Wikipedia Bias::Is There a Neutral View on George W. Bush?

    by Mark Glaser
    April 17, 2006

    i-ba726630dc31d648fb32311ffd8dbd70-George W. Bush.JPG
    One of the guiding principles for Wikipedia, the free online community-generated encyclopedia, is the “neutral point of view.” According to Wikipedia’s own explanatory page, “NPOV (Neutral Point Of View) is a fundamental Wikipedia principle which states that all articles must be written from a neutral point of view, representing views fairly and without bias.”

    The problem is how to make that theory work in practice, especially with topics that are politically sensitive or controversial. The way Wikipedia operates is that anyone — yes, you! — can edit the pages of Wikipedia, with a legion of editors overseeing changes to make sure vandalism or blantant mistruths don’t sneak in. And while the popularity and breadth of Wikipedia’s coverage has boomed, there have also been problems with inconsistent quality and outright revisionist history when it comes to politicians and their staffers.

    So I thought it might be instructive to consider the entry for George W. Bush and how difficult it would be to create a “neutral point of view” for our polarizing president. Remember, the object is to create something neutral and not totally neutered of controversy. The idea is to state the various sides without picking a side, or as the NPOV entry states, “One can think of unbiased writing as the cold, fair, analytical description of debates.”


    Under the subsection, “Bush Before His Presidency,” the following passage describes his National Guard service:

    In May 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, he entered the Texas Air National Guard. He trained in the guard for two years, where he was among the last to learn to fly the F-102, a plane not used in Vietnam and due to be retired.

    While this could be true, why would it be important to know that he was “among the last to learn to fly the F-102”? Is this a commentary on Bush flying an outdated plane? Is it an unbiased point of view? Check out the Encarta encyclopedia’s version of the same time period (note that Encarta lets people edit its pages but with editor approval):

    Upon completing college, [Bush] became eligible for the military draft. To meet his service obligation, Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968. He told the admitting officer that he wanted to become a pilot like his father, who was a highly decorated Navy flier in World War II (1939-1945). He did his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and entered a pilot-training program at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. He received favorable reports from his superiors, attained the rank of second lieutenant, and was certified to fly the F-102 jet fighter during training missions in the South and along the Gulf Coast. After Bush failed to take a required annual physical examination in 1972, however, he lost his certification to fly. Bush remained in the Air National Guard until 1973.

    Encarta doesn’t make hay over Bush being one of the last to fly the F-102, and instead notes patriotically how Bush wanted to fly a jet like his father. While Encarta makes scant mention of Bush’s service, Wikipedia has an entire separate entry just for George W. Bush military service controversy.


    And Wikipedia also has an entire subsection titled Alcohol and drug abuse for Bush, something Encarta doesn’t mention at all in its lengthy four-page entry. Again, after a lot of arguments on the subject, Wikipedia created a whole new entry just for George W. Bush substance abuse controversy.

    Isn’t the creation of these special pages an act of bias in and of itself? Why isn’t there a special page on Bush’s time as governor of Texas or on his religious beliefs? It’s true that Wikipedia is trying to take these more controversial aspects of an already controversial president’s entry off the table, in a way, to make the main entry less controversial. But the final effect feels biased.

    In comparison to Wikipedia, Encarta at times sounds like a Bush cheerleader. For example, under the “Bush’s Second Term” heading, this line describes the re-election: “On Election Day, Bush soundly defeated Kerry and was elected to a second term.” The term “soundly defeated” only works in comparison to 2000, as previous GOP victories were by larger electoral and popular margins — something Encarta even points out.

    So where is the middle ground, and can Wikipedia or other encyclopedias find it? The search for a “neutral point of view” mirrors the efforts of journalists to be objective, to show both sides without taking sides and remaining unbiased. But maybe this is impossible and unattainable, and perhaps misguided. Because if you open it up for anyone to edit, you’re asking for anything but neutrality.

    So what did Wikipedia do ultimately with its George W. Bush entry? There’s an image of a little padlock on the top of the page with this explanation: “As a result of recent vandalism, or to stop banned editors from editing, editing of this page by new or unregistered users is temporarily disabled.”

    What do you think? Is there a way to explain the life and times of George W. Bush with a neutral point of view? Point us the way. Also note that this is informally Wikipedia Week here at MediaShift, with the Your Take question on Wikipedia, and an upcoming email discussion between Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and conservative blogger Robert Cox.

    UPDATE: Here are the other Wikipedia Week articles on MediaShift:

    Email Debate: Wales Discusses Political Bias on Wikipedia

    Believers, Negativists Debate Wikipedia’s Trustworthiness

    MySpace, Wikipedia Cope With Growing Pains


    45 responses to “Wikipedia Bias::Is There a Neutral View on George W. Bush?”

    1. Sam Korn says:

      The reason for the existance of the articles entitled George W. Bush substance abuse controversy and George W. Bush military service controversy is not actually an underlying bias on the part of Wikipedia.

