Wikipedia Embraces the Dark Side

Wikipedia Embraces the Dark Side
By Helen Buyniski

Wikipedia is the fifth most popular website on the internet. It presents itself as a “people’s encyclopedia,” a neutral utopia in which anyone can edit an article in their area of expertise, adding and correcting facts to enhance the sum total of the world’s knowledge. In theory, it is a miracle of decentralized wisdom in which anyone, anywhere, can edify themselves (for free!) on any topic. But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Wikipedia defines acceptable content by three main pillars – no original research, neutral point of view, and verifiability. These rules are even more strictly enforced for biographies of living persons, given the legal risks of publishing false and defamatory information. Such rules are necessary, as a truly democratic content platform always risks sinking toward the lowest common denominator. As a result, Wikipedia’s vaunted standards have lent it the sheen of respectability, to the point that most people, looking to be quickly informed on a topic for purposes of conversation or even for journalism, search no further than its Wikipedia page.
These three rules should ensure some degree of quality control. But Wikipedia’s rules are not evenly applied across the site. This is nowhere more apparent than in the area of non-conventional modern and traditional medical systems, including Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), where a group of so-called Skeptics has flagged hundreds of pages for editorial scrutiny, rewriting biographies and “debunking” non-conventional therapies, then hovering over the pages to prevent other interested parties from altering their content. A concerted effort, in the form of a Wikipedia training course called “Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia,” has sent hundreds of Skeptics to Wikipedia to edit articles on topics they believe to be unscientific, whether or not they have any expertise in those areas.
The Skepticism WikiProject purports to be “dedicated to creating, improving and monitoring articles related to scientific skepticism, including articles about claims which are contrary to the current body of scientific evidence. The project ensures that these articles are written from a neutral point of view, and do not put forward invalid claims as truth.”1 Yet the sources they use most often do not follow Wikipedia’s guidelines. Where non-pharmaceutical-based health and medical information is concerned, the Skeptics have relied heavily on Quackwatch, a repository of unsourced allegations founded by Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist with a grudge against alternative practitioners. Wikipedia emphasizes the need to include independent sources written from a balanced, disinterested viewpoint rather than the “viewpoint of people with an axe to grind.”2 Self-promotion and personal financial benefit are also cited as abuses to be avoided through reliance on independent sources. This further disqualifies Barrett, who made his name and income as an “expert witness” in lawsuits against alternative practitioners, despite his own lack of expertise in the field, and has been cited by journalists3 and authors4 as the expert he wasn’t.
Let Wikipedia explain why Quackwatch is not a reliable source: “Anyone can create a personal web page or publish their own book, and also claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason, self-published media, such as books, patents, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, personal or group blogs (as distinguished from newsblogs, above), content farms, Internet forum postings, and social media postings, are largely not acceptable as sources.” Not clear enough? “Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer.”5 There is no way to argue for the inclusion of Barrett’s screeds in a neutral, reliable article that does not run afoul of Wikipedia’s content policies in multiple ways. This matter has been brought to the attention of Wikipedia administrators repeatedly, yet they refuse to act on it. Why? If Barrett is such a brave truth-teller, surely his information is available on other, more reputable sites.
For an organization that claims to be based on transparency – readers can track article edits in real time and (at least theoretically) have their concerns heard by the people operating Wikipedia—the site’s behavior regarding its Skeptic problem is troublingly opaque. If Wikipedia is supposed to be an egalitarian, democratic “people’s encyclopedia,” where all are empowered to have their voices heard, how has it developed this Orwellian double-standard wherein “some editors are more equal than others”? Their refusal to follow their own standards is intellectually dishonest, disingenuous and exists in utter betrayal of their stated mission.
Wikipedia has revealed its bias time and time again when these cases are brought to administrators’ attention. Founder Jimmy Wales’ venom when confronted with evidence of his editors’ bias is disproportionate to the instigating comments. In response to a 2014 petition with over 8,000 signatures calling for more even-handed coverage of alternative medicine and its practitioners, Wales immediately resorted to ad-hominem attacks, calling alternative therapies “the work of lunatic charlatans” and defending Wikipedia’s policies.6 His words use the exact vocabulary – “lunatic charlatans” – the Skeptics deploy to denigrate their opponents, indicating he is more personally invested in the Skeptics’ mission than Wikipedia’s message of editorial neutrality suggests. A New York Times interview includes an offhand reference to homeopaths as “charlatans” (though he is quick to insulate himself from criticism by calling that an American Medical Association (AMA) quote)7 and describes him editing an entry as a personal favor to a famous friend. Wikipedia editors, for better or worse, follow Wales’ lead, half-jokingly referring to him as “benevolent dictator for life.”8 It is unsurprising that some have remade themselves in their hero’s image and see the rules as nothing more than suggestions.
