if this were a Nazi denying the Holocaust I had
fought, I'd be
being feted as a hero on the mailing list right now, and everyone
would look the other way if any "rules" were broken.
Hmm. Does Godwin's Law apply now? :-)
I'm going to make some observations. VeryVerily, please
understand it is *not* *you* I am talking about here.
(I've never interacted with you; I haven't looked at your
edit history; I don't know what kind of editor you are.)
There are some editors who are: (1) extremely knowledgeable about
a significant subject area, (2) passionate about that subject
and about improving the Encyclopedia, but (3) in the end, sadly,
unable to participate in the project. Their participation is
impossible because they are simply incapable of working within
the structure which Wikipedia has set up, where partisans on
opposite sides of a contentious issue (partisans who, in real
life, might well want to be killing each other), work together
cooperatively to craft an NPOV article. You need more than just
knowledge and passion to conduct that mission: you also need
things like diplomacy and humility and patience, and not everyone
possesses all of those skills.
It takes two to make an edit war. If you are engaged in an edit
war, no matter how Right your cause is, no matter how True your
facts are, no matter how Wrong your opponents are, you are
partially at fault.
Wikipedia *can* *not* afford too many edit wars. They are
ridiculously expensive and destructive and timeconsuming.
They take up everybody's time (especially the beleaguered
arbitrators), they discourage other editors from participating,
they leave the contested articles unreadable for long periods of
time. Even after the cases are arbitrated, the toll continues,
because the aggrieved parties can never accept the results, and
continue to appeal their cases by posting long, overwrought
messages to Jimbo's talk page and the like.
For example, there's an article [[Palestinian exodus]] describing
the flight of Palestinians from what is now Israel after the 1948
war. It appears to have been edited primarily by people
sympathetic to the Palestinian side of that conflict, and reads
(to me, at least) with a pretty significant POV bias. There's an
editor by the name of Zeq who has been trying to fix it, which
ought to be a laudable cause, because it (probably) does need
fixing. But he hasn't been able to do it dispassionately, and
he ended up getting banned from editing that article.
On several counts, I believe he is in the right. The article
is biased, and his opponents have worked to keep it that way.
But the difference is that his opponents appear to have done
better at playing by Wikipedia's rules than he has, which is
why he has been banned and they haven't, and their view (for
now) prevails. This is very sad, very wrong, and not how the
Encyclopedia is supposed to work. But until an editor comes
along who is knowledgeable and passionate about the Israeli
side of that conflict, *and* who is able to edit a contentious
Wikipedia article dispassionately and diplomatically, the
lopsidedness is likely to remain.
And of course that's hardly the only example; this pattern recurs
all the time. There's ample documentation of the problem;
there's ample help available in the form of lists of suggestions
for editors who want to learn how to work more effectively within
Wikipedia's environment; I'm certainly not the first to be
pointing any of this out. But, of course, one of the traits
of the problematic editors is that they don't have enough
self-reflection to realize that they're the ones those lists of
suggestions are aimed at, and they don't have the disposition
necessary to actually adopt and apply the suggestions.
It's all too easy for outside observers to recognize when one of
these disputative situations has cropped up, which is one reason
that the aggrieved parties often feel they're being discriminated
or conspired against. The same hallmarks ought to make it easy
for the participants to recognize themselves as well -- if only
they could. I was going to describe some of the hallmarks here,
but they'd break the flow of an already too-long message, and
VeryVerily would think I was talking about him, so I'll list them
The bottom line, however, is that *it is possible to edit a
Wikipedia article on even a highly contentious subject without
having all these horrible problems*. If you are having these
problems, *you are doing something wrong*. You can't blame it on
your opponents or on "the system"; *you are part of the problem*.
You are going to have to change your attitude and the way you
work on Wikipedia.
It's too bad when a passionate and knowledgeable but disputative
editor can't be perfectly accommodated. But the process of trying
to accommodate disputative editors does not scale -- Arbcon is
under increasing amounts of pressure as more and more aggrieved
editors demand their right to be heard, and it's only going to
get worse as the numbers of editors increase.