Policy:Neutral point of view
All BattleTechWiki articles must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views that have been published by a reliable source.
Neutral point of view is a fundamental principle of BattleTechWiki.
- 1 Explanation of the neutral point of view
- 2 Situations and handling
Explanation of the neutral point of view
The neutral point of view
The neutral point of view is a means of dealing with conflicting views. The policy requires that, where there are or have been conflicting views, these should be presented fairly. None of the views should be given undue weight or asserted as being the truth, and all significant published points of view are to be presented, not just the most popular one. It should also not be asserted that the most popular view or some sort of intermediate view among the different views is the correct one. Readers are left to form their own opinions.
As the name suggests, the neutral point of view is a point of view, not the absence or elimination of viewpoints. It is a point of view that is neutral - that is neither sympathetic nor in opposition to its subject.
Debates are described, represented, and characterized, but not engaged in. Background is provided on who believes what and why, and which view is more popular. Detailed articles might also contain the mutual evaluations of each viewpoint, but studiously refrain from stating which is better. One can think of unbiased writing as the cold, fair, analytical description of all relevant sides of a debate. When bias towards one particular point of view can be detected, the article needs to be fixed.
NPOV requires views to be represented without bias. All editors and all sources have biases. A bias is a prejudice in a general or specific sense, usually in the sense of having a predilection for one particular point of view or ideology. One is said to be biased if one is influenced by one's biases. A bias could, for example, lead one to accept or not-accept the truth of a claim, not because of the strength of the claim itself, but because it does or does not correspond to one's own preconceived ideas.
Types of bias include:
- Class bias, including bias favoring one social class and bias ignoring social or class divisions.
- Commercial bias, including advertising, coverage of political campaigns in such a way as to favor corporate interests, and the reporting of issues to favor the interests of the owners of the news media.
- Ethnic or racial bias, including racism, nationalism and regionalism.
- Gender bias, including sexism and heteronormativity.
- Geographical bias which may for example describe a dispute as it is conducted in one country without knowing that the dispute is framed differently elsewhere.
- Nationalistic bias: favoring the interests or views of a particular nation.
- Political bias, including bias in favor of or against a particular political party, policy or candidate.
- Religious bias, including bias in which one religious viewpoint is given preference over others.
- Sensationalism, which is bias in favor of the exceptional over the ordinary. This includes the practice whereby exceptional news may be overemphasized, distorted or fabricated to boost commercial ratings.
A simple formulation
We sometimes give an alternative formulation of the non-bias policy: assert facts, including facts about opinions — but do not assert opinions themselves. There is a difference between facts and opinions. By "fact" we mean "a piece of information about which there is no serious dispute." For example, that a survey produced a certain published result would be a fact. That there is a planet called A Place is a fact. That Aleksandr Kerensky was a general of the Star League Defense Force is a fact. No one seriously disputes any of these things. So we can feel free to assert as many of them as we can.
By value or opinion, on the other hand, we mean "a piece of information about which there is some dispute." There are bound to be borderline cases where we are not sure if we should take a particular dispute seriously; but there are many propositions that very clearly express values or opinions. That stealing is wrong is a value or opinion. That the Federated Suns is the best realm within the Inner Sphere is an opinion. That the Word of Blake was wrong to use nuclear weaponry during the Jihad is a value or opinion.
BattleTechWiki is devoted to stating facts in the sense as described above. Where we might want to state an opinion, we convert that opinion into a fact by attributing the opinion to someone. So, rather than asserting, "The Federated Suns is the best realm within the Inner Sphere," we can say, "Most ASSF generals believe that the Federated Suns is the best realm within the Inner Sphere," which is a fact verifiable by canon sources. In the first instance we assert an opinion; in the second instance we "convert" that opinion into fact by attributing it to someone. It is important to note this formulation is substantially different from the "some people believe..." formulation popular in political debates. The reference requires an identifiable and objectively quantifiable population or, better still, a name (with the clear implication that the named individual should be a recognised authority).
In presenting an opinion, moreover, it is important to bear in mind that there are disagreements about how opinions are best stated; sometimes, it will be necessary to qualify the description of an opinion or to present several formulations, simply to arrive at a solution that fairly represents all the leading views of the situation.
But it is not enough, to express the BattleTechWiki non-bias policy, just to say that we should state facts and not opinions. When asserting a fact about an opinion, it is important also to assert facts about competing opinions, and to do so without implying that any one of the opinions is correct. It is also generally important to give the facts about the reasons behind the views, and to make it clear who holds them. It is often best to cite a prominent representative of the view.
