Essay:RationalWiki and politics

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by FuzzyCatPotato.
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Speaking as an editor for RationalWiki, it depends on the subject.

When they go into true, hard science with little to no social issues (other than conspiracy theorists) like medicine, they are a gold mine. The site has helped me complete projects and find scientific consensuses on issues. They call out pseudoscientific bunk when it occurs, like the aspartame controversy. I would highly recommend RationalWiki portals like "Alternative medicine".

When they delve into pop culture and more sensitive social issues, like politics, sex, etc., the quality may become questionable. Generally speaking, the articles tend to give off a good summary, but at times they can get ideological and accusatory. Sometimes, it can get unscientific, too. Unfortunately, RationalWiki has a policy of trying to make everything snarky, and at times the quality suffers because of it. That said, the articles often are good places to start as they talk in ways that are easily understandable to ignorant and overly emotional people, so they are good to get a general idea of the subject and information at hand but it is not to be taken as a bible.

One thing I really enjoy about RW is their description of fallacies. They list several of them so you can easily name fallacies the next time you are having a discussion with someone.
/u/sega31098, who (as far as I can tell) represents the average internet view of RW

RationalWiki should avoid (mainstream) politics and/or handle them very differently.

Here's why and how:

Diagnosis[edit]

RW is best on non-political topics[edit]

RW is best on non-political topics: conspiracies,[note 1] pseudosciences,[note 2] religions,[note 3] and rhetoric.[note 4]

Look at all of the cover articles: 0 of 31 (00.00%) of the articles are primarily political:[note 5]

Look at the silver articles: Only 11 (14.29%) of 77 of silver articles are primarily political, and some of them (eg, Michelle Bachman) are arguably more concerned with pseudoscience and religion:[note 6]

Altogether, only 11 (10.19%) of our best 108 articles are political, and the non-political articles tend to be higher ranked. Even if you disagree with my exact tallies, the points stands: the vast majority of what RW is good at is not mainstream politics.

In general, I would argue that our politics articles are generally worse-sourced and much more inflammatory than our non-political articles.

This especially shows when looking at what RW is cited for. I don't have hard numbers, but I have been using TrackReddit[1] and Google Alerts[2] to monitor mentions of RW (for this purpose) for about a year. RW is most commonly cited as a counter-source when someone brings up a conspiratorial or shitty source (such as Globalresearch or NaturalNews), next most commonly cited to counter common fallacies, and third most commonly cited to refute postings from documents RW has debunked.

Why is politics hard?[edit]

The difference with New Age, creationism, etc. is that in those cases I can rather confidently say that "we (RW) are right" based on fairly simple and clear hard evidence. With GG, this is a lot less clear to me. Much of our evidence seems to be based on things someone once said, various interpretations of events, etc. None of this is really "hard evidence", and much of it is disputed by GGers—and not all of them are foaming-mouthing misogynists.
Carpetsmoker[3]
  1. Proving facts is harder. See quote. Even though other issues may be more clear-cut than Gamergate, the point as a whole stands.
  2. It’s very hard to say that there is one objective political “truth” (and prove it true in a single page). Is libertarianism more valid than liberalism? Is equality morally worthwhile? Is freedom morally worthwhile? Which is more morally important? Why? Humankind hasn't definitively proven any of these answers, and it's been 3 million years.
  3. People tend to come at political topics with much more virulent bias. From personal experience, RW is far more often rejected as “far-left” or similar rather than as a “shill” for Big Pharma or "anti-Christian". (All happen.)
  4. Other sources tend to do a better job than us. Compare Angela MerkelWikipedia's W.svg to Angela Merkel. It's not worth much if we can't add RW-unique SPOV.

Consequences[edit]

RW's largely one-sided coverage of mainstream politics have several unfortunate consequences.

Distrust[edit]

Our politicality has caused many people to question RW as a source.

