Why Jimmy Wales’ Personal Philosophy Should Discredit Wikipedia’s Trustworthiness
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, October 15, 2019
When we think about the most powerful and influential voices in the world, we more often than not recognize presidents, statespersons, leading social reformers, and great visionaries. But rarely would Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales be found on our lists. Nevertheless, it is perfectly legitimate to suggest that Wales has received enormous undeserved recognition for his Wikipedia that is now in the top five of the world’s most influential websites. People utilize Wikipedia for it being the largest storehouse of human knowledge that is simply a click away to access. Unfortunately, many people visit Wikipedia to gain access to information that may contribute to life-changing decisions, especially regarding medicine and health. Given all its hype, Wikipedia has become a trusted resource, yet few users truly know or understand the politics and controversies that rage behind its editorial backrooms and the encyclopedia’s parent entity’s — the Wikimedia Foundation — complete lack of oversight and responsibility for the information posted. This lack of oversight is a violation of it’s parent foundation’s most fundamental legal responsibility, to control the operations of Wikipedia and have it conform to its stated purpose.
Wikipedia hides behind the constitutional guarantees supporting the right to free speech. Therefore the Foundation runs away from taking responsibility for content posted on the encyclopedia, including gross misinformation, and the defamation of living persons, including the premeditated, orchestrated destruction of reputable individuals’ research and accomplishments. These actions are like a public flogging, something one might expect in a public square in Saudi Arabia. It is not uncommon to read about pioneering alternative medical doctors and practitioners, who have helped thousands of people, denigrated as “quacks.” This is despite the fact that for decades there has been a long legacy of doctors, researchers and medical pioneers who have shown that many of the medical theories and therapies Wikipedia denounces are effective. By abandoning any pretense of objectivity in many critical areas, Wikipedia has abandoned its mission to be an “encyclopedia” and is not entitled to the benefit of any doubt in determining it’s responsibility for its acts of defamation of character and various published falsehoods.
People such as Drs. Deepak Chopra, Caldwell Esselstyn, David Perlmutter, Larry Dossey, John McDougall, etc, who have spent their lives improving society and the lives of millions of people, were acknowledged by their professional peers until Wikipedia attacked them. Many of these physicians have been unique innovators who explored areas of health and treatment that their profession steered away from. There is also an increasing body of scientific literature to support them. Other visionaries who have stepped outside the box to investigate consciousness, human potential and controversial biophysical properties including Rupert Sheldrake, Dean Radin, and Nobel Prize Laureate Luc Montagnier. Therefore for Wikipedia to condemn this entire medical history en masse poses a dire threat to society, both individually and collectively. This may very well be a human rights crime. Chopra, for example, has introduced millions of people to Transcendental Meditation and Ayurvedic medicine which has improved their lives accordingly.
Today there is a growing number of board certified physicians, from highly respected medical schools such as Harvard and Stanford, who have chosen to seek more efficacious and safer therapies than what conventional medicine has to offer. These men and women have accepted an alternative route because of the enormous failures and iatrogenic injuries now rampant in our dominant medical paradigm. Notable medical critics such as former Cochrane pioneer Peter Gotzsche, the former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine Marcia Angell, David Healy, and Stanford’s John Ioannidis have shown that many of our most common drug regimens have failed to show efficacy for treating mental disorders and conditions such as chronic pain, cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, none of these criticisms of modern medicine have initiated any concerted fundamental change to correct the way medicine is practiced in modern society. And of course this is largely due to the overwhelming power and influence the pharmaceutical industry exerts over our federal health agencies.
We are not stating any secrets. The simple fact of the matter is that more patients are turning towards complementary and alternative health therapies because these physicians are finding much greater patient benefits with non-toxic medical regimens. Moreover these medical systems have overwhelming support from research found in the scientific literature that Wikipedia categorically ignores.
