There is a disturbing pattern of harassing behaviors evolving across Wikipedia – a number of skeptic activists on Wikipedia and RationalWiki 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.
This has created a rather skewed interpretation of ‘Neutral Point of View’ editing and a number of social issues dealing with what I believe to be a poisoned online culture of Wikipedia and Rational Wiki editors.
A few months back I posted specifically how one Wikipedia skeptic activist editor, Manul, continues to leverage Wikipedia’s rules, guidelines, and arbitration processes specifically to harass and raise concerns about Wikipedia editors who have views that Manul considers ‘outside of the mainstream’ or more bizarrely, even if they had some associations with the publisher of this website or my former editing account ‘The Tumbleman’.
This March, Manul, along with WP skeptic editor Jytdog, recently went after ‘The Capn’, who is ISHAR archivist and Deepak Chopra representative Ryan Castle, to sanction him from Wikipedia for these very same reasons. Additionally, Ryan is a fully disclosed representative to Deepak Chopra, and also wrote an article on Huffington Post, detailing specifically a number of editorial abuses occurring on Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article.
Predictably, they want to remove Ryan from editing on Wikipedia, trying to sanction him because he was associated with me, this publication, and by default SAS81, the account I created after my previous Wikipedia accounts were banned by Manul using similar, but more nefarious tactics.
Ryan Castle is The Capn, who was also involved in the Sheldrake wiki war when I first encountered him. In Manul’s sanction request against Ryan, they actually refer to Wikipedia We Have a Problem as an off wiki harassment website designed to provoke skeptics.
Manul has created such a large demonization around me on Wikipedia and Manul’s ‘wiki suspense’ was, true to form, a bit over the top, the signature of how serious this collective of editors on Wikipedia try to control permissions. What did Ryan AKA TheCapn know and when did he know it? Did Ryan betray Wikipedia by not informing them that SAS81 was the publisher of Wikipedia, We Have a Problem?
Next, Manul and Jytdog used this association as evidence that he could not be trusted to edit Wikipedia now almost two years later. They, predictably, tried to get him sanctioned from all of Wikipedia, then just all Wikipedia articles relating to alternative medicine.
Consider, Ryan is an archivist in probably one of the largest collections of research on alternative medicine from universities all over the world – so a dumb request for them to make. At the end of it, they were just able to get Ryan sanctioned away from the ‘talk’ section of Deepak Chopra’s article, where Ryan was offering quality, Wikipedia formatted sources for editors on Deepak’s biography, facts of historical record.
What is disturbing about this trend is that Ryan Castle is getting sanctioned on Wikipedia not for what he does on Wikipedia, but for what he is suspected of thinking off Wikipedia, and specifically what he thinks about skeptic activists there.
Manul has not presented one edit to any Wikipedia article that shows any violation of any community standard, rule or guideline whatsoever. Ryan Castle is being sanctioned because they believe sometime in the future he might make an inappropriate edit, despite that his five year edit and contribution history never shows one example of this ever occurring.
True to form, Tim Farley – who edits on Wikipedia as krelnik and acts as skeptic activism’s ‘damage control’ media operator – tweeted to his audience the ‘spin’, misleading his audience to suspect Ryan Castle was ‘found out’ as one of Deepak’s editors, one of three (with SAS81, my former editing account, being another).
So there you have it. Ryan can be sanctioned on Wikipedia for what he may believe off Wikipedia, and skeptic activists already have their spin department misleading their audience as to how Wikipedia works in the first place.
Manul, on the other hand, has for more than two years, performed battleground and harassment operations on Wikipedia alongside WP Editor Goblin Face, creator of a large skeptic sockpuppet army of over fifty Wikipedia accounts, who also continues to defend Manul around the web against charges made by Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, with no recourse whatsoever.
Why didn’t Manul ever raise concerns with Goblin Face/Dan Skeptic sock puppet if their concern is just sock puppet abuses on Wikipedia? Why just raise the concern if it’s Tumbleman, or Askhrc, or SAS81, or anyone who attempts to form a consensus or disagrees with skeptic agenda based editing?
I believe this chapter closes the evidence and narrative of Wikipedia We Have a Problem quite clearly. Wikipedia is a battleground for skeptic activists on Wikipedia. This solves no problems and just creates push back from various notable individuals and countless editors on Wikipedia as a natural response. It also sets a disturbing precedent. If it can happen on these articles and with this group of editors – it can happen anywhere else on Wikipedia with only a long tail of site corruption over time.
