Depressing topic I know, but I was fascinated by the structure of the discussion on Wikipedia’s articles on the Armenian Genocide. Specifically, I looked at articles on the genocide itself, Armenian genocide recognition, and Armenian genocide denial. Let’s start with the mammoth talk page on the general Armenian genocide article.
One of the first things about the page I noticed was the red sections detailing the articles placement in the context of Wikipedia in general. The article was nominated as a “good article” on Wikipedia. It was also listed as a source of interest in numerous WikiProjects, and finally the page lists the three peer reviews the article received. While reading the discussions, I noticed several main themes. First, many discussions started by editors focus on trimming information down or moving it into separate sub articles because of length. A major point of contention in the article revolved around the placement of genocide denials, whether they should remain in the main article or be moved to a separate article and the section trimmed down. Also, the discussion of whether US states should be included in the recognition of genocide section took up a good sized section of the page. While the moderators warn that the talk page is about the structure and not the content, the arguments about what to trim and what to remove are always charged with the emotion that comes with discussing sensitive topics such as genocide.
The second page, “Armenian Genocide Recognition”, has almost no discussion of it’s structure at all. There are only four sections each with short statements about the nation-states that have or have not recognized the Armenian Genocide. Part of the first articles discussion about including US states in Armenian Genocide recognition is partially resolved. Individual states are included, some even updated to reflect their recognition of the genocide on the map included in the article. While a short talk page, it was illuminating how the talk page can be used to point out mistakes or update information, reflecting Wikipedia’s community-based structure.
Finally, the last talk page is also the most contentious. Of all three pages, Armenian Genocide denial has the most arbitration that moderate and restrict access and content. One arbitration requires editors to obtain consensus before making the edit. It implies that the subsequent discussions will be difficult. Following that, Wikipedia reminds new editors of the Neutral POV policy that affects the article itself, detailing a common objection by editors that the article unfairly demonizes the Ottoman/Turkish claims, thus violating the policy. That should give you an idea of the contentious nature of these discussions. What follows is a few changes of external links, routine cleaning up, and a challenge that the academic consensus of the status of the Armenian Genocide as a genocide are false. Tensions run high on this page. The next discussion section debates on whether the inclusion of the quotes of an Israeli official is reliable and what about it’s sourcing makes it reliable/unreliable.
At face value, the discussions above seem nit-picky. There were times that I got irritated and just muttered, ‘why does this even matter’ to myself. But I understand now, that it reflects the intention of Wikipedia as a whole. The site’s founding principles is on the pipe dream of “objectivity,” an encyclopedia devoted to a perception of neutrality that sparks discussions like the ones above, offering a chance at communal participation in the gathering and dissemination of information. It also sparks discussion of how that information is presented that pushes its editors to engage analytically with the material, even if the discussions end up pedantic and irritating.