WICKED, WICKED WIKIPEDIA: THE CORRUPTION AND COLLAPSE OF THE LEGENDARY PEOPLE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA.
Richard Gale and Gary Null
Progressive Radio Network, September 18, 2018
It is time to take a serious, critical look at Wikipedia and its mission. Is it everything it purports to be as an objective encyclopedic source of knowledge or just another anti-democratic social media dynasty resorting to the censorship and suppression of unorthodox medical science, social criticism and political dissent contrary to its founder’s rigid ideological beliefs? With over 5.6 million articles totaling 45 million pages, Wikipedia offers an enormous amount of information, and the majority of it is recognizably accurate. Over 30 million people are registered as editors for the site, but the number of active editors fluctuates around 130,000 and is decreasing steadily. On the other hand, entries on contemporary issues that elicit controversy and debate, often when commercial interests and public policies are at stake, have become opportunities for editors to post propaganda, gossip, launch character assassinations, add flagrant misinformation and untruths, and delete truthful data to spin and strengthen specific ideologies, beliefs, and conflicts of interest contrary to the encyclopedia’s rules.
Today all major media, Left and Right, as well as the larger Silicon Valley firms that support it, employ news and commentary that serve as weapons for mass public ignorance. It is common for people’s reputations to be destroyed. Conservatives and liberals alike claim the other disseminates fake news and each attempts to demonize and censor the other regardless of the accuracy or relevancy of what is being reported. There are still many investigative journalists with deep integrity and a commitment to expose the truth, such as the late Robert Parry from Consortium News, Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer at Truthdig, Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford at the Black Agenda Report, Henry Giroux and William River Pitts at Truthout and others who have since had their sites blocked by Google and Facebook. But these are only several of hundreds of other online outlets and news blogs that have been banned and left without any recourse to address grievances. There is no arbitration. And this trend is increasing at lightning speed.
For over a decade we have been reviewing hundreds of articles on a daily basis about medicine and health, climate change and the environment, geopolitics and culture. We apply a strong litmus test to determine accuracy and trustworthiness. Consistently we discover that the public is being misled by special interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum. The Left and Right control large segments of the media through advertising or direct ownership. Billions of dollars are spent annually on lobbyists, consultants, think tanks and foundations, public relations firms, and astroturf groups. And behind these entities are even more powerful organizations such as federal intelligence and health agencies, the Business Roundtable, the Atlantic Council, the mega-internet firms, and of course the pharmaceutical industry.
Control of the media and the internet, to silence important voices, denies the public an opportunity to gaze upon the larger picture. For the powerful, it is preferable for the public to see only a small sliver of reality in order to keep citizens in check. For example, in the past, it was not the federal CDC, FDA or the National Cancer Institute that initiated efforts to warm the public about the risks of smoking or to avoid exposure to asbestos. Instead it was from people of conscience, such as whistleblowers, insiders and independent scientists and journalists, who alerted Americans and spoke in opposition to the corporations determined to keep the health risks hidden away in the dark. It was an insider Daniel Ellsberg who brought the Pentagon Papers to public attention, and without Edward Snowden we would not know the full extent of the government’s surveillance state. Mainstream media of its own volition would have remained silent about it.
After many hundreds of hours of investigative research into Wikipedia, a shocking story is being uncovered. Throughout the Wikimedia Foundation’s organizational structure, and reaching into the editorial hierarchy of its open-sourced encyclopedia, are multiple layers of deception, dangerous ideologies, extreme biases, and conflicts of interests. The site has built a wall harboring a cesspool of unprofessional and undefinable editors to obfuscate the truth and slander people and entire professions. In short, a kind of deep state is now acting with authority to control Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has repeatedly shown his personal intolerance towards topics he disagrees with, particularly non-conventional and alternative medicine (cite inline or below) and whatever else that does not fit into his picture of the reality or whatever he decides is phony or “fake news.” More recently, Wales mission has been to fight fake news. As we demonstrate below, Wales also presumes the prevailing pharmaceutical drug paradigm and the Skeptics support of the Science-Based Medicine ideology is science’s final word for determining the diagnosis and treatment of disease; all other medical modalities outside Big Pharma’s purview is fair game for ridicule, incrimination and ultimately censorship.
Censorship is exclusion from public discourse and debate. Institutions that hold and maintain power are always the least welcoming of contrarian and dissenting voices; therefore the powerful make every effort to define the parameters of debate and select the participants worthy in its eyes. In its wake, censorship silences important stories, enormous bodies of research, science and expertise necessary to sustain democratic integrity. The public is left impoverished for it is denied invaluable knowledge, even information that can be life-saving.
Democracy is steadily being threatened by Silicon Valley, including the San Francisco-based Wikimedia Foundation, which holds the gatekeeper’s keys for allowing or obscuring the free-flow of reliable knowledge and commentary to the public. In concert with Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major internet firms promoting the large media conglomerates, the Foundation has entered the frenzy to censor and denigrate individuals, medical disciplines, and political voices threatening the dominant citadels of power and hegemony. And Wikipedia editors have been undermining entire fields of knowledge and wisdom for over a decade unbeknownst to the vast majority of its users.
