory" as a factual label, without sourcing Bob. The point of teh URL shows an example of Alice specifically disputing teh label "conspiracy theory". If the label isdisputed by the source, it cannot be used as fact. Willmcw likes to turn this into an argument as to whether some conspiracy theory is true or not, and that isn't the point of NPOV. NPOV says that we can only report undisputed facts and if someone disputes a fact, we must report the points of view of both sides. The "elders of zion" does this extremely well, and that article in no way attempts to hide the fact that the mainstream view of teh elders of zion is that the whole thing is a forgery. This is no different than reporting about some pseudoscientific topic, such as perpetual motion machines. NPOV says you cannot report such a machine is impossible, but you can report that such a machine breaks the conservation of energy law, and that the vast majority of scientists don't think a perpetual motion machine is possible. Willmcw is invoking an unfounded fear that to add "conspiracy theory" to the "words to avoid" list, that articles cannot report that truth that some claim or another is held by the majority of the population to be false. FuelWagon 05:07, 4 October 2005 (UTC)


The moon-landing-never-happened proposition is an excellent example of what we should factually describe as a "conspiracy theory" without resorting to saying that "some critics have called it a conspiracy theory". In this instance, the faking of the moon landings would have required a massive, longterm conspiracy and it is an unproven theory. We should call it a "conspiracy theory" not as a pejorative but as the most accurate, NPOV term for this type of theory. -Willmcw 07:10, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

If one person disputes the official account we can not state something as a fact. Also, we have to neutrally present the fact that people have made moon hoax landing accusations. zen master T 07:15, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Whoa! If one person disputes gravity we can't report it as a fact? Wow. -Willmcw 07:24, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
"The earth, which some believe is round..."
Good ol' Willmcw, always taking NPOV policy and casting it into "well of course we should be neutral, but in this case the claim is just false". Since you seem to have trouble remembering, the NPOV policy on pseudoscience specifically says that we do NOT report something as pseudoscientific, but that we report that the majority of science organizations find the thing to be pseudoscientific. Of course I don't think a perpetual motion machine is anything but a crock, but my opinion doesn't matter. That's the difference here. You think your opinion on the veracity of some claim matters. You insist on inserting your analysis into the article. That is not our job as wikipedia editors. And again, since one of your favorite comebacks here is about "equal weight", I will point out that NPOV does not require equal weight to disputes, but rather requires "weight in proportion" to the number of sources who hold the opinion. So no, you don't need to dedicate half an article to the moon landing and the other half to the claims it was a hoax. You could just as easily have an article that gives the mainstream view of the moon landing, and then towards the bottom have a short blurb saying that some claim the landing was a hoax. That is their point of view, that's how you report it. This isn't the end of the world. Please read up on NPOV policy with regard to pseudocientific topics. This is the same thing. We as editors cannot call something pseudoscience. And we as editors cannot call somethign a "conspiracy theory". FuelWagon 14:53, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
You're confusing me with another editor. I don't recall using the comeback "equal weight." Also, please see Apollo moon landing hoax accusations, which seems to do a reasonable job of explaining its use of the term "conspiracy theory". -Willmcw 18:10, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Zen, with respect, I'm going to have to part company with you here. If one person and only one person disputes the official account, we are certainly not duty-bound to avoid reporting the official account as fact. In the case of the moon landing controversy, the language in Apollo 11 might look something like this.
  • Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July of 1969.
  • (Several dozen paragraphs later, when the comparatively insignificant question of conspiracy theories is relevant at long last, if indeed it ever is.)

The error lies in assuming that the reference to the conspiracy theory is as important as anything else we might be writing about. Most of the time, of course, it isn't.

And by the way, Ramadan Mubarak....BrandonYusufToropov 11:04, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

That example is ok (except for the word "rejected" or "neutral outside researchers" perhaps [a neutral "researcher" would never use "conspiracy theory"]) but is tangential to the "conspiracy theory" issue. What I meant by the one person dispute thing is that we can't label moon hoax landing accusations in discrediting fashion in titles by directly labeling them a "conspiracy theory" if just one person disputes doing so. If the mainstream account has overwhelming near consensus support stating it as a fact directly is perhaps ok, but the "conspiracy theory" issues does not fit that criteria, it's about how we describe critical accusations, under few if any circumstances is an allegedly neutrality encyclopedia allowed to recharacterize someone else's cited accusations, especially not in titles. And as a side quesiton wouldn't it be easy for a telescope on earth to take a picture of the moon landing sites and see stuff humans left there? zen master T 13:50, 4 October 2005 (UTC)


Is there some specific proposal we're discussing? Tom harrison 15:03, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Yes, let's do. I want to repost the best idea I've heard so far for handling the problems on this page, and second the motion. BrandonYusufToropov 15:49, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Some editors are suggesting adding the phrase "conspiracy theory" to the "words to avoid" article given it's colloquial meaning of "what you are about to read is untrue". At the same time, some of these same editors are suggesting a rename of the "words to avoid" article (and a tweak to the instructions) to something that reflects that it is expected that such terms should be reported if they are part of some source's point of view (i.e. "Most view blah to be nothing more than a conspiracy theory") This would entail renaming the article to "word usage" and then renaming the section titled "categories" to something like "terms requireing sources" and finally adding "conspiracy theory" to the "terms requireing sources" section. The overall point is that an article should not declare something to be a "conspiracy theory" the same way that an article should not declare somethign as "pseudoscience", but that it's fine to report these terms from some source's point of view. i.e. we should not say "Intelligent design is a pseudoscience" but rather should report somethign like "The National Academy of Science says that Intelligent Design is a pseudoscience" (and this is exactly how the Intelligent design article reports it). The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a good example of an article that uses the phrase "conspiracy theory" as the point of view of some source rather than as a fact, and is a good example of what articles using the phrase should look like. FuelWagon 15:59, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

