User:George Swan/Lengthy, meaty articles

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I am responding here to some points in this note from Larry Sanger. First draft right now

Argentina and Chile had their "dirty wars", where, following right-wing coups, the authorities arrived in the middle of the night and secretly apprehended individuals whose activities they were suspicious of, or individual who were believed to be sympathetic to causes, organizations, or individuals, that might, in the future, lead them into activity the authorities disapproved of.
One of my correspondents over on another wiki was quite concerned that, by fully covering the USA's flouting of the principle of the presumption of innocence, while not providing the same coverage of other nation's flouting of the same principles leaves the impression that the USA was a bigger human rights offender than those other nations.
This is not true. In Uzbekistan there are reliable reports, from UK diplomats for instance, that being boiled alive is one of the interrogation and execution methods used in Uzbek torture chambers. That is several orders of magnitude worse than Guantanamo.
But one of the core principles over on that other wiki was "verifiability, not truth" -- and that is true here too, isn't it? Instances where open democratic countries flout the rule of law are more verifiable than instances where closed, represeeive countries. Among the choices are to try to give every instance the measure of neutral, verifiable coverage it merits, or alternately, to make an editorial decision to scale back the coverage of some instances, because it wasn't possible to find verifiable references for other instances from repressive countries.
If I were to get a say in this choice I would back the first choice. If we can't find verifiable references for actual instances, we can look for authoritative speculation from the UN, or Amnesty International, or reasonable equivalent. And, if we can't find worthwhile references from authoritiative commentators either, I think this means that we should question our idea that those nations were as guilty as we thought.
As I read through the thousands of pages of documents the DoD released about the Guantanamo captives I drew dozens or hundreds of conclusions. I couldn't write about in that other wiki -- and I wouldn't be able to write about them here -- because carrying those conclusions would violate the principles of no original research. See User:George Swan/Guantanamo/The Mullah Shahzada story.
One of the conclusions I drew from my experience of sitting on conclusions I couldn't write about was that the same proscription should apply to my correspondent who was concerned that giving the documentable instances of Western flouting of the rule of law and the presumption of innocence would leave readers with the inflated impression of the USA's ranking in the world's worst human rights abusers was in a similar situation as I was. Just as I couldn't write about the conclusions about Mullah Shahzada, because there were no authoritative verifiable sources to cite, if he or I couldn't find sources to back up the conclusion that Uzbekistan, Argentina, Chile had worse human rights records than the USA, we couldn't write about it.
It goes without saying that our decisions about what to include in projects like this one should not be influenced by unreferenced popular notions, urban legends, unreferenced preconceptions. Our decisions about what to include should be based on what we can verify. And, I think a corollary of this principle is that our decisions about what we exclude should not be influenced by unreferenced preconceptions, urban legends, etc -- just by what we can verfiy.
I thik we have to respect our reader's intelligence and judgment. As I wrote above I had no special knowledge of the Geneva Conventions before I started researching this area. I am not an expert now. I am sure there are holes in my knowledge and understanding that a real expert wouldn't have. But I have confidence that the conclusions I have drawn, after all the research I have done, are serious, well-informed ones. Even if, for the sake of argument, I was more dedicated than the projects usual reader I think I should act as if the usual reader was a curious, intelligent, responsible person, capable of drawing their own informed opinion. Intelligent responsible readers will already have their own conclusion as to how much credibility to grant to the concerns of the UN, Amnesty International, and similar groups, and how much credibility to grant to the denials from Uzbek offidial that their nation engages in torture. Same with the denials from US officials that their nation engages in torture.

It seems to me that not only should our decisions about what to include in projects like this not
Cheers! George Swan 09:08, 19 October 2007 (CDT)