The credibility and expertise of Barrett and his Quackwatchers website have been discredited before various US courts over the past three decades, with judges in multiple states ruling that Barrett and his organization are “biased and unworthy of credibility.”9 Barrett was forced to admit as much himself in one lawsuit: “The sole purpose of the activities of Barrett & Baratz are to discredit and cause damage and harm to health care practitioners, businesses that make alternative health therapies or products available, and advocates of non-allopathic therapies and health freedom.” 10
For years, Barrett represented himself as a medical expert in the media and in courts, testifying against medical professionals and trashing them on TV and in the news.11 He colluded with fellow Quackwatcher Robert Baratz to use the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) name as a meal ticket unbeknownst even to the organization’s board, appearing (and collecting fees) as “expert witness” on over 40 cases. The King Bio case, in which Barrett lost a suit against a homeopathic manufacturer, then lost again on appeal and was forced to pay the defendant’s court fees, confirmed in its judgment that Barrett and Baratz were motivated by profit in their service as “expert witnesses.” It was determined that Barrett winning the case for NCAHF would enrich the fund that paid its fees; this would also incentivize future suits.12 13
The Skeptics who have taken up Barrett’s Quackwatcher mantle are similarly unqualified to offer expert opinions on non-conventional treatment modalities. Susan Gerbic, founder of Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, is a retired portrait photographer who lacks any medical training.14 David Gorski, an oncologist specializing in breast cancer, is so enamored of radiation that he actually opposes right-to-try laws giving terminal cancer patients access to potentially life-saving treatments.15 He disdains the notion of testing alternative therapies in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) because he claims foreknowledge of “low to nonexistent prior probability …testing these treatments in RCTs will be successful.”16 For a Skeptic, that sounds an awful lot like clairvoyance. 17
Barrett has not had a license to practice medicine since 1993.18 He has even admitted his ignorance of the subjects he writes about on his website, claiming that “a lot of things don’t need to be tested [because] they simply don’t make any sense.”19 Such a solipsistic view of the universe is hardly befitting a medical professional. Nevertheless, his name pops up hundreds of times in major publications when a (lazy) writer needs an expert on “quacks” and doesn’t want to do the legwork to find a real medical expert. Wikipedia has done the public a great disservice by casting Barrett and his minions as authorities on health and healing while allowing them to smear legitimate practitioners as quacks and charlatans. The media outlets who use Barrett as an authority on medicine are complicit since the most rudimentary attempts at fact-checking would quickly reveal him to be unqualified as an expert on the subject of non-conventional health systems and treatments.
Speculation has swirled for decades about who funds Barrett and his group. On one occasion, he claimed only $54,000 in income over two years, yet has been on the hook for almost $500,000 in attorneys’ fees via SLAPP-back proceedings (and has often had more than one suit in the courts).20 He certainly has been involved with the AMA since the beginning of his quack-busting career. The NCAHF was born in 1977 through the merger of the California Committee Against Health Fraud and the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, then led by Barrett. Both regional groups had split off three years earlier from the Coordinating Conference on Health Information, a sub-group of the AMA’s Committee on Quackery, which infamously mounted a full-scale assault on the chiropractic profession. Barrett is also a board member of the American Council for Science and Health, a “pro-science” front group for pharmaceutical and chemical companies whose major donors include Bristol Myers Squibb, Syngenta, and Bayer,21 and has been since 1978.22 So Barrett’s ties to the medical establishment are very real.
Barrett’s Wikipedia biography makes no mention of his funding, or any of the major lawsuits he has lost. His page is squeaky-clean and guarded by a retinue of Skeptic editors, who pounce on any untoward truths introduced into the text.23 The “consumer information” section reads like a promotional piece, only mentioning any criticism of his work in passing, as if it comes from a single journalist instead of numerous qualified professionals. In the rare case that an editor does bring forward a matter of controversy, it is treated with the kid gloves typically used for biographies of living persons, requiring a much higher standard of proof than the smears on the profiles of Barrett’s victims – and then discarded anyway.24
If Wikipedia claims to be an impartial platform, protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it cannot editorialize or unevenly enforce its terms of service. Barrett’s page is scrubbed of any mention of his myriad legal travails, to say nothing of the hundreds of instances in which he and his website have been profoundly, egregiously wrong about medicine. If Wikipedia is favoring certain groups in the enforcement of its own rules, it is no longer merely a platform – and, if that it is the case, forfeits protection under the Act and can be subject to the laws of libel and defamation.
If Barrett is used as the primary source of information for multiple articles in Wikipedia’s medical section, we must assume he is using peer-reviewed scientific literature to support his positions. Reviewing what he has written in the course of his decades-long Quack-watching career, however, we found that not only are his assertions not supported by peer-reviewed studies, but in fact they are contradicted frequently by the literature. Why has the media not challenged him or called him out on his unscientific conclusions, instead calling upon him for expert medical commentary without the rigors of fact-checking? Why did the courts permit him to return again and again as the purveyor of expert testimony despite the numerous instances where his writing directly contradicts the scientific literature? Barrett and the larger Skeptic community claim to be the standard-bearers of something called Science-Based Medicine, yet their opinions – based on no clinical experience – contradict many thousands of scientific studies as published in peer-reviewed literature. Here are just a few of the many issues on which Barrett is utterly wrong, and a sampling of the scientific studies supporting the opposing view.
Barrett scoffs at organic foods, putting scare-quotes around the phrase in his writings and dismissing the notion of pesticide-free farming as a pipe-dream. While claiming to “support the elimination of pesticides from agriculture, if it can be done without serious damage to food production,” he dug up a retired food technologist to claim that apples, apricots, peaches, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and numerous other foods would surely “disappear from the fresh produce market” should farmers attempt to grow them without pesticides. His “expert” – also an NCAHF board member – painted a lurid picture of a world without pesticides, describing heads of broccoli with a “grey cheesy core of aphids at least ½ inch in diameter at the top” and brussels sprouts similarly besieged.25
Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Grow Association responds, “Indigenous and traditional farmers produced food for 8,000 years organically without the use of toxic chemicals, GMOs, and animal drugs. Millions of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners are still doing the same. [Organizations] like the Skeptics network like to cite bogus scientific ‘experts’ that we’ll all starve without industrial agriculture, factory farms, and putting poisons on our food and crops. This, of course, is a lie. For our health and the health of the planet we should buy organic and regenerative foods, grass-fed meat and dairy, and other completely natural products, today and everyday.”
