Essay:Psychosocial Issues of Conservapedia and its Contributors

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Conservapedia reports itself to be the oppositional rival to Wikipedia. Its expressed intention is offer a politically right-wing, religiously fundamentalist, pro-American on-line encyclopedia to redress the imbalances (as its contributors see it) displayed by Wikipedia in this regard. [1]Theoretically, there may be a need for such an on-line encyclopedia; however, there is no actual research available to evidence such a need and, if such research is available, it is hidden from the eyes of the general on-line populace.

Purpose of this Essay[edit]

Conservapedia is, of itself, controversial, not least because of its content, but also due to the manner in which it operates outside of the normal societal boundaries of Wiki communities. For those reasons alone, Conservapedia lends itself to analysis via mental health models and theories of functioning and disease. Whilst such an endeavour could possibly consume multiple volumes of work, this essay is intended to stimulate rational debate (based on such models as mentioned) of Conservapedia.

Religious Delusions in General[edit]

Frequency of Occurrence[edit]

In mental health terms, delusions relating to religion are common-place and frequent. They are among the most frequent delusions and hallucinations in schizophrenia. The severity and, above all, the quality of those delusions are what marks them as being unusual, odd or bizarre. Medically, a "delusion" is defined as a fixed, false belief that is not in accordance with generally accepted reality.

Origins of Delusions[edit]

Delusions may be a reaction to a perceived intolerable reality. Belief in the delusion causes less internal conflict than belief in reality would. Therefore, delusions are held very tightly, and the deluded will be willing to tolerate very little criticism which would break down the protective delusion. Expressions of such delusions may arise from:

  • A religious upbringing, nature or background;
  • Being "acquired" alongside:
  • Illegal drug use;
  • Imprisonment;
  • Cult entrapment;
  • Dissassociative states or behaviours;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Sexual abuse (particularly by members of a church/religion or the clergy of a religious order);
  • The affected individual "rebelling" against:
  • A non-religious background or upbringing;
  • Against society in general.

"Delusions" in Conservapedia[edit]

The words "delusion" and "delusions" are often used as a derogatory term for the beliefs, thoughts or actions or others, without regard for clinical basis, diagnosis or context. However, clearly defining the nature and quality of a "delusion" is a task best undertaken by a trained mental health professional. In relation to the content of Conservapedia and the behaviour and attitudes of the contributors, these terms should be used sparingly and due consideration of the cultural and religious belief systems of contributors should be given.

Defining "Delusions" in Conservapedia[edit]

In order to accurately identify and challenge delusional content in Conservapedia, it is necessary to apply clinical definitions and parameters to that content, taking account of the context, actual meaning and any implied meaning of the content. Many items of content in Conservapedia that may initially appear to be delusions may well be revealed as nothing more than misguidance, nonsense or unusual application of religious principles or teaching; conversely, content that may initially appear to be delusion-free may well be revealed to be severly delusional by breaking down under scrutiny and may have no basis in rational, logical, reality-based thought processes or concepts.

Political Ideology, Religious Beliefs & Consevapedia[edit]

The introduction of conservative political views (which are generally right-wing in nature) into a religious ideology that is, essentially, fundamentalist creates a clinical picture that is more difficult to interpret. However, there are occasions when the two themes (religion and right-wing politics) coincide and reinforce each other, as decribed in Freud's work on psychoanalysis. At these times the inherent implausability of the statement becomes easily identifiable as a delusion and, once again, the delusion breaks down under scrutiny.

Challenging Conservapedia & its Contributors[edit]

Challenging a fixed, immovable belief system can be difficult, time consuming and stressful for the person making the challenge; that person may well experience the anger/defiance authoritarian response from the person being challenged repeatedly, and this may also include personal insults of an unsavoury nature.