For example, three reddit posts from one day:

RationalWiki is basically just Conservapedia for the authoritarian left.[4]

[RationalWiki is] the liberal version of Conservapedia, only with no trolls. [....] RationalWiki has the same vibe as /r/atheism and other similar communities. They write opinionated articles and pretend it's a fact. They also do what MediaMatters does: they provide liberal talking points for common arguments about politics, religion, etc. (MediaMatters is not claiming to be objective though). TL;DR: It's basically a group of people who try to claim that their opinion is fact.[5]

Can we please stop talking about Rationalwiki? It's literally run by shills. It has never, ever been a relevant source of any sort of factual information. Not now, not before, not ever.[6]

And three from the past:

When I wanted to know more about GG than just the odd video by this or that youtube personality I have been watching for years, went to RationalWiki, the experts on all kinds of non-scientific bullshit. BIG MISTAKE! I was vaguely aware about a rift in the secular community in the internet, but I regarded that as minor disagreements. I was not prepared.[7]

It started out as kind of a cross between a parody of conservapedia and a place for skeptics to point out how to recognize pseudoscience and other assorted types of woo. It's since turned into just a liberal version of conservapedia, although some of the skeptic articles are still there and still decent.[8]

CMV:RationalWiki is just as bad as Conservapedia, and both are bad for society as a whole[9]

And a private message to me, in response to asking "what's wrong with RW, and how can RW fix it"?

Well, I think they've let their personal agendas seep into their work. A wiki about rationality is supposed to be a bastion of impartiality. At least, that's what it was before. There used to be a lot of great stuff there. Debunking claims, explaining logical fallacies, just what you'd expect from the name. Now it just reads more like Encyclopedia Dramatica, filled with biased, sometimes, hateful views and (sometimes deliberate), factual inaccuracies.

What would fix it? I really don't know but I'd start with getting rid of people [...] who use the website as an extension of their own political ideas and beliefs. A complete overhaul would improve things a lot. Still, they will have a hard time regaining the respect they've lost. Till then, I want nothing to do with them.

These are not isolated incidents. On any given day, between 1/5 and 1/2 of all mentions of RW on Reddit are to attack it as a source.[note 9]

Growth (or lack thereof)[edit]

Community stats, 2007-2015.

RW has a growing editor community; I don't dispute that. And, admittedly, RW is increasingly often mentioned on Reddit. However:

  1. Although Alexa isn't 100% accurate, it can predict broad trends reasonably well. Since April 2015, RW has been dropping ranks of Internet viewership, from about 16000 to about 26000 worldwide.[10]
  2. Although Googling isn't 100% accurate and only searches certain places, the number of mentions of "RationalWiki" has gone down over time. RationalWiki's mentions: 210 (2010-11),[11] 230 (2011-12),[12] 205 (2012-13),[13] 216 (2013-14),[14] and 140 (2014-15).[15] Even though it's been 96.16% of the year, our 140 citations are 34.96% less than the previous 4-year average of 215.25.
  3. RW has maintained roughly the same level of Google Trends interest from 2014-15, rather than continuing its 2011-2014 climb.[16]

Again, even if you disagree with the exact numbers, the broad point should be clear: perception and use of RW is changing.

RW will have an increasingly difficult time growing if people continue to distrust RationalWiki or disagree with its political views. In general, people who aren't liberals have low opinions of RW. Compare that to how people regard, for example, Science Based Medicine or Talk Origins -- almost universally positively.

What use is a source of information if people don't use it?

Wasted energy[edit]

Editor attention is a zero-sum game. Improving articles that are on politics means not improving articles that aren't on politics.

There's still much of creationism to debunk, conspiracies to disprove, and religions to analyze. We're more likely to change minds and maybe fix the world a little bit here than in the murky waters of politics.

Solution[edit]

"RationalWiki" was probably a bad choice of words to use in hindsight; but "SkepticWiki" was already taken, "Skeptical Empiricist Wiki" isn't catchy and "Liberapedia" is just embarrassing (by name and nature), so what else could it have been?
—Good advice from Essay:I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALWiki

I do not want a purge of political articles. RW will not change overnight. Instead, in the long term, RW should attempt to move away from political topics. Politics will always be here. It should become decreasingly so.