      That these sections exist is actually a reflection on the degree of coverage they received in citable sources. A key point in Wikipedia’s NPOV policy is that sources must be cited when demanded – and it’s generally considered good practice to cite even when the fact is relatively uncontroversial. If there were sources for GWB’s religious life or his career as Governor of Texas (and by “sources” I mean newspaper articles, books, serious magazine articles, &c., not first-hand information), then it would be entirely appropriate to include these. I’m guessing that there aren’t

      I really don’t think that the mere existance of articles about the controversy actually makes a judgment on the controversy itself. All they are saying is that one heck of a lot of mud was flung and it received one heck of a lot of media coverage. The articles (ideally – I don’t know them well myself) will contain a bald statement of the dispute, with the evidence provided by each side and no editorial values being asserted.

      All this said, please don’t expect Wikipedia to be perfect! Just that it’s in Alexa’s top 20 doesn’t make it infallible, or, indeed, finished.

      “I hope one day you’ll join us, and the world will edit as one.”

      — Sam Korn

    2. Blissyu2 says:

      This is a brilliant article, and hits the nail on the head for a big part of what is wrong with Wikipedia. Neutral Point of View is an unattainable ideal, for all but the most basic of subjects, and no encyclopaedia, or article, or speech, in existence anywhere in the world is truly able to attain a Neutral Point of View. Even the concept of removing “obvious bias” does not help, because what one person describes as “obvious bias” another person will think is not bias at all. Entries on George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and a number of other figures will never get close to neutrality purely because of the polarising effects. And even if you consider 2 opposing viewpoints, what about all of the others?

      You have written this article in a very direct and obvious way, to highlight the reality that Wikipedia is not neutral at all. It is biased. And in trying to present “Neutral Point of View” they have instead created a more hidden bias, something that is sometimes referred to as a “cabal”. Wikipedia has biases that are being pushed secretly by a group of people that perverts the entire project towards one particular aim. It isn’t obvious at all, and to understand the depths of what it is about, you must get deeply involved in the project. Just look at how Wikipedians will bully critics, call them trolls, whack jobs, and of course ban them and then call them “whingeing banned users” so that you are supposed to avoid them. They have censored out of Wikipedia the largest forum site critical of Wikipedia, the Wikipedia Review, preventing it from being listed even under Criticism of Wikipedia, and until recently it was even listed under the spam blacklist. If it isn’t bad enough to ban everyone who posts there, they have gone so far as to call the site’s very existence “spam”.

      You will see bias in every facet of Wikipedia, and let us not pretend that bias is the problem. Transparency is the problem. Wikipedia has a severe lack of transparency. If, for example, they said to everyone “these people are members of the cabal – their word is law” then I am sure that I and most everyone else would just accept that and say “okay then”, and it is a bit like how Encarta has editor approval required for messages. But the problem is that Wikipedia doesn’t say their names. And when others, like our site, does go to details to prove who is in there, and what they are up to, so as to inform people and protect them from these kinds of attacks, we get censored. And the largest problem that exists in Wikipedia, that of a lack of transparency, becomes even worse.

      Wikipedia is a wiki, and wikis are by their very nature transparent. But somewhere along the way Wikipedia lost their way, and stopped doing this. From secret Arbitration Committee decisions to the secretive CheckUser, to the spam black list, and of course worst of all to WP:OFFICE, every element of Wikipedia is embroiled in secrecy. If you ask Wikipedia’s own staff what Wikipedia was, they couldn’t tell you. Nobody really knows anymore. All of the lies and secrecy has left everyone in the dark.

    3. Miklo says:

      This is an excellent article, and a perfect example of Wikipedia’s bias. I am starting to become convinced that those who strongly support Wikipedia are more interested in their egos (“I helped create this knowledge!”) than actual fact. An encyclopedia edited by “everyone” is of questionable accuracy by its definition.

      I certainly do not look forward to a day when the genius, the uneducated, and the incompetent all edit as one. Sounds like the genius is outnumbered and the world will become even more stupid.

    4. I’ve posted a reply on my blog. Hope you find it interesting.

    5. Sharon says:

      Um. Wiki is unbiased is your point? Kindly I say this….duh! Four years of journalism school has got to teach something; you can’t expect the general layman to understand and necessarily implement Neutral Voice/View (or the 5 W’s). I mean, an oath is an oath- it’s (for the most part) taken incredibly seriously. Not that bloggers are not well meaning or incredibly talented…but, well, they haven’t taken the oath. OK.

    6. blissyu2 says:

      Just for reference, since Larry Sanger didn’t mention it, Larry Sanger is the person who developed Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View policy. Therefore his reply is very relevant to this article. Larry Sanger is no longer involved with Wikipedia, however, and Wikipedia currently considers him to be a “critic”.

    7. James Turick says:

      While blissyu2 is a bit empassioned because of their punishment by the ‘cabal’ I have to agree that transparency is one of Wikipedia’s issues.
      In response to Larry, this article is only one of myriads of articles on Wikipedia that are not NPOV. It is quite hard to find an article on a controversial subject that is NPOV. A good example would be a quote from a fellow Wikipedian, “It is easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, than to make an NPOV article on Islam.” From Nuclear power to Abortion, genocides, warcrimes, political figures, and even evolution it is hard to find a decent NPOV article on Wikipedia.
      That is not to say that there are none, or that this goal is not worthy or possible. I think that a semi-open system with experienced editors can produce such results; even Wikipedia can sometimes. However, you cannot dismiss that Wikipedia has problems implementing this policy. If it cannot be implemented it is useless and might as well not exist, unless things are changed to faciliate it.