Barrett’s opposition to organic farming is especially disingenuous in light of the recent $289 million judgment against Monsanto, in which a San Francisco jury found the company liable for groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Johnson sprayed Monsanto’s Roundup and Ranger One as part of his job while employed at San Francisco area schools, and the jury found that Monsanto had failed to warn users of the carcinogenic risk inherent in its products. Dozens of scientific studies have demonstrated the harms of glyphosate alone, to say nothing of other pesticides and chemicals used in farming (see notes 26-32). The Environmental Working Group studied 45 products made with “conventionally-grown oats” and found all but two to contain glyphosate; 31 of these contained levels higher than what the EWG deemed safe for children.33 With glyphosate so ubiquitous in our food supply, organic farming is more important than ever.
When a federal court ruled in 1976 that the AMA and its attack-dog group and Quackwatch’s predecessor the Coordinating Conference on Health Information CCHI (Quackwatch’s predecessor) must cease and desist from their attacks on chiropractic, Barrett didn’t get the message. Indeed, when the CCHI splintered into regional organizations, he took the material they had collected and used it as the basis for his own operations in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Barrett’s site claims that “chiropractic’s cultism is so well-entrenched that the profession should be viewed as a societal problem”34 – this when 2017 saw 72,000 Americans die of drug overdoses, many of whom began taking drugs to deal with back or nerve pain. We have thoroughly debunked the Quackwatch position on chiropractic.35
Barrett has a special place in his heart for homeopathy, with an entire site ( devoted to “debunking” the practice. He complains that “if a product doesn’t work, it is not safe to use it instead of real medicine,”36 yet refuses to test homeopathic products to evaluate their effectiveness. Had he done so, he would have found surprising results. Hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of homeopathy, and we discuss some of them here.37
Barrett dismisses Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) out of hand, calling it “worthless” partly because practitioners sometimes disagree with one another. Clearly he is unfamiliar with the practice of western medicine as well. “Even if they could agree, the TCM theories are so nebulous that no amount of scientific study will enable TCM to offer rational care,” Barrett opines, claiming “TCM theory and practice are not based upon the body of knowledge related to health, disease, and health care that has been widely accepted by the scientific community.”38 Perhaps he believes that the entirety of scientific knowledge has always been known and agreed upon by the majority of scientists? Hundreds of scientific studies have found benefits to TCM, which we have covered in greater detail here.39
Barrett calls acupuncture a “pseudoscience,” despite hundreds of scientific studies indicating its effectiveness in treating a wide range of conditions. He believes “its theory and practice are based on primitive and fanciful concepts of health and disease that bear no relationship to present scientific knowledge” and that “research during the past 20 years has not demonstrated that acupuncture is effective against any disease.”40 If Barrett actually read the peer-reviewed literature, instead of assuming he knew what it said, he would once again be surprised. We discussed the benefits of acupuncture here.41
Ayurvedic medicine also gets the Quackwatch treatment, though Barrett seems to have little understanding of the concept, writing “Ayurveda has become a marketing term for a variety of health products and services of limited, questionable, or unproved value which may serve as gateways into the [Transcendental Meditation] cult which has a sordid history. Paraplegics have been bilked by promises that with enough TM training they would eventually rise from their wheel chairs by levitation. Other claims for TM include the ability to become invisible, walk through walls, attain the strength of an elephant, mastery over nature…”42 Clearly lacking a basic understanding of the practices involved in ayurvedic medicine, he prefers to poke fun at the tenuously-linked meditation practice apparently shared by some proponents of this healing modality. Meanwhile, hundreds of studies demonstrate that ayurvedic medicine has clear benefits for conditions from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders (see notes 43-48).
Even the idea of vitamin and mineral supplementation comes up for mockery. Barrett particularly has it in for Vitamin C, ridiculing two-time Nobelist Linus Pauling’s research indicating that mega-doses of the nutrient can cure certain cancers and heal other health conditions. Pauling’s “impact on the health marketplace…was anything but laudable,” Barrett sniffs, blaming the scientist for the “widespread misbelief” that high doses of vitamin C are effective in treating colds and other illnesses, along with the notion that some people require nutrients in amounts much larger than the Recommended Daily Allowances. “No responsible medical or nutritional scientist share these views,” he claims,49 yet the scientific literature yields hundreds of articles demonstrating the therapeutic potential for vitamin C in cancer treatment (see notes 50-57).
Barrett refuses to believe any of the hundreds of studies supporting the usage of vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium and magnesium, for treating multiple sclerosis. Such a notion is “implausible and inadequately tested,” he claims.58 Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies (see notes 59-65) are apparently not “adequate” for the master quackwatcher. Yet Barrett even admits he is not qualified to discuss MS treatments, writing in the same article that “I am not listing the useful or investigational methods because I believe advice about them should be obtained from a qualified neurologist who can thoroughly discuss them.”66 If he’s unqualified to discuss treatments that he believes are effective, how is he qualified to dismiss other treatments out of hand?
Barrett dismisses colloidal silver as a “risk without benefit,” pointing to the FDA’s 1999 ban on the sale of such products over the counter as anything other than “dietary supplements.”67 “Colloidal silver is a poisonous heavy metal. The FDA has declared it unsafe for any medicinal use,” he says again elsewhere on the site, in response to a scientific study that found the substance had antimicrobial properties.68 His devotion to the whims of the FDA over the evidence of peer-reviewed science is not surprising, as many scientific studies have found that colloidal silver is in fact an extremely effective natural antibiotic (see notes 69-76). As drug-resistant superbugs like MRSA become more prevalent, thanks largely to hospital-spread iatrogenic infections, silver preparations are reentering the mainstream, and silver sulfadiazine is commonly used in the treatment of burn wounds to prevent infection.
