As a writer, I always need to keep my audience in mind. After all, why would someone who is uninterested in a topic read about it? I learnt the same lesson while attending law school.
As an attorney, you need to know the judge in every case you are a representative. While the law may be the same, each judge has a particular bias on how they operate. As such, writing any legal document on the same case will differ depending on the judge you want to present it to.
Now, take this advice and translate it into Wikipedia. As a professional Wikipedia editor, I don’t just take Wikipedia guidelines and policies on their face value. I have to evaluate individual topics and see who actual edits the page to determine the best route to take when doing updates.
With that in mind, I always inform my clients that Wikipedia has a left-leaning stance. This is based on my experience and numerous studies on the topic.
I don’t really care about your politics or what you believe in. In fact, Conservative or Liberal, I feel people just need to be left alone to live their lives. However, when you want to create a Wikipedia page, you must take certain ideologies into consideration and write for that audience.
In this case, your audience is the Wikipedia community who ultimately will decide what a particular topic says.
Why the Ideological Bias?
Wikipedia is governed by consensus. This means the majority of people who edit the site determine the type of content that goes into it.
Many of the editors have a left-leaning bias. As such, the decisions will lean towards this bias.
According to a 2010 study, the majority of Wikipedia editors are between the ages of 12 and 29. This would be Millennials and GenZ, who, according to CNN, tend to be more left-leaning. While this is not in itself proof of Wikipedia bias, you can get an understanding of how it works into the encyclopedia when I start to show you examples.
Another reason for the political bias comes down to the leadership of the organization.
The majority of people in the world need a leader. Someone to follow who can show them what to do. For Wikipedia editors, this person is Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of the site.
Wales has a left-leaning view, even being publicly vocal against Donald Trump. As a result, you would expect his followers (the majority of Wikipedia editors who look at him like a god), to share those views and express them through their editing of the site.
Always look at the head of an organization to determine the type of political climate it operates under. Fox? CNN? Yes, their political biases can be traced back to their leadership. Same applies to Wikipedia.
In addition to politics, the same can be seen in other areas of Wikipedia; such as medical articles. Doctors who edit Wikipedia and have a bias towards certain medicines will show it in how they edit. That’s why Wikipedia has a bias against pseudoscience; such as alternative and natural remedies.
Conservapedia is Born from Wikipedia Bias
Just like the name suggests, Conservapedia is a right-leaning alternative to Wikipedia. Founded in 2006 by Christian Conservative activist, Andrew Schlafly, the site was launched to help counteract the liberal bias of Wikipedia.
I’m personally not a fan of Conservapedia. Any website that gives the impression of a bias is bound to attract people with that bias. It is also an open sources platform which means people with those biases will be editing and deciding what ultimately is included in each article within the site. Much like Wikipedia has a left-leaning bias; Conservapedia has a right-leaning bias.
So, why wouldn’t someone start a more left-leaning alternative instead of right-leaning alternative? The answer is simple. Wikipedia already fills that niche.
Now that you understand where some of the bias comes from, let’s take a look at some specific examples of political biases you will see on Wikipedia.
Examples of Wikipedia’s Bias
You don’t need to believe my words. Just take a look at some of these examples. Again, your political affiliation doesn’t matter to me. But, you must be knowledgeable of Wikipedia biases if you plan to create a Wikipedia page.
Andy Ngo and ANTIFA:
Who is Andy Ngo? Well, not a lot of people knew of him before June 2019 when he was attacked by a group of ANTIFA members at a rally in Portland, Oregon.
Ngo is a journalist who is described as a conservative. His Wikipedia page was created shortly after the incident where he suffered cerebral hemorrhaging. The incident was removed from the Wikipedia page for ANTIFA, for what some claim is a continued attempt to whitewash the activities of ANTIFA.
Now, I don’t see issues with editors coming to a consensus about not including the incident, but it shows a great example of political bias and here is why.
According to former Wikipedia editor, T.D. Adler, “All mention of the Ngo assault was subsequently removed by editor ‘Carptrash’, whose profile page includes multiple images of himself in an anarchist shirt, one time while brandishing a blunt instrument.”
So, it looks like editors who have an open left-leaning stance even show their bias visibly while editing on topics in Wikipedia. Adler has many more examples of such bias which are posted to their Medium account.