<repost below>

I think Wikipedia:POV words might be more to the point for most of these words. In general, these words are fine when communicating clearly attributed views, but are not appropriate in other contexts; in particular, they are a problem when used in the article's narrative voice, without attribution of POV. A few words here are to be avoided for different reasons (inherent ambiguity, etc.); perhaps that should be handled on a separate page. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:18, 3 October 2005 (UTC)

Should we just vote on the title change from "Words to avoid" to "POV words"? zen master T 16:05, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

I like that title. We will need to find some other page to place words like "Of course" or "naturally" that are discouraged for other reasons. DanKeshet 18:10, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I'd prefer a title such as "Potentially POV words", "Potentially problematic words" or "Words to use carefully". I'd like to convey the message that these are words where you should think before you use them. In my opinion, "Words to avoid" or "POV words" are like a red traffic light (cannot proceed), but we really need a page to include the yellow light words (proceed with caution). Carbonite | Talk 18:35, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I think it is pretty obvious that you can only use the world "cult" in an article when you are reporting someone's point of view. "Cult-Busters reports that Scientology is a cult (URL)." Or similar. Rather than the title "POV terms" the title "Terms requiring sources" would be clear that they can be used, but only with a source. Some variation of that title should work. FuelWagon 18:54, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
With the exception of racial epithets and a few other cases, I do not think a word by itself carries a viewpoint. The presence of a word like cult may be an indicator that a passage is not neutral, or its use may be NPOV, even without citation. There will be disagreements about the propriety of using conspiracy theory in different contexts. I would rather see these disagreements worked out in context through the normal editing process on the article's talk page.
I am also struck by PHenry's remarks above, with sources, that some people describe themselves as conspiracy theorists. That would seem to contradict the assertion that conspiracy theory is a pejorative.
I do not question anyone's motivation, but I wonder if there is a sub-text here that I am unaware of. If there is what someone sees as a POV article, have you tried to change it on the page in question? What was the outcome?
As far as the page title goes, I would avoid words like require. If the page has a title that implies it is a list of inherently POV words, or words that should not be used, or words that may only be used with attribution, there are very few words that I would want to see included there.
For convience: Rather than change the title of this page, would it be useful to make a new page called, maybe, Word use and viewpoint? That might make it easier to transition content from here to there, while preserving what needs to stay here. Tom harrison 20:05, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I like "word use and viewpoint", it's neutrally generic but also conveys the requisite clarity. zen master T 21:25, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I think that's a good solution. As I mentioned somewhere else on this page, I would recommend taking an approach of advising the user to be aware that some words and phrases are considered offensive by some, and that each editor should use his/her best judgment in choosing whether and how to use them (not just conspiracy theory but also words like deaf, mentally retarded, etc. that are clearly descriptive but can have negative connotations as well). Rather than directing editors not to use certain words, it would simply help people make informed decisions about usage by bringing controversies to their attention of which they may not have been aware.
I favor retaining the Words to avoid page for the kinds of words that are on it now, but it should be recursively linked with the new page. --PHenry 22:56, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Ok, should we vote on "word use and viewpoint" or can someone just go create it? zen master T 01:30, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

PHenrys links

"I am also struck by PHenry's remarks above, with sources, that some people describe themselves as conspiracy theorists. That would seem to contradict the assertion that conspiracy theory is a pejorative."

Uhm, no. I just checked all of PHenry's links. They do not declare themselves "conspiracy theorists". The links commonly use the word "conspiracy" to describe the content of the claims, but do not call their claims "conspiracy theories" nor call themselves "conspiracy theorists". They claim their reports of "conspiracy" are true. A little more digging revealed that the URL's actually support the idea that "Conspiracy THeory" is a perjoriative meaning "what you are about to read is crackpot nonsense".

This URL [19] Doesn't use the phrase "conspiracy theory", but ends with "See also: GW Bush on 9/11 Conspiracy Theories". That link [20] points to a speech by Bush that labels some 9-11 claims as "conspiracy theories". the website refutes the label saying: "What makes these alternative viewpoints, "conspiracy theories"? It certainly isn't a lack of evidence." Which is directly disputing George Bush's labeling of of secret plots as "conspiracy theories".

It also says "the Bush administrations' version of events is itself a very weakly constructed "conspiracy theory" challenged at every turn by an enormous amount of exculpatory evidence," Which appears to be labeling Bush's claims as a "conspiracy theory" itself, further indicating that the phrase implies "this is untrue".

This URL [21] says "Anyone who said these government leaders were lying at the time was likely branded as a conspiracy theorist or crank." This seems to indicate a perjorative meaning.

The fact that the majority of the URL's avoid the use of the term "Conspiracy theory" and that the few that do use the term use it in a way that acknowledges it as a perjoritive (i.e. our claim isn't a conpiracy theory, Bush's claim is the conspiracy theory) would seem to only further support the idea that those who forward such claims would dispute their claims being labeled "conspiracy theory" and would dispute being labeled a "conspiracy theorist". FuelWagon 20:57, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