Barrett refuses to acknowledge the health benefits of juicing, calling such health claims “nonsensical” and denying fruit and vegetable juices can ’flush the body of toxins,’ ’energize the body,’ or alleviate any of the diseases or conditions…nor is it correct that juices can strengthen the immune system or the body as a whole.”77 Hundreds of studies in the scientific literature prove fruit and vegetable juices have numerous health benefits throughout the body, and Barrett’s stubbornness on this matter speaks to his complete ignorance about nutrition (see notes 78-86). The health benefits of consuming whole foods and juices are not exactly revolutionary, or even unorthodox.
Barrett, ever the staunch supporter of medical orthodoxy, promotes fluoridation to such an extent he actually recommends fluoride supplements for children living in areas with unfluoridated water. Defending fluoridation as “a form of nutritional supplementation,” he calls fluoride “a trace element which is below par in most natural diets” (once again demonstrating his ignorance of basic nutritional science).87 Barrett has even sued anti-fluoridation activists for defamation while comparing them to Hitler on his own site in one of the oldest rhetorical tricks on the internet: “The anti-fluoridationists’ basic technique is the big lie. Made infamous by Hitler, it is simple to use, yet surprisingly effective. It consists of claiming that fluoridation causes cancer, heart and kidney disease, among other serious ailments that people fear.”88 The dangers of fluoridation are well known, and the scientific literature bristles with studies indicating that – contrary to the wisdom of the Quackwatchers – it does indeed cause the above conditions, as well as many more “serious ailments that people fear.” We have surveyed the latest research on fluoridation here, and there is more evidence than ever that this scientifically-backward procedure is harmful to health – and still no evidence it is beneficial to children’s teeth.89
Barrett defends the use of mercury amalgam in tooth fillings, long discredited as a dental material for its high toxicity. The scientific literature is full of studies on the detrimental health impact of mercury fillings (see notes 90-96) and indeed the FDA was forced to finally classify mercury fillings in 2008 – after refusing to do so for the entirety of their use in dentistry. Their website now states, “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetus.”97 Barrett still defends them, claiming that “amalgams add very little to the daily dose of mercury one gets from breathing air, drinking water, and eating food. The minor increase in exposure, which is considered trivial and without risk, is well worth the benefit of having strong, inexpensive, lasting dental restorations.” He seems unaware that mercury is one of the most toxic substances to human cellular biology and that even a “minor increase in exposure” is best avoided. And it is easily avoided because amalgam alternatives like composite fillings have been common in dentistry for decades.98
Barrett refuses to consider the role of sugar in the development of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, even as the nation tips the scales at record weights. He dismisses “too much sugar will cause diabetes,” “it is best to eat as little sugar as possible,” and “sugar is the leading cause of obesity” as preposterous food myths without basis in reality, sneering that the “NCAHF thinks that a strong relationship may exist between misbeliefs about sugar and a proneness to quackery”99 as he demonstrates his utter lack of expertise in the nutritional field. Meanwhile, back in reality, hundreds of scientific studies have shown that excessive sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of today’s obesity epidemic and the main cause of the skyrocketing rate of type II diabetes (see notes 100-109).
Comparing Barrett’s writing on these matters to the facts as published in peer-reviewed scientific literature, it is clear that he is not qualified to provide an expert opinion on nutrition or any non-conventional medical practice. If “Science-Based Medicine” has neither science nor medicine on its side, what does it have, exactly, besides pharmaceutical industry funding? Why is it still touted as an authority capable of shutting down discussion on the “people’s encyclopedia?” Real scientists admit when the research has proven their theories incorrect. Skeptics who cling to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary are not scientists.
Wikipedia is controlled by the WikiMedia Foundation, a nonprofit responsible for accepting and administering the donations that keep the site going. Fundraising drives take place annually, during which time users are greeted by an unobtrusive popup politely reminding them that it is their $5 and $10 donations keeping Wikipedia afloat. It is difficult to believe that such a massive undertaking is entirely user-funded, and many have surmised that powerful interests have worked out a system of paying for favorable coverage. Jimmy Wales has intervened on multiple occasions to “un-person” Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, portraying himself as sole founder of the site. He has also rewritten the history of Bomis which was a purveyor of softcore pornography, and the company that helped spawn Wikipedia.111
Even if the pharmaceutical industry is not directly paying Wikipedia for favorable coverage, companies have been known to pay third parties who then “volunteer” their services as editors, altering articles to reflect their employer’s views. In 2015, Wikipedia blocked 381 accounts when it was revealed they were editing the articles of small businesses, alternately promoting them to excess to get them taken down and then extorting payments from the companies to get them reinstated on the site.112 Most of the accounts were operated by the same individual, though their owner was never named; such “sock puppeting” is common on Wikipedia, a flaw the site seems uninterested in addressing. An almost identical scandal the previous year involved a company called Wiki-PR which offered reputation-management services to its clients; Wiki-PR, in an effort to defend its actions, pointed out there was nothing in the site’s terms of service against sock-puppeting or paid editing.113 Even now, the policy on paid editing is confusing and fraught with loopholes, and it is still a widespread practice, with freelancers and established PR firms alike offering their services in “online reputation management.”114
Regardless of who is responsible for manipulating certain entries, Wikipedia has not permitted us to correct the record regarding the entry on Dr. Gary Null. Dr. Null’s Wikipedia page violates every rule in Wikipedia’s terms of service governing Biographies of Living Persons. Nor has it removed the entry, notwithstanding its own rules stating that biographies of living persons that are posted in violation of its rules must be “removed immediately and without waiting for discussion.”115 It is comprised of contentious material sourced almost entirely from Barrett’s webpage, which we have established is anything but reliable, following Wikipedia’s own guidelines. Given the higher standard of verifiability applied to sources used in Biographies of Living Persons, the editors’ reliance upon Barrett’s page is even more difficult to understand. Our editors’ repeated attempts to fix the inaccuracies on the page were stonewalled. Attempts to seek resolution higher up the command chain were rebuffed. We exhausted every means of redress outlined in Wikipedia’s terms of service and yet the offending falsehoods remain on the page, leaving Dr. Null in a Kafkaesque reputational limbo from which there is apparently no escape.