We may take one telling and not infrequent example. A person who is undergoing conventional medical treatment for cancer may learn about non-toxic natural treatments for relieving the adverse effects of chemotherapy or radiation. Or the person may be advised to learn a stress reduction technique such as meditation or yoga, which the scientific literature has repeatedly shown to improve the chances for recovery. Or she or he may Google alternative and non-drug therapies to find nutrients or medicinal herbs to further protect the immune system. Inevitably, Google will take the patient immediately to Wikipedia where it will be discovered that all of these alternative therapies are viciously attacked and denounced as pseudoscience or quackery. And this despite the many thousands of published studies in the National Institutes of Health PubMed database. Unfortunately, the average person is unaware of the other options such as PubMed or the Mayo Clinic resources and, therefore, they are inadvertently forced to rely upon Wikipedia.
Several peer-reviewed analyses have concluded that Wikipedia’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine pages are poorly written and fraught with errors and biases. In a joint analysis of 97 Wikipedia articles on CAM therapies that was undertaken by the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health and Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan, only 4 percent were assigned a “good” status and 56 percent required “substantial improvements in their content.” Hence, in our opinion, Wikipedia has failed to provide any balanced and authoritative information on its pages
Neither Jimmy Wales nor the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board members and officers possess a professional background in the biological and medical sciences. Nor is there evidence that any of these individuals have made efforts to objectively investigate alternative medicine in order make realistic executive decisions to have Wikipedia’s health pages corrected. To the contrary, the Foundation has ignorantly permitted the condemnation of these therapies to continue without due process. We have spoken with nationally renowned Constitutional attorneys who suggest the Foundation may be engaging in human rights abuses because they are intentionally depriving the public of life-saving information while condemning those who advocate for it. Therefore, every Foundation Board member, which includes Wales, based upon the California Attorney General’s rules, is violating the law and very likely the organization’s IRS nonprofit status.
The Foundation claims that under the terms of the US Communications Decency Act, it is not liable for the text of Wikipedia editors on its website until it has been fully informed about offensive and derogatory statements. After such time, and if the Foundation or its Board fail to make the necessary corrections, it risks being held liable and legal measures can be taken. This means that every WikiMedia fiduciary may be liable for legal actions. Lawsuits have been filed against Wikipedia for inappropriate accusations appearing on the sites biographies. Yet in our opinion, these individual suits have failed to succeed because the initial approach was defective. Rather, a major class action suit with the federal government’s full awareness may be the only solution to bring this rogue non-profit organization to account.
To say there is an epidemic of dysfunction on Wikipedia would be understatement. By all accounts Wikpedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales and the WikiMedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees have failed to take responsibility for the unbridled scorn, bias, misinformation, libel, defamation and character assassination that persists on the site. It is quite understandable that Wales would distance himself from liability and from being held accountable. Irresponsibility is a central thesis for his stated personal philosophies, which as we will describe permit chaos to govern over a faux trickle down illusion that accuracy and consensus can alchemically prevail on Wikipedia’s web pages. This is especially the case for highly charged controversial topics such as medicine, health, politics, corporate accountability, economic theories, and religion.
Before co-founding Wikipedia with Larry Sanger, Wales’ earlier business ventures were equally criticized for rampant dysfunction and a lack of executive responsibility. Former employees of Wale’s dot.com marketing scheme Bomis have described the company’s mismanaged and maladjusted culture that Wales oversaw. One employee reminisced, “Of the years I worked at Bomis, most employees were treated with almost non-existent aloofness. He [Wales] talked to anyone very rarely. No one really knew what their responsibilities were. No one knew how things were going until they got laid off. Some, such as me, or Tim Shell, he treated with mocking disdain.” Another employee remarked, “Jimmy was such a non-existent manager of all the employees. No meetings, no discussions on how the company was doing, no nothing from him.” After numerous attempts by individuals to reach out to Wales and the Foundation to request their responsibility to have their biographies corrected of misinformation and even lies, and slanderous comments, they are simply advised to continue proceeding through the same failed editorial process as before or receive silence. Clearly, Wales and his Foundation have no intention to be responsible for the damage caused by Wikipedia’s editors destroying the reputations of innocent people and worsen the very health of millions who are misinformed by Wales’ Skeptics who dominant many of the encyclopedia’s heath entries.