    8. Why is there no page on his religious beliefs? There could be. Otherwise, you might be interested in: Is the Wikipedia Neutral?

      You might never get an answer to whether the artifact is neutral or not, but the stance taken aspired to neutrality.

    9. I agree that it is difficult to review the Bush Presidency without bias, however, there are probably a scant number of Presidents that did not create controversy during their tenure, as well. Those who created no controvery probably ran a lackluster office.

      The historical record on past Presidents is just that – written from a historical viewpoint – possibly after the controversy had resolved itself.

      FDR was highly criticised for entering WWII, yet he was also criticised for his lack of involvment for years prior to Pearl Harbor.

      I am a conservative Democrat who voted for Bush – twice. Still, I do not agree with all of his decisions or policies, but I am sure happy that I was fortunate enough to be born in a country that allows me the freedom to disagree.

    10. Thanks, Joseph, for pointing to your quite useful paper on the subject of neutrality at Wikipedia.

      Larry, I’m glad you’ve joined in and saw your critique on the Digital Universe blog. The argument I was making was that it seems to me nearly impossible to write a neutral entry for controversial subjects such as George W. Bush.

      I didn’t say that all Wikipedia entries have problems with NPOV, or that it wasn’t achievable in some cases. But I wondered whether NPOV was possible in these particular cases with an open system. I can see that Wikipedia is trying to close off edits or monitor them more closely on some subjects. Is that still an open system? And who decides what to close off?

      I don’t claim to have all the answers, and that’s why I closed by asking for other people’s opinions on this. I appreciate hearing yours.

      I think that achieving NPOV for controversial subjects is difficult, and only possible when you include more controls, more moderation and a clear, transparent chain of who’s deciding what.

      Can you explain why you left Wikipedia?

    11. blissyu2 says:

      I think every single article on Wikipedia could be written neutrally. However, to do that, the article size would need to be significantly lessened. From 2,000 words they might have to drop to 200, just to get rid of everything non-neutral. And this is the issue: neutrality is possible, but in aiming for neutrality, we get rid of a lot of useful information.

      If I take the example of Osama bin Laden for a moment. If we were to write about OBL from a truly neutral point of view, we could not link him to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has not been indisputably proven, he denies it, and a large number of people dispute it. Yet what would an article about him be like if we didn’t mention it? If we were aiming for true neutrality, we couldn’t mention it. And this is not a matter of references either, because if we say “CIA says he did it” then why not say that Al Jazeera says he didn’t? And so it goes on. We would be left with issues of what to include and what not to include.

      This is why I think that aiming for neutrality is a bad idea. If we aim for neutrality, then we remove a lot of quality content. We want bias, and bias exists everywhere. But what we need is transparent bias. We need to know what the bias is. Of course, this then leads to the Userbox dispute from late last year. Userboxes represent a way for Wikipedians to present their biases so that we can adjust our perceptions based on them, and Wikipedia can be more transparent. However, Jimbo deleted them, it seems because he didn’t want the transparency of the bias. Userboxes would have been a really good thing to help with the transparency and resolve a lot of issues with the NPOV.

      Wikinfo, http://www.wikinfo.org/ gives an alternative to NPOV, which is SPOV, or “sympathetic point of view” that some people consider reasonable.

      And I personally think that if Wikipedia does intend on continuing with NPOV, they must reinstate Larry Sanger, the guy who started the idea. Only through his vision can it be implemented in the way that it was intended to be implemented. And perhaps there is some way for it to be implemented properly. I am not convinced, but certainly if there is a chance, it is only through Sanger.

    12. r. c. says:

      As to your question if it is possible to get a neutral view of george bush jr., is it possible to get a neutral view of president carter, ronald regan, president clintin or even daddy bush.

    13. Felix Bunke says:

      Everything that human beings do has some sort of bias to it…

    14. mark says:

      I don’t thinks it’s possible to be fully neutral. We are all human. It’s better to just have the author or writer upfront about their biases as to let the readers know where they are coming from. We demand this of business and political leaders (what motivates them to do x,y or z) why not journalists?
      Sorry but journalists aren’t superhuman in their ability to view things outside of their own biases or what is even worthy of mention..this is all bias.
      Anyway, no it’s not really possible to be neutral unless you have coauthors from both sides or just admit your bias.

    15. Dona says:

      There are a few neutral persons still left in this world as it is today. However, because we the people have made it become bias with all aspects of life and not followed the laws of God, and we have become on account of eaches own agenda and reasoning i really do not believe that there can be a neutral line. This entire world and how it is run by all has become off balance in all areas.
      Forgive me if I am wrong.

    16. patriochat says:

      No such thing as a neutral point of view. Those that claim to be unbiased only succeed in clouding their true thoughts by beating around the bush and whacking Mr. Bush through their use of inferences.