In February 2017, the British tabloid The Daily Mail, the UK’s second large daily newspaper reaching over 4.5 million readers and surpassing the New York Times as the world’s most visited news site on the internet, was banned by Wikipedia as an unreliable news source. Jimmy Wales decided the paper was a distributor of “fake news.” Speaking on CNBC, Wales accused the Daily Mail of “mastering the art.. of running stories that simply aren’t true.” Founded in 1896, the paper publishes editions in Scotland, Ireland, Continental Europe and North Africa. On seven occasions since 1995 it has earned the prestigious British Press’ “National Newspaper of the Year” Award for breaking noteworthy stories. It is worth noting that Google’s artificial intelligence laboratory, DeepMind Technologies, relies upon the Daily Mail’s extensive archives as one of its two primary sources to “teach” its computers “to read” and acquire “verbal reasoning.” Wales’ decision to ban the Mail sets a dangerous precedent that should delegitimize any Wikimedia claims of fairness and objectivity. According to Wikipedia’s own platform, it is the responsibility of editors to undertake fact-checking before referencing any source (cite below or inline). The banning of news sources is in short an egregious cop out that will only accelerate the current trend of censorship to favor the powerful who hold sway over what the public can know and what should be denied.
The initiator behind the Daily Mail ban is a 35-year old regular Wikipedia editor and British misfit named Michael Cockram, who goes by the pseudonym Hillbillyholiday (perhaps taken from a Massachusetts musical band by the same name). Only a tiny fraction (under 1%) of Wikipedia’s administrators voted in favor of including the Mail on its blacklist. At the time of the controversy, when not editing for Wikipedia, Cochram spent his time on his personal Facebook page that was found to be filled with obscenities, sexism, and racist and Islamophobic remarks. In his first posts in the Wikipedia discussions arguing about the ban, he indicated Wales would approve of the decision.
No doubt, the Mail, sometimes described as the UK’s equivalent to Fox News, is not without its controversies. Many of its stories are outright silly. It has been caught and charged with poor journalism and for reporting misleading and spun stories; however, this is becoming endemic in most mainstream corporate media, including the New York Times which promoted the Bush-Cheney lie about Sadaam Hussain’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Or there was the Washington Post’s false claim that Russian hackers penetrated the nation’s electrical grid. All the major networks and news outlets were completely wrong about the charitable White Helmets’ operations in Syria. The group has now been confirmed conclusively by independent Western journalists on the ground in Syria and testimonies of residents living in the vicinity of the Helmets’ activities, to serve as a propaganda operation behind the US-supported anti-Assad extremists associated with terrorists groups such as al-Nusra and al-Qaeda But nobody would call the Washington Post a fake newspaper although it upsets the Right because it definitely leans heavily towards Democrat positions. Nor can Fox News qualify as a “fake news” source for its full embrace of the Right. Truth and lies are found throughout both sides of the political spectrum.
Nevertheless, on occasion the Daily Mail publishes noteworthy news not found in liberal-leaning sites. There is reason to believe that Wales’s banning the Mail is an act of personal revenge given the paper’s stories challenging Wikipedia’s reliability and labeling Wales as a liberal insider with the intention to destroy conservatism. For example, the Mail published a story about research coming out of Campbell University about the widespread inaccuracy of medical information on Wikipedia’s 20,000-plus health-related pages. It is feasible to regard the Mail’s article as a public service to warn readers not to rely on Wikipedia for high quality medical research nor to attempt to self-diagnose themselves based upon Wikipedia’s misinformation. In 2017, the paper reported on a study by Oxford Internet Institute noting that algorithmic bots have been used for over a decade on Wikipedia pages to “enforce bans, check spelling, links and import content.” This includes the undoing of manual and robotic edits made to Wiki pages. And in 2014 the Mail instructed all of its writers and reporters to never rely on Wikipedia as a single source.
Sites that can properly be described as “fake news” are actually sources for disinformation campaigns. In this context, specific subjects covered by Wikipedia fall more in line with this definition than the Times or Post, or even the Daily Mail for that matter.
Wales refuses to take personal responsibility for the gross disinformation, covert marketing, and editorial censorship that plagues Wikipedia. Rather, he consistently hides behind the ruse of the encyclopedia being 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 infighting between Wikipedia editors. He consistently reassures critics that he is aware of the problems and that Wikipedia’s editorial process is not perfect. However, the fundamental corruption on the site resides within the administration of content, which is not based upon any expertise whatsoever in a topic under review, but on seniority based upon how many successful edits a person has made.
It is not uncommon to find Skeptic sites praising Wales’s embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. The sites Skeptical Science and Skeptools portray 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 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.”
The hubris in this statement is obvious. The author knows the Skeptic movement has fully hijacked the encyclopedia. He speaks as someone who is in control and serves as a gatekeeper to rule over any discourse over what should be labeled as “pseudoscience.”
In an earlier report, we noted how Wikipedia vilifies homeopathy outright: The Wiki page states that homeopathy
“….is a pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, indicating that any positive effects that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect, normal recovery from illness, or regression toward the mean…. Outside of the alternative medicine community, scientists have long considered homeopathy a sham or a pseudoscience, and the mainstream medical community regards it as quackery. There is an overall absence of sound statistical evidence of therapeutic efficacy, which is consistent with the lack of any biologically plausible pharmacological agent or mechanism.”
Back in 2013, a study out of Rutgers University discovered that homeopathy and Jesus were the two most controversial pages on Wikipedia the enflamed the greatest debate. The study was reviewed by the Washington Post.
A question. Are these biases solely those of Skeptics who commandeer the Wikipedia’s homeopathic page, or are Skeptics taking directions from Jimmy Wales or at least being given his green light?
Back in 2013, Wales composed a letter to his readers on his Quora page based upon 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 support for flu vaccines, his utter contempt for homeopathy, and offers his services to prevent its use:
“What I want to know is this: why is this legal? Or, if it is not legal, then what can be done about it? … In The Guardian article, “Take-up of flu jab drops” it was reported that the percentage of high-risk elderly people in the UK receiving the vaccine was just under 50%. How many of the other 50% chose not to take it because they believe this hoax remedy will protect them? … My understanding is that the legal situation in the UK is particularly bad. 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.”