A sample of how egregiously Dr. Null’s Wikipedia page violates Wikipedia’s terms of service follows, with annotation.
“Null attacks many facets of mainstream medicine, arguing that physicians and pharmaceutical companies have an economic interest in promoting rather than preventing sickness. [1] In the 1979-80, he co-authored a series of articles on cancer research for Penthouse, entitled the Politics of Cancer [1] beginning with one entitled “The Great Cancer Fraud.” [8] Null’s writings in Penthouse accused the medical community of “suppressing alternative cancer treatments to protect the medical establishment’s solid-gold cancer train.” In place of standard medical therapy, Null advocated alternative cancer treatments such as hydrazine sulfate. A series of three articles co-authored by Null in Penthouse is credited by David Gorski with bringing the Burzynski clinic to prominence. [9] In 1985, Null began writing a lengthy series of reports for Penthouse entitled “Medical Genocide.” [1]In 1999 TIME wrote of Null: “From a young reporter this is to be expected. But two decades later, Null, 54, is still warning of a variety of medical bogeyman out to gull a trusting public.” [4]
1. Barrett, Stephen (January 29,2012). “A Critical Look at Gary Null’s Activities and Credentials.” Quackwatch. Retrieved September 15,2013
8. Null’s Penthouse articles on alternative cancer therapies include:
Null, Gary; Robert Houston (1979). “The Great Cancer Fraud.” Penthouse 76-78,82,268,270,272,274,276-276.
Null, Gary; A. Pitrone (1980). “Suppression of new cancer therapies: Dr. Joseph Gold and hydrazine sulfate.” Penthouse: 97-98,160,162-163.
Null, Gary; L. Steinman (1980). “The politics of cancer. Part five. Suppression of new cancer therapies: Dr. Lawrence Burton.” Penthouse: 75-76,188-194,196-197.
9. Gorski, David (July 2, 2013). “Stanislaw Burzynski: The Early Years.” Science Based Medicine. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
4. Park, Alice; Jeffrey Kluger (May 17,1999). “The New Mister Natural.” TIME. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
In this paragraph alone, the Barrett web page is referenced three times. The Barrett web page is not a peer-reviewed journal, a book published by a university press, a university-level textbook, a magazine, journal or book published by a respectable publishing house or a mainstream newspaper. It is a webpage, almost entirely stating the personal opinions of its author on Dr. Null and his work. This is by definition a self-published source, in violation of the unequivocal rules Wikipedia has regarding the use of self-published sources in Biographies of Living Persons. The Barrett web page consists of original research, replete with unsupported commentary and written with a prejudiced point of view. By Wikipedia’s established rules, it has no place in a biography about a living person.
In addition, the Barrett-referenced statement “arguing that physicians and pharmaceutical companies have an economic interest in promoting rather than preventing sickness” is not even true in the context of the Barrett web page. Nowhere in the Barrett web page is there reference to “economic interest” nor any reference to money, profit, finance, revenue, or any other such term that would confirm the truth of that statement.116
Just a single paragraph is so fraught with inaccuracies it resembles a concerted effort at character assassination, particularly given the editors’ stubborn refusal to allow our editors to make changes to correct the relevant information. Why has Wikipedia permitted a group of clearly biased editors to colonize the pages of alternative health practitioners and the therapies they recommend without giving them recourse to the avenues offered every other Wikipedia user to remove false and defamatory information? The vision of an open-source utopia of knowledge crashes to a halt when the rules are not enforced evenly. What is on display here is bias, pure and simple.
Wikipedia’s bias against alternative therapies has caused untold numbers of visitors to discount these therapies in their pursuit of better health and a better life. Wikipedia must take responsibility for not only the destruction of the reputations of the alternative health practitioners libeled on its pages, but also for the decrease in quality of life for those readers who might otherwise have sought and found relief through non-conventional treatments. The Skeptics who have such a stranglehold on Wikipedia have no clinical experience in the fields of homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, or other alternative medical therapies, yet their edits are treated as authoritative and efforts to correct the record are dismissed almost instantaneously.
Wikipedia is not just a chaotic swamp led by mob rule. There are 400 “administrators” who can delete articles, protect users, and block IP addresses, and “bureaucrats” above them who can name administrators. Above them are 57 super-elite “developers” who can make direct changes to Wikipedia’s software and database. Wikipedia even has a “supreme court” called the arbitration committee that hears disputes and has the power to ban “bad users.” Wales is the only one who can unilaterally lock pages, ban people, and remove developers.117 So there is a system in place to stop the average troll from running rampant, but when the trolls are higher up in the ranks, they can seize power. They are more difficult to dislodge. “Un-personed” Wikipedia co-founder Sanger is looking more and more prescient with his worries about the site’s anti-elitism – his concerns that its refusal to value experts over the uninformed would doom it to irrelevance.118
Wikipedia presents itself as above the fray of other platforms for user-generated content. There are clear rules on sourcing, prohibitions on personal attacks, and procedures in place for appealing executive decisions. In theory, it should run like a finely-oiled machine. But when those rules are applied unevenly, or used to target only those users who express unorthodox opinions, the entire edifice falls apart. Wikipedia rests on a model of truth-by-consensus, where theoretically all parties to a controversial issue will trend toward the median “neutral” perspective by virtue of the need to present verifiable sources, but when one group’s “truth” is valued above another’s, the system breaks down. When one “side” of an issue is freed of the burden of proof, allowed to post unsourced rumor and conjecture, Wikipedia becomes nothing more than the bathroom wall of the internet.
