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Wal-mart's Wikipedia War 778

Posted by Zonk
from the wewwy-inwestingw dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Whitedust is running an article which claims that lobbyists for Wal-mart have successfully waged a war against a fair viewpoint on Wikipedia's Wal-mart page. From the article: "Although Wikipedia maintains a 'Neutral Point of View' (NPOV) policy, the Wal-mart page is highly biased. Additionally, all criticism has, contrary to policy, practice, and the general opinion of those concerned, been moved to a Debates Over Wal-mart section. Even that page has noticeable resistance to negative points of view about Wal-mart."
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Wal-mart's Wikipedia War

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  • by suso (153703) * on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:28AM (#15220663) Homepage Journal
    As someone who runs a City Wiki [bloomingpedia.org], I always felt that what makes a reference wikis work is that there are more people interested in having a NPOV article than people who have a financial interest at stake. However as companies and politicians become more familiar with the wiki movement and the whole anonyminity of it, they are more likely to see how easily you can edit articles as another PR platform and seek to control it. With the resources and ability to dedicate even a full time team to making sure the Wikipedia article keeps them in a good light, I fear we're entering the age where people who are interested in a NPOV are outmanned by those with a profit interest. After all, for years spammers have nearly outmanned those whole try to filter it.

    The problem with information sources for a localized wiki like Bloomingpedia [bloomingpedia.org] though is that since it is on a much smaller scale, its easier to obscure facts because there are not as many industry watchdogs paying attention to companies and organizations. You have to get the information by working for the company or accept the information that a company provides on its website or product brouchures.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:50AM (#15220826)
      I fear we're entering the age where people who are interested in a NPOV are outmanned by those with a profit interest.

      I generally agree with your overall comments, but I do have issue with the statement above. Really, you should say that those "who are interested in a NPOV are outmanned by those with an agenda". Profit is only one aspect and generally implies that it's people like Walmart (and other companies) who are really the "bad guys". In the referenced article, the author even mentions that at one point the Walmart page was highly critical of the company. Fact is, many people (who are not Walmart corp competitors) have various personal interests that are negative towards the company (justified or not). The key is to make sure that the pendulum doesn't swing too far in EITHER direction. If most of the news posted about Walmart is negative (and after all, isn't that the nature of news, if Walmart was humming along not doing anything too bad, then you'd hardly hear anything about them), then does a wiki page that simply accumilates these news articles then also biased towards the negative? Does the NPOV imply that any negative comments should be "evened out" by positive? Sticky issue this, but plese retain a NPOV when it comes to those who would attempt to subvert the wiki concept, it's people/orgs with alterior motives, profit or not.
      • by uradu (10768) on Friday April 28, 2006 @12:52PM (#15221960)
        > The key is to make sure that the pendulum doesn't swing too far in EITHER direction.

        As the previous poster wrote, neutral reporting doesn't imply any sort of balance. Just do a quick sanity check at the extremes: how would you keep the Wikipedia page on the Nazi regime balanced--by giving equal coverage to their progressive stance on animal rights or their smart fashion sense? Neutral reporting means listing all known and provable facts, and if the final tally of "good" and "bad" doesn't balance, well, that's real life.
        • by Prof. Pi (199260) on Friday April 28, 2006 @02:44PM (#15222757)
          how would you keep the Wikipedia page on the Nazi regime balanced

          Believe it or not, about 20 years ago, PBS refused to air a Canadian documentary about the Soviet Union's deliberate creation of a famine in the 1930's in Ukraine, even though the film won many awards from credible organizations. Their excuse was that the Soviets didn't get to present their viewpoint!

          (Ultimately, PBS did run the film, called "Harvest of Despair," but only because William Buckley ran it on his program. Even then, they forced Buckley to include a discussion with a panel of "experts," who bashed the film.)

    • And here I thought that we kept all our lobbyists tied up with DC and off the internet.
    • by bwt (68845)
      All in all -- my reaction to this Slashdot article is that it unjustly criticises wikipedia here.

      With the resources and ability to dedicate even a full time team to making sure the Wikipedia article keeps them in a good light, I fear we're entering the age where people who are interested in a NPOV are outmanned by those with a profit interest.

      I just finished reading the wikipedia article. I don't see any indication that it breaks seriously with the NPOV principle. In fact, I was somewhat surprised by the e
      • by arminw (717974) on Friday April 28, 2006 @02:39PM (#15222732)
        (....I suspect that there are so many WM bashers out there....)

        There are indeed, but why is it that our local Walmart parking lot is always crowded? People are voting for Walmart with their wallets. In the end that is all that matters to any business, especially retail. If their products were shoddy or their prices too high, Walmart bashers would go away, since Walmart's business would dry up and soon there would be no Walmart to complain about. There are many Microsoft bashers, but the fact is that MS has millions of customers. All large companies were once small, started by someone who had a better idea. Apple and Hewlett-Packard and other now large companies began their road to success in a garage.