I regret the length of this; If it's awkward where it is, feel free to move it to an archive or sub-page or something.
I did not read all the sites in detail, nor will I; there are only so many derogatory references to Jews that I can take. (And why is it always Jews? Don't the Lithuanians ever get to run the world behind the scenes?) Still, I read enough to satisfy myself that PHenry's characterization is accurate. There are links, so whoever wants to can go look. That said, here is some of what I found:
The name of the magazine is 'Conspiracy Nation;' I don't suppose he meant to give his own work a name he thought was derogatory. The author says, "what you're saying *beyond* this -- and many conspiracy theories that I *do* subscribe to -- is that he was told..." and elsewhere he suggests they are seen as having a rational basis: "Summing it all up, the Guardian reporter, asked about what is being said now in England, replies, "In England, they're probably blaming the Americans... I mean, conspiracy theories -- it seems a particularly American phenomenon. Largely because you have so many incredibly high-profile assassinations."
In another description of an interview, "Geraldo offers his own (surprisingly good) 'conspiracy theory.'" In this case the phrase had been used before by Geraldo in a dismissive way.
Of the media, "Thus we have the Big Three -- Coburn, Hitchins and Chomsky -- turning a thumbs down on conspiracy theory." There'd be no need to turn thumbs down if the phrase were already recognized as pejorative. It sounds like it starts at neutral and is then disparaged. says "the conspiracy theory of history is alive and well" with no sense of it being used in mockery. Elsewhere he says that conspiracy theories are stigmatized by the establishment, but not by him: "I, for one, gladly admit to the embracing of any conspiracy theory for which there is credible evidence." and "Conspiracy theories abound in our society, and are widely accepted, . . . provided you are identifying the "politically correct" conspiracy. " So in his view, it's not the phrase that is the problem, but the target.
Two more: "it is today far more likely that the true facts, and indeed the history and background to current events, will be found in among those conspiracy theory websites rather than in any mainstream news " and "I believe that these facts prove the conspiracy theory that the government killed many or most of the people who died..."
I invite whoever is interested to go and read as much as necessary to satisfy himself. I see conspiracy theory used in a positive, negative, and neutral sense, depending on the context. Tom harrison 22:25, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
The point is that the people with the claims dispute the label "conspiracy theory" being applied to their claims. If both sides of a specific claim accept the label "conspiracy theory" then it is undisputed. But I believe enough of the links show that it is disputed for its perjorative meaning. and therefore if Alice claims blah, then wikipedia cannot simply label blah a "conspiracy theory" unless Alice specifically calls her claim blah a "conspiracy theory". That is NPOV. You cannot use labels if they are disputed by the people involved. And given that the phrase has a colloquial perjorative definition, the assumption should be to assume the term is disputed unless specific evidence shows that Alice and anyone else who is notable who is claiming that blah is true all agree with the label "conspiracy theory" for their claim. That is NPOV policy. You cannot label something if the people dispute that label. If some group agrees with the label "cult" for their group, then you can simply call them a cult in the article, but if they dispute it, you must report that most call them a cult and they dispute the label. FuelWagon 22:36, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I maintain, and maintain that the links show, that this is not the case. I see authors using the phrase in a sense that is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes neutral. FuelWagon has followed the links and used his judgement; I've done the same, and anyone else can as well. Tom harrison 23:58, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
African-Americans, when they correspond with each other or congregate, will sometimes use the phrase Nigger in a sense that is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes neutral. Do I understand you to say that, because of this pattern of usage, no advice on its usage in WP is appropriate? BrandonYusufToropov 12:35, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Advice on the use of racial epithets is appropriate, and is already well-addressed. Advice on writing from a neutral point of view is also appropriate, and is also already well-addressed. It's possible that more advice on word usage and viewpoint can usefully be offered. Whoever wants to can write it and it will be handled like any other addition to Wikipedia.
People will disagree about the correct use of words, and people will disagree about what constitutes neutrality of viewpoint. We could have a central committee craft detailed rules about word usage, and have editors evaluate articles in the light of those rules. Or we could have a broad policy to write from a neutral viewpoint, and let the inevitable disagreements be dealt with on the page where they occur. I prefer the latter.
I'll be busy for the next few days; Please excuse me if I don't reply promptly. Tom harrison 14:00, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
  • Well, I think I understand what you're outlining, Tom, but I'm still a little confused. When you said that "authors use the phrase in a sense that is sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes neutral," were you saying that ANY term about which this could be said does not deserve mention on Wikipedia:Words to avoid? Or were you getting at something else by referencing this pattern of usage? It's hard for me to tell from your response.
  • You mention the category of racial epithets and imply that those epithets are somehow intrinsically different from other pejorative terms. Can I ask if this is really what you mean, and if so, why you feel that way? BrandonYusufToropov 14:33, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Yusuf; My point was pretty narrow. It dealt with how authors use the term in the links provided. The dialogue looked like it was about to degenerate into a round of 'does not/does too' and I hope I didn't contribute to that.
I suppose I do think racial epithets are worse than most other pejorative terms. Rationally, there might be no reason to regard them as worse than sexual, religious, or political epithets. Maybe it's a result of recent history. Probably not relevant to this discussion anyway.
I'm not sure what I would put on a page called 'words to avoid' if I were starting from scratch. I don't know either what criteria I would apply to make the decision, or how I would arrive at those criteria. I guess I would say that individual words matter less than the context in which they appear, and that we should work by some process of collaboration and consensus. Tom harrison 18:20, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Okay. To get specific, then, if you think that a pejorative phrase like "conspiracy theory" is different from the pejorative phrases that currently appear on Wikipedia:Words to avoid, why do you think that? Is it because not every person who uses the phrase always does so with pejorative intent? (That seemed to be what you were saying.) If that is how you feel, do you think we should remove "cult" from the page? There are plenty of academics who use "cult" without intending a pejorative sense.BrandonYusufToropov 19:39, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
There is a difference between a pejorative used in a neutral way and a neutral word that may be used as a pejorative. Tom harrison 12:44, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

Would a truly neutral researcher ever use "conspiracy theory"?