Wikipedia has taken a noticeable pro-establishment ideological bent as it has crowded out other encyclopedias and user-generated knowledge clearinghouses to become one of the top sites on the internet. Its political articles are strongly pro-establishment, pro-western imperialist, pro-military-industrial-surveillance complex; its medical articles are equally pro-establishment, pro-medical-industrial-complex in the country where the number one cause of death is iatrogenic – medically-caused. Big Pharma and Big Brother have big bucks to pay for such favorable coverage. If it should come out that there is some sort of quid-pro-quo exchange taking place, the WikiMedia Foundation should be stripped of its nonprofit status immediately and subject to legal action.
Wikipedia represents the danger of the democratization of knowledge and open platforms. While it has the potential to be liberating – an endless wealth of knowledge is a laudable goal – it can also create a mental prison if controlled by outside interests who do not reveal their motives or presence. Wikipedia may seem like a one-stop shop for knowledge on every subject imaginable, but it represents a very limited perspective on that knowledge, skewed heavily in the direction of maintaining the status quo.

1 Wikikpedia, “WikiProject: Skepticism.” Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
2 Wikipedia, “Identifying and Using Independent Sources.” Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
3 Brown, Monique R. “Medicine or Magic?” Black Enterprise. May 2000.
4 Skenazy, Lenore. Free-Range Kids. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
5 Wikipedia, “Verifiability.” Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
6 Wales, Jimmy. “Jimmy Wales’s response.” 23 Mar 2014. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
7 Chozick, Amy. “Jimmy Wales Is Not an Internet Billionaire.” New York Times. 27 Jun 2013.
8 Op.cit.
9 National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. v. King Bio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Frank J. King, Jr.; and Does 1-50. Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. Case no. BC245271. 17 Dec 2001.
10 Dr. Stephen J. Barrett and Dr. Robert S. Baratz v. Wayne Obie, Talk Canada, Frances Perrin, and Talk International. Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Court File No. 01-CV-213449. 28 Jun 2001.
11 “Stephen Barrett Loses Major Defamation Trial in Hometown. Dynamic Chiropractic. 2 Dec 2005;23(5) Accessed at:
12 NCAHF v. King Bio
13 Barrett v. Obie
14 Wikipedia, “Susan Gerbic.” Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
15 Turkewitz, Julie. “Patients Seek ‘Right to Try’ New Drugs.” New York Times. 10 Jan 2015. Accessed at:
16 Gorski, DH “Clinical trials of integrative medicine: testing whether magic works?” Science & Society. 1 Sep 2014:20(9);473-476.
17 Gorski, David. “When doctors betray their patients and science-based medicine for money.” Science-Based Medicine (blog). 12 Aug 2013.
18 Dynamic Chiropractic, op.cit.
19 Ladd, Donna. “Doctor Who?” Village Voice. 1999 Jun 22.
20 Stephen J. Barrett v. Ilena Rosenthal. California Supreme Court. Docket no. S122953. 20 Nov 2006.
21 Kroll, Andy and Jeremy Schulman. “Leaked Documents Reveal the Secret Finances of a Pro-Industry Science Group.” Mother Jones. 28 Oct 2013.
22 Barrett, Stephen. “Curriculum Vitae.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
23 Wikipedia, “Talk: Stephen Barrett/Archive 1.” Accessed 18 Aug 2018.
24 Ibid.
25 Barrett, Stephen. “’Organic Foods’ and the Environment.” NCAHF News. Jan/Feb 1990;13(1).
26 Defarge, N Toxicity of formulants and heavy metals in glyphosate-based herbicides and other pesticides. Toxicol Rep. 2017 Dec 30;5:156-163.
27 Defarge, N Co-Formulants in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt Aromatase Activity in Human Cells below Toxic Levels. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Feb 26;13(3).
28 Gasnier, C Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology. 2009 Aug 21;262(3):184-91.
29 Clair, E A glyphosate-based herbicide induces necrosis and apoptosis in mature rat testicular cells in vitro, and testosterone decrease at lower levels. Toxicol In Vitro. 2012 Mar;26(2):269-79.
30 Gress, S. Glyphosate-based herbicides potently affect cardiovascular system in mammals: review of the literature. Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2015 Apr;15(2):117-26
31 Seralini, GE New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007 May;52(4):596-602
32 Seralini, GE Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environ Sci Eur. 2014;26(1):14
33 Temkin, Alexis. “Breakfast With A Dose of Roundup?” Environmental Working Group. 15 Aug 2018.
34 Jarvis, William T. “Chiropractic: A Skeptical View.” Chirobase. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
35 Gale, Richard and Gary Null. “Medical Despotism, the AMA’s and Wikipedia’s Offensive Against Chiropractic.” Progressive Radio Network. 30 May 2018.
