Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wikipedia's Leftward Slant

   As I've mentioned, I've noticed leftward/PC bias in some fairly important Wikipedia entries about a couple of subjects I understand reasonably well. I don't know how widespread it is, but from my (fairly small) sample, my guess would be that it's significant. I know that I'm not the only one who's concluded this, FWIW. There's no reason to add the obvious observation that I could be wrong.
   But here's a reasonably clear case, I'd say: the talk page for the Christina Hoff Sommers entry. I don't understand Wikipedia's editing rules, but I'd describe the discussion like so: a couple of dogmatic editors blocking the eminently reasonable request to describe Sommers as a feminist. Now...Sommers is a feminist. There's really just no doubt about that. She considers herself a feminist, she's an egalitarian about sex, her view would have been mainstream feminism 30 years ago, and it's very similar to what most ordinary people who identify themselves as feminists mean. It's really an open-and-shut case. If she's not a feminist, the majority of women in America who classify themselves as feminists are not feminists.

   But the recalcitrant editors seem obviously committed to the claim that she isn't one. Their major argument seems to be an appeal to expert opinion: most academic feminists call Sommers anti-feminist. Ergo Sommers is not a feminist.
   This is a specific instance of a general problem I've noticed. The general problem is: with respect to questions where political correctness is an issue--including gende and race--the "experts" tend to be humanists and social scientists who are, in fact, largely activists, and whose "expert" opinions are largely determined by politics. It's just about as accurate to say: they're not really experts at all. Though one might also so say: expert opinion in those fields does not have the kind of epistemic authority that expert opinion normally has. What we have is politics largely determining the orthodoxy in certain academic areas...and then left-leaning editors on Wikipedia citing that opinion as grounds for slanting Wikipedia to the left. All while pretending to maintain "NPOV" on the same grounds.
   Furthermore, I argue, ad hominem: when challenged, it has become fashionable for feminists to respond by saying that "feminism is merely the view that men and women are equal," or "feminism is the radical view that women are people." The implication, of course, is that anyone who is not a feminist, or who criticizes feminism, denies those claims. And also: if those claims are true, then all the rest of (even the loopiest) feminism follows.
   But, if those definitions were correct, then Sommers would obviously count as a feminist, and there'd be no doubt about it.
   Needless to say, the editors are not going to accept any such consistency argument...


Blogger Pete Mack said...

Yeah, there are certain editors at Wikipedia who do not do a good job. That said, I don't usually run into them, since I'm looking up historical or technical (math, statistics, physics) stuff. On the latter, Wikipedia is very good indeed--roughly the equivalent of a first year college textbook.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Protagoras said...

She is described as an advocate of one or another of (modifier) feminist positions many, many times in the course of the article. The talk seems to be entirely about whether she should have been described as a feminist with no modifier in the first paragraph. It kind of seems to me that the discussion does a good job of establishing that calling her a feminist with no modifier would be controversial, and I find it difficult to attach much significance to the fact that the first time she's called a feminist with a modifier is in the first sentence of the second paragraph, especially as the first paragraph is so short. So if there's massive lefty bias in Wikipedia, this doesn't seem like the most overwhelming evidence of it.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I agree that Wikipedia often seems pretty good to me when it doesn't impinge on politics...but often I have no expertise in what I'm reading about, so it's hard to say.

The philosophical stuff that isn't political is sometimes awful, sometimes pretty good, though, I'll say.

LOL damn are right. I got all caught up in the talk page, and didn't re-read the entry. I think the talk page reveals clear bias on the part of the editors--though I'll go back and re-read. And I DO think that Sommers should be described as a feminist without modification or attribution...but those are less-important points.

At any rate, I *intended* to say: the talk page discussion indicates bias, not necessarily the entry... Don't blog tired...don't blog tired...

Thanks for this.

6:58 AM  

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