Knowing a little about Jimmy Wales’ personal philosophies may guide us to better understand the dysfunction that plaques many Wikipedia topics. During his public lectures and interviews, Wales has acknowledged his deep devotion to Ayn Rand’s Objectivist creed — Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead being among his favorite literary works — and the economic theories of Friedrich Hayek from the Austrian School of Economics. Both ideologies should have been buried in an historical toxic wastebin long ago. As we will point out, Wales also embraces the radical scientific materialist opinions of modern Skepticism and is sympathetic to the New Atheism promulgated by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. New Atheism is also rampant in the Skeptic organizations such as the Center for Inquiry and the James Randi Educational Foundation. Mixing together the ingredients of Rand, Hayek, institutional Skepticism and the New Atheism is a predictable recipe for aggressive pathologies of intolerance and extremism. Furthermore, each of these belief systems carry many of the defining characteristics of a cult.
According to Wales, Objectivism and Hayek’s text “The Use of Knowledge in Society” have served as the template for his theorizing the benefits of an open-source encyclopedia for achieving accuracy in knowledge and wisdom. However, as Stacy Schiff wrote in The New Yorker, Wale’s belief in a free-for-all policy to gather the world’s knowledge may have turned Wikipedia into “the world’s most ambitious vanity press.” Again, Sanger, quoted in the New Yorker article, observes “Wikipedia has gone from a nearly perfect anarchy to an anarchy with gang rule.” But this is the spawn one might anticipate from a marriage between Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Certainly for the numerous junior editors, including many medical doctors and university researchers, who have attempted to correct the truck loads of misinformation, bias, and outright scientific distortions and lies on complementary and alternative medical pages, it is clear that the personal unprofessional opinions of anonymous Skeptics who have hijacked much of Wikipedia’s health entries — what the open-source pioneer Eric Raymond may be referring to as an infestation of “moonbats” — outweigh medical expertise and even enormous bodies of peer-reviewed medical research. When queried about the controversy regarding a leading Wikipedia administrator’s fraudulent credentials using the anonymous handle Essiay, who claimed to have a doctorate but never graduated from college — Wales simply wrote it off, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”
Jimmy Wales’ Objectivism
In the Ayn Rand entry on Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which attempts to take a neutral stand, we read, “Whereas Rand’s ideas and mode of presentation make Rand popular with many non-academics, they lead to the opposite outcome with academics.” However trying to remain evenhanded with Rand’s Objectivist philosophy is quite a challenging task for anyone possessing a modicum of critical thinking skills. Rand thoroughly rejects the idea that the privileged and wealthy elite have a responsibility to improve society for the benefit of the collective as a whole. This may account for Wales’ disregard towards academic professionals to serve as senior Wikipedia administrators on subjects they have earned expertise in. Instead, he shows favor towards the horde of anti-intellectual proletariats, which make up much of the Skeptic community such as stage magician James Randi and Susan Gerbic’s army of Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. Stanford’s encyclopedia continues, “[Rand’s] polemical style, often contemptuous tone and the dogmatism and cult-like behavior of many of her fans also suggest that her work is not worth taking seriously.”
Altruism and human values of kindness and giving are antithetical to Objectivism. Rand writes in her deceptively titled book, The New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, that “capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.” This might perhaps be Rand’s most truthful statement. She was herself a self-indulgent brat, who cared little that her family was starving during the Soviet regime while she ran off to the theater. Hypocrisy flowed through her blood; she castigated government welfare while unconscionably collecting Medicare benefits and social security. Gore Vidal, who never withheld his disdain for Rand’s philosophy, wrote in Esquire that she “has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the welfare state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts… Ayn Rand’s ‘philosophy’ is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous…”
Wales often pronounces honorable words, even sometimes oozing with altruism, in his pep talks to the site’s editors. On a Wikipedia mailing list in December 2005, Wales wrote, “We are Wikipedians. This means that we should be: kind, thoughtful, passionate about getting it right, open, tolerant of different viewpoints, open to criticism, bold about changing our policies and also cautious about changing our policies. We are not vindictive, childish, and we don’t stoop to the level of our worst critics, no matter how much we may find them to be annoying.” His ex-wife Pam conveys a very different image that aligns with Ayn Rand’s amoral Objectivism of noxious self-interest. A 2008 profile of Wales in W Magazine recounts, “To him, altruism was evil,” remembers Pam, who says that Wales therefore discouraged her from pursuing a nursing degree when they were married. “His whole ‘Mr Save the World’ is so contrary to what he said every day for seven years.” For the jetsetting Wales, who resides in the UK and removed from his Foundation’s San Francisco operations, egoic fame seems to be a top priority and to continue serving as Wikipedia’s “benevolent dictator.” As we will see, Wales is astute in spewing empty words. Off of Wikipedia, Wales has made many vile statements towards those who do not embrace his prejudiced beliefs, notably Medical Skepticism. And these same destructive sentiments are rife on Wikipedia. Similar to Rand, Wales seemingly has a low opinion of democracy. The “greatest misconception about Wikipedia,” Wales told the New York Times, “we aren’t democratic. Our readers edit the entries, but we’re actually quite snobby.” And Objectivism is pomposity on amphetamines, which Rand just so happens to have been addicted to.