When suggesting new articles, RW should prefer those of creationism over those of conservatism. When AFDing, RW should scrutinize political topics for missionality and notability[note 10] even more heavily. When documenting nutters on the internet, their political beliefs should take back seat to their worries about the combined NWO-lizard-Big Pharma threat. When covering political candidates, criticize them not for their conservatism but their creationism.

Reform[edit]

If RW must venture into politics because some issue has a metric ton of bullshit surrounding it (as happens all too often), then it should do three things:

  1. Attack Facts: Rather than trying to attack the moral "principles" of an idea or person (eg, by calling someone/thing a bigot or liar), we should point out their idiocy by disproving their points. For example, Holocaust denialism (political and related to conservatism) is false not because of its political implications, but instead its conspiratorial thinking and flawed science. [Edited 18:06, 18 December 2015 (UTC)].
  2. Citation-ism: If it's not sourced, remove it. If it's snarky and unsourced, remove it even faster. Stick to sources from (a) published scientific journals, (b) credible government sources, or (c) credible news. For example, our gender pay gap (political and related to liberalism) article's citations are perhaps 90% from these kinds of sources.
  3. Point-Counterpoint: Don't just try to prove our side is true. Instead, show what the other side thinks and why it's bullshit. For example, 9/11 conspiracy theories (political and related to libertarianism) brings up evidence presented by Truthers and shows why it's wrong or inadequate. Debunk instead of creating a narrative.

If our articles meet these standards, even if they're biased and political, they'll be biased in a mature and well-cited way -- unlike many current articles.

TLDR[edit]

Dispute their facts, not their politics.

Voting[edit]

To honor RW tradition: (Just your name, please; comments on the talkpage!)

On balance, I agree[edit]

  1. FuzzyCatPotato!™ (talk/stalk) 02:32, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  2. |₹Λ¥$€₦₦ Star of David.png So you're telling me cocaine comes from scorpions? 02:47, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  3. Arcane (talk) 02:48, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  4. Carpetsmoker (talk) 02:48, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  5. Keter (talk) 03:36, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  6. Tielec01 (talk) 07:21, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  7. JorisEnter (talk) 09:10, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  8. 192․168․1․42 (talk) 09:11, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  9. --Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 17:53, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  10. IBelieveinNPOV (talk) 18:42, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
  11. Too many editors confuse rationalism with liberalism. Hmmph (talk) 06:16, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
  12. ~ Aneris 00:56, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
  13. "Dispute their facts, not their politics." Hear, hear. 81.145.153.190 (talk) 11:03, 27 February 2016 (UTC)
  14. Sarah (HH) 18:29, 27 February 2016 (UTC)
  15. Well written, well sourced, nuanced, non-abrasive. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:59, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
  16. ...except for the conspiratorial, "Point-Counterpoint: Don't just try to prove our side is true. Instead, show what the other side thinks and why it's bullshit." This keeps the idea that one political camp is rational, the other is not. It is entirely possible for oppoing political ideologies to be grounded in science, rational thinking, and scepticism. I've been trying for years to get Rationalwiki to address the fact that on one side of the Atlantic Genetically modified food are rational and scientific, and on the other side its pseudoscience. This seems to me much more of a political argument than science. nobsBern baby bern 19:14, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
  17. I may be a bit biased, having just come from questioning whether certain aspects of sex-negativity are making a comeback...on here, but I have to agree with all this Resident Ishtar worshiper (talk) 14:39, 26 July 2017 (UTC)

On balance, I disagree[edit]