        Whenever any individual or company, (a group of individuals) becomes successful, there will always be envious detractors. They will accuse the company with off the wall allegations. Sometimes of course the businesses do take legal and moral detours and shortcuts. In the end however any business depends on its employees and customers. It in their best interest to treat them well.
    • With the resources and ability to dedicate even a full time team to making sure the Wikipedia article keeps them in a good light, I fear we're entering the age where people who are interested in a NPOV are outmanned by those with a profit interest.

      Wikipedia is the Wal*Mart of online information.

      Wal*Mart provides "low low prices", but you have no idea, on any particular shopping day, of the selection, much less where it comes from. Are Koss "Plug" headphones in stock? No, Wal*Mart couldn't get a "low low pri
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:28AM (#15220664) Homepage Journal
    An interesting article perhaps, but his conclusions need some work. Here's what I found in a quick investigation:

    • The Unionization issue can be found on the Wal-Mart Employee and Labor Relations [wikipedia.org] page, which is linked to from the Debates over Wal-Mart [wikipedia.org] page.
    • The Walmart [wikipedia.org] article is definitely NPOV. It presents the cold facts with practically no commentary or spin. If I had any complaint about it, it would be that it's poorly written. The topics jump around, the facts are presented suddenly and without order, and the grammar is atrocious. What it needs is a good rewrite.
    • His point concerning the number of edits fails to prove anything. If you look at the History for the Rain Forest [wikipedia.org] article, you'll find a similar number of edits. 99% of them are vandalism.


    All in all, I can't find any hard evidence to support his claims, and the remaining evidence he presents seems to be nothing more than, "I think this page should be more critical of Wal-Mart, therefore there must be lobbists at work!" While that's a nice sentiment, it doesn't make for a smoking gun.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:49AM (#15220817)
      From the Discussion page:

      Adolf Hitler was the fuehrer of Germany, who reformed the German economy in the 1930s. He enjoyed painting and playing with his dog. He married his lifelong sweetheart, Eva Braun, two days prior to his death.
              See also: Criticism of Adolf Hitler

      Seems fair to me.

      I know, I know ... Goodwin's law.
    • by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:50AM (#15220824)
      I think this shows the differences in how people perceive "neutral". After all, some people think Fox News is fair and balanced while others say NPR is fair and balanced. Likewise, maybe some PR hacks for Wal-Mart really do believe they're being neutral and the author of TFA thinks the Wikipedia article isn't neutral enough. I'm not taking any sides on the issue. Probably the only way to be really neutral is to read as much as you can on the issue from both sides and try to cut through the bullshit, and really, most people don't have that time.
      • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:00AM (#15220930)
        After all, some people think Fox News is fair and balanced while others say NPR is fair and balanced.

        It depends upon what you call, "fair and balanced".

        A news organization's purpose is to inform, not to proffer an opinion. In the area of informing, NPR does better than Fox. For example, more than 60% of Fox News listeners thought the US found WMD's in Iraq, less than 20% of NPR's listeners thought the same. Since Washington has admitted that no WMDs were found, which news organization did a better job of informing its listeners?

        • by gvc (167165) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:18AM (#15221132)
          A news organization's purpose is to inform, not to proffer an opinion.

          I think you mean should be. Traditionally, US media's purpose has been neither; it has been to profit. Fox news is breaking new ground in pushing a particular point of view. I guess it is profitable, too.
          • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:44AM (#15221382) Homepage
            A news organization's purpose is to inform, not to proffer an opinion.

            I think you mean should be. Traditionally, US media's purpose has been neither; it has been to profit. Fox news is breaking new ground in pushing a particular point of view.

            Breaking new ground? Hardly. Having a definite slant/POV/opinion to broadcast is an old (as in 'right back to the origins of mass media in the 16-1700's') tradition. The idea that the media should be 'neutral, fair, and balanced' (or at least seem to be) is very new - since WWII.
        • by Cpt_Kirks (37296) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:19AM (#15221144)
          Ah, but we DID find WMD's in Iraq.

          However, since they were highly advanced biological weapons developed with the help of ex-Soviet scientists, we hid the discovery. These bio-weapons are being further developed in the hope that they can later be deployed against the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans and, of course, the French... ...GOD-DAMMIT, WHO STOLE MY MEDS!

        • by Kohath (38547)
          60% of Fox News listeners thought the US found WMD's in Iraq, less than 20% of NPR's listeners thought the same

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_and_weapons_of_m ass_destruction [wikipedia.org]

          Search for May 15, 2004 in that article.

          which news organization did a better job of informing its listeners?

          It depends on if you think "better" is when people are selectively informed or not informed depending on whether the news helps your political cause.

