Wikipedia:Avoid thread mode
|This page in a nutshell: Don't "However" a position in the middle of stating its case.|
If you've read a few articles dealing with controversial issues during your stay at Wikipedia, you might find the following eerily familiar:
- Apples have often been claimed to be objectively better than oranges by experts; estimates as to the exact amount of betterness of the apples vary, with the 1967 Smith report putting it at 30%. However, the authors of that report were exposed as interested parties, with Smith herself revealed to have had her research funded by Big Apple, thoroughly discrediting the Applist agenda and winning the Orange faction renewed support in faculties worldwide. Apple representatives have asserted in response that these allegations are nothing more than an Orangist smear campaign. However, a government investigation in 2006 condemned Applists for falsifying membership records and found no evidence of any smear campaign. But these accusations are old and had already been addressed and debunked by the Applists long before the Julius report...
What's this? Why, this is two sides of an argument, agreeing to disagree. This is an Internet flame war time capsule, courtesy of Wikipedia's unique process of collaborative distillation. This is a competition of who has the wit and strength of argument to verbally crush the opposition and grab the fluttering, elusive holy grail of The Last Word. This is the purified essence of an episode of Crossfire, written down. This is a train wreck.
You can easily imagine the exact painful process that went on in here. Some editor did the unthinkable and wrote something that somehow, somewhere on the Internet, someone disagrees with. And that someone came across the article in question and did that which must be done when someone is wrong on the Internet: delivered a crushing rebuttal. That However is a staple of the typical netizen crushing rebuttal. Pfah! Right, you could blabber and claim everything that's been written so far, However, that's all hogwash when you consider the brilliant counter-argument herein. Then of course comes the third editor. And the fourth, and the fifth, and the Nth.
In particularly bad cases, one statement is not enough. Sometimes, the One True Position must be heard across the whole article so that the reader will not miss THE TRUTH. And thus begins the great tacking-on of the piecewise propaganda pamphlet. The article turns into a wasteland of crippled, convoluted paragraphs, their hearts bleeding bitter blood having been pierced with the Mighty Sword of However, and atop them stands some sort of horrible violation of the Neutral Point of View, and black clouds gather ominously overhead complete with sinister lightning crackles. And God help you if the great tacking-on is met with an equal and opposite reaction.
What can you do? Well, one quick first-aid solution to pull a section out of thread mode is to segregate the cases for the two positions, such that position A gets to state its main arguments, then position B gets to state its main arguments, with neither being in the face of either. Now instead of a blitzkrieg of contrarian interruptions we'll have two or more coherent, opposing op-eds, which is progress. Ultimately, you might want to rewrite the whole thing so that it has some sort of narrative backbone rather than drawing on the controversy's shouting back and forth. Then, of course, you can let some side of the controversy say something here and there. Carefully. When it is their place to be heard, and to the degree they are relevant. You know, thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
A good rule of thumb is, if a position is notable and reasonable enough to be represented in an article, it is notable and reasonable enough to be represented without being instantly however-ed. Encyclopedias should not read like compressed forum threads.
- Wikipedia:Neutral point of view (policy)
- Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch (guideline)
- Wikipedia:Tendentious editing (guideline supplement)
- Wikipedia:Don't teach the controversy (essay)
- Wikipedia:Neutrality of sources (essay)