      Poor President Bush, he is caught in the crosshairs of American’s resident socialists, many of whom are in the media. And as the war blazes on between socialism and Americanism (it did not end with the change in Russia) I don’t see anything near a neutral point of view emerging any time soon in regard to this President.

      Why does the media seems to worship the idea of anyone who is a centrist or has a neutral point of view. Jesus said I wish you were either hot or cold, but since you are lukewarm I will spue you out of my mouth. In other words those in the middle are the fence riders and wishy washy. That is not to say we cannot be tolerant, but we should not tolerate the notion of a neutral point of view.

    17. Barbara W. says:

      Mr. Glaser’s reference to George Bush as the “polarizing president”implies that the source of the polarizing emanates from him.Is this not a biased statement?

    18. deborah barnes says:

      Nuetral may be possible by using dates and events sans commentary. Truth however needs to be “richer” for by being human we’re beyond mere logic. To address the stories of of life, several viewpoints written with honest intent should be sited.
      Textbooks written in other countries vary on event interpretation. This is an obvious result of human bias and/or paradigm. Are we all then not seeing life from that angle of the “understood” and then doesn’t that hinder perception? When we become aware of our perceptive limits is when we turn the corner and the vista broadens.
      For example, a rooster enthusiast started collecting roosters and that was when she started “seeing them everywhere,” Until that time she had no idea there were so many around.

    19. Blissyu2 says:

      For the record, I think that its pretty obvious that this article itself, by Mark Glaser, is biased. Of course it is biased. The bias here is quite transparent. Mark Glaser has more than likely had bad experiences with Wikipedia, or else is sick to death of them being portrayed in saintly terms, in places like the Nature review. We know what his bias is, it is quite transparent, and we can account for it.

      The issue is not that bias is bad. Bias is good. But non-obvious bias is bad. Some of the best articles in existence are written by bigots, or conspiracy theorists, or from positions of great hatred. Adolf Hitler’s various documents are wonderful sources of information, not because they are neutral, but because of what they say – and it is so terribly easy to account for his bias, which makes it all the more useful.

      A lot of people look at the likes of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Homer, and the like, and they all have horrible biases. But if anything those with the worse biases, that represent the more extreme points of view, are the better references, because we can much more easily account for their biases.

      When people use the word “bias” to say for example “You’re biased” we use it in a negative context, as an insult. Its a bit like how we use “conspiracy theory” to win an argument without having to bother fighting. But the reality is that saying that someone is biased is not an insult. What we should be looking at is the transparency of what that bias is. Then we can have a useful reference source.

      And no, Britannica is not unbiased either. No encyclopaedia is. But its somehow more obvious what their biases are.

    20. Thanks for the defense, BLISSYU2. Obviously my blog is about my own bias, and I mix my own opinion with reporting and research to back it.

      I wouldn’t say that I had a bad experience with Wikipedia as much as I just am very curious (and maybe a little obsessed) with the inner workings of the process, how people gain admin status, and how important clashes are resolved. For the newbie, I think these issues aren’t clear or transparent at all.

      But I do give Wikipedia credit for trying to make it work, and am constantly amazed by how much content they have created as a very large global community.

    21. Michael says:

      Anything is possible — but highly unlikely with a media whose major effort is to disparage and promote the most negative position possible when presenting news “stories”.

      Does anyone ever parse the so-called news statements? If it is possible to insert any form of commentary or descriptive adjective with a negative connotation, they are used to “enhance” the story. Virtually 100% of the American press corps seems to be engaged in the cub-reporter, breathless pathos presentation style to, like the tort lawyers of America, get that one big case that will set them up for life. I quit watching nightly news programs 20 years ago, and I’m confident I have missed nothing.

      There was possibly a time in the country when certain levels of professional respect were provided to elected politicians, but they are long gone — and in no small part due to the rantings of many of the politicians themselves. Can anyone listen to the likes of Kennedy, Feingold, Schummer, Rodham, Wrangal, etc. and glean from the blatantly partisan political diatribes the slightest modicum of logic?

      It is little wonder that Washington D.C. has become irrelevant to the majority of the inhabitants of this country.

    22. tom says:

      as Christ said, you shall know the tree by the fruit it bears. objectivity is kinda the same way. wrap all the words you want around it you want, results tell the story. put another way, spin the story all you want, the facts are what they are.

      you’ll probably cut this story, but I think historians got this right. its an article from rolling stone. followed by an IMF report. disregard my comments as being biased, but I think the views expressed are also part of the objective reality. certainly true of the corporate media in this country. I don’t know of anyone who defends the corporate media these days.

      as for your question about Bush, I think it is biased in and of itself. as if anyone speaking negatively of Bush is biased. i’ll simplify the question. did bush lie to congress and the American people-on the war on iraq? about domestic spying? answer. yes. yes. yes. take it from there. oh. if Bush is above the law, are we now a dictatorship? must be. bush disregards the law, the courts and the congress. oh. I’m being biased? why? he has done all this-and you wonder can anyone be objective about Bush? god. look to your own bias. again. as Christ said. remove the beam in your own eye before you remove the mote in your brothers eye.

