The Creation of Consensus via Administrative Abuse

The existence of ‘consensus’ around core claims of global warming is often cited as some kind of warrant for action. A recent article by Roger Pielke Jr reported the IPCC response to his attempts to correct biases and errors in AR4 in his field of expertise — extreme events losses. As noted at CA, he made four proposed error corrections to IPCC, all of which were refused.

Since sociological psychological research is now regarded worthy of a generous share of science funding, a scholarly mind asks, “If failure to admit previous errors could be a strategy for building the climate consensus, what does that say about the logical correctness of the process. What are the other strategies?” Could denigration of people who disagree by Lewandowsky be worth $1.7m of Australian Research Council approved, taxpayer funds to help create climate consensus?

Wikipedia appears to be another experimental platform for consensus building. The recent comment by a disillusioned editor describes many unpleasant strategic moves executed in the name of building a consensus for the cold-fusion entries on Wikipedia.

Foremost is failure of administrators to follow the stated rules. Could this, along with failure to admit errors, and denigration of opponents be also a consensus creation strategy? The parallels with the IPCC are uncanny.

Some excerpts below.

Alan, do you know what “arbitration enforcement” is? Hint: it is not arbitration. Essentially, the editor threatened to ask that you be sanctioned for “wasting other editor’s time,” which, pretty much, you were. That was rude, but the cabal is not polite, it’s not their style. A functional community would educate you in what is okay and what is not. The cabal just wants you gone. *You* are the waste of time, for them, really, but they can’t say that.

Discouraging objectors – the main goal.

I remember now why I gave up in December last year. But I thought it was my turn to put in a shift or two at the coalface (or whatever).

Here is what I did on Wikipedia. I had a long-term interest in community consensus process, and when I started to edit Wikipedia in 2007, I became familiar with the policies and guidelines and was tempered in that by the mentorship of a quite outrageous editor who showed me, by demonstration, the difference or gap between policies and guidelines and actual practice. I was quite successful, and that included dealing with POV-pushers and abusive administrators, which is quite hazardous on Wikipedia. If you want to survive, don’t notice and document administrative abuse. Administrators don’t like it, *especially* if you are right. Only administrators, in practice, are long-term allowed to do that, with a few exceptions who are protected by enough administrators to survive.

Shades of the IPCC.

So if you want to affect Wikipedia content in a way that will stick, relatively speaking, you will need to become *intimately* familiar with policies. You can do almost anything in this process, except be uncivil or revert war. That is, you can make lots of mistakes, but *slowly*. What I saw you doing was making lots of edits. Andy asked you to slow down. That was a reasonable request. But I’d add, “… and listen.”

Good advice for dealing with administrators of consensus creation processes.

Instead, it appears you assumed that the position of the other editors was ridiculous. For some, perhaps. But you, yourself, didn’t show a knowledge of Reliable Source and content policies.

Lots of editors have gone down this road. It’s fairly easy to find errors and imbalance in the Wikipedia Cold fusion article. However, fixing them is not necessarily easy, there are constituencies attached to this or that, and averse to this or that. I actually took the issue of the Storms Review to WP:RSN, and obtained a judgment there that this was basically RS. Useless, because *there were no editors willing to work on the article who were not part of the pseudoskeptical faction.* By that time, I certainly couldn’t do it alone, I was WP:COI, voluntarily declared as such.

It seems you need an ally who is part of the in-crowd in order to move the consensus towards an alternative proposition.

When the community banned me, you can be sure that it was not mentioned that I had been following COI guidelines, and only working on the Talk page, except where I believed an edit would not be controversial. The same thing happened with PCarbonn and, for that matter, with Jed Rothwell. All were following COI guidelines.

Following the rules does not provide immunity.

The problem wasn’t the “bad guys,” the problem was an absence of “good guys.” There were various points where editors not with an agenda to portry cold fusion as “pathological science,” assembled, and I found that when the general committee was presented with RfCs, sanity prevailed. But that takes work, and the very work was framed by the cabal as evidence of POV-pushing. When I was finally topic banned, where was the community? There were only a collection of factional editors, plus a few “neutral editors” who took a look at discussions that they didn’t understand and judged them to be “wall of text.” Bad, in other words, and the discussion that was used as the main evidence was actually not on Wikipedia, it was on meta, where it was necessary. And where it was successful.

A better description of the real-world response to scholarship I have yet to see.

Yes, I was topic banned on Wikipedia for successfully creating a consensus on the meta wiki to delist from the global blacklist. And then the same editors as before acted, frequently, to remove links, giving the same bankrupt arguments, and nobody cares. So all that work was almost useless.

So consensus is ultimately created via administrative abuse!

Now its possible to see why blogs porporting to represent an authoritative consensus such as RealClimate, SkepticalScience and LewsWorld must delete objections:

… furiously deleting inconvenient comments that ask questions like “What are you going to do now that the removal of the fake responses shows a conclusion reverse of that of your title”?

But what is the result of administrative abuse?

That is why so many sane people have given up on Wikipedia, and because so many sane people have given up, what’s left?

There would be a way to turn this situation around, but what I’ve seen is that not enough people care. It might take two or three. Seriously.

13 thoughts on “The Creation of Consensus via Administrative Abuse

  1. The funny thing about Wikipedia, is that it is only supposed to be sourced from secondary materials, which means that by nature it seeks consensus information.

  2. David, I’d like to draw your attention to a comment of mine at this post of yours:-

    Opinions on the New Zealand AGW Judgement

    On-topic at that post but off-topic in this one.

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