Wikiversity:Colloquium/archives/June 2006

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Contentious Objects

"Knowing that BLP articles have the potential for contention embedded within them, Wikipedia has adopted a threat management strategy through the BLP policy, which attempts to manage the expectations of participants, both those creating and editing articles and those who are the subjects of articles. Guidelines within the policy and its supporting materials provide approaches for editors and subjects, not to avoid conflict, but to ensure that the conflict does not escalate unmanageably.

Guidelines for editors

One effort to reduce threats is to set up clear guidelines for editors and writers of BLP articles with such a threatening attitude that they will feel compelled to follow them. The introduction to the BLP policy is written in forceful imperative tones. The verb .must. is repeated five times and replaced an additional time with .should be.. Words like .any,. .strictly. and .right. are italicized for emphasis. Other words in the brief policy description suggest the potential volatility of the BLP article in their extreme nature: .contentious,. .sensationalist,. .titillating,. egregious.. The rest of the policy lays out in detail exactly what editors need to keep in mind when writing these articles. These instructions are in an authoritative, imperative voice, using .do not,. .should not,. .should be,. and .never.. BLP policy is rarely cited by itself; it is almost always buttressed with reference to its supporting Wikipedia guidelines: Neutral point of view (NPOV), Verifiability (V) and No original research (NOR). This persistent reliance on external reinforcement suggests, not just the complexity of articles of this category, but the degree to which they are fraught with conflict. Any misstep could lead to conflagration. An example of an editor.s assessment of a BLP article indicates this excess care: The inclusion of the intimate details of the Harvard election and airport incident isn't, I think, proscribed by WP:BLP--indeed, the details, as sourced per WP:RS and WP:V and as formulated consistent with WP:NPOV, were compliant with our policies generally--but is militated against by WP:NOT, viz., that WP is not an indiscriminate collection of information.. Joe 05:51, 3 June 2006 (UTC) [24]. (RS refers to reliable sources.)

The policy's attention to reliable sources also indicates the organization's effort to reduce the flammability of BLP articles. The word contention appears multiple times and the use of that word itself provokes lengthy discussion on the part of editors working on the BLP policy. This section of the article also threatens immediate removal of articles that do not comply with its dictates, the ultimate threat available to Wikipedians, with multiple sentences starting with the phrase, do not [emphasis Wikipedia's]. The section on sources and their citations culminates with .External links about living persons in BLPs and elsewhere are judged by a stricter standard than for other articles, indicating an emphasis on valid sources, and suggesting that these types of articles are more likely to seed conflict than others." - - - WAS 4.250 16:58, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

It seems to me that the primary BLP (biogs of liv'n peeps) threat is getting sued by him or her for diss'n. Generally, if there is a problem on the Web, the aggrieved party makes a complaint (usually with a threat to sue) if the material isn't removed. Most Web entities react to this by removing the material, which makes sense to me. Perhaps this is the route we should take -- not to remove material, but to look into it to see if we have a valid legal liability.
Developing an "objective" approach such as looking at notable living "peeps" as to what they have done, effects they have had, and various minor vital details is a weak approach to me. I give Smuts as a non-living example; he coined "holism" which is a basis for humanistic psychotherapeutics, but the guy architected Apartheid soon after! In my mind it is impossible for someone to be both a true humanist and a fascist at the same time. As it happens, holism is the weakest of the "whole system models" and was chosen only because Perls (of Gestalt therapy) went to South Africa to be influenced by Smuts. Perls should have dumped holism and adopted some other whole systems theory when he arrived in New York City, or maybe whole systems itself as it was in existence by the early 20th Century.
What I am saying is that we should be allowed to apply the critical inquiry that Perls should have applied(!), and then back off when it looks like we will get punished for our inquisitiveness--then we document that, and win anyway!--JohnBessa66.pngBessatalk 18:10, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
Actually, now that I think about this a little, perhaps we need to initiate a law college and stop worrying so much about our law-making and focus on real laws!--JohnBessa66.pngBessatalk 18:18, 29 April 2011 (UTC)