          Did NPR report that US deaths in Iraq hit a 2-year low in March? Or did they
          • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:47AM (#15221420)
            Did NPR report that US deaths in Iraq hit a 2-year low in March?

            Following which it immediatelty jumped up in April [usatoday.com].

            Or did they report there was a "civil war" in Iraq? One of those is factually true, the other is not.

            What do you mean? Someone gets to officialy declare "a civil war"? Or is it based on the amount of armed militias, sectarian gangs, and random thugs blowing things up and killing people by the hundreds? In the first case, no civil war was ever fought, ever as there are no valid, legitimate "sides" to "officialy" declare it, before it starts. If it is the other, a "civil war" is simmering in Iraq.

            Which of them makes one "better" informed? I guess it's a matter of opinion.

            Not emphasising one, versus the other (which is your whole beef here) does impact the listener's information. However it pales in comparison with simple partisan hackery which places like FOX and much of the corporate media represent. The point is that none of the so called "news" organizations should engage in either. No careful selection of news items to fit an agenda, but far more importantly a severe separation of "news" from "opinion". There are many privileges granted to newsmen in exchange for their supposed allegiance to truth, not to the bottom line. If they are unable to fulfill their part of the bargrain, all their privileges should be revoked and the so-called "news" channels severely penalized by FCC via revoking their licenses and granting the bandwith to real news organizations.

          • by JohnnyDanger (680986) on Friday April 28, 2006 @12:22PM (#15221744)
            Did NPR report that US deaths in Iraq hit a 2-year low in March?

            So NPR ignores positive news in Iraq? Subtle and devious. Of course, I'm sure you checked your fact with a simple web search.

            Oh wait...

            Rate of New U.S. Deaths Declining in Iraq [npr.org]

            Now, I don't mean to be a complete jerk by pointing this out. Just 80 percent jerk. The other 20 percent wants people to actually go and read, listen, or watch the news source before they criticize it.

            Informed opinion makes the discussion more interesting, and civil.

          • Search for May 15, 2004 in that article.

            Except in the first case we didn't find the weapon. It found us.

            Further, as the Wiki entry states and was later confirmed, that particular shell dated back to the Iran-Iraq war.

            In the second case mentioned the weapons did not have sarin gas within them.

            So no, we haven't found any of the vast stockpiles of wmds that the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and other members of the administration said we knew Saddam had. You do remember thos

        • by shemnon (77367)
          All, the devil is in the details.

          While the US didn't find the mass stockpile of WMDs that the intelligence community swore were there (and the conspirocy theorists say that Russia helped move to Syria under teh watchful nose of George Clooney). There were some individual munitions found with mustard gas, nerve agents, but not a whole lot of them, I beleive you can count the total number of shells without untieing your shoes.

          I bet with that fact you can get the same 60/20 split just by how you phrase the su
        • by Solandri (704621) on Friday April 28, 2006 @12:36PM (#15221856)
          For example, more than 60% of Fox News listeners thought the US found WMD's in Iraq, less than 20% of NPR's listeners thought the same. Since Washington has admitted that no WMDs were found, which news organization did a better job of informing its listeners?

          That statement is flawed in that it jumps to the conclusion that correlation implies causation. (The actual study was pretty clear in stating it only found correlation, but of course all the left-wingers went nuts over it mistakenly jumping to the conclusion that it meant causation.)

          If you were to ask the Fox and NPR audience if they believed it had been scientifically proven that man is causing global warming, you'd probably find that the Fox viewers are "better informed." It hasn't been scientifically proven that man is causing global warming, but a greater percentage of the NPR audience probably believes it because it's dear to them and their threshold for belief on it is lower. In other words, it's just a correlation due to the political leanings of the two audiences.

          If you select a fact on a topic that's widely liked or disliked by the groups, you're going to come up with a bias independent of the quality of the news service. Therefore to test the quality of news services, you need to select facts that are neutral or equally liked to disliked by both audiences.

          • If you were to ask the Fox and NPR audience if they believed it had been scientifically proven that man is causing global warming, you'd probably find that the Fox viewers are "better informed."

            First you would have to define "scientifically proven" since science never proves anything, it only disproves theories and their lighter-weight cousins.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        NPR is right leaning... Fox is a propaganda machine.
    • by nuggz (69912)
      I agree, seemed pretty neutral overall.

      I think the correct place for notes on specific historical items that are generally not relevant is at the bottom.
      Many people think neutral point of view should be THEIR "correct" point of view.
      Even facts can be presented in such a way to influence ones point of view. One harsh example is refering to a fetus as either a parasite or baby. While both may be considered technically correct, they have drastically different perspectives.

