Group 4 Dispute Results

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Attempt At Consensus

The Debate

Talk Page RfC Proposal


As of 4:00 PM January 8, group members have posted the following on RfC: Is waterboarding a form of torture, based on sources? and received the following comments:

Another Attempt at Consensus

The original request called for legitimate sources presenting evidence of a valid dispute. It appears to me as if this section contains several sources that qualify. I therefore think that a changed wording to "Waterboarding is an extreme interrogation technique generally considered to be torture." is justified based on the non-fringe opinions evincing a genuine dispute. Opinions? -Lciaccio (talk) 17:39, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

  • Agreed. as per above. -Lciaccio (talk) 17:51, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Agreed. The original article on waterboarding contains a substantial discussion of the current debate on whether waterboarding is torture. Classification as Torture. Given the discussion of the debate in the Wikipedia article itself and the legitimate sources linked to by nom and presented by other commentators, I think modified wording away from "waterboarding is torture" is appropriate. The language proposed by nom modifies "waterboarding is torture" into a less conclusory statement, but retains a strong statement that waterboarding is "generally considered to be torture." Shamulou (talk) 17:48, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Agreed. For the reasons I cite above in Comments on note to the closing admin. In addition, #1 and #4 cite both the BBC and the Wall Street Journal. Both are credible sources that indicate the issue is at least considered to be disputed in at least two countries. Pri2008 (talk) 17:55, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
    • Comment. I agree, these were the sources I found most compelling, despite misgivings about the credibility of some of the other sources cited. I firmly believe waterboarding is torture, but at least these two opposing views are informed and non-fringe, making this an opinion, not fact.. -Lciaccio (talk) 18:18, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Not so bad. But I would prefer a summary description of the practice instead of "extreme interrogation technique" (I used to favor something like that but have been persuaded its not such a good idea for the present). I would also like to see the phrase "generally considered torture" to be a separate sentence stating "It is often considered torture". Partyly, I am not so sure that I agree with "generally" since a fair number of people apparently do not consider it torture. About 2/3 consider it torture. To me that is "often", but not quite "generally". Using the word "often" also implies some sort of temporal aspect to the issue, which many people seem to raise: "how its done and when its done" matters to them when deciding if it is torture. (By the way, thanks for the suggested lead). --Blue Tie (talk) 18:30, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Acceptable. The current language really does need to be changed, if for no other reason than the fact that the existence of the "Classification" sections makes the statement "waterboarding is torture" seem conclusory, regardless of the facts. So long as the word "considered" is included, though, I feel like the point is made that there exists some debate, and given that, the strong presumption from "generally" seems fine. There really DOES seem to be numerically overwhelming consensus (a minority of the citizens of a single country, even a hugely important country, notwithstanding). I'm less sure about "extreme," if only because that's a indisputably subjective term, and probably shouldn't be included in the first line of a Wikipedia article. Although I certainly agree that waterboarding is "extreme," there aren't objective reasons why it must necessarily be considered so. Theokrat (talk) 18:48, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I would also agree to wording that removes the word extreme from the proposal. -Lciaccio (talk) 18:53, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I agree. "Extreme" is a subjective term, and the statement that "waterboarding is an interrogation technique generally considered to be torture" is strong enough without "extreme." Shamulou (talk) 18:57, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
      • I like that change. I also think "generally" is also a subjective term, but I find myself only weakly objecting. The problem I have is that I do not think generally is exactly right, because it conveys the notion of "as a rule". But, on the other hand, what other adverbs are appropriate? "Frequently" almost makes it sound like it might not even be half of the time. The same goes with "often". "Popularly" might almost be more accurate than anything but I am not sure it sounds right to sort of indicate that it is popular for people to be thinking about torture! I do not like the word "generally" as much as I do not like these other words I have mentioned above. The word "widely" seems pretty good and I would favor that. Also, as I have said previously, I think that ultimately the lead should be re-written when the details in the article are right, but I think that this lead is very close to one that might have a consensus. I praise this effort. --Blue Tie (talk) 19:08, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose Weasel words: "considered to be". By whom? Newspeak: "interrogation technique". No, waterboarding is verifiably a torture technique, per the reliable sources. Do not change the article from a plain statement of verifiable fact. Wikipedia is not a political battleground. Jehochman Talk 19:33, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
    • They're only weasel words if used in lieu of references. Considering the extensive sources in the article pointing to those who consider it to be torture, that is not the case here. I agree that Wikipedia is not a political battleground, but the change I propose is, in light of the evidence of dispute, the most factual and encyclopedic statement of what waterboarding is. That is what we're aiming for, ne ce pas? -Lciaccio (talk) 20:12, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I think it's inappropriate to classify the question of whether or not something is torture as a 'verifiable fact'. The very nature of the question implicates human conceptions, and it would still be a concept even if there was unanimous agreement. What this proposed change to the lead statement attempts to do is reflect the general direction in which (credible reports of) human conceptions lean, while acknowledging (a) that it is a concept, and (b) that it is not universally shared. Vhettinger (talk) 20:29, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Agreed with the edit that removes the word "extreme" (mainly because in a sentence that includes the word 'torture' the word 'extreme' seems redundant). I slightly prefer 'generally' to 'widely', but don't feel strongly one way or the other. Vhettinger (talk) 19:46, 8 January 2008 (UTC)