Manul single handily started the battleground on Wikipedia.
Consider, Manul began their editing career as a ‘single purpose account’ for skeptic agenda based editing and instigated the wiki war on Rupert Sheldrake’s article with their very first edit back in July 2013.
Manul’s very first actual edit on Wikipedia was removing ‘biologist’ from the lede sentence on Rupert Sheldrake’s WP article, and replacing it with ‘former biochemist‘ and ‘considered as pseudoscience’ in the first sentence as a biographical credential on a biography of a living person.
Specifically, Sheldrake’s credential is standard and non controversial. He has published over 80 scientific papers and Cambridge University, as well as Encyclopedia Brittanica, also lists him as a biologist. Specifically Sheldrake is referenced as a biologist in numerous primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
This was clearly an obvious NPOV (neutral point of view) violation and also just plain ol WP:NotNice since Manul also sought no consensus for this most significant edit and change to the article.
This singular event by Manul is exactly what created the ‘battleground’ in Sheldrake’s wiki war that attracted dozens of Wikipedia editors to the page, including myself, the Capn and a slew of others, along with the attention of Forbes, the BBC, New Republic and the blogosphere.
Once Manul made those changes, despite more than a dozen editors protesting this change, they made themselves ‘sheriff’ on the article and blocked all attempts to put ‘biologist’ back in the lede sentence and sought sanction against editors who disagreed.
If a Wikipedia editor believed Sheldrake to be listed as a biologist is standard Wikipedia form for a Biography of a Living Person, these editors were labeled and framed as ‘Sheldrake fan boys’, ‘conspiracy theorists’, ‘true believers’, ‘sockpuppets’, ‘promoters of pseudoscience’, ‘Sheldrake accomplices’, ‘trolls’, ‘lacking understanding of how science works’ just to cite a few radical aspersions that were made against individuals simply to avoid addressing the core flaws in their arguments.
Additionally, Manul’s first edit has basically stood for over two years and there was never any consensus on that edit. Far more editors on Wikipedia disagreed with Manul and other skeptic editors decisions, and were all rebuked in various ways using mind numbingly horrible logic to support their viewpoints.
With Deepak Chopra, his problem with agenda based skeptic editors is far more extreme yet tactically very similar to Rupert Sheldrake. Again – skeptic activist editors do not want to list Deepak Chopra as a MD, despite the fact he has a medical license in the state of California and employees a medical staff at his center.
This is a consistent pattern. This is agenda based editing allowed to run rampant on Wikipedia with skeptic activists. They believe that Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra do not deserve the credibility of their very own academic credentials, and believe that if they are listed – they would be given that credibility their titles allow them. If you disagree with them on this editorial decision, you will be blocked, banned, and harassed until you just throw your hands up and quit. While skeptic activists are one important voice to have on Wikipedia (like any other voice) – their approach unfortunately is to be ‘the voice’ who edits are large swath of topics on Wikipedia, everything from biographies, fringe sciences and subject matters, alternative medicines, mind body practices and research.
Note – these edits are not about controversial theories or claims about science or alternative medicine, these are, in principle, petty squabbles regarding biographical facts about individuals taken to a very extreme position – what David Gerard, Rational Wiki founder calls ‘battles to the death for incredibly low stakes.’ No matter what anyone’s opinions are on these subject matters, how they are responsibly editorialized to the five pillars is what the issue is.
Specifically – it is these types of clear editing abuses which is what attracted me originally to this problem. When I got involved in 2013 I had no previous experience in dealing with wiki wars or editing battlegrounds, I had no idea the minefield I was walking into. When I arrived, Manul immediately greeted me with personal attacks, outs my identity and republishes it, and accuses me of trolling within my first five days, putting me on my defenses, obviously. For addressing these very non controversial aspects of these biography pages, I am referred to as a ‘promoter of pseudoscience’ by these skeptic activists on Rational Wiki, citing Wikipedia editing pages as the reference.
Now, more than two years later, Manul is still trying to put out the fires in the battleground they started way back then, now attacking The Capn.
If Ryan can be a suspect simply via association with someone who evaded Manul’s ban, why isn’t Manul held in a similar suspicious light for associating with a large sock puppet army via Goblin Face and Dan Skeptic? More importantly, why and how is Manul permitted to edit Wikipedia at all with such a history of abuse, slander and harassment?