And Wales did help. And he gave plenty of it. Controlling the fifth most popular website on the internet, Wikipedia has been a boon for the Skeptic movement and its propaganda machine to disseminate its radical rationalist interpretation of science and demonize all alternative medicine. Guerrilla Skeptics’ 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.”
Thank you Susan for blowing Jimmy’s cover. In a video of a lecture Gerbic presented at a Guerrilla Skeptic workshop, she informs participants about her team’s success in frustrating other Wikipedia editors who oppose their tactics and subsequently removed themselves as editors.
There has been growing dissatisfaction and frustration among Wikipedia’s volunteer editorial base who are dedicated to the Foundation’s mission to bring free knowledge to the world. Dissent is turning more vocal and going public. Blogs and articles critical of Wikipedia’s adverse behavior and disruptive culture increase. Brian Britt, an assistant professor of journalism at South Dakota State University calculates that 77% of Wikipedia’s content is now composed by only one percent of its editors—the vast majority being men—who have achieved editorial seniority. Out of disgust, editors are leaving Wikipedia in greater numbers, largely due to senior administrators’ rampant marginalization, backbiting and prejudices against editors who challenge them. As of 2015, the number of core active editors declined by 40%. The opinion of many former Wikipedia devotees is that the encyclopedia is collapsing into a chaos of psychobabble. Earlier in the year we had conversations with Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo who has been documenting his unsettling experiences on the encyclopedia for several years. On his blog Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, Viharo writes:
“A number of skeptic activists on Wikipedia believe that only they are qualified to edit a large swath of topics and biographies on Wikipedia, and they seek to purge other editors from those articles or Wikipedia itself. Skeptic activists take this very seriously and treat Wikipedia like a battleground for their activism, where online harassment, slander, bullying, character assassination, and public shaming are all used as tactics to control editing permissions on the world’s largest repository of knowledge.”
Ergo the question: who does this one percent of editors represent? Who is capable of spending many “unpaid” hours daily to edit Wikipedia pages? What conflicts of interest do they have, and are they using Wikipedia as a public relations platform to disseminate propaganda favoring commercial, partisan and ideological biases and to attack opponents?
We have a very serious problem here that is in direct violation of Wikipedia’s written adn posted rules and ethics and everything Wales projects publicly to the world about himself and his project. Wales’ letter is a confession of motive and intention. It violates Wales’ belief that truth can be reached from the distillation of volunteer editors debating a topic. Not only does the encyclopedia exclude any published clinical evidence supporting homeopathy’s efficacy for treating certain illnesses, it makes every effort to discredit its leading advocates including the late Dr. Peter Fisher, Queen Elizabeth II’s personal homeopathic physician. For the record, a Cochrane review of Oscillococcinum trials concluded that the remedy did not prevent the onset of flu; however four other trials “suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours.” Another statistical review of the published 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 is steeped in Skeptic philosophy and has been an invaluable enabler of the movement. Richard Dawkins, the modern founder of the New Atheism and a god-king among Skeptics, attended Wikipedia’s tenth anniversary celebration; Wales was photographed alongside his hero. During a 2007 TED talk, Dawkins presents his case that only atheists can serve as the intelligentsia necessary to preserve civilization and continue its march towards progress. He scornfully made the call for “militant atheists” to become more aggressive in the fight against superstition. As an aside, Skeptics protect Dawkin’s Wikipedia biography which is shiny white and makes no mention that felon Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, received his inspiration from Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene, a book possibly responsible for the social Darwinism that has caused enormous damage to citizens at the mercy of mega-corporations and their elite executives.
Susan Gerbic, with the support of her Skeptic guru James Randi, took up Dawkins’ call to arms by co-founding Skeptic Guerrillas on Wikipedia. And apparently Wales has too. In her video noted above, Gerbic goes on to brag about her team’s success in “drastically” changing Wikipedia’s page on homeopathy and inserting the word “quackery.” She also goes on to share her success in using Wikipedia to increase the visits on external Skeptic homepages, primarily the James Randi Educational Foundation she is affiliated with. Elsewhere in her training lecture, she makes a Freudian slip, you can “change the rul (rules)…. er… pages.” Bending the rules may include redefining reliable references, such as including the Skeptics main journal, Skeptical Inquirer, which is not peer-reviewed and represents only a tiny fraction America’s readership. It is reasonable to assert that Gerbic received Wales’ nod of approval for her accomplishments.
Gerbic’s work has received the highest praises from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and Center for Inquiry — the leading starships of the Skeptic movement. She was elected as a Center for Inquiry fellow to join other leading Skeptics such as Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse, Carl Sagan, Michael Mann among others. This network of Skeptic associations, along with the fringe Science Based Medicine organization, now serve as an influential deep state operating freely and without impunity on Wikipedia.
Given Wales close association with the Skeptic mission, we need to ask ourselves about the sincerity of Wales’ incessant rhetoric about democracy, freedom of information and net neutrality, and his espousal of “positive defiance.” As we have shown, he does not feel this way about medicine and health, nor about long-standing news outlets that disagree with his left-leaning Libertarian ideology. His claims of Wikipedia’s neutrality is a facade.