I don't believe a truly neutral researcher would use the phrase "conspiracy theory" in a descriptive sense, they would say what they mean directly. Comments? zen master T 16:07, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Do you not like the phrase "conspiracy theory" or something? As a truly neutral researcher, you are wrong, I would use it. I hope thats settled this whole megillah. --Mrfixter 19:22, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
I dispute your status as a neutral researcher. zen master T 21:26, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, do you know any other truly neutral researchers? --Mrfixter 23:01, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
No, "neutral researcher" is somewhat of a misnomer, do they care to do research or are they concerned with appearing to be neutral. zen master T 23:40, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
Conspiracy theory is a label for a tangible category of narratives (with woolly edges, like any category). Any neutral researcher who made it their business to organize narratives into categories could and indeed should use Conspiracy theory as a label for certain kinds of narrative. I think there's a confusion here over why some stories are 'condemned' to the lowly status of conspiracy theory. It's not the case that one man's conpiracy theory is another man's science. It's that the narrative construction of a conspiracy theory follows a regular pattern, adopting a cynical stance to social consensus, deploying certain types of logical fallacies, ignoring sociological methodologies and complexities, and tending to simplify social processes into personalised morality tales. We know these types of narrative to be unreliable guides to truth. Adhib 08:03, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
If person B labels or categorizes person A's cited allegation then that is POV and usage of "conspiracy theory" would have to be cited and/or caveatted. A neutral researcher would use a neutral method of presentation, not an unscientific one. zen master T 08:11, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Here's where I think Zen-master's utterly mistaken. As scientists, we note the features of a particular entity, and allocate them according to those features to the abstract categories we have defined for their kind, in order to conduct any kind of metanarrative or investigation into their kind. I listed some of the key features defining the category conspiracy theory just above. If a narrative exhibits all those features, it's likely to belong in the category conspiracy theory. That's a straightforward, neutral determination. Adhib 08:27, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
  • Scientists have in the past (and some still continue to) note the traits, abilities and features of particular groups of human beings.
  • Some of these scientists went on record as defining such groups as "races"; others went on record as associating positive labels like bravery, family orientation, and intelligence to certain "races," and peorative labels like greed, an obsession with low desires, and stupidity to other "races."
  • The scientists themselves may, at the time, have have positioned such category-assignment exercises as "straightforward, neutral determinations," but there is no way on earth WP should present their views, whether we consider them minority or mainstream, as fact.
  • Similarly, there is no way on earth WP should present the views of those who disagree with theory X, and label it with the (now clearly pejorative) term "conspiracy theory", as fact. Instead, we should say who believes the label "conspiracy theory" applies. BrandonYusufToropov 13:23, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Sheesh, there's just no pleasing some folks! If a scientific approach to the issue can be dismissed as too fallible, then no authoritative statements of any kind are permissible. I find BYT's argument here uncompelling, for the simple reason that the example of fallible science he raises has been roundly disproven by, wait for it, the further application of scientific method. It has been demonstrated again and again that the attributes projected onto those categories are not experimentally substantiated. Scientific categories need to have a predictive capability, ie, to be proven in use.
The category conspiracy theory proves useful inasmuch as it specifies which structural features of narratives place their credibility under suspicion. Having observed that there are such features in common between narratives (as in the sample list I provide above), and that such features are regularly associated with the discovery that such a narrative's truth claims are unfounded, we can then test the category by seeking other narratives which exhibit similar features, and evaluate their truth claims. We can also proceed to some interesting sociological analysis of why such narratives are produced and circulated. Where's the problem? Adhib 14:24, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
  • With all respect -- we've been through this before. The point is not that any "scientific approach to the issue can be dismissed as too fallible," but rather that scientific-sounding justifications are, in the world of articles and readers (which is the world we're talking about), no excuse for ignoring the clear pejorative content of a term.
  • This discussion is about guidelines for writers,' after all. See the similarly misguided suggestion, above, that WP could not coherently discuss the Apollo missions if we adopted guidelines for the intelligent use of the (now pejorative) term "conspiracy theory," which runs along similarly extreme, and to my way of thinking similarly unsupportable, lines.BrandonYusufToropov 15:06, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
"With all respect -- we've been through this before." Indeed; That must be exasperating. Tom harrison 18:24, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Nahhh, I never said it was exasperating. I'm a pretty patient fellow. BrandonYusufToropov 19:40, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Exasperating how? What's with the list formatting and superfluous punctuation? A neutral researcher would not use "conspiracy theory" precisely because it is not a scientific approach, a subject needs to be proven or disproven by facts specific to it, not by an exclusive and manufactured association with a generic genre (which also happens to be manufactured). zen master T 19:49, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

I'm not sure either BYT or Zen-master have understood my point, so I apologise for not being clear enough. It's my argument that there is a category of narratives, Conspiracy Theory, which like other such categories (let's take the category Urban legend for an example) has reasonably regular parameters and features. Is it ever correct to file a narrative under urban legend? Sure, no problem. We just check its narrative construction, mode of delivery, etc, and - if there's any doubt left - refer to an authoritative source such as Snopes. Few people object, 'cos this is just a laugh, not politics, and downgrading a minor rumour to fictional status causes nothing more lasting than a few blushes to those who bought it. Now we move across to the case of Conspiracy Theory, and find that BYT believes that such a downgrading cannot be scientific; and Zen-master suddenly believes that we are not entitled to judge using such general critical rules, but must engage with the facts of each such narrative, in its particulars. To each, I ask 'why so?' And since we're going circular, let me just recap: It's not the case that one man's conspiracy theory is another man's science. It's that the narrative construction of a conspiracy theory follows a regular pattern;

  • adopting a cynical stance to social consensus
  • deploying certain types of logical fallacies
  • ignoring sociological methodologies and complexities
  • tending to simplify social processes into personalised morality tales.

We all know these types of narrative to be unreliable guides to truth, prima facie. What's the problem? Adhib 20:53, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

The problem I have is that some stories fit this narrative pretty well, but are actually true (e.g. Operation Northwoods, MKULTRA, dozens of COINTELPRO projects, etc). And people regularly argue that, because the story fit the pattern, and the pattern is usually false, those "theories" are also false. Or they don't even both arguing it; they just say "that's a conspiracy theory" and be done with it. DanKeshet 21:24, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
FWIW, I think the same type of formulation we use with pseudo-science works just fine here ("vast majority of mainstream historians..." "for example, so-and-so says ...") DanKeshet 21:31, 5 October 2005 (UTC)
Your circular argument brings up a dubious "genre" associated with a controversial phrase in an attempt to defend that phrase from lack of neutrality charges? that doesn't make sense and pretty much proves neutrality is not your goal. Your and Slim et al's argument seems (it's quite obvious actually) engineered to confuse the issue to third parties. "Conspiracy theory" is illegtimately biasing precisely because you and your POV are categorizing someone else's cited theory as belonging to the dubious "genre", all counter accusations or coutner categorizations of dubiousness against a theory have to be cited. "Conspiracy theory" is not neutral because it has two needlessly commingled definitions, the phrase is literally true in a descriptive/definition sense if a conspiracy is alleged but the second definition illegitimately connotes a false or misleading association with the dubious "genre" at the same time. I am not saying we should ignore the "genre" but if someone does not describe or categorize their cited theory or allegation as an "urban legend" or as a "conspiracy theory" then it's entirely your POV that categorizes it as such. Categorization, not to mention needlessly duplicitous and confusing language, have no place in titles, especially when that categorization is disputed. To be neutral we have to use language that makes a distinction between these concepts. zen master T 01:48, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