      I think the charitable donations don't
    • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:08AM (#15221025)
      Nonsense. Presentation of only factual information is not at all an indication of lack of bias. Anybody who has taken basic courses in behavioral psychology can tell you this. The selection of facts from a nearly limitless pool of factual information can highly bias the perception of a reader of a set of facts. It is nearly trivial to choose a set of facts that lead a reader to radically different conclusions, if one chooses to do so.

      The Walmart page falls victim to this, as well as presenting a set of very positive facts at the top of the "Debates" page to create an anchor point for perceptions skewed toward the positive. Setting such an anchor point goes a huge way to diminish the perceptual impact of any following negative information.

      Clearly the people on Walmart's side have a solid understanding of these psychological principles, which doesn't surprise me from a company that employs "greeters" to make themselves feel more friendly. The people at Wikipedia obviously are missing the point if they think NPOV means "just presenting facts".

      Avoiding bias entirely is impossible, but the best way to minimize it would be eliminate excessively positive framing on a page intended to highlight debate over negative aspects of the company, and enforcing that a roughly comparable amount of information gets to be presented by both sides.

      If the sides can't get along or agree, the arguments can always be broken out into two separate pages, each of which gets to be edited by a contingent of people who clearly fall on one side or the other of the argument, and each gets to select their own set of facts that support their argument (but still attempt to maintain at least a neutral use of language). NPOV or not, I've seen this approach used on other pages, such as some Israeli-Palestinian related pages, where the participants otherwise would just get into non-productive edit-wars.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:33AM (#15220691) Journal
    So who are the lobbyists, and what do they look like? Unfortunately it is very difficult to prove that any one user is corrupted, let alone paid for this by a particular company, especially with only a few days of research. Sorting through thousands of edits and user contribution pages is not an easy task. A lot of these edits are done by anonymous users, just IPs to me.

    Wow, that's quite a security expert there! I wonder how much it would cost to hire Whitedust Security to hang out on IRC and make up conspiracy theories about people attacking my network?

    • by chill (34294)
      Wow, that's quite a security expert there! I wonder how much it would cost to hire Whitedust Security to hang out on IRC and make up conspiracy theories about people attacking my network?

      I'm sure if you sent them an e-mail the could provide you with a quote. If not, send me one and I'd be happy to make up conspiracy theories for a small stipend. :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:37AM (#15220713)
    Isn't it just possible that, on the whole, Walmart's contribution to society has been good?

    I'm not saying Walmart are saints or anything, but it seems like many people are starting with the assumption that Walmart is bad and then trying to find evidence that supports their prejudice. C'mon. Have an open mind. Maybe Walmart isn't the great satan afterall.

    • by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:42AM (#15220760) Journal
      Maybe Walmart isn't the great satan afterall

      Wait a minute? Some people consider Wal-Mart to be a "great satan"? I thought SCO was the "great satan". Or was it the Oil Companies?

      Now I'm really confused....Maybe I should look up Great Satan [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia. Oh, damn! I LIVE in the Great Satan! Is there some pill or something I can take for that?

    • by Catbeller (118204) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:00AM (#15220935) Homepage
      No, an open mind in the face of overwhelming fact is willful refusal to pass judgement, not a lack of bias.

      It is NOT BIAS to conclude that a thing is true. In this case, Wal-Mart has indeed made a policy of annihilating unions, shutting down entire stores to do so. It has crushed suppliers into a no-win situations. It has dropped wages overall. It has pumped manufacturing overseas. It has passed health care costs onto the taxpayers. These are things that are real. They are not opinions. That the earth orbits the sun, that hemoglobin carries oxygen, that heat in ocean water powers hurricanes, these are not opinions.

      "Bias" is not refusing to provide both "points of view" if there is only one justifiable point of view. The "bias" meme has destroyed the news coverage in the U.S., rendering it worthless for sane evaluation of reality. There will always be a well-funded tiny group of businessmen who are willing to provide an instant astroturf group that will provide the "other side" of any economic or political issue, even if they have to invent a set of pseudofacts to spout. As long as the "bias" meme runs its course in the new media, the talking heads will provide both "sides" in a sprightly debate. Since the pro-business side is well funded and quite well manned, they not only create a debate where none is justified, they wear down and exhaust the quite unfunded and unmanned "other side" representing reality.

      I heard a little story about Al Gore the other week. After the 2000 election, you may recall that he took a teaching position at Harvard (I think) at the school of journalism. You may also recall he left after a short time. Turns out he was lecturing the students about this very "bias" meme. He told them that it was their journalistic duty to not only to provide different points of view, but to *provide context* about those points of view -- taking a stand about the falsity of an argument. That their job was not to provide a forum for two "sides" to talk, but to question and point out that one side's arguments were actually not true if that was the case -- and this is important, not to provide a forum for false information if the information was indeed false. Apparently the students, all of which have signed on the Goldbergian "Bias" meme, revolted and wouldn't listen, and Gore eventually surrendered and left, defeated by the bias meme.

