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Sauce for the Gander

[Editor’s note: there have been many debates about which policy or policies at Wikipedia are most to blame for the wretched outcome there. But perhaps the problem lies not in the policies, but in the way that they are customarily used by “teh community”: as weapons in the world’s most widely used MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game). It’s the Double Standards Gambit: for any given rule or policy, there is one interpretation that applies to whatever one particular contestant is doing, and another interpretation that applies to his or her opponent(s). Consequently, many contestants wind up spending little time actually writing or editing articles, and much time crafting long-winded and specious legalistic arguments in an effort to get their opponents censured or banned. For the minority of Wikipedians who are simply there because they enjoy writing articles, this situation may give rise to indignation, disgust, or despair. Or, it may engender essays, like this one by Mr. D. Tobias:]

There’s an old saying, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” This meshes well with the Golden Rule, or ethic of reciprocity, which is a key moral principle in many religions and philosophies, and is often stated as “Do unto others as you wish to be done for you”, or conversely, “Don’t do unto others what you would not wish to be done to you.”

Are they reliable sauces?

Are they reliable sauces?

Unfortunately, when the infighting here in Wikipedia gets heated, participants often forget this principle and do unto their opponents things that would not be fair to be done unto them, and sometimes add insult to injury by crying “foul” if their opponents do in fact raise similar objections to their own actions (and those of their friends) to the ones they raised against the opponents in the first place. These “wars” can easily turn both parties into hypocrites.

Some of the sorts of things that violate this principle include:

  • Trying to squelch or discredit an opposing viewpoint by associating it with a banned editor who espoused something similar, when in fact some of your own viewpoints are similar to those of a different banned editor.
  • Insisting that some publication or Web site is not a reliable source when it’s being used to support viewpoints you oppose, but turning around and insisting the same or a similar site or publication is a reliable source when it supports a viewpoint you agree with.
  • Demanding strict adherence to WP:BLP and WP:NPA when it comes to negative statements about yourself, your friends, and people you like, while making unrestrained ad hominem statements to badmouth people you dislike.
  • Insisting that comments you dislike on others’ user pages be deleted under WP:SOAP, while defending similarly inflammatory comments on other user pages if you happen to agree or sympathize with them.
  • Supporting the deletion of an article about a marginally notable person, company, organization, band, Web site, or other thing that you personally dislike, while opposing the deletion of another one of a similar level of notability that you personally like.
  • Insisting that all policies and processes must be followed strictly when it suits you, but saying “screw process!” and Ignore All Rules when that suits you.
  • Saying harsh things about the insubordinate ingrates who fail to completely love, honor, and obey the ArbComJimbo, and the other Powers That Be in Wikipedia… until ArbCom, Jimbo, or other TPTBs issue a ruling that you disagree with, at which point raising a loud objection and challenging the legitimacy of this exercise of power is called for.
  • Raising a major fuss about how your personal information has been “outed” by somebody else, and that they need to be immediately banned and the information oversighted right away… while you’re posting similar personal information about that person yourself.
  • Demanding topic bans be strictly enforced where opponents of yours are concerned, while excusing ban violations on “your side” by saying an edit was just a trivial spelling correction, etc., and not really an actual violation even if it technically qualifies.
  • Calling it “harassment” when somebody you dislike keeps leaving warnings against you on your talk page after you have removed their prior warnings… but also calling it “harassment” when somebody you dislike removes the warnings you left against them on their talk page.

So what’s the point? Simply that consistency is a virtue (never mind that other saying that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”[1]!), and it’s best to step back and think a little before you take a position that will seem in the light of day to be purely self-serving and hypocritical. Do unto thine enemies what you’d like to be done unto thy friends, and expect your good or bad karma to return threefold.


Photo credit: Wikipedia

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