  1. Yo. - Kitsunelaine 「Beware. The foxgirls are coming.」 03:41, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  2. —Ryulong (talk) 07:22, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  3. There is no such thing as no politics. If you think you're "not politics", you're coming from a comfortable default. The whines you posit up top are from people who would consider any disagreement with them "politics" - David Gerard (talk) 08:40, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  4. "Editor attention is a zero-sum game." Uh, nope, it's not. WẽãšẽĩõĩďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 08:52, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  5. This just wreaks of the balance fallacy. Avoid mainstream politics, you say? Forget the politics of Gamergate, let's look at Donald Trump as an example. Is it really hard, as this essay claims, to dispute Trump when he's outright lying in many cases? No. Rationalism is inherently political, and while that politics comes in different shapes and sizes, debates and civil conflicts about where it should fall in the cases where it is hard are where we get the best content. Look at the (very old) debates on talk:Gaia hypothesis if you don't believe me. Gooniepunk (talk) 09:01, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  6. What David said. Typhoon (talk) 10:13, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  7. Conspiracies, pseudoscience, religion and rhetoric are non-political? In what alternate universe? Spud (talk) 12:43, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
    Maybe he comes from Earth-2. - Kitsunelaine 「Beware. The foxgirls are coming.」 22:35, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  8. --Castaigne2 (talk) 15:32, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
  9. Stupid, everything's politics. Especially pseudoscience: how can you discuss (eg) homeopathy without the political angle? Stupid! (remove the "on balance" from the header, please) Pippa (talk) 17:27, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
  10. Get rid of the highly charged articles which don't present an actual overview, and just bash instead(yes there are some)? Sure. Require better citations...? What do you mean by that? This isn't Wikipedia. If you require everything to be sourced, as you mentioned, it takes away the possibility of original research. It's very possible for an editor to write a great piece with original research - even if they have a strong personal bias. The key is for them to remember that rationalwiki is not liberialpedia, we are biased against falsehoods and nonsense, not conservatives per se.
    But this leads into another problem - to quote Aneris, "reality has a left bias." An excellent example is religion. Some of the best articles on RW are the counter-apologetics, which manage to be snarky while at the same time providing a clear and fair (i.e. not a straw man) description of the opposing argument. The believers who deploy these arguments are not mocked without substance, their claims are thoroughly debunked as absurd, and the humor comes from that.
    But while this is certainly fair, it brings us to an indisputable fact - the majority of conservative viewpoints are driven by religion. Homophobia? Patriarchy? Creationism? None of those would persist without religious attitudes behind them, as they have no logical or scientific support. The moment RW declared itself empirical, it placed itself against the religious reactionaries by default.
    Economic conservatism is one area where RW could end up with a more neutral stance while maintaining the same quality, but there will still be bias. The popular understanding of economics that you see on Facebook or Twitter is ridiculously off the mark, but the conservative positions (Reagonomics and such) are even more so. A thorough overview of economics will inevitably end up debunking conservative views left and right (pun intended).
    In short, trying to divorce politics from RW ignores the holistic nature of politics. Political positions are not just the name of your party. Religion, economics, sociology, history, etc. all play very important and interconnected roles within political affiliation. You could do your best to present both sides in their best incarnation, but even this risks the balance fallacy. You could try and just remove all mention of politics, but visitors would still notice that the overwhelming majority of nonsense being trashed here is stuff that a conservative would believe. Lord Aeonian (talk) 02:59, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
  11. how do you remove politics when it is inherent in so much of science, and so much of the topics that form the basis of RWs remit? Plus, i have no actual interest in the sciencey stuff AMassiveGay (talk) 22:26, 27 February 2016 (UTC)
  12. I disagree. When so many positions on the right are entirely rooted in pseudoscience, how do you avoid talking about that on a wiki dedicated to exposing and criticizing pseudoscience? Some examples of positions on the right that are based in pseudoscience: TERFism (the idea that gender does not exist and cannot differ from sex), Nazism (racialism), the Christian right is full of plenty of bs like young Earth creationism, and homophobes ignore evidence that says gay people are born that way and have no control over their attraction. While those positions aren't necessarily rightist (Josef Stalin was an example of a leftist [debatably, but I'm not getting into that] who was very homophobic), they seem to be almost entirely found in right-wingers today. I do think we should stay away from economic matters, as those don't have anything to do with pseudoscience. And your reasoning for not writing about politics seems to be largely based on how much Reddit, of all things, likes us. That is not a good metric at all, considering their huge population of SQWs, altrighters, and MRAs. LynnR (talk) 15:48, 14 October 2017 (UTC)