      The thing to take away from that is that even Harvard's school of journalism is graduating a class of fake journalists who won't call a lie a lie, and will go on providing forums for liars to lie, and call themselves non-biased thereby. That's the best of the breed. And they will suck as journalists, and the liars will hold dominion for decades.
      • A journalist is not an encyclopedia, nor vice versa. A journalist should present a viewpoint, and take a stand for or against that viewpoint. Nice story about Al Gore but it's not relevant to an encyclopedia.

        An encyclopedia is supposed to present unbiased and balanced facts. It one viewpoint is favoured over another, that's bias - by definition. Bias is present when you present a case with favour given to one side, whether that favour be justified or not!

        You write as if there were an objective truth

        • Facts (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rob Simpson (533360)
          a policy of annihilating unions, shutting down entire stores to do so. It has crushed suppliers into a no-win situations. It has dropped wages overall. It has pumped manufacturing overseas. It has passed health care costs onto the taxpayers

          Don't forget that they also employ many people, purchase many products from many suppliers, and provide a valued service to consumers - valued enough to allow Walmart to become the biggest revenue taker in the world.

          There are two sets of premises here. Both of these s

        • If Walmart were such a terrible place, would it be so successful?

          I don't know if this argument would work with anyone but the simplest minded people. You could take any government in history, or any point in history and if you treat it out of context, you can say "If it's such a terrible place, would it be so successful?" Why did we free the slaves? If it was so terrible, would it be so successful? The mass slaughter of thousands of Native Americans wasn't so bad... successful, right? Seems like a good time
    • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:16AM (#15221116)
      "Maybe Walmart isn't the great satan afterall"

      To be sure, there are a lot of poor, arbitrary, or economically inaccurate accusations hurled at Wal-Mart, the "evil corporation that steals jobs from Americans" (for example). Some people have probably reasoned out their arguments; most haven't. I personally have no problem buying inexpensive Chinese-made goods, or shopping at a store that pays minimum wage, or shopping at a store that hires immigrants. I do have the choice to buy local goods from better-paying mom-and-pop stores, and I exercise that choice often.

      One heinous crime committed by Wal-Mart that I can't excuse, though, is property theft. Going by the euphemistic "eminent domain", Wal-Mart frequently colludes with corrupt city administrations to seize land from its legitimate owners and give it to Wal-Mart for stores and parking lots. Wal-Mart slips some thick envelopes under city councillors' doors and promises to generate more property tax revenue, and Bob's-your-uncle, Wal-Mart gets permission to tear down your building and take your property. The whole damn lot of their management should be thrown in jail or worse.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:37AM (#15220718)
    Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopaedia. It uses a model of information where anybody can contribute. Although this leads to some vandalism and some disinformation, almost always an accurate and knowledgeable viewpoint prevails. The project has brought thousands of intelligent people devoted to its cause.

    Why should Wikipedia be penalized or criticized for telling the truth about a bad company that exploits its workers and the taxpayer at the same time?

    We need more truthfulness and facts in this world, not BS spin and PR from company spokesmen.
  • I Don't See It... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EXTomar (78739) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#15220730)
    Wikipedia isn't supposed to be biased for (and here is the part many miss) or against. Hence the "NPOV stance" they try to enforce. If citing buisness stats and other corporate information is "bias" then they have a skewed definition of bias. After reading the article, it seems that any information about Wal-Mart that isn't a critism as automatically biased and suspect. That is just as bad a POV as being a "sunshine and rainbow fanboy".

    In short, Wikipedia is not the place to have a diatribe on the goods or evils of any topic, even the much vaunted Wal-Mart. I simply don't see what the complaint is here. Are they disappointed they can't argue about Wal-Mart on Wikipedia? Well Wikipedia isn't the place to do that. That has nothing to do with bowing to presure from Wal-Mart. Chaning a link from "Wal-Mart Corporate Communication Page" to "Wal-Mart Propaganda Site" is not a legitamite edit nor is it NPOV.
  • Theory and practice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sphealey (2855) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#15220733)
    In theory the wikipedia idea (many minds, many eyes, perhaps a voting mechanism) should work and result in articles which are fairly close to the state of human (knowledge * belief). And it did seem to be working for a while.

    But in reality, people who are paid money to do something can spend far more time and effort than those who cotribute out of ego or community spirit. So it is not surprising to me that big entities are throwing a few bucks to their marketing firms to influence the web information flow. And marketing interns don't cost all that much, either: they are typically paid $15/hour and billed at $75. Peanuts compared to real marketing and advertising expenses.

    I strongly suspect we are seeing the same thing on the political blogs. Except for those few that have a very large readership that takes self-policing seriouisly (e.g. DailyKos), I suspect that 20-30% of the comments on the key political blogs are being posted by paid agents. And of those comments, many flame-starters and most thread-redirectors are coming from those agents.

