Wikipedia cannot be neutral

Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg (English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

The goal of Wikipedia's adhering to a neutral point of view has had some beneficial effects, in that it has eliminated some of the most blatant forms of editorializing, and required the presentation of at least some facts, even if the only facts cited on a given topic are, "A lot of people believe x." This encourages an appeal to popularity, but is better than bare assertions. But it is impossible for Wikipedia to ever come close to being neutral.

This is because choices must always be made as to what facts are worthy of inclusion in what arguments, and how much weight and prominence they should be given. As Ludwig von Mises writes, "In searching for the causes of a cow's not giving milk a modern veterinarian will disregard entirely all reports concerning a witch's evil eye; his view would have been different three hundred years ago. In the same way the historian selects from the indefinite multitude of events that preceded the fact he is dealing with those which could have contributed to its emergence — or have delayed it — and neglects those which, according to his grasp of the nonhistorical sciences, could not have influenced it." A historical interpretation that is deemed to be "fringe" might be completely excluded from coverage in a main article about a phenomenon. Later, if the fringe view comes to be more widely accepted, its coverage might take up an entire section.

Thus, articles on, say, The Great Depression or Hurricane Sandy can never be completely neutral. What caused these economic and natural disasters? The mainstream views on, say, Keynesian economics and climate change will influence the coverage. For one thing, Wikipedia's mobocratic aspects cause coverage to be influenced by the "rough consensus" of participating editors, so systemic bias can creep in. Even if those editors' opinions were to be representative of the larger society's, that would still be systemic bias in favor of the mainstream view.

It is pretentious, then, to claim that Wikipedia can ever be particularly neutral. We may as well, instead, call for a "Wikipedian point of view" or "mainstream point of view" that is biased in favor of those opinions held by the Wikipedian editing community or the mainstream of society that, according to median voter theory, Wikipedians' combined efforts would tend to represent. To the extent that Wikipedia does present minority viewpoints without denouncing them as false or harmful, it could be described as having an "open-minded point of view".

See alsoEdit