Types of Responses to being Challenged[edit]

The contributors to Conservapedia self-report to be Christians, of a more-or-less fundamentalist doctrine. The values usually ascribed to Christianity (selflessness, care of the poor, forgiveness of the sins of others, abeyance to the "rules of life" as described in the Bible) appear to be missing from the approaches taken by contributors to Conservapedia. This, in itself, is a contextual problem:

  • The contributors to Conservapedia report themselves to be faithful, religious Christians, yet engage in un-Christian behaviours;
  • Foul and abusive language is used towards others;
  • There is a distinct lack of remorse for these behaviours, as would be expected from Christians engaging in such behaviours;
  • Contributors do not "turn the other cheek", as their faith would have them do;
  • Forgiveness is not offered to the offending parties;
  • No value is placed on the well-being of others.

Indeed, it is amply clear that, from a psychosocial point of view, these individuals experience great difficulty acknowledging their own "wrong-doing", "sins" or failings to such an extent that it becomes difficult for an objective observer to determine exactly if any one particular contributor is, in fact, following any of the Christian doctrine.

Many of these indicators present as a challenge to the reading/observing mental health professional; indeed, it could be said that the fact that such behaviours towards others indicate that there is an unhealthy world-view held amongst Conservapedia contributors. From a clinical perspective, many of the above indicators have similarities with a diagnosis of one the of the personality disorders, rather than a psychotic disorder.

Authoritarian Responses by Conservapedia Contributors[edit]

In mental health terms, individuals that express delusional ideation often fear having their delusions probed, questioned or destroyed by others. This leads to a reluctance by the individual to discuss aspects of their delusions, or indeed, to discussing their delusions in any way. A common defence mechanism in such cases is the use of an anger/defiance response, much akin to reponses displayed by children (when caught "red handed" doing something they know is wrong or should not be doing). In adults (as per Freuds theorems) this response is translated into an authoritarian style of anger/defiance response, where the affected individual behaves in a manner that others would see as unconstructive, obstructive, dismissive, abusive, insightless and, above all, authoritarian. These kinds of responses in adults also often indicate a degree of denial syndrome, whereby the individual does not wish to face up to reality when challenged about their belief systems. By reverting to an authoritarian anger/defiance response, the adult individual effectively "blocks" further attempts at probing or discussion of their belief systems, thus maintaining the internal integrity of their beliefs.

This approach is evident in many forms in Conservapedia; however, this does not necessarily mean that any one individual is expressing delusional ideation; once again, it falls to the clinician to assess the context, nature and quality of the suspected delusional ideas, as descibed above. The nature of such an authoritarian response appears to be based on whether the offending individual has a value to Conservapedia or the contributor.

De-Humanising Terms[edit]

One favoured approach of Conservapedia contributors is to "de-humanise" the offending individual by using what appear to be vague phrases. One such phrase that is used repeatedly is "SubHuman", in association with the term "cabal". This phrase is repeatedly used on Conservapedia; however, his justification for its use is that of "humour". This justification belies the nature of the term: "sub", meaning "below", combined with "human", clearly indicating that the term is abusive - the individual to which the term has been applied is a "non-human", an animal, or is less than human. There is no indication of remorse or repentance when this phrase is used; the offending individual is labelled as "subhuman" for all time. No account of the effect such a phrase may have on the labelled individual is taken; the label is applied and, once applied, the individual is forever seen as worthless, valueless, beyond recognition or acknowledgement by any terms other than the lowest possible.

Abusive Language[edit]

Abusive language is used in all its common forms; however, there appears to be a degree of moderation within Conservapedia and its members/contributors that does not extend to outside of Conservapedia. Attempts at covering such language include the use of the term "Godspeed" as a replacement for the term "go fuck yourself". This poorly disguised attempt a religious piety and friendliness fails in its objective markedly, as many who receive such a remark from a Conservapedia contributor see it as abusive terminology.

Members or contributors to Conservapedia that operate outside of Conservapedia appear to experience a loss if inhibition arising from the freedom that being away from Conservapedia brings; abusive terms and language abound outside of Conservapedia and a failure to apologise or repent such behaviour publicly is seen.

<Ongoing Essay - more to be added, including references.>