Sharyl Attkisson’s Battle with Wikipedia:
You likely know Sharyl Attkisson from her days at CBS, or more recently with her Sunday morning political show, Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. In fact, I was lucky enough to meet her for a segment she did years back on Wikipedia editing.
Attkisson has had plenty to say about Wikipedia and how it is not unbiased.
“My own battle with Wikipedia included being unable to correct provably false facts such as incorrect job history, incorrect birthplace and incorrect birth date,” writes Attkisson. “What’s worse is that agenda editors related to pharmaceutical interests and the partisan blog Media Matters control my Wikipedia biographical page, making sure that slanted or false information stays on it.”
Her career goes back to the early 1980s, but her Wikipedia page devotes more to what they call her “anti-vaccine reporting” and “computer hacking claims” than they do on the rest of her career. Forget that she has written numerous books and is an Emmy winner. This shows that Wikipedia editors are bias in focusing on what they want (the negative) instead of unbiased coverage required by its neutral point of view guidelines.
Personally, I think her segment from a few years back still sticks in the heads of Wikipedia editors. As was discussed, Wikipedia editors and the Foundation itself have vindictive personalities and like to take out their frustrations on people they can target (like Attkisson).
Attkisson is just another public figure that has to face backlash with the Wikipedia community. Since she has criticized it, editors in the Wikipedia community have taken offense and will likely never allow anything positive to be written about her. Again, it’s Wikipedia editors’ way of proving a point and using bully tactics to prove “they” are in charge.
Trump Gets the Blunt of Political Bias on Wikipedia:
During his presidency, Barack Obama issued 276 executive orders. Many on the Right complained that these orders were illegal as they created new law instead of defining how to enforce current law. They were highly debated and used by Republicans to attack the Left during the 2016 Presidential election.
Apparently, none of these orders were controversial enough for Wikipedia. Out of the 276 orders listed for Obama, only nine have a Wikipedia page as of the date of this publication. Most of them are only a few paragraphs which give basic facts about each.
As of the date of this article, President Donald Trump has issued 117 executive orders. 38 of these orders have their own Wikipedia page.
You may think that maybe people are simply writing more about the current president in order to keep Wikipedia up to date. However, looking at each order, you would be wrong. Many of these are used as sounding boards to introduce a narrative opposing the individual orders. Again, not an issue in my opinion, but something to keep in mind if you want to edit anything political on Wikipedia.
Another thought is that Wikipedia is simply summarizing what the press says on the issue. That is true as well. The only issue is that all media is bias, with the majority of it having left-leaning ideology. Even the Washington Post had to report that Trump’s Wikipedia page received three times as many edits during the run up to the 2016 election than Hillary Clinton’s page.
Call it a conspiracy, but here is another example:
Wikipedia has a list of national emergencies issued in the United States pursuant to the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Out of the 50+ listed, there is only one with a Wikipedia page (Trump’s National Emergency Order regarding the Southern Border). And yes, it is a sounding board for those who disagree with the order.
Trump’s Wikipedia page itself is a battleground. It is one of the most edited and viewed pages on Wikipedia. It’s just one of the many examples of how editors tend to lean a little left on Wikipedia.
What Can Be Done to Overcome the Bias?
Embrace it. You will not change people’s views on either side of the aisle. So, consider if you want to even create a Wikipedia page in the first place given that you may face such bias.
Trying to fight it only makes it worse. People will simply try to keep negative points of view in the Wikipedia article just to prove a point. Your only shot is to keep the bias in mind when editing and make sure to write for your reader.
Final Thoughts on Wikipedia’s Political Bias
There is nothing wrong with an ideology. Our system of beliefs is what we use to guide our choices in life. Again, your political views don’t concern me. I look more at how you treat dogs and old people. With that in mind, you have to write for your audience and their ideological views.
When it comes to Wikipedia, evidence suggests more of a left-leaning bias. Keep this in mind when editing the site. You need to write in a tone that is acceptable to Wikipedia editors and their views or you will not get much accomplished, even through consensus.
If you are having trouble editing a Wikipedia page due to political bias of editors, reach out to me for a consultation. We can discuss specific editors you are dealing with, the topic you want to edit, and a plan on how to move forward with your edits.