Wikipedia’s page describing its Arbitration Committee on Pseudoscience sets forth principles and criteria to determine what can be properly labeled as a “pseudoscience” on Wikipedia entries. The “scientific focus” of articles are expected to “reflect current mainstream scientific consensus,” however no further definition is provided. A “neutral point of view” is also required, which means “fair representation of significant alternatives to scientific orthodoxy… and legitimate scientific disagreement.” This would include non-conventional therapies that now have volumes of peer-reviewed research published in medical journals throughout the world. Skeptics repeatedly violate this rule. Only astrology is listed in the Arbitration rules as an example of what can properly be called a pseudoscience on a Wiki page. With respect to “questionable science,” if a theory, for example acupuncture or Chiropractic, has a substantial following, although some would allege it to be a pseudoscience, it should not be characterized as such. And finally, under “alternative theoretical formulations,” if a theory has a following “within the scientific community” then it must not be labeled a pseudoscience because it is “part of the scientific process.” Therefore, the many non-conventional modalities of medical practice that are now recognized and incorporated in medical school curriculums, hospitals and now being researched at prominent conventional medical institutions, cannot be framed in derogatory terms. Based upon this criteria, a living person who practices or follows any medical system that is not qualified as a pseudoscience should not be referred to as a quack or in Jimmy Wales’ terms a “lunatic charlatan.”
Speaking at the 2016 MindRush conference hosted by Business Today in India, Wales’ lecture was entitled “Why Positive Deviance Works.” Briefly, positive deviance is the idea that behavioral and social change can successfully be created by a small community of individuals who deviate from social norms of practice. The premise is that a small group can arrive at better outcomes than the majority of its peers. Since its inception in the 1970s, positive deviance has been successful in many practical instances, such as finding solutions to improve public health in poorer communities; however, as a principle it is an unstable, impractical and terrible model to apply to content on Wikipedia. What we have been describing above is a very small contingent of individuals, who are unquestionably deviant from modern scientific norms, who have been given direct permission and received inspiration and license from Jimmy Wales to capture Wikipedia’s pages on natural and alternative health to dramatically distort the debate their favor. Instead of following Wikipedia’s rules of the jungle to magically produce objectivity and truth out of conflicting analysis, argument, and conversation, a tiny group of Skeptics have been granted permission to impose its own solutions for how Wiki pages should be reframed and according to their own unpopular ideological beliefs. None of the many non-conventional medical disciplines disparaged by Skeptic activists accurately qualify as pseudoscience based upon Wikipedia’s arbitration criteria. On the other hand, Skeptics have moved the boundaries and evidence clearly shows Wales condones this.
“The prime goal of censorship is to promote ignorance,” writes American author Felice Picano. Skeptics habitually misinterpret, misrepresent or censor all valid scientific research that might give support to non-conventional medical practices. Often, Skeptics’ edits are utterly absurd. In their attacks on Orthomolecular Medicine, based upon the work of two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling to support the evidence that optimal nutrition, including supplementation and mega-vitamin therapy, can prevent disease, Skeptics describe this alternative medical theory as “faddism and as quackery.” An editor attempting to add a sentence had it immediately deleted because it would have lent support to orthomolecular theory. He wrote, “Diseases that are accepted by conventional medicine to be the result of vitamin or other nutrient deficiencies are: scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, rickets, tetany, osteoporosis, goiter, Keshan disease and iron deficiency anemia.” This sentence would find agreement with every allopathic medical physician. Yet if you go to the individual Wikipedia pages for each of these illnesses listed, you will find direct references to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiency as a primary cause. Seemingly, Skeptics have yet to get around to flatten these pages with their nonsense.
And in the case of Wikipedia this means banning expert editorial opposition, real scholarship and permitting vicious attacks by corporations, organizations and groups—notably the apostles of the scientific Skepticism movement—to infiltrate the encyclopedia to disparage and condemn individuals and provable facts that challenge commercial positioning, and their unwarranted influence and control over a narrowly defined criteria of scientific dogma. Even people challenging misinformation posted on their personal Wikipedia pages must spend many months or years to diligently have it changed or risk being banned for attempting to do so. For all of Wales’ Libertarian accolades and unwavering belief in reductionist science and technology as the driving engine of his Randian or Objectivist ideas of progress, it is censorship that hinders real scientific and medical progress.
The primary leaders and spokespersons for the Skepticism movement such as Quackwatch founder Stephen Barrett and Science Based Medicine’s Steven Novella and David Gorski have pristine Wikipedia biographies. Criticisms, conflicts of interest and controversies are not permitted to be added. Editors attempting to bring a realistic balance to these people’s lives can be quickly banned. The Skeptic groups with whom Wales has aligned himself and handed over managerial editorial rights run roughshod over matters pertaining to the full spectrum of available healthcare, especially non-conventional practices. They act blatantly with malice of forethought. In a letter posted online to Dr. Deepak Chopra, biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake opines:
“… Wikimedia skeptics are the self-appointed frontier guards of science, a job for which they think they need no credentials except their fervor….. it is easy to be a media skeptic. You get the last word. You can say what you like. You don’t have to spend years doing actual research. And you yourself can remain immune from criticism, because those you criticize have no right to reply.”
The Wikipedia entries for Drs. Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have been repeatedly victimized by radicalized Skeptics for many years. Although both have impeccable credentials and are visionaries in their own right, their positions on consciousness, mind-body medicine and psychology have been anathema for Skeptics’ materialistic and reductionist beliefs. Earlier, Dr. Sheldrake’s TED Talk lecture had been censored on the best of atheist Skeptics PZ Meyer and the new darling of the radical Skeptic movement Prof. Sean Carroll at Cal Tech. Coming to Sheldrake’s and Chopra’s assistance, Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo attempted to edit their Wikipedia pages on their behalf as case studies to provide decisive evidence for how Skeptic activists maintain control over entire entries.
