How to catch a skeptic.

Deepak Chopra’s wiki war, part two.

There is perhaps no other human being walking the face of the earth that can trigger reactions on Wikipedia amongst “skeptic editors” there like Deepak Chopra.

Deepak himself told me when I was acting as his Wikipedia representative that he and Jimbo Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and director for the WikiMedia foundation, even had a mutual friend in common.

According to Deepak, Jimbo confessed to this mutual friend he believed Deepak Chopra to be “one of the most dangerous people walking the face of the earth”. The skeptics, like perhaps Jimbo Wales as well, believe Deepak Chopra more akin to a force of evil working against the progress of science.

While this study is not about any of the merits of these reactions to Deepak Chopra or his ideas, it does focus on the behaviors in response to him.

On Wikipedia, these editors respond as if even the words “Deepak Chopra”, or any phrase containing them, hold some sort of hidden magic spell and threat. It is as if they must inoculate themselves from this danger by adding “pseudo science woo!” or some vitriol and polemic chant to each instance of his name so as to banish any impure thoughts from their minds, the minds of the editing community, and the minds of the world.

Additionally, if any editor on Wikipedia does not partake in this frantic contextual ritual, they too get inoculated by adding “fringe pusher”  to their names with attempts to banish them from the article, or any article – that contain the words “Deepak Chopra”.

Skeptic editors on Wikipedia are a perfect case study to explore the affect of biased editing on Wikipedia, and the lack of protocols Wikipedia has to do anything about it.

Paid to edit on fringe topics.

While I volunteered to help Rupert Sheldrake in his wiki war and took it on more as my own project, with Deepak’s wiki war it was different. I was his actual paid representative on Wikipedia, as allowed by both the WikiMedia Foundation and Wikipedia policy.

By doing so, I willing entered not one, not two, but three of the biggest editing controversies happening within the Wikipedia community, Fringe Topics, Conflict of Interest, and Paid Editing.

I was also aware that the extreme “celebrity” of Deepak Chopra put this community within one single degree of separation from him, and that with the allure of celebrity attachment, it would be seamless for me to get the community attention since I was his direct representative.

This was both fluke and fortune for my work, as detailed in “Wikipedia, please delete my article. Chopra’s wiki war part 1”

For that reason alone, working on Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article was a literal gold mine for evidence of editor suppression occurring on Wikipedia within this active and peculiar niche subculture who dominate on a number of topics.

Protocol and prep.

Working on Chopra’s article, like Rupert’s, was an opportunity to show clear evidence for a pattern of editor suppression occurring on Wikipedia if (and only if) my own intentions and behaviors on Wikipedia were crystal clear, professional, patient, and limited solely to basic, non-controversial biographical facts about their lives and careers. If I was to ever over extend my participation beyond that, it would corrupt this entire case study.  So I made sure I never did as a matter of intentional practice.

This offers any third party verification via simply interpreting my words used in consensus building at face value, in conjunction with my actual behaviors (leaving comments, replies, with zero to little actual editing) recorded in my participation history for analysis. From solely these histories I believe a third party can easily distinguish collaborative behaviors and key words used from behaviors and key words used by editors practicing suppression.

For this reason – my participation was intentionally practiced to be in alignment to Wikipedia’s very own rules and guidelines, and to where ever possible exceed them.

Methods used showing suppression.

Limiting my case study in a wiki war solely to non controversial biographical information is very intentional.

Sourcing accurate, simple, basic encyclopedic information such as Deepak Chopra being a licensed physician is simply responsible encyclopedia writing, obviously – but my intention here is also more purposeful than that.

It also exposes the bias, something to be removed from the editing process.

It shows how low the threshold is for ‘flag waving’ suppression tactics applied on Wikipedia to editors to get them sanctioned away from editing.

And to that point, remaining patient, professional, clear, and collaborative is also intentional. Again, while this is a standard for honest consensus building, in this study it serves another purpose.

It shows that certain flag waving tactics that are used in suppression campaigns, calling editors “trolls”, “highly disruptive”,”incompetent” or “sock puppets” are often nothing more than a form of social propaganda and misinformation strategies that are gaming Wikipedia’s process, and are even allowed to happen at a very high level inside of Wikipedia’s community.