    I think the "mass mind of humanity" idea ain't gonna work.

    sPh
    • I think the "mass mind of humanity" idea ain't gonna work.

      At least not until we get that whole telepathy thing down.

    • by Jerf (17166) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:32AM (#15221263) Journal
      I think the big key to participating in "mass minds" is to realize that the "mass mind" is not going to be your mind, writ large, neither in theory nor in practice.

      Your vote matters, but it matters as much as everybody else's. It's not supremely important.

      Your comment matters, but it matters as much as everybody else's. It's not supremely important.

      And this is what the mass mind will look like; a whole lot of people arguing and coming to very rough consensus. It's never going to converge on a set of opinions that exactly match your own.

      This may sound obvious when I say it that way, but I'm quite certain a lot of people's disenchantment with participating in these sorts of mass minds (as prototyped by the "body politic" and now popping up everywhere thanks to the Internet) is because they go into it with the idea that they only "win" if the mass mind thinks exactly like them, which rather misses the point entirely. If everybody's not losing a little bit, the system isn't working right. "A good compromise is when all parties are equally unhappy."

      One of the things that made me laugh about blogging is that there were a lot of people that were firmly convinced that it was finally going to sweep the world and basically make it hold the "smart" opinions, which by an incredible coincidence just happened to be the opinions these people already held. Here's one of the most egregious examples of that [harvard.edu]. (My personal opinion is that it tends to drag the system away from the parochial opinions of the relatively few gatekeepers in the existing communications media, and drag it back towards the true ideological average of the participants. I leave as an exercise for the reader exactly what that translates to in ideological terms.)
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#15220736) Journal
    My own short experience with this article makes a fair example. After bringing up discussion on the topic in Wikipedia's generally IRC channel, a fellow user, Bogdangiusca, who had fought for a NPOV on the article as far back as May 1, 2005, added a totally disputed tag. This tag would mean that anyone visiting the page would see a red block at the top indicating that 'The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article are disputed'. This tag was removed the next day. The person who did so then defaced Bogdangiusca's user page with a long paragraph demanding that Bogdangiusca stop any contribution to the Wal-mart page. The user claimed to be an employee of Wal-mart and lamented, 'So why don't you just keep to what you know and allow those that do have facts about walmart to create an accurate picture of walmart for the world.' This pattern has been repeated over and over again about the Wal-mart page. Many users struggling for a NPOV have had their pages defaced, and defacers have in the past been banned.

    Since Wal-Mart is so heavily in bed with China, is it any wonder? They're learning from the pros. Of course they are successful and their business model is indeed efficient. They put a lot of people to work and they offer the average consumer decent prices on all the things they want, from groceries to TVs. Unfortunately, they've taken this beyond the limit of decency.

    They would point out the prosperity they bring to areas where they build stores, but they fail to mention the manufacturing jobs they eliminate in this country when they import cheap Chinese merchandise, thereby converting a lot of good-paying jobs into low-paying jobs and sucking money out of the tax base and Social Security.

    Their commercials would have you believe that their staff is always friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable, when this is the furthest thing from the truth. I have been to a Wal-Mart in 10 different states and I've yet to find a store that wasn't chaotic, unkempt, and whose staff wasn't lacking decent social skills. I've become so fed up with them that I do not shop there, prefering Target, even when I could save money.

    They don't want the truth to come out, to tarnish Sam Walton's reputation with reality. The fact is, these people who fanatically support Wal-Mart are to retail what Scientology is to religon (go ahead Cruise, sue me!). Wal-Mart is best described as the Microsoft of retail outlets, and it shows in the way they handle employee compensation and benefits, not to mention unionization. They are so profit-centric now that they don't care who they crush along the way.

  • by Epistax (544591) <epistax&gmail,com> on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:41AM (#15220752) Journal
    Unless I've been living under a rock, Wal-Mart is, without a shred of bias, bad by many objective definitions of the word. No positive argument can be made in its defense without resorting to logical fallacies. Are there people out there who think that the article on slavery is biased against it, and that it needs to take a neutral view highlighting the benefits? What is the difference I am missing?
  • The Opposite Effect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jpatters (883) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:43AM (#15220763)
    For the opposite effect, check out the page [wikipedia.org] on ECT. The Side effects and complications section strays very far from NPOV.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday April 28, 2006 @10:55AM (#15220887)
    On topics that are simply "black and white", true and false, matter of fact, it's easy. Water is made up of 2 atoms of Hydrogene, one atom of Oxygene, and you'll hardly find anyone to challenge that. The Great War was 1914 to 18. Again, no dispute (except maybe with Russia that decided to end it in 1917 'cause they had a revolution to take care of, ages before Nintendo had the idea).