"it's entirely your POV that categorizes it as such" is still overlooking my one and only point. There is a category, Conspiracy theory, which is commonly understood as having certain features, dubious conclusions being just one. When a narrative's structural features match with the category's defining features, they do so regardless of my POV or anyone else's. If someone denies a duck is a duck, that's a problem for them, not for wiki NPOV. Where I think we seem to be talking at crossed purposes is that I don't think membership of the category rules out being true - simply gives most ordinary busy people a ready reckoner on the probable merit (and if that works 19 times out of 20, that's fine for their purposes). Would it help if I spelled out what those structural features are, and why their instantiation pretty reliably predicts false conclusions? Adhib 18:22, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

I am not denying there is a "conspiracy" category (engineered or not), I am arguing it is not a title's place to categorize, especially when that categorization is disputed. And your analysis/point ignores the exponential ease and danger of "conspiracy theory" being used to hide the truth. zen master T 18:39, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Can you prove the exponential ease and danger of "conspiracy theory" being used to hide the truth please? --Mrfixter 19:03, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Why would someone choose to use a phrase that is both true in a literal definition sense if a conspiracy is alleged but may or may not be an accurate categorization of a theory in the dubious "genre" unless they seek to hide something or otherwise be duplicitous? Why discourage an objective analysis of a theory? Why are there political differences between what is and isn't discredited with "conspiracy theory"? Why use specific confusing language when alternatives exist? Are you arguing the Enron conspiracy didn't happen? Some people likely conspired to use steroids in baseball? "Conspiracy theory" can only be neutral in a universe where every last theory that alleges a conspiracy is false, which is obviously impossible. zen master T 20:23, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Ok, that was not an answer to my question which was: Can you prove the exponential ease and danger of "conspiracy theory" being used to hide the truth please? If yes, please provide links and/or explanation of what "truth" you think has been "hidden" with the phrase "conspiracy theory". If no, just say no, thats cool. --Mrfixter 23:46, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
You are missing at least one point, it's the potential of being biasing, why use confusing language and risk not being neutral if you don't have to? zen master T 07:52, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Zen-m, do you agree that Wikipedia should authoritatively state 'the Earth is a planet? What about these folks and their dispute with that categorization? Bearing them in mind, should our Earth article read instead; 'The Earth is a planet, according to x and x source, though this is disputed by y"? Is that what you understand by NPOV? Adhib 10:17, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Your example is inapplicable though I would support direct statements that the earth is a planet since there is overwhelming consensus. However, in the case of "conspiracy theory" the issue is how we describe the critical theory itself. Using your illogic we would be allowed to say in a title, "small young universe conspiracy theory"? No, we can't use duplicitous language to discourage an objective analysis of a subject, the strongest thing we can and should say when mentioning counter claims against a theory and describing the existence of a dispute is something along the lines of "there is near consensus theory X is false", but that would obviously be inappropriate (prematurely conclusive) in a title. zen master T 14:52, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Overwhelming consensus is an interesting standard for you to raise, here. I'll mull on that. But the heart of the issue is that there are in fact many things we may permissibly say about any narrative, without trespassing into POV. For example, we may note that the individuals on one side of a 'dispute' tend to lack any professional knowledge of the topic, while those on the other tend to be experts with long working experience of the material in dispute. The category, conspiracy theory, constitutes simply a list of features of that kind, which taken together are a good guide to a narrative's likely truth value.Adhib 18:55, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

I mean "overwhelming consensus" pretty much as "near consensus", but if someone has an in good faith dispute about a subject then there isn't consensus (though this point only applies to presenting the criticism itself neutrally). And no, there are no things you may permissibly say about a theory that you counter allege is a part of a dubious "narrative" in the title because the act of categorizing something as being in a "narrative" is your POV and that categorization is disputed. Noting that an individual proposing a theory does not have any experience or detailed knowledge of a subject is a prefectly ok thing to state inside an article in sentence form with a citation of who is saying it. But someone concerned with seeking truth and neutrality would not discredit with the word "unexperienced" (at least not exclusively) they would discredit with facts and logic (what a novel concept). "Likely truth value" is your POV, and it is inconsistent with wikipedia's title and neutrality policies. The neutrality problems with "conspiracy theory" are extreme because the phrase is orders of magnitude more POV than "likely truth value", the phrase "conspiracy theory" discourages an objective analysis of a subject which is something an allegedly neutral encyclopedia should never do. "Conspiracy theory" violates the scientific method. If someone has an in good faith criticism/allegation/theory we should assume good faith and present their criticism neutrally, for you to categorize criticisms of some subjects but not others along political lines as belonging to a dubious "narrative" is clearly POV. zen master T 19:32, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Zen-m, we should continue this conversation on the Conspiracy theory talk page. I've opened a topic there listing the features which are commonly accepting as defining the category, Conspiracy theory, with a view to making the article more encyclopaedic, less polarized. Your opposing view would help greatly in making the renovations more robust. Adhib 09:43, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

