Thursday, March 03, 2011

Your Prejudice versus my Preconceived Opinion

It is a habit of mine to occasionally browse the websites of organisations and publications whose views are entirely contrary to my own. I find it both educational and entertaining to be confronted with passionate advocacy of opinions that run completely contrary to what I and my circle of friends and acquaintances accept as obvious truth.

Thus it was that yesterday I spend some time on the website of a radically conservative US publication where all of the topics seemed to be selected form a very limited and predictable list. Among the condemnations of Barrack Obama, liberals, homosexuals and Muslims I was surprised to see an active thread in the forums denouncing Wikipedia. I hadn't realised that Wikipedia was such an inflammatory topic among right wing conservatives but a common theme among the contributions is a conspiracy theory that Wikipedia is dominated by liberals who shamelessly abuse their administrator power promote a liberal agenda while deleting "facts" posted by right thinking conservatives. There are demands that they shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. With my liberal tainted goggles I have to admit that I wasn't entirely swayed by the vitriolic condemnation. Most of the "facts" that were deleted seem to me to be either unsupported opinion or original research neither of which are allowed on Wikipedia.

Satisfied that I had found the flaws in the conservatives' arguments I returned to the comfort zone of my own regular reading list to be confronted by yet another condemnation of Wikipedia. This time it was gaming website "Rock Paper Shotgun" (a publication not noted for its  love of fundamentalist conservatism) who were complaining. The subject of RPS's complaint was the decision recently taken to delete the Wikipedia page of the once influential gaming website  "Old Man  Murray".  Vitriolic condemnation of Wikipedia and its practises abound.  There is even a conspiracy theory that the instigator of the deletion has a grudge against the creator of Old Man Murray and is shamelessly abusing his administrative power to promote his own agenda. Coming the very day that Steve Jobs proclaimed that the "PC Era is dead" this news of self serving Wikipedia admins choosing to wipe an important piece of PC gaming history from the record served to infuriate and upset long time adherents of the hobby like myself. My blood boils. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this.

Eh... hold on a minute.

Fresh from smirking at the ranting of fundamentalist conservatives I now find myself falling oh so easily ino a fit of  ranting of my own. Calming myself down I went off to see why the page had been deleted. There was a process of nomination followed by  a period of argument and counter argument before a final judgement was made. The issue of whether or not the proposer had a grudge against the site is irrelevant "Old Man Murray" fell down when measured against Wikipedia's notability criterion wherein an topic requires significant coverage from reliable independent sources in order to warrant coverage in Wikipedia.  Now there are lots of folk (including myself) who think that notability criteria is not relevant to what Wikipedia has become and should be changed but them's the rules of Wikipedia at present. Old Man Murray did get due process. Ranting about admins and constructing conspiracy theories is not going to get it re-included. If you really want to get it re-included either find evidence of "significant coverage from reliable independent sources" or perhaps convince people to write about it in the New York Times and other sources deemed reliable.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Probably but I am not sure if I can distil it into a short paragraph. Something about the fact that every one of us is blinkered by preconceived opinions and it is much easier to point out prejudices in those who oppose your viewpoint than it is to see your own. Nevertheless I do think it is helpful to immerse yourself every so often in the mindset of "the other side" if only to get a better understanding of the reasons for your own beliefs.


Anonymous said...

Hehehe, good old Wikipedia, I have done a little ranting in the talk pages myself. I've been called a troll and to stop treating it as a forum ... get the sweats when I log in these days. Not quite as sad as Facebook but hey ...


mbp said...

Reposted comment for Solbright whose comments disappear for some reaon known only to Blogger:

Hehehe, good old Wikipedia, I have done a little ranting in the talk pages myself. I've been called a troll and to stop treating it as a forum ... get the sweats when I log in these days. Not quite as sad as Facebook but hey ...