Skeptic crusaders act with premeditative intent to falsely discredit all and everything that conflict with their 19th century Cartesian view of a mechanistic reality. Without any clinical nor medical experience or expertise, many Skeptics such as the recruited medical illiterates and trolls in Susan Gerbic’s and Tim Farley’s Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (recently renamed to About Time) have free reign over Wiki pages pertaining to research into the paranormal and potentially life-saving drugless therapies for relieving and reversing disease. Chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and energy medicine are all criticized as pseudoscientific and quackery on Wikipedia.
The Guerrilla Skeptics and Jimmy Wales are excellent examples of what Marcoen Cabbolet at Vrije University in Brussels calls pseudoskpticism or “bogus skepticism.” Pseudoskepticism was first coined in 1987 by Marcello Truzzi, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University, himself an ardent Skeptic who founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. A year later he turned against the organization he founded for gross unscientific behavior and for having been usurped by virulent Skeptics speaking against subjects they either had no professional background and expertise or for improperly weighing the scientific evidence of questionable claims. Pseudoskepticism has no intention to discover truth; rather it is based solely upon efforts to disparagingly discredit opponents and medical and scientific research it regards offensive. Cabbolet identifies several “tell-tale signs” for identifying pseudoskeptics; each sign is prominently recognizable on Wikipedia pages devoted to non-conventional and natural medicine as well as the biographies of many of its leading practitioners and advocates:
⦁ Ad hominem attacks as a rhetorical strategy to marginalize others and label them as charlatans, quacks, crackpots, etc.
⦁ Vitriolic tones or the use of belittling phrases and pejoratives. Often such attacks border on being libelous.
⦁ Non-specific comments that indicate pseudoskeptics have made little or no effort to understand either the research or the professional credentials of a person being discredited.
⦁ Absence of proof or what Cabbolet describes as “one of the most shameful ways to attack someone else’s work is to put forward outright fabrications.” One common Wikipedia reference to discredit alternative or natural health claims it denounces is to state “there is insufficient scientific proof.” Yet more often than not it is the case that there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of scientific studies supporting non-conventional medical claims and therapeutic achievements.
⦁ False metaphors in order to draw associations between the person, discipline or theory being criticized with something known to be factually untrue.
⦁ Targeting the mass media or making efforts to distribute pseudoskeptic attacks on someone or a discipline to the wider public. Since Wikipedia is today the fifth most popular website on the internet, it has served as a perfect forum for Wales’ pseudoskeptic friends to reach out to a larger audience and disseminate biased, misleading propaganda. Moreover, and far worse, Skeptics, wittingly or not, service the pharmaceutical industry’s commercial interests more effectively and at no advertising costs.
There is no evidence that Wales, who has no notable scientific background, and certainly none in medicine, has stopped to question Skepticism’s extremism and its worship of reductionism. In a reply to a petition to withhold donations to Wikipedia posted by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology on Change.org, Wales replied to the Association’s president, Debby Vajda, he wrote:
“No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific 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 the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.”
Those of us who investigate the Skeptics immediately took note of Wales’ use of expression “lunatic charlatans” that is commonly found on pseudoskeptic screeds to disparage practitioners of alternative medicine. In return Vajda provided 51 peer-reviewed articles and studies, 18 which were randomized controlled studies, appearing in professional journals, including the American Psychological Association, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Psychotherapy Theory Research and Practice and others showing positive statistical results outside the range of chance. But none of this made any difference for having the Wikipedia pages changed.
Pseudoskeptism is not only a perversion of healthy skepticism but it diminishes the entire legacy of scientific integrity and inquiry. For example, Skeptics’ use of tabloid journalism on Wikipedia also fervently attacks and ridicules those who reject the atmospheric and geologic evidence confirming anthropogenic climate change. Jimmy Wales has a low tolerance for climate change deniers. Forbes magazine ran an article, “Wikipedia Censors Global Warming Skeptics,” noting that “global warming is a pet hobby of founder Jimmy Wales.” Nevertheless, as the underdog facing a gargantuan body of scientific literature indicating that humanity is in fact altering the climate and contributing to global warming, it is up to climate change opponents to demonstrate their case scientifically, with convincing statistical and/or measurable evidence, and to accurately refute the evidence showing otherwise. Although we believe this will be an insurmountable task for the tiny faction of scientists opposing anthropogenic climate change to accomplish, the debate should be accommodated and offered on Wikipedia. Censorship and contempt will never win over those who need to be convinced about the defects in their beliefs.
Dissent has always been a healthy component of scientific progress. Without opposition to dominant theories and the prevailing paradigm, science would be nothing more than an orthodox and dogmatic way of knowing. Yet science, and in particular the soft sciences such as medicine and psychology, also operate in the realms of power, economics and politics. Consequently, medical battles over truth are in fact reflections of power struggles, with the Skeptics’ dominant power creating an inhospitable environment for discussion and debate and unwilling to accommodate contrarian ideas that also provide sound, reputable evidence.
Being registered as a non-profit organization and relying heavily upon tens of thousands of volunteers rather than paid employees to orchestrate and manage the encyclopedia’s content, Wikipedia has so far succeeded to escape the scrutiny and public condemnation it deserves. Its method of censorship is more subtle, covert, than the widespread censorship tactics used by Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in cooperation with US intelligence agencies. All the problems Wikipedia faces and discussed above can simply be blamed on difficulties in administering tens of thousands of unpaid volunteer editors rather than there being a systemic fault within Wales’ Foundation.