      When are you people in the corporate media going to stop lying to the American people? When are you going to stop covering up for and excusing the Bush regime�s lies, corruptions and incompetence�s. Your role is not to be cheer leaders for Bush and conservative ideology. Your role is to hold government accountable. To ask the hard questions and challenge the Bush regime�s many lies, inconsistences and hypocrisies. To keep the record straight, not promote the myths and lies of an intellectually dishonest, politically biased and highly partisan agenda of corporate America, Republican conservatives and the Christian right.

      The article below is an example, albeit a small example, of the kind of fair and honest journalism desperately needed today. I say fair and honest journalism because it gives a context and has a deeper understanding of the issues than we get from a sound bite slogan promoting a predetermined message. Wish we would see the same on other issues. Israel�s brutal war on Palestine and the Palestinian people. The environment, tax, trade, and economic policy, foreign policy, the war on Iraq, Christianity and the Christian right, women and minority rights, the list is unending really. I mean, there is a reason you people in the corporate media are called propaganda hacks and not journalists.

      The Worst President in History?
      By Sean Wilentz
      Rolling Stone


    23. Lori says:

      WHO CARES???

    24. Ron says:

      It matters because history will judge, or should, that the political life of George W. Bush was one of absolute abuse of power. His early life as a privileged, spoiled, never having to account for actions, child of wealth and prestige, just illustrates his utter contempt for anyone not as fortunate as himself. The fact that in 1968 he was handed an enlistment in the Texas Air National Guard, at a time when less fortunate were clamoring to get in so as to escape serving in Vietnam, is just one of the things that the Bush family has very firmly hushed up. The fact that he was trained to fly the F-102, an aging and soon to be retired aircraft further guaranteed that his would be a safe billet. Then his drunken partying and drug use made it impossible for him to pass his flight physical in 1972, so he had to be taken off of active flight status. He spent the rest of his enlistment just lolling around, and was finally given an early discharge. These facts have been expunged from his record so that it wouldn’t get in the way of his political career. Do the people have a right to know this? I sure think they do!

    25. Ted Michael Morgan says:

      This all indicates that we look at matters with bias. It also indicates how we might examine our bias. This discussion intrigues me. Thank you.

    26. Blissyu2 says:

      For the record, Tom in fact proved the point about why NPOV (Neutral Point of View) is impossible. In Tom’s view, his version, which is that George W. Bush is evil, is the neutral point of view. However, someone else will say that some other version is the neutral point of view. To Tom, removing bits that make him look like a good guy, would be good, because he would see that as “obvious bias”. Whilst to others, removing the bits that make him out to be horrible is “obvious bias”.

      The problem is not of bias. Wikipedia is no more biased than anyone else writing the same length article with the same amount of depth. Britannica is less biased only because it writes less. Because Britannica chops the article up to be so small as to get rid of most of the contentious issues. But Britannica is still biased. Still half of their material has a bias. Its just a bit more obvious what their bias is. And Britannica doesn’t claim to be neutral either – Britannica claims to be accurate.

      If I want to know about George W. Bush, I want to know about everything, both good and bad. And if one source is biased, then that’s fine, because I can account for it and look for another source that is biased in the other way. And from there I can strip their bias from it and replace it with my own bias. This is what research is all about. If I were to look at a 30 word article about him, sure, its probably not biased, but its also rather useless.

      What if all we ever wrote were indisputed facts? We wouldn’t learn much, that’s for sure. If Wikipedia was truly stripped of all bias, it’d be utterly useless.

    27. Will says:

      Just something to add… the reason the GWB article is “semi-protected” – that is, locked from editing by “new and anonymous users” – is little to do with NPOV as you imply here. It’s a resort against petty vandalism. The article is the most visited regular encyclopedia article by a long way, and opening it to anonymous users opens a tide of blanking the page and replacing it with “TIM SUCKS DONKEY POO LOL”. These kinds of people won’t bother to register and wait to make their contribution. People determined to make Bush look bad will.

    28. Blissyu2 says:

      I don’t think that’s what is said here, or implied. We all know that the article is locked down to prevent “vandalism”. And we all know that the “BOB EATS DONKEY POO” type vandalism could be prevented if Wikipedia simply used the average everyday authorisation methods that any other web site would use, including the German Wikipedia, Wikimedia Meta, Wikimedia Commons, and all of Wikimedia’s other projects. But under the guise of “vandalism” a lot of genuine edits are censored. And under the guise of “neutral point of view” a number of secret biases are pushed. The point of this article is that the GWB article is heavily biased, in spite of Neutral Point of View, and hence that NPOV does not work. And that is a very good point, and also a very good example of it. Neutral Point of View does not exist, and the only way to achieve any form of neutrality is with basic, bare bones factual information. In other words, make the GWB article about 5% of its current size, and chop 95% of it out of there. That’s the only way to make it neutral.