I arrived on Deepak’s article in April of 2014

As I was directly responsible for encouraging Deepak to take this approach, I had to marry being his representative while also highlighting the core flaws and problems with his article both to him and back on Wikipedia. Additionally, I had daily and direct contact with him, and he freely answered any questions I had and helped me scour through his work and archives for any resources I needed.

Working as his representative in accordance to Wikipedia policy also changed the ‘ground game’ in the negotiation, allowing my presence along with these “skeptic editors” to be on more of an equal footing. One of the hurdles I had with this group of editors in Sheldrake’s wiki war was their refusal to engage with my face value questioning, insisting they would not engage with me because I was a troll.

While they used this excuse to avoid critical questioning in the previous wiki war, in this instance that strategy would be muted. Instead of having to overcome the misleading “Tumbleman” narrative created about me by this group of editors, there was now a new way to confront them with rigorous consensus building anonymously.

An argument in support of Deepak Chopra based on human dignity.

I get that Deepak is wildly suspicious. I’m not bothered by polemic criticisms of him personally. What I did find remarkably problematic was how he was being treated on Wikipedia in an environment where neutrality and human dignity is required.

Additionally, Deepak Chopra is not American, he is Indian. From another culture and viewpoint about the world, his biography on Wikipedia at the time contained over-tones of certain bias I found distasteful.

Deepak Chopra is a medical doctor, very popular for his views on consciousness, alternative medicine, and meditation. He is also criticized highly for these views, and that too is a significant component of his biography on Wikipedia, as it should be.

How the Wikipedia community of skeptic editors chose to contextualize this, however, was the problem.

His Wikipedia article at the time removed his credentials as a doctor, and replaced everything else with “New Age Guru” as his biographical credit, along with age and nationality.

“Guru” of course is an Indian term for a teacher or holy man. Deepak Chopra has never referred to himself that way nor have any of his fans or followers, he also formally has rejected that title.

“New Age”, while being an actual publishing vertical for book store shelves, is also often used as a weasel word for ‘flakiness’, and is equally discrediting in an academic setting. Additionally, there is no formal ‘new age’ philosophy, as it has become a cultural movement with many forks, phrases, and points of view.

However Deepak’s own philosophy does have a more formal title academically, known as the perennial philosophy, defined by Aldous Huxley and this is the philosophy Deepak Chopra identifies with.

Removing “doctor” and replacing with “guru” and adding “new age” while claiming academic authority seemed like a slight that attacked his dignity on Wikipedia where he, or anyone, should expect to find it.

The challenge.

If I was to build a consensus on Deepak Chopra’s article and fix the “NPOV” issues there based on these arguments, my hands were tied by their “conflict of interest” editing policy. Additionally, because I was a declared representative of the subject itself, my only participation was limited to talk page discussion only.

This means that I could not directly edit the article at all, and if any change was to come to the article, it would come from the community on Deepak’s talk page itself, solely through negotiation and consensus building.

Considering the majority of the editors on Deepak’s article were apart of this skeptic community, I had a remarkable challenge, and one I felt up to.

Enter Deepak Chopra “Talk” as his media rep.

My first post to Deepak Chopra’s talk page I informed the community that I was his direct representative, and introducing a request for co-operation around the article based on human dignity and neutrality.

To insure I was being transparent, I created a user name ‘Chopra Media Representative‘ so there was no ambiguity. I was not aware there was a guideline against that.

Reasonable mistake to make, and editor “Ronz”, a skeptic – was also reasonable in informing me of this infraction. I soon changed this editing account to SAS81.

I summarized my first post with clarifications showing my intentions.  I simply requested a more dignified article, containing my argument above, and a willingness to listen.

I specifically stated, “We are not interested in nor are we requesting white-washing his biography for promotional or PR related purposes. We get it. We understand the issue of neutrality on Wikipedia and value many of the principles.” and “How can we work together to make the article better?”

I also addressed my first post to to every Wikipedia editor who was involved in the previous sanction against an editor accused of having a “conflict of interest” (COI) with Deepak Chopra. This included a number of Wikipedia editors I encountered on Sheldrake’s article, The RedPenOfDoom and Manul included.

I meet my skeptic detractors on Wikipedia, again.

I encountered many of the significant editors who engaged in Rupert Sheldrake’s wiki war, which was to the good fortune of this study. These editors previously applied extreme editor suppression tactics on me on Wikipedia, and likely many of them were involved with “payback” article on RationalWiki.