Wikipedia should be properly understood both as a large public relations behemoth as well as an open-source encyclopedia. Unlike the Encyclopedia Britannica, which relies upon highly learned experts and scholars in chosen fields, Wikipedia accommodates numerous amateurs and even “know nothings” about subjects they are responsible to manage. It is unnecessary for an editor to reveal his or her real name, education level or professional background in order to climb the Wiki ladder to a senior administrator position. Many senior editors keep their real identifies and affiliations hidden and only use anonymous names. Editors can even pretend to hold doctoral degrees or disguise themselves as medical professionals. The deep fundamental flaws and failures in Wikipedia’s structural base have been noted repeatedly by frustrated editors and observers since its founding. And the site continues to degenerate parallel with its growing worldwide popularity and deepening pockets of large donations. Some of the larger donors remain hidden or anonymous.
New York Times best-selling human rights author Edwin Black best described the dangers Wikipedia poses for social progress in his article “Wikipedia: The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge” published on the History News Network:
“…. Wikipedia, the constantly changing knowledge base created a global free-for-all of anonymous users, now stands as the leading force for dumbing down the world of knowledge. If Wikipedia’s almost unstoppable momentum continues, critics say, it threatens to quickly reverse centuries of progress… In its place would be a constant cacophony of fact and falsity that Wikipedia critics call a “law of the jungle.”
All of this may appear innocent on the surface or from a particular perspective of tolerance. However, on the matter of health and medicine, Wikipedia’s editorial apparatus may lean towards criminal behavior. Wikipedia bans upwards to 1,000 IP addresses daily. Even senior editors have been forced off the site for erratic, belligerent and condescending behavior that might be clinically diagnosed as a mental disturbance. Sadly, enormous damage was already done before Wikipedia administrators get around to take firm action to remove the functionally deranged.
Providing wrong medical information and ignoring accurate facts can be life-threatening for those who refer to Wikipedia for reliable knowledge. It is not simply ironic that Wikipedia Skeptics, who control and edit the site’s healthcare pages have no clinical or professional medical education or experience, it is pathological. Jimmy Wales has opened the doors for the creation of a nefarious culture to pervert the entire discipline of objective medical science can easily be conveyed by means of an analogy.
Imagine you are a medical student and the medical college drags in a passerby off the street to teach a class. He refuses to identify himself and calls himself “Anonymous” or gives a silly fictitious name. He begins his lecture by stating, “Let me tell you right off. I have no experience in medicine. I have never attended medical school nor have I received any higher learning in molecular biology, genetics, physiology nor any other curriculum associated with human anatomy and the etiology of disease. I have never worked in a research laboratory nor have I ever diagnosed or treated anybody. I only live in my mom’s basement and spend my days surfing the internet and editing Wikipedia pages. Nevertheless, Jimmy Wales has given me permission to join you today so I can teach you everything you need to know about medicine. And you cannot challenge anything I say. If you attempt to correct me, I will have you immediately removed from class. Perhaps indefinitely.”
“First and foremost — and burn this disingenuous rule deeply into your brains — at no point in your medical practice are you permitted to use any kind of complementary and alternative medical modality. You are not permitted to use nutritional therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, or Chinese and Ayurveda medicine. Meditation, prayer, body-mind and energy medicine and massage are nonsense and therefore also forbidden. Not only should you never use any of these non-conventional medical therapies in your practice, neither should you ever seek scientific information on the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed database, the world’s largest repository of peer-reviewed medical research, to learn about any of these fake, pseudoscientific practices. Just believe me. I am here to tell you that no research supporting this quackery exists. So save yourself the time and effort because Jimmy wants you to know the gospel truth. And Wales should certainly know because he doesn’t have any medical credentials either. Pretend this doesn’t exist and if you do come upon research supporting any natural medical practice or find people who promote it, know it is false and those who advocate for this chicanery are “lunatic charlatans,” to quote Wales. Report them to their state medical boards because they are delusional.”
As this street person is about to exit the lecture hall, a student raises her hand and blurts out, “Anonymous, I am confused. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) now publish their own peer-reviewed medical journals. These natural practices you condemn are included in curriculums in most medical schools today. Many hospitals and clinics offer acupuncture to relieve pain, recommend natural diets, supplements and herbs. Nurses are being trained in mind-body energy techniques, and the value in meditation to reduce stress in cancer patients is now commonplace. There are tens of thousands of studies supporting all of these non-conventional medical therapies and theories and patients are increasingly turning to these modalities because conventional pharmaceutical drug-based medicine is failing. So what is the basis for your scholarship?” Anonymous replies, “Barely any of us in the Skeptic movement have an academic background in medicine. We don’t read the medical literature. We only need to rely on the reason of our common sense in order to determine whether a treatment is ‘plausibly’ effective or not. Our personal opinions are more important than all the medical literature in the world. Besides, Jimmy Wales supports us and that is all we need to demand your attention and obedience.”
To keep people dumb downed and ignorant, all that is necessary is to recruit under-educated Skeptics, such as Susan Gerbic and even Jimmy Wales for that matter, who are oblivious about molecular biology or quantum uncertainty and put them on a soapbox. In a sermon to her militant Skeptics, Gerbic reveals that her recruits do not require any professional expertise or knowledge in a field in order to edit Wikipedia pages. She writes, “Pick your topic, psychics, vaccines, cryptozoology or whatever gets your heart rate going. You can work with the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia team (we train) or hundreds of other ways to take care of these issues. Quit bitching in your beer, rolling your eyes and DO SOMETHING!”