no neutral researcher

"Conspiracy theory is a label for a tangible category of narratives (with woolly edges, like any category). Any neutral researcher who made it their business to organize narratives into categories could and indeed should use Conspiracy theory as a label for certain kinds of narrative." Ah, I think this is part of the problem. A "neutral" scientist could investigate some claim of perpetual motion machine or some claim of "Intelligent Design" and place the claim into the category of "pseudoscience". It is not NPOV to ahve the article then state that "Intelligent Design" is pseudoscience. You must report that "So-and-so states that ID is pseudoscience". This is just another version of the "definition point of view" applied from the false premise that there is such a thing as a "neutral" researcher whose word we can take to be neutral and report his findings as fact. There is no such person. You cannot report that ID is pseudoscience because the proponents of ID dispute that label. Because it is disputed by the proponents, it is a label that must be attributed to some source. "NAS calls ID pseudoscience". The same approach applies to "conspiracy theory". there is no "neutral researcher" whose opinion establishes what wikipedia can report as a "conspiracy theory" and what is not. If the proponents of some claim dispute the label "conspiracy theory" to their claim, then you cannot use that label without attributing it to some source: "So-and-so calls blah a conspiracy theory". This is nothing but NPOV policy. FuelWagon 22:44, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Again, I see no response here or in Zen-master's argument to my suggestion that the category, like other categories of narratives, is defined by a list of features which a narrative either exhibits, or doesn't, regardless of who is observing its narrative structure. Until someone can explain why such structural features are themselves to be made a matter of opinion, the task of matching a particular narrative with the category is a technical one, not partisan. This is what enables sociology to investigate conspiracy theories as a 'natural kind' and to make scientific observations about the processes which drive them. Adhib 18:07, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, go over to the intelligent design article and insert the phrase "ID is pseudoscience" and in your edit summary put "because neutral scientists say so". You can only pull this off if you can sufficiently kid yourself that there is some truly "neutral" outside source that can be used to reliably establish fact. For wikipedia, there is none. All are points of views. On the Terri Schiavo article, there are the pov of Terri's husband, Terri's parents that are incomplete opposition. The courts sided with her husband in almost every case. However, even the court must be treated as a point of view, reported like all the others. We cannot say "the court ruled blah, and therefore we can say blah in the article as a fact". And as for your "technical" task of matching a narrative with a category, that ignores the perjorative connotation of teh category and it ignores whether the source of teh narative disputes the application of the category. If they dispute, the category can only be reported as someone's point of view, not as fact. This is NPOV policy. There is no neutral source that establishes facts for wikipedia. And wikpedia editors cannot match a category with a narative if the source of the narative disputes the category. Many of the URL's above show that dispute is pretty much the default. FuelWagon 22:47, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't in the least ignore the fact that being categorized 'conspiracy theory' by narrative analysis downgrades the truth value of a narrative, just as being categorized paranoid by psychological analysis downgrades the believability of a person's tales of being persecuted by shadowy forces. We allow psychiatrists to make such adjudgements, and consider them to be reasonably sound and scientific most of the time. There's no politics involved - the shoe simply fits in some cases, so let's have 'em wear it. Adhib 10:29, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Yes, a wikipedia article can report that "Doctor Alice diagnosed Bob as paranoid delusional", but that's a sourced point of view. If Bob disputes the diagnosis, then wikipedia cannot simply state as fact "Bob was paranoid dellusional". Again, you appeal to the ideas that there is some person you can appeal to who is "reasonably sound and scientific", when no such person exists in reality. Wikipedia cannot decide that Alice is neutral if Bob disputes her diagnosis of him. This has been the center of the NPOV battle in the Terri Schiavo case. The diagnosis for Terri was something like 7 neurologists saying she was PVS and 1 neurologist and 1 radiologist saying she was minimally conscious. How would you pick which doctor was the one who was "reasonably sound and scientific" so that wikipedia could report Terri's medical condition as fact? It is impossible. FuelWagon 22:02, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
Again, FW's argument tips us over into the impossibility of making any authoritative statements whatsoever, since there is no single or collective authority from which to draw such certainties. If you really believed such a thing, you'd battle out arguments on Usenet, not attempt to write your own prejudices into an encyclopedia. As a starting point, it's anti-encyclopaedic. Adhib 09:59, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
Are you saying NPOV policy is an impossibility? If Alice calls Bob a nerfherder, and Bob disputes it, then we must report Alices point of view and Bob's point of view. If the people involved dispute the label, wikipedia cannot decide whether Bob is or is not a nerfherder. Please read up on NPOV policy. This isn't about making wikipedia a battleground, its about reporting the undisputed facts, and if "nerfherder" is disputed, then the undisputed facts we can report is that Alice said Bob is a nerfherder and Bob denies the label. For wikipedia to come out and say "Bob is a nerfherder" is what would really make wikipedia a battleground. Those who oppose this can be seen to have an investment in attaching their labels to something that is actually disputed to deserve the label. A claim cannot be labeled a conspiracy theory on wikipedia if the people making the claim dispute the label. It's that simple. Anything else is pushing Alice's POV over Bob's. FuelWagon 16:39, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I couldn't disagree more. If Bob certainly possesses sufficient features to qualify for the category nerfherder (whatever that is), wikipedia can and should match him to his category, whether or not he disputes the categorization, and whether or not a named source for such demonstrations is available ... an encyclopaedia need take no notice of Bob's delusions or lies. See my exchange with Zen-master above regarding those people who deny the Earth is a planet. It is unencyclopaedic to equivocate on factual claims merely because one fruitloop disputes the facts; NPOV requires that the bar be set somewhat higher, to avoid giving undue weight to frivolous material. Adhib 15:16, 11 October 2005 (UTC)

Oh really? Take the word "nerfherder" and replace it with "cult" or "extremist" or similar perjorative labels. You talk as if "conspiracy theory" has nothing but a purely objective, measurable, definition, like anything between 5 and 10 pounds can be called "conspiracy theory". But the problem is that "conspiracy theory" isn't purely objective. It is a subjective term. And it has a perjorative connotation that means "what you're about to read is untrue". You are ignoring NPOV policy. If Bob disputes the label, you cannot report the label as fact. You can try and argue that the label is objective, but you ignore the perjorative meaning and you ignore the subjective interpretation required to apply the label. FuelWagon 04:55, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