Naturally, none of these editors at first knew that “Chopra’s Media Rep” was formally “The Tumbleman”, or all of the baggage that came from interacting with me.

When I edited as “The Tumbleman”, TheRedPenOfDoom was one of the more nefarious editors I encountered on Sheldrake’s wiki war some eight months previously, and he was also the first to respond to ‘Chopra Media Representative’.

The Red Pen of Doom introduces the “Skeptical Point of View” (SPOV) policy for biography pages.

TRPoD put the position of the skeptic community front stage, insisting that the voice of the biography must “comply” with skepticism and academic views.  He writes, “The framing of the content of the article from  the skepticism / mainstream academic views is what the article must do to comply with our policy WP:NPOV particularly subsections WP:UNDUE / WP:VALID etc”

This is not true. This is not the position of the “Neutral Point of View Policy”, and biography pages are solely covered by “Biography of Living Persons” (BLP).

This is not the first time the “skeptic editors” misrepresent Wikipedia policy to new editors, and we will see this come up again.

The Red Pen of Doom has a notorious history, mentioned on this blog previously. He has only been sanctioned once in his entire history on Wikipedia. This sanction was related to the Sheldrake wiki war, where he was involved in the suppression of an editor Barley Bannocks ( a case study that mirrors mine, which I have yet to publish).

In the sanction hearings attempting to suppress Barely Bannocks, The Red Pen of Doom stated that he, and any other Wikipedia editor that does not believe that Rupert Sheldrake is a ‘pseudo scientist’, should be prevented from editing Wikipedia. This clearly shows intent for suppression, sanctioning Wikipedia editor not for their behaviors, but what their beliefs are.

Realizing that he vocally admitted to suppression, and to preempt a sanction on him by another admin for it, TRPoD self imposed his own sanction from editing Rupert Sheldrake’s biography article.

This didn’t prevent TRPoD from editing any other topic of skeptic interest, including Deepak Chopra.

Misrepresenting Wikipedia policy as a suppression tactic.

TRPoD’s position states, if we take it at face value, that a notable person’s biography page must conform to the WP:Fringe guideline, which itself is not policy, like the Five Pillars.  Yet TRPoD didn’t mention this guideline, rather he contextualized it as a NPOV policy.

This fringe guideline is collaboratively written by the community, and many editors mentioned in this study for editor suppression are the very same editors whom have participated in it’s construction. This guideline is often used as a hard fast “rule” on Wikipedia by these editors, who use it to “trump” other Wikipedia actual policies, such as BLP, or NPOV.

I already established in the Sheldrake wiki war that this policy “WP:Fringe” is inherently contradictory to “Biography of a Living Person” or BLP and this contradiction will insure a continual battleground on Wikipedia on any biography pages of any notable persons who engages in any form of fringe research or writing.

My experience was that skeptic editors took WP:Fringe policy to mean that opinions of scientists about Deepak Chopra as a person, or Rupert Sheldrake – must be articulated in Wikipedia’s own NPOV voice. This means that if we further  take this argument at face value – they are insisting that a scientists’, or even a skeptics’, opinion about another human being is automatically considered ‘neutral’ because Wikipedia is an academic encyclopedia. So if Richard Dawkins thinks Deepak Chopra is a new age guru, then Deepak Chopra is considered a new age guru by mainstream science.

A serious response from JzG “Guy” to Chopra and his suspicious media team.

Guy, or JzG, is another infamous Wikipedia editor and admin who initially responded to my request for a new dignified article. He reveals  openly on Wikipedia himself as Guy Chapman. Himself an outspoken skeptic, even promoting his own skeptic blog and channel on his user page. Guy is also notorious for being involved in a number of online grievances with others noting him as an active online “troll” and internet affiliate marketer.

My previous encounter with Guy was rather chilling – he was involved in a severe case of editor suppression against “Barley Bannocks”, an editor in the Sheldrake wiki war who was sanctioned in a very similar manner like I was, without even being informed of what his sanction was for.

Barley Bannocks exchange with Guy highlights the absurdity of this community, similar to a press conference conduct by Sean Spicer. At one point in another exchange,  Guy referenced my harassment, and all the attention that has come from it on blogs and RationalWiki, as a warning to another Barley Bannocks that that sort of payback could happen to him.