Wales and the Austrian School of Economics
In an interview published in Reason magazine, Wales remarked, “Hayek’s work on price theory is central to my own thinking about how to manage the Wikipedia project…. One can’t understand my ideas about Wikipedia without understanding Hayek.” Indeed the heartbeat of Hayek’s serfdom and intellectual nihilism thrives among Wikipedian communities, notably the Skeptics, because knowledge should be thoroughly decentralized, according to Hayek’s scheme, which means that any patient is deemed more knowledgeable than the physician.
The Nobel Laureate for Economics, Paul Krugman, writes that Austrian economics “very much has the psychology of a cult. Its devotees believe that they have access to a truth that generations of mainstream economists have somehow failed to discern.” Another Nobel economist Milton Friedman was equally critical of the Austrian school’s flaws, which he felt “has done the world a great deal of harm.” And indeed, similar to the Hayek and another Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises, Wales has attracted a wild-eyed cult of adoring Wikipedians and Skeptics who bow to him as one of their own.
Friedman also charges Hayek and another Austrian acolyte Lionel Robbins for believing quite foolishly that by just allowing “the bottom to drop out” an economic system will automatically “cure itself.” Similar to Rand, Hayek is suggesting that there should be no centralized authority being held accountable for the lives of those who are destroyed by the titans of industry. We see this same principle at work in Wikidepdia: that regardless of the editorial infighting or Wiki-wars, confusion, animosity, and conflicts between editors holding contrary views, that somehow out of the abyss reliable, objective and well-balanced entries will emerge. In addition, by believing this nonsense, Wales nor the Foundation need to be responsible for the eventual outcome. The Wikipedia serfs will figure it out; however at the greater cost of people’s reputations and massive inaccurate and biased information being dished out to the site’s users.
Wales’ Medical Skepticism
While Wales’ may believe his allegiance to the philosophies of Rand and Hayek excuse him of ultimate responsibility for the intentional damage Wikipedia causes in the lives of others, his embrace of modern Medical Skepticism further compounds the problem. Here, Wales’ favoritism towards an ideological dogma has contributed to the greatest harm.
Over the years, a relatively small group, many of whom are non-credentialed, hate-filled individuals commonly known as Skeptics, have been empowered by Wales to use the site as a social media platform to aggressively attack and condemn non-conventional and alternative medical therapies and its practitioners. The modern Skepticism movement is a deviation from conventional scientific skepticism from the 19th century. It is a socio-politically motivated movement that promulgates an extreme interpretation of scientific materialism based upon reductionist principles that deny any relevance to subjective experience.