The following was posted on my talk page:

Good Work

On Waterboarding. Over time I have determined that there are some really difficult problems with that article that affect the lead, but right now, the big one is the dispute. In the longer term, I think a fundamental question :"What exactly IS waterboarding?" needs to be evaluated. But, I wanted to say I think you did a good job of crafting a compromise. Im not exactly sure I completely agree with it but it seems like you did a good job overall. I have suggested something close but different. --Blue Tie (talk) 18:55, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

This was in response to what I wrote on the discussion board that was collectively decided upon and written by the entire group. -Lciaccio 16:04, 8 January 2008 (EST)

Preliminary Discussion

Dispute ideas:

  • Is waterboarding torture? Waterboarding
    • I've just skimmed part of the dispute, but it seems like a good, ongoing dispute that goes to heart of the Wikipedia ethos. I'm going to finish reading through and then comment. Also, as much as I like the Gavin Newsom question, I think it's not universally accessible. Ac 10:47, 7 January 2008 (EST)
      • Yeah, I tend to agree on that point; I simply saw the Newsom dispute and realized I could try and give a pretty decent answer to it, and figured I probably ought to. Kratville 13:46, 7 January 2008 (EST)
        • I was suggesting IRL to Kelly and Alexis that perhaps we should come up with some internal concensus before we comment on the site, instead of just adding our two cents individually (12 cents collectively?).Vhettinger 14:02, 7 January 2008 (EST)
  • Is Gavin Newsom still Catholic? Gavin Newsom
    • I just put a comment in on this, since I happen to have my electronic version of the Catholic Catechism on hand. Kratville 23:30, 6 January 2008 (EST)

  • Should info from the Navy be included in article on Gulf War syndrome? Gulf War Syndrome
  • Should Harry Potter film entry be based on original British book name? Harry Potter Khoffman 20:00, 6 January 2008 (EST)

Group Comments

  • I think we should go with the "is waterboarding torture?" dispute. -Lciaccio 11:37, 7 January 2008 (EST)
    • This was orally seconded, thirded, fourth-ed and (I believe) fifth-ed just before class.Vhettinger 14:05, 7 January 2008 (EST)
    • Good stuff. Sounds like we have a rough consensus to move forward with the waterboarding debate. Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
  • Am I oversigning my posts? I don't know Wikietiquette. Wikitiquette? Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
  • How does everyone feel about meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at noon, Hark cafe? Vhettinger 23:50, 7 January 2008 (EST)
    • I can do that Kratville 01:18, 8 January 2008 (EST)
    • I've got a nice little table and everything down by the cafe Kp 12:00, 8 January 2008 (EST)