Guy took a very quick interest to my presence on Chopra’s page. It matched the extreme suspicion that comes from within this community towards those associated in any manner with mind/body topics or biographies. Taking a ‘tough stance’ against my statement that I was not here for PR or marketing purposes, he stated that “Wikipedia is not here to play any part in promoting Deepak Chopra. We are not part of your communications or social media strategy. Bluntly, if the article presents accurate material that, incidentally, cause people to question him or not to buy his products, we sympathise but it’s not our problem.”

Drawing another line against my presence, Guy added that, “Finally, under no circumstances should you use any language that gives the appearance of a legal threat. Wikipedia reserves the right to ban or otherwise exclude any editor who does this, or who violates our other policies.”

Barney, Barney, Barney, Barney again, and again.

Barney the Barney Barney Barney is, amongst other things, a really frustrating user name to type out due to it’s iconic construction around the word Barney. I’ll shorten it to Barney3.

This off the cuff user name is reminiscent of Oliver Smith (Goblin Face) and his brother’s creation of absurdly long user names, such as ‘Rome Viharo Jon Donnis with an ectoplasm on top’ to name one of many. I’m not saying this was Oliver Smith’s editing account, however, but Barney was directly working with  ‘Dan Skeptic’, one of Oliver and his brothers many sock puppets, to Sheldrake’s wiki war to harass me and others. A UK resident like Oliver, Barneylinks to Oliver Smith in ways I’ve yet to understand.

An ardent skeptic editor known, and often sanctioned for (but quickly reinstated) his abusive and aggressive insults and comments in consensus building.

Yet Barney’s first response to my request for a dignified article was, at first, welcoming and polite, a side of Barney I didn’t experience before, giving me a little hope. “I feel that if ChopraMedia (talk · contribs) is polite and civil, then we should be too.”

Resonating with Roxy the Dog.

Roxy the Dog also was first to respond to Chopra Media Representative. Like Barney, was one of the very aggressive editors I encountered on Sheldrake’s wiki war, one of a number of editors who were stalking me on Wikipedia.

Roxy was also responsible of making the most extreme personal attacks against me and other editors.

Many times, often juvenile and insulting. I found this part to be unnerving. It was accepted within the community to treat certain editors this way if those editors were “fringe pushers”, a lowered status in the class system on Wikipedia. It was very demeaning behavior.

After I was banned as the Tumbleman, Roxy came to my talk page to inform me he saw my TEDx talk writing that he “thought it was stupid, plus it showed I had a fat ass and put on weight”.

While references to my ‘dad bod’ years don’t bother me, this type of commentary was allowed to take place without any sanctions against them for doing so. Yet my own participation is free of this kind of language and behavior. We will see this come up again as easy distinctions to make in this study.

Roxy’s response to Chopra Media?

Vague yet non threatening by any means. “The answer to your problem is threefold. Sources, sources and sources. Every editor here would be happy to help you, based on any reliable sources you may have.”

 9SGjOSfyHJaQVsEmy9NS is short for JPS

User 9SGjOSfyHJaQVsEmy9NS has, perhaps intentionally, an unidentifiable user name, making it complex to identify in certain sanction or edit histories as most editors on Wikipedia only see him as JPS. 

JPS has altered his user name frequently using this peculiar non identifiable, previously changing it from QTxVi4bEMRbrNqOorWBV, and is clever to game Wikipedia’s system and process.

JPS also has a sordid history on Wikipedia for himself engaging in multiple sock puppet accounts and aggressive editing. JPS claims to be fervently in support of pro active science based educational Wikipedia editing, a noble intention at face value.

I do believe, in his mind, he has good intentions.

From my experience dealing with him previously, however, can act at times like a fanatic of ‘scientism’. What makes him fanatical to me is primarily due to his over the top rationalizations for assaulting and controlling certain biography pages.

JPS argued that Rupert Sheldrake’s biography should even suppress the usage of the word ‘hypothesis’ in relationship to Sheldrake’s morphic resonance, since it misleads the reader into assuming that Sheldrake’s work has any basis in any science whatsoever. He would not budge from this argument, and refused to acknowledge any consensus otherwise. This was a tortured argument for him to justify. Despite the fact that “hypothesis” is philosophically and scientifically valid to apply to Sheldrake’s work, it is also the formal title in “A New Science of Life, the Hypothesis of Morphic Resonance”, which was not allowed to be listed in the body of the article for this reason.