    29. Hello Mark

      Thought I would share my post on Larry’s blog

      Hello Larry

      Let me first say I appreciate all of your efforts to create an open forum for exchange of ideas and knowledge and have listened on the radio (NPR and such) in the exchanges that have taken place regarding this issue. I especially remember the man wrongfully accused on wikipedia of assassinating one of the Kennedy brothers and the difficulty it created in his life.

      Life is rough enough without creating a forum for such slander to so easily go on with little or no recourse.

      Perhaps the idea of Neutrality and exchange of knowledge with no accountability is rather unworkable. If there is no Vetting process then 1+1=3 or 4 or whatever anyone whishes to put out there stands without a proper challenge creating a great deal of confusion.

      Your disclaimer in part:
      “Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.”

      “No formal peer review”

      leaves your project in a tenuous position at best.

      When you say:
      “the value of neutrality rests primarily in the fact that it respects intellectual autonomy”

      you miss the fact that such reasoning allows for 5 year olds to shoot themselves due primarily to the lack of discipline and understanding of cause and affect.

      As for
      “our freedom to make up our own damn minds for ourselves”

      that is fine so long as you don’t hurt me or some one else in the process.

      We are not Islands on to ourselves and are accountable to each other in our words and deeds. Why? Because we rarely are willing to hold ourselves accountable.

      I have a great deal more to say on this subject but will do so at another time. I do feel your efforts are genuine what you have contributed to the global community is quite significant. It is young as is the internet and will mature as you keeping asking the kind of question you just asked so long as it is followed by an appropriate and mature action.

      Thank You


    30. Eric says:

      Wikipedia is an interesting tool for anyone to transmit information to everyone, and in that lies the problem that many people who write to Wikipedia really cannot/do not write very well at all. While its information is often up-to-date and accurate, there is always the factor of people who are biased, trying to sound funny, and sometimes plainly stupid. Maybe some sort of additional safeguard is necessary.

    31. Richard A. Stacy says:

      Anyone doubting the bias of Wikipedia need only compare the bios of Dick Cheney with those of Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy. Cheney’s draft deferments are given a great deal of play. Biden’s are not even mentioned. By the same token, Cheney’s two youthful DUI’s get more Wikipedia ink than Chappaquiddick. ‘Nuff said.

    32. MONGO says:

      I am the editor who fought the hardest to keep the Bush substance abuse issues minimized. I had over 1,000 edits to the article and talk page just dealing with this section of this one article. The only issues that had a basis in fact were that the President had admitted that he used to drink a lot (which he stated to Billy Graham), and that he had a DUI in 1976. I had no problem with mentioning these issues as they were accurate and could be reliably referenced. However, others wished to add commentary about Bush being what is referred to as a “Dry-drunk”, a term coined by Alcoholic Anonymous for people that quit drinking, but since they don’t go through the “proper” alcohol abuse therapies, they continue to exhibit signs of alcoholism, even though they are “dry” and may have been for years. The medical field was not shown to support this conceptualization during the course of the arguments I was involved in. Basically, the sub article was a response by those that knew the neutral point of view issue was being breached by inclusion of medical opinions that were done outside of the normal procedures for rendering such judgements. Certainly we could continue to state that this expert believes that Bush is a “Dry-drunk” and then provide a reference, but I was always coming up with evidence that demostrated that the opinion of these experts had also been openly questioned as to its veracity. At one point, the section on drug and alcohol abuse was over 5 paragraphs long, so what is know as a request for comment was written up, with four different versions and a straw poll essentially helped to reduce the mentioning of substance abuse in the main article, aside from what could be reliably referenced from a neutral source. If anyone disbelives the wording of things in Wikipedia, I encourage them to check all references. If no reference is provided for what may appear to be a controversial claim, then don’t trust it. Articles on subjects such as the article on George W Bush are bound to be areas that are going to be worded in a possibly biased manner due to the open editing policy of the project. As a general rule of thumb, the more references and the less controversial the subject matter, the more liklihood that the article will be accurate.

    33. Hitchhiker says:

      I believe that it is impossible to write an article that everyone sees as neutral, especialy when everyone has had different experiences with the same words, and even more varied views on sentence or paragraph formats. I have experience with saying the same sentence to different people some, and some react as if it’s a compliment, and others react as if it’s an insult.

      Oh, and I’m sure plenty of articles both in Wikipedia and many other souces are based more on personal opinion than actual research.

      But I also think that people can start out after biases in an article, and end up catching mere facts that are either flattering or unfair from the reader’s point of view.

    34. Anon Wiki User says:

      Kudos Mongo. But I agree with the main article here – the mere inclusion of an article taking seriously drivel about one professor’s dry drunk theories in Wiki adds up to bias. Alas, as far as I can tell the cite requirements are easily overcome, as liberals cite Bush-bashing books and biased blogs as their sources for all sorts of ridiculousness. Check out the article on Paul Koretz for an example of how lower profile political figures have articles reeking of bias – when improvements are made, defenders quickly swoop back in to restore the, in this case glowing, profile.

