Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fox News vs Wikipedia

They don't like each other. Certain elements in the Wiki community have made a regular, bordering on tendentious habit of trying to get Fox News deprecated as a reliable source. Translated into plain language that means that the Wikipedia Reliable Sources Noticeboard (WP:RSN) routinely sees editors opening discussions trying to get the community to declare that Fox News is not a reliable source and may not be cited in support of claims of fact in the encyclopedia's articles. This happens to a lot of conservative news outlets. And in fairness, some really are pretty shoddy with a history of lousy fact checking or just making stuff up. Of course one rarely if ever sees similar concerns raised about nakedly biased websites from the left.

Well today Fox shot back with an article accusing Wikipedia of blatant leftwing bias, especially in articles dealing with sensitive subjects like Communism and Socialism. Their article on Communism is actually a good example. It is an open secret that there is a cadre of left leaning editors who carefully guard the article and mobilize to ensure "consensus" is against anything too negative getting into it. Bluntly that article has been so thoroughly sanitized you could use it for a surgical ward.  

Full Disclosure: I spent a good part of ten years working on the encyclopedia (close to four as an admin) before I resigned, in large part over the naked bias and hostility to conservative editors. I still think that if your looking for information on non-controversial/political subjects, it's a good resource. But the hostility towards conservatives and conservative view points is very real. 


RTT said...

When I started using Wikipedia around 2004, I loved it. The left wing bias was obvious immediately, but I looked past that. As I read it more and more, I rather quickly discovered that there was, what I felt, significant promotion and defense of pederasty/pedophilia by a number of editors and admins on countless articles. I had to quit Wikipedia at that point. The only thing It might be good for is information on topics not related to human beings or remotely controversial subjects.

James the Thickheaded said...

Fox News junkies... love their Fox. But I think Tucker Carlson made it clear that they are not a fact-driven, news-driven organization when he pleaded they were an entertainment operation and therefore not bound by facts... as his defense against libel.

But that dodges your point.

My own point is that sometimes, claims of bias really can't be proven so much as the accuser is just sloppy: bad sourcing, poor writing, etc. I've seen a LOT more of that. And sometimes where the case is stronger we're simply dealing with personal issues between folks, too.

So yes, there are plenty of folks who are narrow minded in academia or elsewhere where incuriosity is at odds with the nature of the work. There are also folks whose own egos stand in the way of their opinions, or who let their opinions dictate their scholarship goes and what conclusions they reach. Some in fact simply become lazy as their success extends, and hunger no longer drives them. How refreshing it is to see or hear someone admit,
"I wanted X, but the more I looked, the more I began to suspect Y".

FWIW, the out and admitted Marxists (a very very rare thing btw) I've met in academia made it a feature of their scholarship - and as such it is useful, and becomes a tool. Fair disclosure disarms the premise... by just being honest, and you don't have to agree with marxism to see the utility of an analysis of class struggle in Chaucer. It's there. Is it central? No, but it is an insight nonetheless.

So I would vastly prefer to see someone write that there are multiple opinions on what the facts mean. Sometimes there is debate about what the facts are, but as scholarship in a field widens, the debate tends to become more honest and the facts often begin to settle - as a consensus forms. Then again a consensus can and does shift, and it is important to understand why and how as it tells us something about ourselves.

But I think if you ask any scholar these days about the level of scholarship in general, and if they answer anything but abominable, I'd run. Study of economics in the US is probably the worst. Folks quote Keynes, Smith, Ricardo and have no idea what the authors mean or stood for because they haven't read their works - only their quotes. The threesome (as well as many others) have become cartoons - especially in the anglo world. Most egregious in this - and this probably colors the whole of my response - today I find that those who label others "socialist" or "marxist" generally have no idea what constitutes either, and therefore accusations of liberal bias that might otherwise have merit increasingly are robbed of any power.

Accordingly, ask yourself whether it might be more fair to label these problems as cases of anti-intellectualism than anything else. Yes, conservatives can and today often are guilty of this because they want the outcome they prefer to be accepted. Liberals seem more commonly to defend a status quo and assume settled questions which may be far from settled. and may appear so simply because they discredit the premise of debate. In the end, both are in the same place. Read Jonathan Saul... a real thinker.