Wikipedia Misinformation and Prejudice: Case Examples of Drs. Deepak Chopra and Gary Null
September 26, 2019
Recently, when the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah she characterized the smell of New York City as “indescribable.” This is a perfect malapropism to describe the deep editorial bias that exists throughout Wikipedia as well as the hostility of people operating within its virtual borders.
The more one delves into the actual operations within Wikipedia, the more one realizes how it is anything but an encyclopedia; instead, in our opinion, it is a loose confederation of entrenched interest groups that overpower and control what is allowed to be entered on any given entry and what will be excluded, no matter how inaccurately the evidence supports their edits.
The principles upon which Wikipedia were founded appear to be noble, at least on paper. One of Wikipedia’s central tenets is that everything should be written and edited from a neutral point of view, especially biographies of living persons (BLP). For such individuals, Wikipedia’s rules mandate a high degree of sensitivity. An entry’s content must adhere rigorously to all applicable laws in the United States and to Wikipedia’s three core content policies: Neutral Point of View, Verifiability and No Original Research. However, the more one investigates the encyclopedia’s BLP entries, the more obvious it becomes that these “policies” are nothing but a cover for what really takes place.
Over the last two years we have posted in depth investigative reports and scholarly articles to present the evidence that Wikipedia unconditionally condemns all forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including CAM’s leading advocates and practitioners. It has adopted the practice of labeling non-conventional medical practices, such as chiropractic, acupuncture and homeopathy, as pseudoscience — a derogatory term that Wikipedia has created its own definition for. Practitioners of these medical modalities who bring great health benefits to others are characterized as quacks or charlatans, or in the words of Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, ‘lunatic charlatans.” We further demonstrated that the anonymous Wikipedia authors’ and editors’ claims that these alternative medical practices are ineffective, unproven or dangerous are largely unsupported by published peer-review research, which according to Wikipedia’s rules should be regarded as the most reliable sources. Instead, these editors rely upon personal opinion articles, websites and blogs, considered by Wikipedia’s rules to be the least reliable and therefore to be avoided. To the contrary, the thousands of peer-reviewed studies that support the effectiveness of these medical practices are rarely referenced. We also exposed the identities of some of these authors, who self-identify as “Skeptics.” who slant Wikipedia entries in order to reject the efficacy and safety of CAM theories and therapies. As we investigated further we learned that these Skeptics have seemingly surrendered their intellectual integrity in pursuit of their stated goal for the sole purpose to destroy the public’s faith in these therapeutic disciplines.
Throughout Wikipedia, biographies for CAM’s leading practitioners and spokespersons have been in gross violation of the site’s neutrality policies and defamation laws for over a decade. This is due in part to entrenched editors and Wikipedia administrators with a deep, admitted hatred bordering on intellectual violence of the topics they write about. This analysis is to rebut the most common defense by skeptic activists: “We are only seeking to accurately report the coverage of this person in reliable news sources, and the overwhelming coverage of this person is negative.”
To present objective, statistical evidence that this is a falsehood perpetuated to continue libel and defamation, charts of citation bias and news coverage are provided for several Wikipedia biographies. All supporting data is available.
⦁ Gary Null: a PhD., dietician, author of dozens of best-selling books and award winning documentaries and an alternative medicine researcher who has encountered extreme hostile bias on his Wikipedia page. Though there is not enough mainstream news coverage to compare to his Wikipedia page, the bias can still be calculated. Dr. Null has requested Wikipedia take down his biography on dozens of occasions, citing damage to his professional reputation. Wikipedia has refused multiple times to make even minor changes.
⦁ Deepak Chopra: a distinguished board-certified medical doctor, one of the most prominent alternative/integrative medicine practitioners in the United States, his Wikipedia biography stands in stark contrast to his news coverage. Dr. Chopra has requested Wikipedia to remove his biography, citing damage to his professional reputation. Wikipedia has refused. In addition, on numerous occasions unbiased editors have attempted to bring fairness and accuracy to his page with only a bare minimum of success.
⦁ Harold “Dr. Death” Shipman: a deceased physician and perhaps the most prolific serial killer in history. His Wikipedia biography stands as an example of appropriate, neutral reporting, especially as compared to his news coverage. His biography is an example of how Wikipedia is supposed to work.
This is a breakdown of news articles about the two most covered people on the list, Deepak Chopra and Harold “Dr. Death” Shipman. The chart was gathered through a Google News search of the top articles relating to these persons, 80 in the case of Dr. Chopra and 41 in the case of Dr. Shipman.
⦁ Positive Coverage: Any article that mostly focused on a sympathetic or supportive description of the person was listed as Positive Coverage.
⦁ Negative Coverage: Any article that mostly focused on a condemning or criticizing description of the person was listed as Negative Coverage.