Although Wales claims he is neutral over Wikipedia’s content, he has nevertheless taken personal measures to protect the encyclopedia from criticism. In 2018, he supported the ban of the British newspaper the Daily Mail from being recognized as a reliable resource to reference on Wikipedia entries. There are sound reasons to believe that Wales’ banning the Daily Mail was an act of conflict of interests and perhaps personal revenge. On occasion the Mail has printed stories that challenge Wikipedia’s claims of neutrality. One story accused Wales of being a neoliberal insider with the intention to destroy conservatism. Furthermore, Wales has sat on the Board of the Guardian Media Group — the Daily Mail is the Guardian’s major competitor. The Foundation’s executive director Katherine Maher has also written for the liberal-leaning newspaper. The Mail published a story about the inaccuracy of medical research originating from Campbell University that is frequently referenced on Wikipedia’s 20,000-plus health-related pages. In effect, the Mail was providing a public service to warn readers about Wikipedia’s unreliable information and grossly biased entries on health topics. This is all the more important because many patients rely upon Wikipedia in their attempts to self-diagnose adverse symptoms. It is also estimated that approximately 50 percent of physicians refer to Wikipedia on a regular basis. In 2017, the Mail reported on a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute that found Wikipedia has been relying upon algorithmic bots for over a decade to “enforce bans, check spelling, links and import content.” This includes the undoing of manual and robotic edits made to Wiki pages, a common occurrence on alternative health pages. And in 2014 the Mail instructed all of its writers and reporters to never rely on Wikipedia as a single source for conducting journalistic research.
Wales is fond of the social media website Quora, where he posts periodically and answers questions from his fans. Per a question about the circumstances for the ban of the Daily Mail, Wales replied, “My own view is that Wikipedia should be very careful about sourcing, including stepping up skepticism across the board.” And there we have it. Skepticism is to be the determining arbiter for what can be ruled as “authentic” medicine on Wikipedia. Hence, the Foundation’s Board members and all of its fiduciaries are put on notice that Wikipedia is not objective, is unfair, and it is creating original content based upon a Skeptic agenda that Wales believes is correct despite the fact the scientific literature proves otherwise. Therefore, we believe that all parties involved, from the Skeptic editors to the WikiMedia Board and officers should be held legally accountable.
Writing for the Huffington Post, journalist Sam Slovick posed a question that many senior Wikipedia editors have entertained. Slovick asks, “Has Jimmy Wales’ marauding encyclopedic beast finally corrupted the Internet? Has Wikipedia lost all credibility, its purported neutral system compromised by toxic editors?” The most toxic Wikipedia editors now terrorizing and sabotaging the encyclopedia’s pages more often than not are anonymous, non-experts and computer hacks who have ulterior motives and see Wikipedia as a venue to vent their animosity towards subjects and people they dislike, or to advance their own beliefs and ideologies. Editors who adhere to modern Skepticism are particularly suspect and now dominate upwards to a thousand Wikipedia entries dealing with non-conventional medicine, parapsychology and doctors, researchers and health practitioners who advocate these disciplines.
It is not uncommon to find Skeptic sites praising Wales’s embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. Sites such as Skeptical Science and Skeptools praised Wales in glowing terms for his attack against energy psychology. “Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week” reports Skeptools, “sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence.” After giving undue applause to the success of Susan Gerbic’s network Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, the article continues,
”Wales makes clear what I have been saying all along – the rules of evidence on Wikipedia are pro-skeptic and pro-science. If you are pushing an idea that science rejects, Wikipedia will reject it too…. Paranormalists and pseudoscientists take note: skeptics are not bullying you off Wikipedia. We are only enforcing the rules of evidence as clearly stated on the service. If you cannot provide adequate evidence for your ideas, they will not be accepted. So says Jimmy Wales, so say we all.”
Medical Skepticism is a radical aberration from modern scientific norms. One of its fundamental goals is to distort the scientific debate over non-conventional medical systems, such as Chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, nutritional therapy, homeopathy, etc, and then advance a deviation of the widely accepted Evidence-Based Medicine paradigm known as “science-based medicine.” Albeit, the proponents of this latter fringe and rather small movement are not recognized by the wider medical establishment and Skeptics rarely support their absolute claims without unrestrained bias. Instead of following Wikipedia’s rules to magically produce valuable and objective information out of conflicting analyses, arguments, and conversations, Skeptics have been granted permission to impose their own rules and solutions for how Wiki pages ought to be reframed to reflect their ideological beliefs. Consequently Skeptics have succeeded in moving the boundaries that define medical evidence and Wales unquestionably condones this.