JPS responses to me, however – were very professional. JPS might present tortured logic as hard stances in editing, but he remains courteous.

I was actually pleased to see that in this environment, even he and I were amicable. I bought him a beer and he even complimented me directly for my reasoned approach as SAS81.

He had no idea that just six months previous, he was damning me as a disruptive troll as The Tumbleman in the Sheldrake wiki war.

Little Olive Oil

One who should not go without mention is here is Wikipedia editor Little Olive Oil, who has been a very dedicated Wikipedia editor standing up to skeptic editor abuse for years, defending me both as The Tumbleman, and again offering support to SAS81 on Deepak’s article.

Even more recently, Manul targeted Little Olive Oil for suppression once again, on articles related to Transcendental Meditation. In this most recent suppression event, Manul even somehow gained access to private links, available only to Wikipedia admins, which disclosed her private history, a personally very threatening tactic on Wikipedia that Manul uses on more than one occasion.

How did Manul, just an editor, get access to admin only privilege, with links that disclosed private information? Both Slim Virgin and Little Olive Oil questioned and confronted Manul on this to no avail. As usual, Manul simply made further threats to them if they continued this line of questioning.

I had a number of other skeptic, and non skeptic, editors be first responders to my request for a more dignified article.

I’ll be covering more of my skeptic interactions in the coming chapters.

A new hope?

While the skeptic editors did begin with a hard stance, there were also a number of ‘soft openings’ with them at this point that gave me hope that we could build a true consensus.

This inspired Deepak Chopra too, who also became caught up with my optimism.

Additionally, within forty five days, a remarkable improvement came to the article, with senior Wikipedia editors such as Slim Virgin making the recommended changes while defending me in a few sanctions.

Curious to see if this approach could work at scale for the entire community, Deepak asked me if this is something that could be created into something more formal, and within a matter of days, the blueprint for the Integrative Studies Historical Archive and Repository (ISHAR) was being architected.

Nope!

While the collaborative editing strategy I employed would be successful, and the article improved, months later I was eventually sanctioned and removed from Wikipedia, again.

The hard won success I was to see emerge in the coming weeks in Deepak Chopra’s wiki war also brought incredible pushback from the skeptic community on Wikipedia, who simultaneously attempted to investigate and harass and target me throughout the entire process, and eventually winning.

To this day, on Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia talk page, the skeptic editors have this notice posted there, as if a flag is captured, letting the world know they are still control the narrative on Wikipedia.

The Wikimedia Foundation‘s Terms of Use require that editors disclose their “employer, client, and affiliation” with respect to any paid contribution; see WP:PAID. For advice about reviewing paid contributions, see WP:COIRESPONSE.

Sanctioning that “all of my edits should be reverted” is also an additional exposure to their tactics. The elephant in the room is that I didn’t do any edits. The majority of the edits to Deepak Chopra’s article were all done within the community, and written primarily by senior Wikipedia editor Slim Virgin.

In case you’re wondering, yes – that means that all of the other editors who rewrote the article to a more neutral perspective all had their edits reverted by this community of skeptic editors.

Only through banning my account as SAS81, and solely through this method of suppression, were skeptics able to overturn the hard won consensus on Deepak Chopra’s article.

In the next few chapters, I’ll detail the arc and strategy used for a successful wiki war, and how this strategy can be used by anyone to work with Wikipedia in resolving a serious problem of editor suppression.

I’ll also get a little deeper into some of the colorful characters involved in my harassment, and the steps they took.`

All of this, and more, coming soon in Part 3 of Deepak Chopra’s wiki war.

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Interesting to come across this here. I was just banned from the Wikipedia today, after having attempted to correct some of the rampant dog-whistling, weasel-phrases and outright character-attacks against the Pagan and paranormal communities (of which I count myself) in their writing. I tried to suggest that they should attribute their criticisms to sources a bit fairer than Shermer, Randi and all the usual such blowhards. They came at me with relentless attacks to my Talk page, kept screwing with my edits, took down all my NPOVs, and finally IP banned me, so that I couldn’t even reply as logged out. Unsurprisingly enough, I tracked down one of them to a British IP, suggesting a connection to the “guerrilla skeptic” network mentioned on Skepticalaboutskeptics.org.

    Sad, albeit unsurprising.

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