Discussion of Waterboarding Debate

  • Overview: The Wikipedia debate on waterboarding centers around whether the statement "Waterboarding is a form of torture" should be used. At this point, the discussion seems to have broken off into a more meta debate on Wikipedia's purpose and the role of sources in forming conclusions. The big question for our purposes is how we can participate in the debate in a constructive way that might lead to a resolution. Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
  • Here are a few thoughts on the issue:
    • A lot of the debate is centered on whether "waterboarding is a form of torture" is too conclusory, given the contemporary debate on whether waterboarding is torture. It seems to me that the debate itself on whether waterboarding is torture is an important aspect of waterboarding as a social institution. If we think of users looking up waterboarding on Wikipedia, they will probably want both a historical review of waterboarding and some discussion of the debate over whether it is torture. I think the article should include a section entitled "The Debate on Waterboarding as Torture" with sources on both sides of the debate. Similar to how an article on evolution should include a discussion of the debate over teaching evolution in public schools, or an article on global warming should include a discussion on the American political debate on global warming. Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
    • Currentness concerns: One of the philosophies behind Wikipedia is that the articles should be timeless and not obviously tied to current events. The waterboarding debate is very current, and ten years from now people may have forgotten the debate over whether waterboarding is torture altogether. I think a section on the debate could remain relevant, though, if it is considered a significant historical moment, rather than an ongoing debate. Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
  • How can we contribute to the discussion?
    • Should we weigh in on whether Wikipedia should keep the statement "waterboarding is a form of torture"? If so, what is our position? Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
    • Should we contribute by suggesting alternative solutions, such as adding a section on the debate? Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)
      • I agree with your proposition that adding a section to the page that summarizes this debate (along with some non-wikipedian sources, as you suggest) would be a good solution. Based on your reading of the RFC so far, do you think the crowd is amenable to something like that? How might we go about implementing it? (Adding it ourselves, or proposing it in the debate forum?) Vhettinger 23:47, 7 January 2008 (EST)
        • Based on wht I have observed in Wikipedia, I think the latter option is better. Although people are generally better off jumping in and making changes, once it gets to the point where there is a RFC or otherwise a lengthy debate elsewhere on the site, it is better to reach some consensus before making direct changes. -Lciaccio 10:25, 8 January 2008 (EST)
      • How would we distinguish this from the section that already exists ("Classification as Torture -- Classification as Torture in the United States")? Are we thinking of putting in a section specifically on the wikipedia debate? Is that an appropriate point to be made in a wiki article (that's an honest question; I don't have any understanding of the variety of policies, including those cited in the talk page)? More importantly, since the first line of the article would still either say "waterboarding is torture" or it would say something else, do we think people will be mollified by the inclusion of this section, presumably fairly far down in the article? Unfortunately, having asked those questions, I certainly have no better ideas, so I'm willing to believe this may be the best solution to a bad problem. Kratville 01:16, 8 January 2008 (EST)
    • Part of the problem is that those participating in the dispute don't seem to be answering the same question, leading to a bit of chaos instead of a directed debate. From what I have read, I don't see a consensus as to what is really being debated; if we could propose a reframing of the question it might help to focus the comments. Of course, that is contingent on our question being accepted. -Lciaccio 10:33, 8 January 2008 (EST)
      • Some seem to be debating whether waterboarding is torture, others claiming the existence of a dispute makes a conclusory opinion inappropriate. My take is that the answer is between the two: the existence of a valid, informed, and non-fringe disagreement would take the "waterboarding is torture" out of the realm of fact and into the realm of an opinion (which would need to be rephrased for inclusion in the article. Under this perspective, the relevant question is a threshhold one: are the opinions on the other side significant and informed enough to put its status into valid dispute? So for example, the mere existence of Holocaust deniers does not mandate that we pepper that article with the word "allegedly", but the fact that atheists are a minority does not mean we state God's existence as a fact.
      • Once we set that threshhold, we can then determine whether the minority opinion meets it. Those opinions that seem to spring from the view that only physical abuse is torture may not count towards it if the common (mental or physical anguish) definition of torture is adopted. -Lciaccio 10:33, 8 January 2008 (EST)