The elephant in the room that neither Manul nor JytDog can acknowledge to both themselves and Wikipedia is that SAS81 whom they dismiss as simply as a ‘sock’, acted as a transparent, rule abiding and effective representative to Deepak Chopra on Wikipedia, and, just like Tumbleman which Manul also sanctioned quite inappropriately, followed the rules on Wikipedia 100%. The only people that care if I am involved on Wikipedia are Manul and a handful of skeptics. To anyone else, I’m just another editor voice with support from the community.
While again as SAS81 I was facing continued harassment from WP skeptic editors, I still engineered a rational consensus around improving the NPOV policy on his article. SAS81 also received support from senior Wikipedia editors such as Slim Virgin and support from a number of Wikipedia admins, and even got a barnstar or two.
As predicted, after I won consensus and the article changed, skeptic editors tried to get me banned once again, and they were rebuked by senior Wikipedia editors and admins.
As an uninvolved editor (with no intention of involving himself) I have to say that there’s a problem where SAS81 is up against a bunch of involved editors with clear bias against the subject, judging by the repeated use of pejoratives here and elsewhere. ….Come up with a better solution than having a user with a declared COI and valid intentions go up against a small army of vociferous skeptics and wiki warriors. This should be handled neutrally from both ends. We can’t ask SAS81 to be “nice” to us when they are assailed at every turn because they have a COI (!), or because we don’t like his boss. ….. But this situation tends to reflect badly on us as a community. And MastCell has a point, but all that excessive posting and forum shopping might simply be a reflection of SAS81’s frustration at running into the same walls over and over. FreeRangeFrogcroak 18:50, 29 April 2014
SAS81 is not the problem here. He is representing the BLP subject on the talk page. The BLP policy allows this (see WP:BLPKIND and WP:BLPSELF), and the Foundation has asked that “anyone who has a complaint about how they are described on the project’s websites be treated with patience, kindness, and respect.” There would have to be significant disruption before a subject or his representative were removed, and nothing like that has happened here. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:00, 10 June 2014 (UTC)
SAS81, like Tumbleman, was a very responsible account. It just happened to be an anonymous account I created that evaded Manul’s highly questionable and suspicious ban on my WP account, currently the only real charge anyone can make about me. These are just facts that anyone can verify.
WP editors Manul, Jytdog, and along with Wikipedia editor Goblin Face (who sends me threatening emails and goes around the web defending Manul and Tim Farley against this publication), claim in the AE against Ryan that Wikipedia, We Have a Problem is an ‘off wiki harassment website’ designed to harass Manul and skeptic editors on Wikipedia, a claim they make about me on Encyclopedia Dramatica and Rational Wiki.
I’m not sure Manul understands what harassment, or slander, is. Exposing harassment is not itself harassment, even if it makes Manul feel uncomfortable. Making a false claim of harassment against someone is slander.
Harassment is digging into editors past editing histories, passing around or exposing their personal identities , casting aspersions around them or off wiki anonymous activities on the web, to rile up a mob. Slander is calling them trolls and other aspersions such as conductors of social media experiments or or having an ‘anti personality disorder’, faking diffs in an AE hearing to get them sanctioned or blocked, and then top it off with writing articles to embarrass individuals on Rational Wiki for what they do on Wikipedia, citing their own claims as references to support their narratives.
That’s harassment and slander. And that is what this publication reports on, specifically those activities and nothing else. And that’s what happened before I started receiving email threats to continue this harassment which now extends into online impersonation.
Once Manul starts harassing, libeling and slander editors on Wikipedia and then carry that slander and harassment onto Rational Wiki and Encycolopedia Dramatica, those individuals have the right to protect and defend themselves however they believe they need to if Wikipedia admins offer no recourse for such activities. They should not beholden to a high standard of conduct while they try and defend themselves against Manul abusing that very standard of conduct to harass them further.
I have the right to hold those editors responsible for their statements and behaviors. I don’t believe I have to respect any consensus made by any Wikipedia admin if that consensus was made as a form of harassment and bullying and used slander to make conclusions.
I have the right to evade my ban if that ban was also a form of harassment and slander. I have the right not to reveal myself on Wikipedia and I have the right to publish honest, responsible accounting of what occurs on Wikipedia, especially when I was clearly a victim of bullying, harassment and slander.
I’ve also have been extraordinarily transparent with not only my intentions, but also my activities and areas of my personal and professional life.
Manul and Goblin Face, however, have offered zero transparency and remain anonymous, using wiki platforms and discussion forums to make claims against individuals they feel threatened by using deception, slander and character assassination to control editing permissions on Wikipedia.