Situations and handling
A POV fork is an attempt to evade NPOV guidelines by creating a new article about a certain subject that is already treated in an article, often to avoid or highlight negative or positive viewpoints or facts. This is generally considered unacceptable. The generally accepted policy is that all facts and major Points of View on a certain subject are treated in one article.
NPOV says that the article should fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by a verifiable source, and should do so in proportion to the prominence of each. Now an important qualification: Articles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views, and may not include tiny-minority views at all. We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention as a majority view, and views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views. To give undue weight to a significant-minority view, or to include a tiny-minority view, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. BattleTechWiki aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject, or among the concerned parties. This applies not only to article text, but to images, external links, categories, and all other material as well.
Undue weight applies to more than just viewpoints. Just as giving undue weight to a viewpoint is not neutral, so is giving undue weight to other verifiable and sourced statements. An article should not give undue weight to any aspects of the subject, but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight appropriate to its significance to the subject. Note that undue weight can be given in several ways, including, but not limited to, depth of detail, quantity of text, prominence of placement, and juxtaposition of statements.
None of this is to say that tiny-minority views cannot receive as much attention as we can give them on pages specifically devoted to them. But even on such pages, though a view may be spelled out in great detail, it should not be represented as the truth.
- If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
- If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
- If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it does not belong in BattleTechWiki (except perhaps in some ancillary article) regardless of whether it is true or not; and regardless of whether you can prove it or not.
In other words, views held only by a tiny minority of people should not be represented as though they are significant minority views, and perhaps should not be represented at all.
In particular, to elaborate on the last comment above, if you are able to prove something that nobody currently believes, BattleTechWiki is not the place to premiere such a proof. Once a proof has been presented and discussed elsewhere, however, it may be referenced.
A vital component: good research
Disagreements over whether something is approached the Neutral Point Of View (NPOV) way can usually be avoided through the practice of good research. Facts (as defined in the A simple formulation section above) are not Points Of View (POV, here used in the meaning of "opposite of NPOV") in and of themselves. A good way to build a neutral point of view is to find a reputable source for the piece of information you want to add to BattleTechWiki, and then cite that source. This is an easy way to characterize a side of a debate without excluding that the debate has other sides. The trick is to find the best and most reputable sources you can. Try the FASA & FanPro library and website for canon books and articles, and look for the most reliable online resources. A little bit of ground work can save a lot of time in trying to justify a point later.
The only other important consideration is that sources of comparable reputability might contradict. In that case the core of the NPOV policy is to let competing approaches of the same topic exist on the same page: work for balance, that is: divide space describing the opposing viewpoints according to reputability of the sources. And, when available, give precedence to those sources that have been the most successful in presenting facts in an equally balanced manner.
Fairness of tone
If we are going to characterize disputes neutrally, we should present competing views with a consistently fair and sensitive tone. Many articles end up as partisan commentary even while presenting both points of view. Even when a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinion, an article can still radiate an implied stance through either selection of which facts to present, or more subtly their organization — for instance, refuting opposing views as one goes along makes them look a lot worse than collecting them in an opinions-of-opponents section.
We should, instead, write articles with the tone that all positions presented are at least plausible, bearing in mind the important qualification about extreme minority views. We should present all significant, competing views sympathetically. We can write with the attitude that such-and-such is a good idea, except that, in the view of some detractors, the supporters of said view overlooked such-and-such a detail.
Let the facts speak for themselves
Remember that readers will probably not take kindly to moralising. If you do not allow the facts to speak for themselves you may alienate readers and turn them against your position.
Attributing and substantiating biased statements
Sometimes, a potentially biased statement can be reframed into an NPOV statement by attributing or substantiating it.
For instance, "John Doe is the best MechWarrior" is, by itself, merely an expression of opinion. One way to make it suitable for BattleTechWiki is to change it into a statement about someone whose opinion it is: "John Doe's MechWarrior skills have been praised by military insiders such as Theodore Kurita and Victor Steiner-Davion," as long as those statements are correct and can be verified. The goal here is to attribute the opinion to some subject-matter expert, rather than to merely state it as true.
A different approach is to substantiate the statement, by giving factual details that back it up: "John Doe had the highest battle kills in the SLDF from 3063 through 3066." Instead of using the vague word "best," this statement spells out a particular way in which Doe excels.
There is a temptation to rephrase biased or opinion statements with weasel words: "Many people think John Doe is the best MechWarrior." But statements of this form are subject to obvious attacks: "Yes, many people think so, but only ignorant people"; and "Just how many is 'many'? I think it's only 'a few' who think that!" By attributing the claim to a known authority, or substantiating the facts behind it, you can avoid these problems.