Wikipedia:Neutral and proportionate point of view
This page is an essay on the role of Wikipedia.
|This page in a nutshell: Wikipedia's neutrality is often misunderstood as giving equal validity to mainstream and fringe views.|
The neutral point of view policy does not prescribe neutrality, in a certain sense of the word. When there are competing points of view, Wikipedia does not aim for the midpoint between them. Rather, it gives weight to each view in proportion to its prevalence in reliable sources. Wikipedia's less-than-obvious meaning of "neutral point of view" is a perennial source of confusion.
Misunderstanding of what "neutral point of view" means is particularly common among editors who favor views that have been marginalized in reliable sources, that is, views which Wikipedia calls fringe. Proponents of fringe views often complain that their views are not being conveyed neutrally in Wikipedia. This is actually true, in the usual meaning of the word "neutral". In Wikipedia, however, conveying something neutrally means following the neutral point of view policy which aims to marginalize fringe views and avoid false balances. Thus in one particular sense Wikipedia does not strive for neutrality: Wikipedia does not strike a neutral position regarding whether or not the Moon landings were hoaxes, for example, as if the hoax view were equally valid.
Thus the word "neutral" in "neutral point of view" does not quite mean "neutral". There is the usual meaning of "neutral", and apart from that there is Wikipedia's meaning of "neutral point of view". The confusion is responsible for endless conversations resembling:
- A: "Such-and-such is not being portrayed neutrally in the article."
- B: "Correct, we do not confer equal validity to marginalized viewpoints."
- A: "Wrong, we must follow the neutral point of view policy; we must cover this neutrally."
- B: "The neutral point of view policy states that we don't cover this neutrally, in the sense you are using the word 'neutrally'."
- A: "Stop it! The article isn't neutral!"
- B: "Right, it's not neutral because it follows the neutral point of view policy."
A more fitting name for the neutral point of view policy might be the neutral and proportionate point of view policy. Emphasizing the essential aspect of proportionality may prevent the kind of confusion described above.