    35. Richard says:

      You are correct about the bias on Wilkipedia. They are very politcaly correct you cant even say Hezbollah conducts terorism. The administrators will not allow edits that don’t conform to their worldview

    36. mike3 says:

      Miklo said:
      This is an excellent article, and a perfect example of Wikipedia’s bias. I am starting to become convinced that those who strongly support Wikipedia are more interested in their egos (“I helped create this knowledge!”) than actual fact. An encyclopedia edited
      by “everyone” is of questionable accuracy by its definition.

      I certainly do not look forward to a day when the genius, the uneducated, and the incompetent all edit as one. Sounds like the genius is outnumbered and the world will become even more stupid.

      I respond:
      Actually, this is the day I do look forward to, provided that they are willing to learn from each other, and for the incompetent to become more
      competent (everyone starts out “incompetent” at some point, after all), and all set aside their egos for a moment and just sit down and cooperate. A “geniusocracy” like you propose is an elitist ego-generator, and once ego starts to superimpose itself above solid reason, things go to hell. If you did not want the “genius” to be “outnumbered”, then everyone else would have to be more educated. How would you propose to do that?

      For one, people would have to be more educated, thus education would
      have to be more accessible. To do this it must become cheaper, and/or people must become richer. Would you want that? Or do you prefer elitism and rich-stay-rich/poor-stay-poor? (I sure the beep! beep! beep! do not!) Any other systems maintains a too-privileged sense in those “geniuses”, a bona fide ego generator. Giving the editing to a “privileged few” is going to generate ego I guarantee it 100%. Everyone should be able to get good education, and if they really want to make the commitment, to seek further education and become “experts”, unhindered by financial barriers. But you seem to like having only the few edit it, and that is an ego-generator. If we want everyone to edit, then everyone should be well-educated. Having that — excellent education for everyone — would solve oodles of HUMANITY’s problems.

      If you want your “geniusocracy” try the upcoming Citizendium. I’m sure you’ll love it as it is overseen by “experts” that are necssarily social elites because you can’t really become an expert in specialized fields
      unless you are quite well off financially, etc., hence it’s also a plutocracy.

      As for Wikipedia Bias, well, it is indeed possible if it is really very secretive. I haven’t noticed any secrecy during my own use, but I have noticed some things that ticked me off, for example they have a “notability” guideline but a lot do not follow it — it talks about things being “notable” enough for inclusion if there is a significant amount of 3rd-party coverage on it, but that is seldom a used criterion, instead people will say “DELETE!!! This thing is Non-Notable since I HAVEN’T HEARD OF IT!” (or Google gave only 75 hits, or the group has only 370 members (I saw a “vote” that said “Delete. Only 370 members? Really. Non-notable.”), or other non-existent criteria) and the “vote” (it shouldn’t actually be a vote as Wikipedia is not a democracy) is accepted without question as though that was a legit criterion! That can bias the encyclopedia very easily, as then they can not include something even if it should be included in an ideal encyclopedia. I have noticed some pages seem to be “owned” by groups (or “cabals”) of editors with special agendas, which is obviously a way to create bias. Some people there have recognized these problems, though.

      The George W. Bush article is constantly and extensively debated, of course, check the talk page. Is there really a neutral viewpoint? I do not know. Politics is often a very polarized thing, what with all the “left/right” dichotomy (in my view, political “truth” is NEVER all left-wing or right-wing.), and thus a TRULY neutral point of view is extremely difficult to achieve with that type of crap going on. Look how each extreme insults the other, so you can imagine the wrangling that would go on with trying to set up a “neutral” view that “fairly” summarizes all significant positions, according to the Wikipedia definition of NPOV.

      Although true and complete neutrality on anything is probably not achievable by humans (as humans are limited and contain intrinsic biases. In my view only God could have a truly “neutral”, just, fair “viewpoint.”), that does not mean that we should not strive to make it as neutral as we can.

    37. charlie wallace says:

      Were is the bias? i don’t see it. They merely stated fact. If you ask me encarta is bias for not giving the whole story. Is this some kind of propaganda site aimed at discrediting people who speak ill of George Bush? Alcohol and Drug abuse was a major part of George Bushes life, and its omission would not be right. He replaced one addition for another; religion, which sat more comfortably with society, which enabled him to become president (that and the vast amounts of wealth and powerful daddy). Why are people who speak out about bush in America persecuted? He is a highly questionable president who’s assent to office was aided by so called ‘electoral anomalies’. Wikipedia is neutral in this case, you just suspect it because of all the propaganda you’ve been fed by spin doctors

    38. John says:

      Has a communists complot taken over Wikipedia ?

      An anti-spam-project on Wikipedia is suspected to be a communist complot. One of the leaders of the spam project is WP User:El_C who is a self declared Hebrew communist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:El_C (see his “spam-star” award) . The group contolls the key positions on Wikipedia: Not only do they determine which contributions are consisered as spam and which not. They also decide whom they block from contributing and which websites are blacklisted A few days ago the hebrew communist openly claimed discretion about Wikipedia’s blocking policy on the WP administrators noticeboard. see :

      They also seem to controll and fraud Wikipedia’s security system and have aquired full controll over the administator’s noticeboard. Repeated alarm messages for the attention of bona fide administrators were posted on the administator’s noticeboard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard. The warnings were erased in less than 30 seconds without leaving a trace on the WP history tab. This obvious fraud of the WP archive system appears to be part of a large scale cover-up.