⦁ Deepak Chopra: 97% of the news coverage of Deepak Chopra was positive, out of 80 articles read. Only two were negative, both from the same author on the same blog.
⦁ Harold “Dr. Death” Shipman: Unsurprisingly for a prolific serial killer, 85% of Dr. Shipman’s 41 article coverage was negative and focused on his horrific murders. 15% focused on his skill as a doctor, a family man, and his likability.
Citations in Wikipedia Biography
For this analysis all of the references in the Wikipedia biographies of these three people were tracked, read, and assigned a value:
⦁ Objective: any sentence that uses the reference to make a statement of neutral, unqualified fact. There may be a terrible act referenced, but no value judgment is described. Wikipedia policies state that the vast majority of any biography should be objective, and if there is any bias it should balance positive and negative. Example: “Bob Smith was imprisoned for fraud, a crime he has denied.”
⦁ Subjective Negative: any sentence that uses the reference to make a judgment statement that dismisses, criticizes, or condemns the subject of the biography. There may be an objective fact embedded, but the presence of a value judgment makes a statement subjective. Example: “Bob Smith, described by police as ‘a dangerous, untrustworthy criminal,’ was imprisoned for his crimes. Despite overwhelming proof of his guilt, he still pretends to be innocent.”
⦁ Subjective Positive: any sentence that uses the reference to make a judgment statement that validates, praises, or you the subject of the biography. There may be an objective fact embedded, but the presence of a value judgment makes a statement subjective. Example: “Bob Smith, described by neighbors as a ‘kind, decent man,’ was accused of fraud by the police. Despite his attempts to prove his innocence, the father of two was imprisoned.”
⦁ Gary Null: the citations on Dr. Null are mostly subjective and negative, which by itself would be a violation of Wikipedia policy. In conjunction with active efforts to prohibit any positive content and minimize neutral, objective content, it constitutes active defamation.
⦁ Deepak Chopra: 41% of all of the content on Dr. Chopra’s biography are subjective and negative, with only 5% being positive. This is despite the fact that his news coverage was 97% positive. The large disparity between the news coverage and the citation bias proves that Wikipedia editors and administrators are lying when they insist their libeling of Dr. Chopra is merely reporting predominant coverage.
⦁ Harold “Dr. Death” Shipman: the despised serial killer receives a far more impartial, neutral biography than either Dr. Null or Dr. Chopra. 79% of his biography is objective, an appropriate percentage for Wikipedia, and the negative and positive minority content is roughly balanced.
The fact that Dr. Death has a more positive biography than either Dr. Chopra or Dr. Null is a credible indication of deep, systemic prejudice, intolerance, and a sustained effort to defame. This bias distorts reality and is completely out of touch with objective reporting. Therefore it violates not only Wikipedia’s policies, but laws regarding defamation and libel as well. Bias against Drs. Chopra and Dr. Null biographies can therefore be credibly shown as the fair coverage these editors claim to represent are dramatically contradicted as they ignore mostly favorable actual coverage and rely solely upon contentious sources that allow them to malign their targets.
Dr. Null is not the original creator of his Wikipedia biography. It was created and written by a known enemy who opposes everything he represents and stands for. Those who compose and “protect” his biography only seek negative and often slanderous material to further smear his character before the public, regardless of the lack of substantiating facts. The question then is how can Wikipedia permit editors, who are presumed to be volunteers, to destroy a person who has no desire to be listed on the site?
It is unjust, unethical and should be proven illegal to allow editors who represent an ideological operation to stage a crusade against persons and their reputations they admittedly select to ruin. Nevertheless this is the culture Wikipedia fosters and in fact condones. Skeptic editors who would portray Deepak Chopra and Gary Null in a worse light than a serial killer are guilty of defamation. Therefore Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales must be held equally accountable as he is completely aware and supportive of these activities. Given the countless failed attempts to reverse the disparaging content from Chopra’s and Null’s pages, as well as the entries of hundreds of additional biographies that Skepticism opposes, it can be argued that Wikipedia is also guilty of illicit negligence in allowing this activity to persist.
In effect, these editors, sanctioned by Wikipedia, operate as agent provocateurs who act as a law unto themselves. They serve their cause as judge, jury and executioner. This is extraordinarily dangerous for a so-called encyclopedia that has become the world’s most visited website for acquiring information and knowledge. The abuse is so blatant that it mocks our entire judicial system where a person is granted due process, a chance to defend themselves, and to obtain access to a jury of peers. Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales believe they are more powerful than the judiciary. Are Wales and the Skeptics the Robespierres of a new French revolution? Their ideology and actions suggest this as innocent people dedicated to improving the health of millions of people are imprisoned in a virtual gulag from which there is no escape. The Soviet KGB and the East German Stazi would be proud.