Knowing that these are the very same people controlling Wikipedia’s articles on non-conventional medicine and the biographies of natural health’s advocates, how can any information on these pages be regarded as trustworthy and not be severely compromised? It remains to be investigated whether Skeptics may be engaging in racketeering activities on behalf of private corporate interests. For certain, Skeptical positions regarding health are fully aligned with pharmaceutical interests and the most orthodox of medical practice. But Skeptics are not limited to backing conventional medicine.
Gerbic’s guerrilla efforts also target the debate over the benefits and potential health risks of genetically modified crops or GMOs. Skeptics give their full weight in support of GMOs and the agricultural chemical industry. Wikipedia continues to argue that “there is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food.” The entry makes no reference to French molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini study first published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, and later in Environmental Sciences Europe, which reproduced Monsanto’s own studies to prove that rats fed with genetically modified Roundup Ready corn had a dramatic increase in tumors and shorter lifespans. Since GMO crops are heavily laced with glyphosate or Roundup, and other pesticides, there is also no reference to the August 2018 California court ruling that glyphosate-based weed-killers cause cancer. The sole purpose of GMO crops is to spray more chemical toxins. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million for its cover-up of this fact. For Wikipedia’s entry for Dr. Seralini’s biography there is far more emphasis on referencing criticism of his research. The actual results of his groundbreaking research are not mentioned. This is a case example of how Skeptics revert knowledge to align with and shield corporate interests by denying the readers the truths that could protect them.
There is a direct relationship between agricultural scientists shilling for Monsanto, the major Skeptic organizations and Gerbic’s activists on Wikipedia. Kevin Folta, chairman of the department of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, received his fellowship from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry alongside Susan Gerbic. In 2015, a Freedom of Information Act submitted by the California organization US Right to Know caught Folta shilling for Monsanto and the agricultural industry. An article in Nature confirmed the details. In 2016, Gerbic interviewed Folta for the Center of Inquiry. The discussion confirmed that the Guerrilla Skeptics are also active on editing Wikipedia’s GMO pages.
Unfortunately, medical students, and even clinical physicians, rely heavily upon Wikipedia as a major source of healthcare information. An article published by the American Psychiatric Association headlined, “Is Wikipedia taking over textbooks in medical student education.” Upwards to 70% now refer to Wikipedia for medical information.
In a study published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers at Campbell University in North Carolina conducted an analysis of references on Wikipedia for ten of the most costly disease conditions (ie., coronary artery disease, lung cancer, depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back pain and hyperlipidemia). The study randomly selected medical professionals to conduct the reviews. The results found statistically significant inconsistencies and discordance between Wikipedia’s cited resources and the corresponding peer-reviewed medical literature. The study concluded that “physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors.”
The consequences of the Campbell study become more onerous in light of an even more disturbing study jointly conducted by Katholieke University in Belgium and Washington University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Medical Information Association. Online statistical analysis revealed that Wikipedia ranked among the first ten results in upwards to 85% of search engine keyword queries concerning health issues including life-threatening diseases. On Google alone, where Wikipedia has been bestowed favored status, it reached first place on 40% of occasions and 68% of the time among the top five. In other words, Wikipedia health entries were likely viewed more regularly than all other legitimate professional medical online resources, including the federal health agencies, MedlinePlus, Medscape, the Mayo Clinic, KidsHealth and WebMD. No doubt Wales is proud of this achievement; it generates more traffic and hopefully more $5 and $10 donations. Although primarily devoted to conventional medicine, sites such as the prestigious Mayo Clinic (ranked in the top five for 20.8% of searches), WebMD (6% of times in the top five) and Medicinenet also provide beneficial and accurate information and advice about integrative and alternative medicine, naturopathic herbal and Chinese medicines, acupuncture and the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. No user visiting Wikipedia would ever gain access to such accurate information because Jimmy Wales has assured its visitors that non-conventional medicine will remain marginalized, falsified and worse, demonized.
In an interview with TechCrunch.com, Wikipedia’s Chief Revenue Officer, Lisa Gruwell, acknowledged the Wikimedia Foundation’s relationship with Google is the best among the tech giants and “partnerships” exist between them. Although the actual details of these “partnerships” are sketchy, during the 2017-2018 fiscal year Google donated over $1 million. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, the liberal Tides Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network Fund are other top donors.
Many people use Wikipedia to self-diagnose themselves and seek medical solutions for illnesses they either have or imagine they have. Due to the vast inaccuracies in Wikipedia’s health pages, people are surely misdiagnosing themselves. This can be catastrophic, particularly for serious life-threatening diseases that might be ignored after referring to a Wikipedia article full of errors. In 2012, a British company Balance Activ conducted a survey of 1,000 women who were referring to “Dr. Google” to determine the cause of various symptoms they were experiencing. Twenty-five percent of the women were misdiagnosing themselves and treating themselves improperly.
By turning Inquisitional power over to Skeptics, Wales is paving the way for a new round of witch hunts and perhaps future legal trials against alternative and natural physicians. In the 1960s and 1970s, the American Medical Association’s Committee on Quackery made efforts to accuse and jail chiropractic doctors for fraud until a federal court found that the AMA engaged in a conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1986. Throughout the 1990s, Stephen Barrett’s National Council Against Health Fraud took up the same mantle under the banner of Quackwatch to continue the persecution of non-conventional medical disciplines in courtrooms. Wales turning Wikipedia’s health pages over to the Skeptics undoubtedly delights the pharmaceutical industrial complex, and the small faction of radicalized Science-Based Medicine doctors, such as Drs. Steven Novella, David Gorski, Harriet Hall, Paul Offit who are frequently cited as reliable sources by Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors. Aside from Offit, none are notable researchers or practitioners in their fields of specialty.