      Communists have already vandalised thousands of socio-economic and phylosofical titels in Wikipedia and are continuing to do so : see a few examples here

      The plot was discovered by http://workforall.net staff while they were defending the contributions they made over a two year period against the communist vandalism. During their dispute with the communsists they discovered the autoritarian behaviour of the spam project was fully incompatible with Wikipedia principles and that their editing methods violated all rules, procedures and particularly WP principles to reach concensus in a conflict.

      The pieces of the communist putch puzzle only fell together only a few days ago. Most details of the story are still available here, as well as evidence and description the main actors. See:
      (updated till WWFA staff was finally blocked).

      It is beleived the communist take-over will mean the end of Wikipedia’s impartiality and credability. A coordinated action of bona fide administrators could still undo the communist take-over, while also an intervention of CIA could be imagined as this putch in the virtual world has also the very real world consequences of having the world’s most refered to source perpetuating the socialist fraud and lies.

    39. Great article…. great comments & arguments …

      Everybody’s deep real desire is freedom … and that’s what we’re trying to create … a free world… welcome!

      Freedom means anarchy?… to me, yes … Anarchy sounds like it is something threatening , but it is not as we all become more and more aware of who and what we really are and agree to resolve our differences non-violently. So, seeking awareness is the key here.

      My opinion about Wikipedia is that it is not perfect. However, by reading this article it seems to me that it is more accurate than Encarta. It seems it is an improvement comparing to other systems of editing an online encyclopedia. Neutral point of view is impossible this way, so, the solution seems to be that the head editors (the ones that have the ability to close articles so as to prevent vandalism) to be in the open, so they can be questioned for what they let to be published and what not.

      And there are better systems and ways of editing an online encyclopedia and Wikipedia should strive to find what they are and adopt them. I consider the existence of a controversy page as an improvement and not bias, would it be better not to exist at all and only one side of the argument to be stated? So let’s keep talking and arguing so we can improve …

      In the end I would say that there is no such thing as perfect. Perfect means that there is nothing better than that “perfect” whatever. So perfect means that this is the end, this is death. But who wants to die? no one. So it seems that we should seek improvement rather than expecting something (thing, person, circumstance, etc) to be perfect …

      joy, love & peace,

    40. Any attempt at neutrality for an article of George W. Bush is doubtful, because his actions have generated extreme schisms of opinion. He has polarized more people in the USA than any other president in recent years. His vilification of certain national origin groups is alarming. I am an Asian and my people have been specifically targeted by his dictatorship-type passing of the Patriot Act.

      Wikipedia is full of white administrators, pushing white-centered world views, preventing real neutrality on the Bush article. The moderators on Wikipedia are not indifferent robots; they’re real people with bias too. They have a white-centered world view because most of the administrators are white. I would gauge that >90% of the administrators are white. Consequently, for a new administrator to be promoted, they must agree with the viewpoints of the current administrators, promoting the white-bias status quo. The article on Bush will always have pro-white and anti-non-white bias due to the backgrounds of the administrators.

    41. Andrew Yu-Jen Wang says:

      Bush Still Hated by Everyone, Forever

      For all the comparison’s he would like to make about himself and Harry Truman (who left the White House with a high disapproval rating but history later proved him to be jawesome), George Bush has managed to outshine his predecessors in at least one respect: he’s beaten every other president in history with how much he’s hated.

      “No other President’s disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent,” said CNN pollster Keating Holland. “Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year.” Including his current highest-ever rating of 76%.

      Retrieved November 18, 2008, from http://www.jossip.com/bush-still-hated-by-everyone-forever-20081111/

      “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” –Kanye West (African-American rapper, record producer, and singer).

      Maybe if George W. Bush changed and learned to like and care about black people, the American people would not hate him so much and forever. In addition, maybe if Bush constructively aspired to overcome his hatred of black people, it would be beneficial in relieving some of the psychological strain and inner turmoil within—which would, if anything, risk exacerbating his situation as a dry drunk if not dealt with.

      Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
      B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
      Messiah College, Grantham, PA
      Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    42. FIKE2308 says:

      if you consider the cia to neutral then i guess that is the case.

    43. paolo says:

      Interesting! I used Bush (and this photo!) as an example of controversial user. See slide 11 of my presentation “Controversial Users demand Local Trust Metrics: an Experimental Study on Epinions.com Community”
      Presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/phauly/aaai

    44. Lucky Joestar says:

      Wikipedia is most certainly not neutral! They refer to criticism of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis with the pejorative term “denialism.” When called on using the pejorative, they claimed “consensus” already settled the matter as an excuse for such childish namecalling. I also believe I saw the name of Eric Lerner, who rejects the Big Bang Theory, on the Wikipedia edit ban list. What this tells me is that Wikipedians are not true scholars but rather self-absorbed consensus monkeys.

      • It all depends on what the standard might be. Scientific information isn’t on Wikipedia because some person believes it and can make a coherent argument, it is on there because it has been tested in ways that can be reproduced.

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