36 Barrett, Stephen. “How Homeopathy Harms.” Homeowatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
37 Null, Gary. “Gary Null’s Slaying Homeopathy.” Progressive Radio Network. 8 May 2018.
38 Barrett, Stephen. “Be Wary of Acupuncture, Qigong,and ‘Chinese Medicine.’” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
39 Gale, Richard and Gary Null. “Chinese Botanical Medicine: Wikipedia Claims It Is Fake, We Are Certain It Is Real.” Progressive Radio Network. 10 Jul 2018.
40 Barrett, op.cit.
41 Gale, Richard and Gary Null. “Why Does Wikipedia Want to Deprive You of Acupuncture.” Progressive Radio Network. 26 Jun 2018.
42 Barrett, Stephen. “Ayurvedic Medicine.” NCAHF News. Jul/Aug 1991;14(4).
43 Kessler, CS Ayurvedic interventions for osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatol Int. 2015 Feb;35(2):211-32.
44 Basnyat, S Ayurvedic medicine for rheumatoid arthritis. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2014 Aug;16(8):435.
45 Chopra, A Comparable efficacy of standardized Ayurveda formulation and hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQS) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA): a randomized investigator-blind controlled study. Clin Rheumatol. 2012 Feb;31(2):259-69.
46 Chopra, A et al. Ayurvedic medicine offers a good alternative to glucosamine and celecoxib in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, controlled equivalence drug trial. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013 Aug;52(8):1408-17.
47 Lalert, L et al. Neuroprotective effect of Asparagus racemosus root extract via the enhancement of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and estrogen receptor in ovariectomized rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Oct 28;225:336-341.
48 Shekhar S Neuroprotection by ethanolic extract of Syzygium aromaticum in Alzheimer’s disease like pathology via maintaining oxidative balance through SIRT1 pathway. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jun 27;110:277-283.
49 Barrett, Stephen. “The Dark Side of Linus Pauling’s Legacy.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
50 Pires, AS Ascorbic Acid Chemosensitizes Colorectal Cancer Cells and Synergistically Inhibits Tumor Growth. Front Physiol. 2018 Jul 23;9:911.
51 Cho, S Hormetic dose response to L-ascorbic acid as an anti-cancer drug in colorectal cancer cell lines according to SVCT-2 expression. Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 27;8(1):11372.
52 Hong, SW SVCT-2 in breast cancer acts as an indicator for L-ascorbate treatment. Oncogene. 2013 Mar 21;32(12):1508-17.
53 Campbell, EJ Pharmacokinetic and anti-cancer properties of high dose ascorbate in solid tumours of ascorbate-dependent mice. Free Radic Biol Med. 2016 Oct;99:451-462.
54 Mastrangelo, D Mechanisms of anti-cancer effects of ascorbate: Cytotoxic activity and epigenetic modulation. Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2018 Mar;69:57-64
55 Cieslak, JA Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer with Pharmacological Ascorbate. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2015;16(9):759-70.
56 Nauman, G Systematic Review of Intravenous Ascorbate in Cancer Clinical Trials. Antioxidants (Basel). 2018 Jul 12;7(7).
57 Park, S Vitamin C in Cancer: A Metabolomics Perspective. Front Physiol. 2018 Jun 19;9:762.
58 Barrett, “Be Wary of Multiple Sclerosis ‘Cures.’” Quackwatch. Accessed 18 Aug 2018.
59 Summeryday, NM Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis: review of a possible association. J Pharm Pract. 2012 Feb;25(1):75-84.
60 Speer, G. [Impact of vitamin D in neurological diseases and neurorehabilitation: from dementia to multiple sclerosis. Part I: the role of vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of multiple sclerosis]. Ideggyogy Sz. 2013 Sep 30;66(9-10):293-303.
61 Mark, BL Vitamin D and autoimmune disease–implications for practice from the multiple sclerosis literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006 Mar;106(3):418-24..
62 Góral, A[The role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis and course of multiple sclerosis]. Wiad Lek. 2015;68(1):60-6..
63 Duan, S. Vitamin D status and the risk of multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Lett. 2014 Jun 6;570:108-13.
64 Nystad, AE. Effects of vitamin D on axonal damage during de- and remyelination in the cuprizone model. J Neuroimmunol. 2018 Aug 15;321:61-65.
65 Thouvenot, E Vitamin D is associated with degree of disability in patients with fully ambulatory relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Eur J Neurol. 2015 Mar;22(3):564-9.
66 Barrett, op.cit.
67 Barrett, Stephen. “Colloidal Silver: Risk Without Benefit.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
68 Barrett, Stephen. “Naturopathic Misrepresentations.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
69 Goggin, R Colloidal silver: a novel treatment for Staphylococcus aureus biofilms? Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2014 Mar;4(3):171-5.
70 Rajiv, S Topical colloidal silver as an anti-biofilm agent in a Staphylococcus aureus chronic rhinosinusitis sheep model. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2015 Apr;5(4):283-8.
71 Khan, K Functionalization of inorganic nanoparticles to augment antimicrobial efficiency: a critical analysis. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2018 Jul 31.
72 Ovais, M Wound healing applications of biogenic colloidal silver and gold nanoparticles: recent trends and future prospects. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2018 May;102(10):4305-4318.
73 Tran, PL The ability of a colloidal silver gel wound dressing to kill bacteria in vitro and in vivo. J Wound Care. 2017 Apr 1;26(sup4):S16-S24.
74 Percival, SL The antimicrobial efficacy of a silver alginate dressing against a broad spectrum of clinically relevant wound isolates.
75 Percival, SL The antimicrobial efficacy of silver on antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from burn wounds. Int Wound J. 2012 Oct;9(5):488-93.
76 Richter, K Taking the Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver Particles for the Topical Treatment of Biofilm-Related Infections. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2017 Jul 5;9(26):21631-21638.