NPOV policy requires us to ignore Bob if he's as out to lunch as I specify above. Jim says so here. But I think, FW, you're hung up on this idea that it's a perjorative term. Please consider this point carefully: It is only demeaning to an argument to so categorize it if the argument itself has more merit than the categorization allows. The categorization should be based on the narrative structure, as I argue elsewhere. If an argument in fact has a more robust structure than the categorization requires, then the categorization is erroneous. If the argument lacks merit, on the other hand, there's no value there to be devalued. Adhib 07:45, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

A truly neutral scientific method adhering person/encyclopedia would leave open the possibility their counter POV was incorrect. Science basically just tries to make do with the best available information, not assuming anything in any direction, "conspiracy theory" is a complete anti-thesis of that mantra. At a very basis level we have to neutrally describe what someone's cited theory is before we move on to the (hopefully) factual and logical conclusion determining process. We don't have to fix "conspiracy theory" overnight as long as there is a plan for you to wean yourselves off of it. zen master T 16:41, 12 October 2005 (UTC)
Disputed association with the narrative itself (separate from whether a conspiracy is literaly alleged) is what makes "conspiray theory" non neutral at a categorization level. If it is disputed whether a theory should be in category X wikipedia has to mention it as coming from someone's POV with a citation. But I repeat, a neutral researcher would not try to discourage an objective analysis of a subject which is what "conspiracy theory" does. zen master T 20:31, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
It's clear to me I've brought neither of you any closer to accepting that there might be regular features of narrative structure which are characteristic of conspiracy theories and not characteristic of other classes or types of narrative. Since every objection to my argument that has been raised here now hinges on that issue, I propose we move all further debate across to the Conspiracy theory talk page, where such debate would be most useful. Adhib 09:59, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

And I still think you are both trying to bend NPOV policy past its breaking point, here, for reasons which are ultimately to do with your own partiality for one or another conspiracy theory. If someone denies a duck is a duck, that's a problem for them, not for wiki NPOV. An encyclopedia doesn't cave in and start saying most people agree that this is a duck the moment one nutjob pops up and disputes the categorization.Adhib 10:29, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

That isn't the issue, the issue is how we describe critical allegations. If someone has a cited theory that a particular duck may be a swan you are effectively arguing we should call it the illegitimately biasing "duck swan false theory". zen master T 15:12, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Zen-m, you appear to be getting your theory and your meta-theory confused. This analogy of mine relates to whether or not wikipedia may legitimately allocate a particular narrative to the category 'conspiracy theory'. To have a 'theory' that a particular narrative may not be a conspiracy theory, your 'theory' would need to explain why those of the narrative's features which would ordinarily qualify it as a member of the set, conspiracy theories, do not in this case apply, ie, offering an explanation of why the categorization is a misdiagnosis. Adhib 18:47, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Pointing out that a theory literally alleges a conspiracy is insufficient evidence that the "narrative" is applicable to it. zen master T 19:55, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
Indeed. There is an entire list of structural features involved, as I have attempted to draw your attention to repeatedly above. Please refer to the talk page. Adhib 09:59, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
To remain neutral and untainted you can't use unnecessary and confusingly literal language to list the "structural features" involved. zen master T 16:47, 10 October 2005 (UTC)


An apostate is a former member of a religious group which openly professes his resignation from that group. The word implies the POV of the group which is left and often is used with a negative connotation (few groups are happy about members leaving them.

Apostate cannot be used without expressing a POV at least implicitely: one religion's apostate is another religion's convert: a Christian who converted to Islam might be designated an apostate by Christians but never by Muslim. Or a group refers to former members who voice critique against it as apostates, while calling its new members who criticize their former religion converts or believers.

The expressions "former member", "ex-member", "former XXXer" or "ex-XXXer" are neutral and should be preferred.

There exists an technical definition of apostate in sociology which has in sociological context no negative connotation. But as most readers are not familiar with this use of the word, it should only be used in texts or quotations when this meaning is made clear.

I believe that we want to discuss additions to important pages like this before adding them to the guidelines. Is this acceptable? It looks OK to me. -Willmcw

Surley anyone who knows what 'apostate' means understands that it carries its meaning relative to the former religion (or sports team) of the target. If we include apostate, what about heretic, blasphemer, schismatist, infidel, pagan, or heathen? I do not think it would be wise to include 'apostate' on this page. Tom harrison 12:38, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Pagan or heathen is sometimes used by members of those religions, so there it depends very much on the context. With blasphemer or infidel it evident to the average author that the word is disparaging and should be avoided in a neutral text - with apostate, some people use the word knowingly or unknowingly to create a negative impression for the whole class, which is exactly what should not be done in a neutral text. It is perfectly ok, if a known fundamentalist fire and brimstone preacher is quoted calling mainstream churches apostate, but it is a different matter, if the word is used in the text of an article to subtly qualify the accounts of former members. Irmgard 15:39, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

"Apostate" is used very frequently in non-religious contexts to describe people who have abandoned a former set of beliefs. When used to describe political apostates, it is most often used in a neutral or even a very positive way:

  • "The world -- the world of the convention, that is -- loves an apostate. And will get more of the same, Wednesday, when no less than Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia takes the stage to root for Bush."[22]
  • "In 1981 he was one of the Hot 100 prominent people named in an advertisement in The Guardian as backing the Gang of Four (as the prominent apostate Labour politicians Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and William Rodgers were known) and their Council for Social Democracy."[23]
  • "They insist that, notwithstanding the cautionary tales of conservative apostate David Brock and such deceased icons as Terry Dolan and Roy Cohn, one need no longer be closeted to be conservative."[24]
  • "'It wasn't a strict mechanism,' says Fred Siegel, the Cooper Union historian and left-wing apostate turned Giuliani advisor."[25]
  • "Fortunately, Republican apostate Kevin Phillips has already covered the main points of the saga in American Dynasty, his recent examination of the Bush family's enduring commercial values."[26]

The appearance of the word "apostate" in an article is clearly not prima facie evidence of POV.--PHenry 16:10, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