    But as soon as you touch religion, politics, business or other areas where your opinion starts to play a role, you'll have people tugging at both sides of the page, trying to pull it towards their point of view. Wikipedia IS a big platform, after all. People turn to it for information! Imagine: A page, where you can write "what you want" (to some degree, you have to keep it within certain borders), and people will read whatever you write as facts.

    Now, don't tell me it ain't tempting.

    Maybe the insight we get out of this is not only that companies use pages like wikipedia as a place for their marketing department to develop on. Maybe the insight should also be that we should NEVER EVER rely on only one source for information. No matter how "unbiased" or how "neutral" this source claims to be. Even if the source is indeed genuinely neutral (unlike, say, a certain TV network in the US that claims to be broadcasting news while actually spewing propaganda), their information, or their editors, could be biased.

    To be able to really create your own opinion, you need more than one source. Actually, often it's quite informative to listen to propaganda instead of a "neutral" source. As long as you listen to BOTH sides of the propaganda machine.
  • Defense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:04AM (#15220989)
    Wikipedia needs to add a teensy little notice:

    "By editing pages in Wikipedia, you agree to the following fee structure:

    $0 for independent editors working in good faith
    $1000 for individuals, associates, competiton, or representation for the article being edited
    $1000 for inserting known false information"

    Or something like this. At $1000 a pop, it becomes a profit generator!
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:05AM (#15220997) Homepage Journal
    I know of one instance where an author who had self-published a book containing a story, appropriately called 'The Wal-Mart Story', described how he rigged their tv section to broadcast the porn channel, and only the porn channel, and locked out anyone who tried to change the channel as well as inserting some similarly-themed vcr tapes and dvds. The story may be found here [mentallyincontinent.com] or, if not working, a copy may be found here. [b0g.org]

    So why bring this up? If you go to his site, Mentally Incontinent [mentallyincontinent.com], you will see this story [mentallyincontinent.com] in which he says Wal-Mart offered him $500,000 for the site and all the books yet distributed because of this story. However, as you will note, the site is still up and he has since admitted it was all an April Fools joke.

    Enjoy the story despite the fact that we can't blame the evil Wal-Mart for trying to squelch dissenting voices.

    Oh yeah, to get back on topic, I have to agree with what others have already said: the Wiki entry doesn't seem biased. Boring like a financial report, yes, but not biased. Especially since it contains links to sites critical of how Wal-Mart operates.

  • Naturally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stlhawkeye (868951) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:21AM (#15221159) Homepage Journal
    After all, it can't possibly be that the case against Wal*Mart is weak and easily debunked.
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:22AM (#15221171)
    How someone could claim article that begins with...

    Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) (also known as 'The Great Satan', or 'Satan-Mart')

    Isn't neutral! Thats as neutral view of Wal-Mart as possible!
  • Citing sources (Score:4, Insightful)

    by omeg (907329) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:33AM (#15221276)
    This is exactly why citing sources is so important!

    Wal-mart is bad! - Maybe.
    Wal-mart treats its employees badly! - Maybe.
    Wal-mart has been said to treat its employees badly because the New York Times has written an elaborate article about it with interviews of ex-employees. (link) - Yes. It may or may not be true that Wal-mart treats its employees badly, but there's no discussion about whether the New York Times has stated its opinion on the matter. That's truth, and that's how you can make articles NPOV.
  • by Benjamin Shniper (24107) on Friday April 28, 2006 @11:59AM (#15221546) Homepage
    What have we learned?

    Walmart is nothing but a free company in a capitalist society. Those complaining about Walmart are really complaining about capitalism itself.

    Yes, walmart prices some American manufacturers out of business. But that is allowing a switch from manufacturing to service based economy. And, thanks to low prices at places like Walmart, more Americans than ever are able to own a house, and stock that house with Tvs, DVDs, Mp3 players and Cell Phones - even at the salary paid by Walmart!

    Yes, Walmart buys Chinese. In fact, it is China's leading trading partner and is giving China a real capitalist change from within - a growing middle class in China is coming up. Millions have benefitted there, and I fail to see how this is a bad thing for anyone.

    Yes, Walmart doesn't give the very best health benefits. But it beats having unemployment and medicaid. And if Walmart wasn't providing "low paying" jobs, we'd be paying for them in taxes, instead of collecting tax revenue from them.

    I checked the Walmart page and Walmart was called "The great satan" in the first line. Why? Because they decided to sell inexpensive, yet usable goods to a mass market?

    I rarely shop there, don't work there, don't own stock - but I'm glad they exist. Because they show, better than anything, the hypocracy of anti-capitalist whiners. You know the type - those who complain that they are entitled to everything the world has to offer, for free from the government.

    Walmart has shown that the goverment need not provide every citizen with a DVD player. Instead, Walmart has shown the real way for every American who wants a DVD player to get one - is to make it cheaply and sell it cheap enough.