77 Barrett, Stephen. “Juicing.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
78 Silva, RM Chemopreventive activity of grape juice concentrate (G8000TM) on rat colon carcinogenesis induced by azoxymethane. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2015 Nov;40(3):870-5.
79 Clemens, R Squeezing fact from fiction about 100% fruit juice. Adv Nutr. 2015 Mar 13;6(2):236S-243S.
80 Marchi, P Concentrated grape juice (G8000™) reduces immunoexpression of iNOS, TNF-alpha, COX-2 and DNA damage on 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid-induced-colitis. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Mar;37(2):819-27.
81 Das, S Beet root juice protects against doxorubicin toxicity in cardiomyocytes while enhancing apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Mol Cell Biochem. 2016 Oct;421(1-2):89-101.
82 Asgary, S Clinical evaluation of blood pressure lowering, endothelial function improving, hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate juice in hypertensive subjects. Phytother Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):193-9.
83 Asgary, S Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study. J Hum Hypertens. 2016 Oct;30(10):627-32.
84 Hashemi, M Acute and long-term effects of grape and pomegranate juice consumption on vascular reactivity in paediatric metabolic syndrome. Cardiol Young. 2010 Feb;20(1):73-7.
85 Aviram, M Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423-33.
86 Asgary, S Clinical investigation of the acute effects of pomegranate juice on blood pressure and endothelial function in hypertensive individuals. ARYA Atheroscler. 2013 Nov;9(6):326-31.
87 Barrett, Stephen. “National Research Council Nixes Supplements, Supports Fluoridation.” NCHRI News. Mar/Apr 1989;12(2).
88 Barrett, Stephen, “Fluoridation: Don’t Let the Poisonmongers Scare You.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
89 Null, Gary. “Fluoride: the Deadly Deception.” Progressive Radio Network. 8 Aug 2018.

90 Zwicker, JD Longitudinal analysis of the association between removal of dental amalgam, urine mercury and 14 self-reported health symptoms. Environ Health. 2014 Nov 18;13:95.
91 Homme, KG New science challenges old notion that mercury dental amalgam is safe. Biometals. 2014 Feb;27(1):19-24.
92 Mortazavi, G Increased mercury release from dental amalgam restorations after exposure to electromagnetic fields as a potential hazard for hypersensitive people and pregnant women. Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(4):287-92.
93 Mortazavi, SM Dental metal-induced innate reactivity in keratinocytes. Toxicol In Vitro. 2016 Jun;33:180-1.
94 Siblerud, RL. The relationship between mercury from dental amalgam and mental health. Am J Psychother. 1989 Oct;43(4):575-87.
95 Zander, D [Exposure to mercury in the population. II. Mercury release from amalgam fillings]. Zentralbl Hyg Umweltmed. 1990 Oct;190(4):325-34.
96 Park, JD Human exposure and health effects of inorganic and elemental mercury. J Prev Med Public Health. 2012 Nov;45(6):344-52.
97 Edlich, RF food and drug administration agrees to classify mercury fillings. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2008;27(4):303-5.
98 Barrett, Stephen. “The ‘Mercury Toxicity’ Scam: How Anti-Amalgamists Swindle People.” Quackwatch. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018.
99 Barrett, Stephen. “Dispelling Misinformation About Sugar.” NCAHF News. Sep/Oct 1990;13(5).
100 Bray, GA. Energy and fructose from beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup pose a health risk for some people. Adv Nutr. 2013 Mar 1;4(2):220-5.
101 Beaglehole, R. Sugar sweetened beverages, obesity, diabetes and oral health: a preventable crisis. Pac Health Dialog. 2014 Mar;20(1):39-42. [the actual study can be viewed here]
102 Malik, VS Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):274-88.
103 Hu, FB. Resolved: there is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases. Obes Rev. 2013 Aug;14(8):606-19.
104 Hu, FB Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: epidemiologic evidence. Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):47-54.
105 DiNicolantonio, JJ Fructose-induced inflammation and increased cortisol: A new mechanism for how sugar induces visceral adiposity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 May – Jun;61(1):3-9.
106 Bray, GA Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes?: health be damned! Pour on the sugar. Diabetes Care. 2014 Apr;37(4):950-6.
107 Bray, GA Calorie-sweetened beverages and fructose: what have we learned 10 years later. Pediatr Obes. 2013 Aug;8(4):242-8.
108 Schulze, MB Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004 Aug 25;292(8):927-34.
109 Yoshida, Y Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents: Policies, Taxation, and Programs. Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Apr 18;18(6):31.
110 Golson, Jordan. “The goodbye email from Jimmy Wales’s girlfriend.” Valleywag. 2 Mar 2008.
111 Russell, Kyle. “Wikipedia Was Started With Revenue From Soft-Core Porn.” Business Insider. 28 Jun 2013.
112 Merrill, Jamie. “Wikipedia rocked by ‘rogue editors’ blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities.” Independent. 2 Sep 2015.
113 Bort, Julie. “PR Company Says It Was Demonized By The World’s Biggest Internet Encyclopedia.” Business Insider. 25 Jan 2014.
114 Pinsker, Joe. “The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia—for Pay.” The Atlantic. 11 Aug 2015.
115 Wikipedia, “Biographies of Living Persons.” Retrieved 20 Aug 2018.
116 Greenfield, Neal. “Legal Letter to Wikipedia Requesting Removal of False Gary Null Bio.” Progressive Radio Network. 14 Mar 2018.
117 Pink, Daniel. “The Book Stops Here.” Wired. 1 Mar 2005.
118 Ibid.