It might be helpful, if this neutral non-religious use of the word would be taken up in the article Apostasy which so far refers exclusively to religious definitions.
Done. Thanks for the tip. --PHenry 16:14, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I think the solution to the legitimate problem Irmgard raises is to refer the editor to a dictionary, not to a page of words to be avoided. Tom harrison 17:44, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

Searching wikipedia for uses of this word [27] turn up a lot of cases that seem fine. I only looked at the first few but they include historical names such as Julian the Apostate where the term is applied in historical context (it seems the articles naming is discussed on the talk page), and other places wehre it seems to be used in historical context (such as List of people burned as heretics). Scanning the list it looks like this one is not especially problematic. Dalf | Talk


I think this section would be better placed under section Wikipedia:Words to avoid#Subtly advancing certain points of view and the examples of Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial#Bias in attribution: Mind your nuances should also be moved there - and in the NPOV tutorial, this whole article should be linked to NPOV tutorial#Neutral Language --Irmgard 09:47, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

New Summary (thanks Jmabel)

Many thanks for Jmabel's input. This is, I think, closer to the discussion we have been proposing: BrandonYusufToropov 10:29, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Is this section for voting? Why the weasel phrase "some people perceive"? We/I are most certainly arguing that the phrase "is pejorative" dontcha think? We should also establish some degree of unscientific tainting for counter criticisms that resort to "conspiracy theory", only duplicitous people would use unnecessarily duplicitous language. zen master T 15:04, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

For allowing the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia articles without attribution

The phrase "conspiracy theory" should be allowed without attribution to specific groups in Wikipedia articles because attribution is unnecessary.

For allowing the use of the phrase conspiracy theory in Wikipedia articles without attribution

The phrase conspiracy theory should be allowed without attribution to specific groups in Wikipedia articles, despite the fact that some people would erroneously refuse to accept that their beliefs are correctly so described.

If your argument is "some people refuse to accept that their beliefs are wrong" then you should state it exactly like that, ambiguously confusing and tricky language have no place in an allegedly neutral and scientific method adhering encyclopedia, the goal should be to unsheepify the masses, not to perpetuate the cycle of confusion. The best way, long term, to convince people they are wrong is to adhere to the scientific method and neutrality, using "conspiracy theory" taints everything. Perhaps you should start a site because your (potentially fabricated) prescriptive motivation is outside the scope of an encyclopedia. zen master T 19:45, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
My argument is not that some people refuse to accept that their beliefs are wrong: it is that some people refuse to accept that their beliefs are rightly categorized as conspiracy theories. Adhib 10:13, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
Also, you have to have a logical/factual argument for why someone's beliefs are wrong, plus evidence they are refusing to accept it, it is wrong to start your argument with misdirection. "Conspiracy theory" may control behavior, but it most certainly doesn't free minds. zen master T 19:51, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
'Freeing minds'? Is this the positive principle behind your case? Can you explain what you mean by it? Adhib 10:13, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
Within Slim et al's claimed prescriptive motivation for "conspiracy theory" nothing mental/astract is actually being cured or fixed, only behavior possibly being temporarily controlled. And it may perpetuate the cycle of illogical behavior because in tricking the mind you may decrease the chances someone will use their mind the next time (to put it simply). So this is either a fabricated altruistic motivation for disinfo purposes or the people supporting it are misguided. If your altruistic goal is to truly help people then at some point you have to give them some of the same tools to help themselves. As a side comment I hazard a guess that it would be accurate to rename "mind control" to "mind lobotomization equals behavior control". zen master T 17:04, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
I'll take that as a 'no', then. Adhib 15:20, 11 October 2005 (UTC)
Compared to the claimed prescriptive motivation it is actually a yes, though my point was that the prescriptive motivation is causing more harm than good. And it is just way too easy to "debunk" the truth with "conspiracy theory", everyone's silence on this point is very telling. zen master T 17:24, 11 October 2005 (UTC)
While 'conspiracy theory' can be misused, whether or not it is misused can only be seen from within its context. Guidance already exists to write from a neutral point of view; Existing guidance is enough to ensure that 'conspiracy theory' is used correctly, as it is most places it appears in Wikipedia. Any disagreements about use should be resolved in the context where the words occur, through the normal give and take of discussion. Tom harrison 17:21, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
Even if a theory is dubious and/or discredited it still should not be presented with "conspiracy theory" in its title. The true and constant misuse is any unscientific method of presentation. zen master T 17:39, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

For allowing the use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia articles with attribution

The phrase "conspiracy theory" should be allowed in Wikipedia articles, but because it is perceived by many people as inherently pejorative, it should specify what group or individual considers Theory X to be a conspiracy theory.

This would sum it up. Most of the people dispute that their claim is a "conspiracy theory", and specifically avoid using that phrase to describe their claims. That they dispute the label and that the label has perjorative meaning requires that the label "conspiracy theory" be attributed to sources. FuelWagon 22:06, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
The first paragraph of this section insufficiently explains the "conspiracy theory" issue, "because it is perceived by many people" is weasel wordy and downplays the issue. Also, we still need to establish some degree of tainting for counter criticisms that use duplicitous/needlessly ambiguous/presumption inducing language such as "conspiracy theory". zen master T 23:26, 7 October 2005 (UTC)


"Linked" is often used to describe terrorist groups, e.g. "the al-Qaeda-linked Jama'at Islamiya", but it is ambiguous and may hide lack of information. Describing two phenomena or entities as "linked" unnecessarily obfuscates their relationship - if more information is available, the relationship should be clearly spelled out; if information is tenuous this should also be made clear. "Linked" may describe a broad range of relationships between two groups, and therefore may make that relationship seem unrealistically strong.

Might there be some circumstances where space considerations mean that it's better to just say linked? For example, an article on a terrorist attack attributed to JI might mention that JI is linked to al Qaeda, but if a reader wishes to find out about the nature of the links, they should read the entry on JI itself? Andjam 15:19, 18 October 2005 (UTC)