Although contemporary Skeptics’ strategies differ from the Quackbusters’ costly efforts to press legal charges against alternative health practitioners in the courts, their motives and goals are unchanged. Skeptics continue to rely upon the large Quackbuster database to reference condemnations against every discipline of non-conventional medicine and biographical character assassinations. Editorial fact-checking is completely absent. Yet it serves as a primary resource for Skeptics to go on the offensive. And Wikipedia continues to permit Barrett’s disreputable database to serve as a legitimate primary source for Wikipedia citations to destroy the careers of honest alternative health practitioners and advocates as well as visionary scientists and physicians who are looking outside the box of medicine’s orthodoxy to find new and safer ways to treat illnesses. Wales has proven himself to be another public enemy to health and well-being. And despite everything Wales has to say, Wikipedia has evolved in his image and now incorporates his biases and prejudices. And the encyclopedia is now a propaganda arm for Wales’ favoritisms, intolerance, and animosities.
The power of propaganda, according to Chomsky, “generates an irrational loyalty to an otherwise meaningless community [such as the Wikipedia community] that serves as a training ground for subordination to power and immature chauvinism.” For all practical purposes Jimmy Wales is rabidly pro-corporate and a shallow thinker who adheres to and provides support to the irrational doctrines of pseudoskepticism. He has allowed his encyclopedia to deny the legitimacy to tens of thousands of health professionals practicing in the alternative fields of chiropractic, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, the nutritional sciences, homeopathy and other healing modalities. In some cases lives and careers have been destroyed by cretins skilled in the art of defamation. Yet if conventional medicine were to be such a savior, there would be no need for alternative medical treatments. If there was convincing scientific proof that the average American diet kept us healthy, trim and mentally fit, there would be no need for vegan diets or to purchase only organic produce. If our water, air and soil were truly clean, we would not be facing a growing epidemic of environmentally caused illnesses because our federal agencies would be advocates for health. Rather Wikipedia is an enabler for the worst conventional medicine has to offer and Wales intends to keep the public in the dark to prevent people from awakening to this fact.
The late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington observed that the wielders of power must keep a population in the dark. However, when people are exposed to the sunlight, power begins to evaporate. Throughout our series of over a dozen articles we have been unveiling the dark side of Jimmy Wales and his Wikimedia Foundation, the encyclopedia’s condemnation of non-conventional medicine, radicalized Skepticism, and the cult of Science Based Medicine. We will continue to do so because Wales does not deserve your dollar.
1 Horn A. “Wikipedia founder to fight fake news with new Wikitribune site,” The Guardian. April 24, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/wikipedia-founder-jimmy-wales-to-fight-fake-news-with-new-wikitribune-site
2 Jimmy Wales interview with the Atlas Society. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-wvNbXVxY
3 “Examples of bias in Wikipedia: conservative pesonalities.” Conservapedia. https://www.conservapedia.com/Examples_of_Bias_in_Wikipedia
4 Black, Edwin. “Wikipedia: Dumbing Down of World Knowledge.” History News Network. April 19, 2010
5 Andre Damon. “As social opposition mounts, Silicon Valley and Washington step up internet censorship.” World Socialist Web Site. September 4, 2018
6 “List of Atlantic Council Donors.” Think Tank Watch. http://www.thinktankwatch.com/2015/11/the-donors-of-atlantic-council.html
7 Sheldrake, Rupert. “The problem with negative media skepticism.” Skeptical About Skeptics. http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org/examining-skeptics/rupert-sheldrake/rupert-sheldrake-the-problem-with-negative-media-skepticism/
8 Viharo, Rome. Wikipedia, Please delete my article: Deepak Chopra’s Wiki-War,” Wikipedia We Have a Problem. July 8, 2016. http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/2016/07/wikipedia-please-delete-my-article-deepak-chopras-wiki-war-part-1/
9 Cabbolet, Marcoen. “Tell-tale sings of pseudoskepticism (bogus skepticism)” http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Cabbolet15.pdf
11 Karlgaard, Rich. “Wikipedia censors global warming skeptics,” Forbes. June 6, 2008.
12 Oberhaus, Daniel. “Nearly All of Wikipedia Is Written By Just 1 Percent of Its Editors.” Vice. 7 Nov 2017.
14 Viharo, Rome. “Factual harassment versus fictional harassment, Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article reflects larger problem,” Wikipedia We Have a Problem. March 26, 2016. http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/2016/03/factual-harassment-versus-fictional-harassment-wp-editor-manul-jytdog-and-deepak-chopra/
15 Chomsky, Noam. Propaganda and the Public Mind. Haymarket Books: Chicago, 2015
16 Black, Edwin. “Wikipedia: Dumbing Down of World Knowledge.” History News Network. April 19, 2010
17 “The Dark Side of Wikipedia.” Full Measure. 21 Aug 2016. http://fullmeasure.news/news/cover-story/the-dark-side-of-wikipedia
18 Laurent M, Vickers T. “Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter” J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009 July-Aug 1 6(4): 471-479.
19 Heater, Brian. “Are corporations that use Wikipedia giving back?” TechCrunch.com. March 24, 2018. “Wikimedia Foundation,” Left Exposed.org. http://leftexposed.org/2016/08/wikimedia-foundation/
20 Gale R, Null G. “Medical Despotism: The American Medical Association (AMA) Offensive Against Chiropractic,” June 3, 2018. https://www.globalresearch.ca/medical-despotism-the-american-medical-association-ama-offensive-against-chiropractic/5642840