by Dr Gary Null, Phd; (OMNS August 23, 2020) The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been exceedingly antagonistic against practitioners of alternative medical therapies. Medical professionals are increasingly aware of Wikipedia bias against entire medical systems that are regarded as “natural” or unconventional. This disturbing anti-health trend, which continues to worsen, can be traced back at least to 2006 when Paul Lee, the former listmaster of Dr. Stephen Barrett’s Quackwatch, host of the then Skeptic Webring and a volunteer Wikipedia editor, put out a call on the International Skeptic Forum to invite Skeptics to come forward to begin writing content on the encyclopedia. http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52557
In his post to the Forum, Lee wrote, “There are many subjects for skeptics to get involved with, and we really need help. There are plenty of loons out there doing the editing right now and far too few skeptics to keep them at bay.” He was also fully aware that he was acting in direct violation of Wikipedia’s early neutrality policies. Ergo he writes, “Any coordination of efforts should be done by private email, since Wikipedia keeps a very public history of every little edit, and you can’t get them removed. We don’t need any accusations of a conspiracy.” http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52557 Among the subjects Lee posted on his “watchlist” are orthomolecular medicine, complementary and alternative medicine, applied kinesiology, chiropractic, and aspartame.
Today, Paul Lee is a senior Wikipedia administrator with special editorial privileges.
Skeptic editors now far outnumber those trying to make efforts to write in favor of alternative medical therapies. Repeatedly I hear that efforts to correct the numerous inaccuracies, misinformation, biases and derogatory terms against these medical interventions, and Complementary and Alternative (or Integrative) Medicine (CAM) in general, are exercises in futility. The encyclopedia’s parent organization, the WikiMedia Foundation, has been repeatedly unresponsive to demands for corrections and refuses to enforce its volunteer editors to abide by its editorial rules of neutrality when dealing with subjects regarding alternative medicine and the living biographies of its advocates.
Since Wikipedia is ranked as the number one website that people turn to for information about general health, illnesses, and possible treatments, I am convinced that numerous people have been wrongfully misled and dissuaded from seeking out alternative medical therapies as a course of disease prevention and treatment. Aside from depriving sick people from potential relief of suffering, by discrediting CAM practices, Wikipedia has also served as an economic weapon on the behest of pharmaceutical drug interests.
Despite my and others’ numerous attempts and failures to deal directly with the Foundation’s legal department and Board members to have misinformation corrected, there is an option that can be pursued on behalf of all alternative medical modalities and individual practitioners and advocates thereof who have been ridiculed, shamed and wrongfully characterized on Wikipedia.
In 2012, the Center for Media and Democracy coordinated a nationwide campaign to reach out to the Koch Brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate members, who pay annual dues of upwards to $50,000 in addition to awarding separate grants. ALEC has been described as a “corporate bill mill” for private interests and as a means to gain direct access to elected state legislators. https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council Due to ALEC’s hosting of individuals with national reputations for espousing white supremacist and racist views as conference keynote speakers, a grassroots effort was undertaken to encourage ALEC corporate members to be ethically responsible and cease their memberships. The success of this campaign resulted in 114 major private corporations (representing a total market cap value of over $7 trillion) and 19 nonprofit organizations to cut their ties or allow their memberships to lapse, thereby exerting a significant blow to ALEC’s financial base. https://www.prwatch.org/news/2018/11/13426/alec-lost-membership-worth-over-7-trillion-market-cap
I believe a similar strategy will be highly effective against the WikiMedia Foundation, and may force the Foundation to finally take serious notice and act to correct the serious systemic problems plaguing the encyclopedia. It may be added that Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, although now removed from the organization’s direct administration, has continued to be one of the Foundation’s major fundraiser. He takes this role very personally. Yet Wales also endorses skepticism’s efforts to use the encyclopedia to wage its assault against alternative medical practices it happens to disagree with.
Therefore, we have drafted a petition letter to send to Wikipedia’s 500-plus principle benefactors (i.e. grant-giving foundations, charitable family trusts, corporate institutions and private individual donors) with the request to sever their financial relationships with the Foundation and withhold future grants and donations. The vast majority of the benefactors who will be in receipt of the petition will be learning about Wikipedia’s biases against and demeaning characterization of alternative health as a pseudoscience and quackery for the first time. Based upon the statistics of alternative medicine’s increasing popularity, it is very likely many recipients of the petition either use or have used one or more non-conventional methods for their personal health.
The link to the petition letter that has been prepared is https://prn.fm/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Letter-Wikipedia-benefactors-1.pdf . I ask and welcome you to be a signatory. The more high profile individuals and practicing medical professionals who sign (e.g. executives of professional associations, deans of colleges, chief editors of journals and publications, university professors, and journalists, and certified and licensed practitioners in these medical disciplines, etc.) the greater will be the petition’s impact to persuade donors to act from a higher moral principle of conscience. The goal is to present the Wikimedia Foundation’s benefactors with evidence that the encyclopedia has a deep and serious problem and their charitable giving may be better served elsewhere.
If you agree to be a signatory, please send an email to WikipediaWatch@protonmail.com with your full name, degree (PhD, MD, DO, ND, etc.), your professional title, affiliated institution as you wish it to appear on the petition and city and state/country.
Please share this petition letter with others who you believe would and should be signatories.
With the growing consolidation of skeptic organizations into a reactionary movement and skeptics’ increasing presence on Wikipedia, this is a critical moment for us to take the upper hand.
(Note: The views presented in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Editorial Board of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. OMNS publishes editorials on a variety of topics and invites readers’ submissions, which may be sent to the Editor at the email address below. OMNS specifically will welcome rebuttal from Wikipedia editors.)
The Full Petition text is posted at https://prn.fm/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Letter-Wikipedia-benefactors-1.pdf
To sign, send a two-sentence to email WikipediaWatch@protonmail.com stating 1) that you wish to be added and 2) Your name, degrees, affiliation, city, state and country.
A Fact Sheet
https://prn.fm/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Wiki-Fact-Sheet.pdf provides glaring examples of biased excerpts from Wikipedia entries for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and disparagement of CAM advocates in Wikipedia’s personal biographies.
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