User:Philip J. Rayment/Editorial

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When I came across Conservapedia, I liked the idea of it being resistant to the atheistic bias that inflicts itself on Wikipedia. But some aspects of it seemed a bit odd. For example, the list of what's wrong with Wikipedia starts off with Wikipedia using BCE and CE instead of BC and AD. Okay, I actually agree with Conservapedia on that, but putting it at the head of the list of Wikipedia problems? Come on, that's a minor issue compared to some others. However, I figured that someone might say that the list is in no particular order, and it being the first item on the list was just the way it happened. So I didn't say anything about that when I made my first "contribution" to Conservapedia, on the Conservapedia Talk page:

I've just recently come across Conservapedia, and thought that I'd offer my initial impressions.

First, to establish my credentials, although I don't normally go around describing myself as a conservative, I definitely would be one. I'm a Christian, and a young-Earth creationist. A fuller description of me is on my Wikipedia user page. You will also see there that I lament the bias that Wikipedia has in some areas.
So I should consider Conservapedia a "good thing", right? Well, perhaps it is; I think it's too soon for me to say. But despite being conservative, Christian, creationist, and pro-American, I am an Australian, and proud of it. And despite being pro-American, I don't like the way that American culture has pervaded Australia so much, and I also don't like the attitude that so many Americans seem to have that America is all there is or all that matters.
So one of the things that I DO like about Wikipedia is it's policy on the use of different English spellings. If I start an article on Wikipedia that is not specifically about something American, for example, I'm free to use Australian spellings, and unless the article is largely rewritten by someone else, policy is that the Australian spellings (being the spellings of the first major contributor to the article) are favoured. I find it frustrating that so many articles have already been written with American spellings, so they are stuck with them.

To come here and find that this otherwise promising site has a nationalistic bias towards American spellings—which bias has nothing to do with being conservative—is most disappointing. The criticism of Wikipedia on this point in the Examples of Bias in Wikipedia (No. 13) is laughable. Surely favouring one language over another is bias, whereas not favouring is a lack of bias? Moreover, that criticism uses as justification that most English-speakers are American. This is a misleading half-truth. Americans comprise about 280 million English-speakers[1]. This compares to a total of about 480 million people (same source) who speak English as a first language (which means that Americans make up 58 percent, not exactly an overwhelming majority), but it also compares to a total, including people who speak it as a second language, of 1,800 million people[2]. By this figure, Americans comprise about 16 percent of English speakers!

When I was growing up, we had a Compton's encyclopedia. Unfortunately, this encyclopedia had lots of articles on American cities, for example, but next to nothing on Australian cities. We later bought a World Book encyclopedia, because it was much more balanced (i.e. not US-centric). And over the years I heard many stories about how little Americans were aware of matters outside their own country. Supposedly, Americans got Australia confused with Austria (different hemisphere, different continent, different language, different background), were surprised that we could speak English so well, thought that kangaroos hopped down the main streets of our capital cities, etc. etc. We got lots of information about America in our news reports, on TV shows (I don't know how many Aussie kids have grown up thinking the last letter of the alphabet was pronounced zee instead of zed, because they watched Sesame Street), and even in encyclopedias. But how much did Americans know about us? Very little, it seemed.

Now no doubt that's changed somewhat over the years, with Paul Hogan "throwing a shrimp on the barbie" (not that we do much of exactly that), and some Australian movies and TV shows getting an airing in the U.S. of A.

But then I come here and find this site being parochially American! Even objecting to non-American spelling! I like being able to edit creation- and Bible-related articles without the liberals/atheists/etc. howling you down and ganging up against you (although there are a few here trying to inflict what they consider to be correct on the site), but then I keep coming up against these Americanisms. Yesterday I came across the John Howard article, which had been vandalised several times with completely fictional accounts of the man, but it seems that none of the American editors here really had any idea that it was complete nonsense.

Then I look at the article on Australia, which was basically a factual article, but included how far it is from America! It's really looking like this is a site for Americans only, and nobody else matters. Today I noticed that an Australian spelling of a word in that article has been changed to an American spelling—remember this is an article about Australia!

Update 24-3-07: Now the Conservapedia logo has been altered to incorporate stars and stripes! Although it seems that this may just be a proposal rather than the final thing.

Update 25-3-07: Conservapedia's just dropped the American-spelling rule! Bewdy!

That's where I am at the moment. Will I continue here? For now, probably, because I like the freedom from the bibliosceptics, but I don't like the US-centric viewpoint.

7-4-07: Well, I was made a sysop a couple of days ago, and Andy Schlafly has made encouraging comments (and here too) regarding the US-centric thrust, so it looks like I'll be staying here after all. Although the bibliosceptics are getting as bad here as on Wikipedia, unfortunately.