In 2013, Wales posted a comment on his personal Quora page and shared his experience at a London pharmacy where he was offered the popular homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinium for a sore throat and cough. Besides writing that Oscillococcinum “is a complete hoax product,” Wales reveals his contempt for homeopathy, and offers his services to prevent its use. He wrote,
“What I want to know is this: why is this legal? Or, if it is not legal, then what can be done about it? … Homeopathic remedies of no value whatsoever are legally marketed as cures for specific diseases. Who should I talk to about this in order to encourage the creation of a campaign to stop this? This is not my primary area of interest and so I am not the right person to lead it myself. But I would like to help.”
In a later comment, Wales stated, “Well, since I live in London, and the problem of homeopathic quackery seems much worse there [i.e., the US] to me, I think I should meet people working on the problem over there first,” and “we know with full rational certainty that they [ie homeopathic remedies] do not work at all. They are nothing more than placebo sold fraudulently.” Clearly, the people Wales turns to and supports are the Skeptics who are the most militant and aggressive opposition to homeopathy as well as the most ignorant on the subject. The Skeptical Center for Inquiry has even filed lawsuits against major pharmacy corporations such CSV and Walmart for selling homeopathic products.
When a group of homeopaths reached out to Wales to put forth their case of the gross misinformation about Wikipedia’s “homeopathy” entry, they were refused for the simple reason that themselves being homeopaths characterizes a conflict of interests. Contrarily, if Paul Offit, one of the nation’s most rabid pro-vaccine advocates, wanted to edit the Wikipedia page for the rotavirus vaccine — which he co-invented and received undisclosed millions of dollars from Merck — Skeptics would unroll a royal purple carpet to do. Offit happens to be a Skeptic celebrity.
For the record, a Cochrane Collaboration review of Oscillococcinum trials concluded that the remedy did not prevent the onset of flu, however its analysis of four clinical trials “suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours.” Wikipedia recognizes the Cochrane research as one of the more preeminent resources for reliable medical information. Another statistical review of the scientific literature conducted by Sloan Kettering Cancer Center concluded that the same homeopathic preparation “probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting influenza symptoms.” This information is blocked from being posted on Wikipedia’s page for “Oscillococcinum.”
Wales has provided plenty of assistance. Susan Gerbic replied to Wales’ offer:
“Jimmy you have already done more than anyone could possibly dream that can be done. You created the most amazing resource in the world. I mean that, not only in English but in every language possible. The English homeopathy page alone gets over 140K views EACH MONTH. That is a lot of people being educated about homeopathy. Thank you. Allowing us editors to ‘do our job’ and keep these articles honest and correctly cited is enough. I can’t imagine what else you can do, my brain is teeny tiny compared to your mighty brain, if you come up with something please oh please let us in on it, we want to help.”
In 2014, a volatile exchange occurred on the internet between Wales and Dr. Debby Vajda, then President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP). Skeptic Wikipedia editors had viciously ridiculed and condemned Energy Medicine and Psychology. Every effort to correct Wikipedia’s entry, according to Dr. Vajda, was “summarily deleted.” Practitioners of these medical modalities were unsuccessful in their attempts to provide peer-reviewed scientific evidence of Energy Medicine’s successes, nor Energy Medicine’s positive endorsement by professional associations and science publications including the American Psychology Association, the Association of Social Work Boards, the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases among others. Dr. Vajda concluded that the Wikipedia page for Energy Medicine and Psychology “is out of step with existing peer-reviewed research on this topic, and opinionated, self-described “skeptic” editors are resisting any change.”
In response, ACEP launched a campaign on the grassroots activist site Change.org to sign a petition to refrain from donating to the Wikipedia Foundation because of its prejudiced and preferential treatment given to Skeptics. The petition gained over 11,200 signatures.
In retaliation, Wales replied publicly,
“No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back and check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual and truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable journals, that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse.’ It isn’t.”
