[Foundation-l] Letter to the community on Controversial Content

David Levy lifeisunfair at gmail.com
Thu Oct 13 01:07:30 UTC 2011

Andreas Kolbe wrote:

> Well, you need to be clear that you're using the word "neutral" here with a
> different meaning than the one ascribed to it in NPOV policy.
> Neutrality is not abstractly defined: like notability or verifiability, it
> has a very specific meaning within Wikipedia policy. That meaning is
> irrevocably tied to reliable sources.
> Neutrality consists in our reflecting fairly, proportionately, and without bias,
> how reliable sources treat a subject.

Again, reflecting views != adopting views as our own.

We're going around in circles, so I don't care to elaborate again.

> Your assumption that reliably published sources do not publish the images you
> have in mind here because they do not wish to upset people is unexamined, and
> disregards other considerations – of aesthetics, didactics, psychology,
> professionalism, educational value, quality of execution, and others.

I referred to a scenario in which an illustration is omitted because
of a belief that its inclusion would upset people, but I do *not*
assume that this is the only possible rationale.

I also don't advocate that every relevant image be shoehorned into an
article.  (Many are of relatively low quality and/or redundant to
others.)  My point is merely that "it upsets people" isn't a valid
reason for us to omit an image.

As our image availability differs from that of most publications (i.e.
we can't simply duplicate the pictures that they run), we *always*
must evaluate — using the most objective criteria possible — how well
an image illustrates its subject.  It's impossible to eliminate all
subjectivity, but we do our best.

> It also disregards the possibility that Wikipedians may wish to include
> images for other reasons than simply to educate the reader – because they
> like the images, find them attractive, wish to shock, and so forth.

No, I don't disregard that possibility.  Such problems arise with text too.

> Basically, you are positing that whatever you like, or the community likes,
> is neutral. :)

If you were familiar with my on-wiki rants, you wouldn't have written that.

> > In an earlier reply, I cited ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers and magazines
> > that refuse to publish photographs of women.  If this were a mainstream
> > policy, would that make it "neutral"?

Please answer the above question.

> You said in an earlier mail that in writing our texts, our job is to
> neutrally reflect the real-world balance, *including* any presumed biases. I
> agree with that.

Yes, our content reflects the biases' existence.  It does *not* affirm
their correctness.

David Levy

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