    And that's really why people hate Walmart - it shows that capitalism does what utopian socialism never could.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0451191145/103-48 86274-2659010?v=glance&n=283155 [amazon.com]

    -Ben
    • You have hit the nail right on the head for why I like Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart = "The American Spirit".
    • by Garse Janacek (554329) on Friday April 28, 2006 @02:15PM (#15222559)
      There are a lot of fallacies in this post. First, big-picture economic effects of Wal-Mart can be worrying, but a lot of people object to small-picture "they treat their employees like slaves" issues. Capitalism is great at making some processes more efficient, but this should not translate into "The person with the most money can treat people however he wants." So a lot of your comments don't address what is really bothering some people.

      But, more specifically:

      Walmart doesn't give the very best health benefits. But it beats having unemployment and medicaid.

      False duality. The choices are not 1. Wal-Mart exists, lots of people have low pay and bad health benefits, and 2. Wal-mart does not exist, those same people are all unemployed. There is also 3. Wal-Mart gives better health benefits.

      And if Walmart wasn't providing "low paying" jobs, we'd be paying for them in taxes, instead of collecting tax revenue from them.

      Big red flag here: first, you're pretending that the only options are for Wal-Mart to exist in its current form, or not at all. Wal-Mart would still be making piles of money even if it was a little nicer to its employees, and a little more reluctant about large-scale sweatshop labor. Certainly, fixing all of people's complaints about Wal-Mart would seriously damage their business, but this is not an all-or-nothing question.

      Second, you pretend that if Wal-Mart didn't exist, the rest of the world would be exactly the same except that everyone who works at Wal-Mart now would be unemployed and living off the state. This completely does not follow. If Wal-Mart didn't exist, things would be different in all kinds of ways -- some other entity or entities would be filling the economic niche that Wal-Mart does now (albeit probably in a different way), thereby providing jobs for many of the same people. It is more or less impossible to say for certain what the overall effect would have been on the economy or people who would have been Wal-Mart employees. You'll notice that when Wal-Mart moves in somewhere, a common effect is for lots of small shops to go out of business, thereby causing unemployment -- so many of the people who end up working at Wal-Mart already had jobs, and your "we would be paying for them anyway" claim is bunk.

      Now, I know a lot of people say that these small shops were less efficient and therefore deserved to be put out of business. I disagree strongly, but I won't press the point. I'm just trying to say that you're making a couple of leaps in your argument that don't really follow -- if Wal-Mart didn't exist, it is not at all clear that this would magically increase everyone else's tax burden. Also, people who are "anti-Wal-Mart" aren't typically saying "Wal-Mart should completely vanish from the face of the Earth," they're saying that Wal-Mart is engaging in unacceptable behavior, and should stop. This is very much not the same thing.

      I checked the Walmart page and Walmart was called "The great satan" in the first line. Why? Because they decided to sell inexpensive, yet usable goods to a mass market?

      Well, no, because the extremists on both ends go too far. This doesn't invalidate the concern that the pro-Wal-Mart extremists (i.e. the people Wal-Mart is paying) are winning.

      Because they show, better than anything, the hypocracy of anti-capitalist whiners. You know the type - those who complain that they are entitled to everything the world has to offer, for free from the government.

      This seems like something I'd see in a troll comment, and is a complete straw-man... opposing Wal-Mart's business practices is not the same as saying I should have everything for free from the government. I find a lot of Wal-Mart's behavior (treatment of employees, manipulation of eminent domain via kickbacks, heavily anti-competitive behavior) extremely ethically troubling. What does this have to do with the government, or what I should receive from them? This is entirely a

  • For Christs Sake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Dobber (576407) on Friday April 28, 2006 @12:34PM (#15221837)
    It's a fucking store. Nothing more, nothing less. Channel your passion into something more worthwhile.

    • Yes, and China is just a country. Never mind the wholesale violations of human rights.

      The RIAA is just an organization. Never mind their political influence leading to FBI raids due to copyright violations. Congress passing laws which mandate crippling consumer audio electronics, nearly eliminating fair use. etc.

      Never mind Wal-mart's tremendous ammount of money and power, and how they unappologetically use it to crush their competition, stop unionization, destroy the economics of smaller cities which ref
  • by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Friday April 28, 2006 @01:02PM (#15222037)
    This just happened to the Fox News wiki page as well. There's now a "debates about Fox News" or some such. They've managed to isolate criticisms of Fox to a corner of Wikipedia.

    This has to stop.

  • by mabu (178417) on Friday April 28, 2006 @01:42PM (#15222324)
    No discussion on Wal-Mart would be complete without a link to PBS's Frontline Documentary, "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?" [pbs.org] - it's a brilliant show that covers many of the bases and it's available free online.

    If some would have their way, there wouldn't be this level of high quality documentaries on corporate America. Watch it while it's still available.

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