Wales’ reference to practitioners of alternative medicine as “lunatic charlatans” inspired Skeptics to create a Wikipedia entry: Lunatic Charlatans. The page specifically attempts to align with Wales’ hostility towards these medical systems and notes this is Wikpedia’s official policy:
“This unapologetic endorsement of the NPOV policy on pseudoscience and the policy on fringe science is the clearest indication yet that Wikipedia’s robust response to cranks, quacks and charlatans is solidly in line with Wikipedia’s foundational goals. We should document these things, we should politely explain why we will not follow the line of Natural News, Mercola and Dr. Oz, but will instead follow reputable scientific sources. If science rejects your favored alternative therapy, Wikipedia is not the place to fix it. Instead, come up with robust, replicable scientific evidence, published in reputable journals, and then we will tell the world all about it.”
There is no ambiguity in the above statement. Wikipedia’s stated intention is to censor peer-reviewed medical literature supporting alternative medicine’s efficacy and will make every attempt to continue discrediting it. Wales, in effect, is shutting down free inquiry. Nevertheless most of the greatest advances in science have been by people who dared to think outside the status quo of the dominant paradigm. One of the enormous failures of Hayek’s socio-economic theory is the idea of finding consensus to reign. When Wikipedia’s co-founder Larry Sanger was questioned by Wikipedia’s ill treatment of non-conventional medical practices, he stated, “Wikipedia’s neutrality policy, at least as I originally articulated it, requires that CAM’s practitioners be given an opportunity to explain their views.” However, Wales would take issue with this because he fundamentally has shown in his words and deeds that he opposes intellectual tolerance and the free exchange and dialogue of scientific ideas. The same is true with the regressive philosophies of Rand and Hayek. Sanger was absolutely correct after he left Wikipedia in 2002 and charged the encyclopedia with “lack[ing] credibility due to, among other things, a lack of respect for expertise.”
Wales refuses to take personal responsibility for the gross disinformation, Skepticism’s covert propaganda, and editorial censorship that plagues Wikipedia. Rather, he consistently hides behind the ruse that the encyclopedia is an open invitation for anyone to edit content, or at least attempt to do so, and reaffirms his belief that truth will prevail through the chaos and infighting between unqualified Wikipedia page administrators and the average persons or even experts who attempt to correct erroneous content. Yet when an extreme Skeptical ideologue is administering a page on alternative medicine, there is little to no chance that any fundamental corrections will be made. In the meantime, Wales consistently reassures critics that he is aware of the problems and that Wikipedia’s editorial process is not perfect. And that is where the buck stops for Wales. But this untrue. Once again, the prima facie evidence we have provided about Wales, and by extension the Skeptics, of biases motivated by a marginal scientific ideology, has made it impossible for alternative health practitioners to follow the editorial protocols to correct the misinformation about non-conventional medicine and the personal biographies of its leading advocates.
In her article “WikiTweaks: The Encyclopedia that Anyone (Who is a Skeptic) Can Edit, published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Mel Hopper Koppelman and Vice President of the international educational charity Acupuncture Now Foundation, noted that Wikipedia’s policies and prejudices as one of the world’s leading websites may be in violation of basic human rights. Koppleman writes,
“In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council declared the right to access information on the internet to be one of the most basic human rights of global citizens partly because more than half of all patients use the internet as a first port of call for specific health information. This makes the quality and accuracy of this information an important public health issue.”
For all his rhetoric about making the culmination of human knowledge accessible to the peoples of the planet, Wales blindness, fueled by his devotion to marginal and cultic philosophies, has resulted in Wikipedia being a perilous embarrassment to the medical profession and its potential to evolve further. For other Wikipedia discrepancies and controversies regarding entries on history, non-medical science and current events, Wikipedia administrators, and we assume the WikiMedia Foundation itself, are more often than not quick to respond and to correct inaccuracies. Therefore it is fully within its capabilities to address problems and remove subjective biases and gross offensive falsehoods. Why does it fail to do so for content dealing with complementary and alternative medicine, and its leading practitioners and advocates? This is indicative of a systemic bias within WikiMedia, and is upheld by Jimmy Wells. It is a deliberate intention to ignore or bypass complaints at the highest levels. Beneath Wikipedia’s excellent information on subjects that have no immediate or direct impact upon people’s lives, it is a disgrace on subjects that truly matter to human well-being and health.