On balance, goat[edit]

  1. 142.124.55.236 (talk) 02:52, 18 December 42015 AQD (UTC)
  2. --TheroadtoWiganPier (talk) 09:01, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  3. All the zealot clowns make it impossible for me to choose "no" and I'm not so sure about "yes", so I go for my beloved third option, here named "Goat".--Arisboch ☞✍☜☞✉☜ ∈)☼(∋ 10:42, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  4. Many missional subjects are inherently political and we can't really avoid that. The actual problem seems to me the engagement of many editors with a specific kind of cultural leftism, which creates problems for the mission when that kind of leftism turns peremptory, bullyish, or utters censorship apology. - Smerdis of Tlön, LOAD "*", 8, 1. 21:45, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
  5. +1 Smerdis of Tlön // I'd tend to agree, but I think it mislocates the problems and some critics are right that many subjects are political. Reality has a left bias, but not everything left is automatically true. The facts should lead the way, but they don't. That's the problem. (though cutting out overtly political stuff might relieve that problem, since everyone rational can get behind mocking chemtrail-believers) — Aneris ✻ {talk/ideas} 06:07, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

Notes[edit]

  1. Ideas that rely on some shadowy orchestrator, rather than mainstream politics.
  2. Alt mfed, creationism, woo, etc.
  3. Self-evident.
  4. Logical fallacies, lingo, and gotcha's
  5. I've excluded the Conservapedia articles, which are arguably the intersection of all above categories.
  6. Again, I've excluded Conservapedia.
  7. and from name alone this seems like a shit article
  8. Even if there's libertarian semen stains all over this project, our objections are largely that it doesn't work, as opposed to "this project is hurting the poor!"
  9. RW has received plenty of criticism outside of Reddit. Reddit's just easier to monitor.
  10. As much as I hate this criterion

Footnotes[edit]

  1. http://trackreddit.com
  2. https://www.google.com/alerts
  3. http://rationalwiki.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Gamergate&diff=1592053&oldid=1592045
  4. https://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/3x7uva/dramapedia_ryulongs_salt_keeps_pouring_ggers/cy2mo8g
  5. https://www.reddit.com/r/badpolitics/comments/3x2iq8/cultural_marxism_as_agreed_upon_by_over_1200/cy1h0kr
  6. https://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/3x7c9b/dramapedia_rational_wiki_corrects_timeline_of/cy2f9ac
  7. https://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/comments/2zddf8/showerthoughts_history_flaws_of_the_sjws_divided/
  8. https://www.reddit.com/r/WikiInAction/comments/3q8861/ryulong_is_rationalwikis_version_of/cwdkskz
  9. https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/2ujfms/cmvrationalwiki_is_just_as_bad_as_conservapedia/
  10. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/rationalwiki.org
  11. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22rationalwiki%22&num=50&espv=2&biw=1304&bih=683&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/2010,cd_max:12/31/2011&ei=jWBzVsWmNYLtetysrJgH&start=400&sa=N
  12. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22rationalwiki%22&num=50&espv=2&biw=1304&bih=683&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/2011,cd_max:12/31/2012&ei=O2BzVubVA8fZe5WPg6AH&start=350&sa=N
  13. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22rationalwiki%22&num=50&espv=2&biw=1304&bih=683&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/2012,cd_max:12/31/2013&ei=FWBzVv6-EsS5eLflpsAK&start=350&sa=N
  14. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22rationalwiki%22&num=50&espv=2&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:2013,cd_max:2014&ei=119zVuqwMcqze_vFktgH&start=350&sa=N&biw=1304&bih=683
  15. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22rationalwiki%22&num=50&espv=2&tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/2014,cd_max:12/31/2015&ei=7V9zVr7wJ8ise9buq8gN&start=300&sa=N&biw=1304&bih=683
  16. https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=rationalwiki