I don’t think any rational or independent third party would accept Manul and Goblin Face’s claim that this is an harassment website, rather a blog that reports on harassment occurring on Wikipedia specifically listing Manul as a primary instigator of such harassment. I don’t think any rational individual can look at my Google search return for my name and actually believe that Rational Wiki and Encyclopedia Dramatica are not articles of harassment, libel and bullying and instigated by these very same Wikipedia editors. There is nothing in my edit history but responsible, reasoned consensus building. The only rules I have broken have been evading Manul’s ban campaign against me on Wikipedia, which I will continue to do if necessary.
Just like what is happening right now on Wikipedia with Ryan Castle, no one is complaining about the actual work or contributions he is making, rather what he is suspected of thinking and what he may do in the future.
The point of this study is to show and detail a very disconcerting fact about Wikipedia. If a notable individual feels harassed by editors on Wikipedia regarding the status of their biography, or if other editors feel harassed, there is no proper recourse on Wikipedia. On Wikipedia if you report on harassment, you just get harassed more. Editing permissions are controlled by those that can game the sanctioning process, not the five pillars.
Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, or any individual has the right to fair and neutral representation, regardless of what they do or claim. They have the right to be listed as a biologist, or an MD on Wikipedia because those are significant facts about their biography. Skeptic activists on Wikipedia however, have no right to remove credentials from a lede sentence because they are worried it gives those individuals the credibility they don’t believe they have, and then block editing permissions to those who disagree with that decision.
This two year case study shows that if notable people follow Wikipedia’s rules and guidelines to the letter in addressing this abuse, nothing happens and the harassment continues. Ryan Castle is a good Wikipedia editor. More importantly, he is a research archivist and has compiled tens of thousands of scholarly or academic sources on various subject matters related to alternative medicine all of which would be considered useful to an encyclopedia that does actually cover alternative medicine articles. He is following the rules and has allot to contribute to Wikipedia as a researcher, and he also represents Deepak Chopra on occasion who has a right to have a representative on an article that he believes defames him.
Since Wikipedia is therefore leveraged as a platform for harassment and anyone who attempts to address it gets harassed in return with no oversight – Wikipedia has no integrity with it’s own principles and any individual then has the right to take the matter into their own hands, by any and all legal means necessary.
By blocking Ryan Castle and by default Deepak Chopra from participating responsibly on Wikipedia like anyone else, skeptic editors are attempting to sanction certain individuals on Wikipedia simply for what their beliefs, not their behaviors or contributions, are.
Skeptic editors on Wikipedia do not believe that anyone who engages in any spiritual or alternative medical practice or fringe scientific research, in addition to anyone that they should associate with, or any individuals that have an interest in those subjects for any reason, should be allowed to edit those articles on Wikipedia. They believe the only type of editor who can edit those topics are skeptics themselves. Since this belief they have is clearly outside of Wikipedia policy along with common decency – these editors create an environment of suspicion where none is warranted to enforce their own agendas.
This is very concerning for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the ‘woo’ of these subject matters. This is more than just an open violation of Wikipedia’s own Five Pillars, it’s moving one step closer to violating civil rights, privacy, and human dignity.
I don’t have to agree with Deepak Chopra, or follow him, or like him, or promote him – to make that statement.
Disclaimer: As mentioned a number of times on this site, in 2014 after the publication of Wikipedia We Have a Problem I was approached by Deepak Chopra for assistance and advice on his Wikipedia problem. As well I became the architect and creator for the ISHAR digital library. This relationship lasted perhaps eight months and ended less than harmoniously in November of 2014. I have no relationship, connection or contact with either ISHAR, Ryan Castle, the Chopra Foundation, or Deepak Chopra since.
Every post that Wikipedia, We Have a Problem posts about harassment coming from this group of editors is followed up by a ‘operation’ somewhere on the web by WP editor Goblin Face, whom is now identified as Oliver D. Smith. Oliver Smith has carried out a shocking amount of online impersonations, email threats, and social disruption campaigns attempting to silence this publication.
Update: That event predictably happened. There were two very Goblin Face like sock puppet accounts created on Wikipedia which posted material and discussion on Manul’s Talk page on March 28th, one day after the publication of this article. An admin deleted this exchange on Manul’s talk page (citing defamatory content) but this diff (archived page) shows the partial exchange with Goblin Face’s socking army having some exchange in relationship to Manul and their new ‘attack Viharo’ website called wikipedia we don’t have a problem.