Wikipedia: The Trial of Tumbleman
This is one of a series of articles on Wikipedia:
The Wikipedia Battle for Rupert Sheldrake’s Biography
The Wikipedia Skeptics Problem
Wikipedia: Adult Supervision Required (not incl.)
Sandy, a regular Weiler Psi contributor, has just published this piece:
Why It’s Not OK to Pathologize Psi
Holy smokes! I can hardly believe what I am witnessing. Tumbleman has been permanently banned as a troll. If the episode of Tumbleman’s exile to arbitration and then getting banned has shown me anything, it’s that these ideologue skeptics are organized. I have to just stand back and admire how well they game the system to their advantage. Man, these guys own Wikipedia. Neither myself nor anyone else who dares to deviate from their Skeptical Scriptures stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting anything past them.
The editor who went by the name Tumbleman was assertive, but not tremendously experienced with the Wikipedia system. I read through much of the talk page on Rupert Sheldrake’s biography and was struck by how composed and thoughtful his comments were. His position was truly agnostic on how the biography should look. He stuck to neutral interpretations of data and really did appear to me to avoid a partisan slant. He was, in a sense, leading the charge for meaningful change toward a neutral point of view on Sheldrake’s page. This apparently put a big target on his back.
In a matter of a week, three cases were made against Tumbleman in arbitration trying to get him banned. The first one was overturned and brought the problems he was having to the attention of a few administrators who were sympathetic to Tumbleman’s position. They requested him to make a detailed case regarding the skeptics’ behavior in Talk. But before he could do this, Tumbleman was suddenly banned due to charges of sockpuppetry based on vague evidence. This prevented him from making his case to the administrators.
Tumbleman’s second trip to arbitration occurred while Tumbleman was trying to defend himself on his talk page, which was the only place he was allowed to post. He was unable to respond in that arbitration hearing. He was finally able to get it overturned, yet the admin refused to unban him until he was cleared of charges of ‘trolling’ in a new, third hearing which began on Monday the 14th of October.
The third hearing started when one of the skeptics complained that Tumbleman was trolling and disrupting the discussion because Tumbleman was highlighting the skeptic’s signature on his talk page. (on Wikipedia, highlighting a person’s signature will automatically notify them that someone has included them in a conversation. Tumbleman was actually using it as a courtesy.)
Once the ideologue skeptics got him into arbitration they ganged up on him. There were three of them, all contributing in their own way. They very obviously had a well planned strategy and knew just what to say and how to say it. By cherry picking their evidence with care, they built a case to make him appear disruptive and obnoxious to administrators, who were either ideologues themselves or just too lazy to look any deeper -it’s hard to tell which. In any event, the arbitration was unusually swift and Tumbleman suddenly found himself banned permanently from all of Wikipedia without ever having been able to respond.
All evidence points to a politically motivated coup because, as noted by a supportive editor, 55% of the editors responding to the case voted against sanctioning Tumbleman. (You can find Tumbleman’s response at the bottom of this post.)
After watching this nonsense unfold I can only come to one conclusion: under their present system, Wikipedia is all messed up on controversial subjects. People aren’t going to necessarily know what’s controversial and what’s not, making it hard to trust any but the most benign subjects.
This was a heroic struggle for neutrality on one page, which appears to be lost to heavily biased skepticism, but what about all the pages where people aren’t contesting this type of editing or where they were easily chased off? There might be hundreds or even thousands of Wikipedia articles in that category. The struggle over Rupert Sheldrake’s biography is a clear demonstration that Wikipedia has been captured by these ideologues.
Oh boy chicken again, a new editor, was originally was accused of being a Tumbleman ‘sockpuppet’, yet after Tumbleman was banned he was still on Wikipedia, defending his own account:
I wanted to jump in because many of the editors seemed highly biased and were making ridiculous arguments and the Sheldrake page itself is a monstrosity. As a journalism major, I was shocked at the bias of editors who were abusing the page and edit warring. Tumbleman seemed to be pretty neutral, his arguments made sense and a number of other editors were supporting them too. And they were being ignored so I wanted to address it. Worst. Mistake. Ever. Thanks for genuinely turning me off of this whole process. I’m out.
A conversation that I had with Liz, a very experienced editor who took the time to investigate the complaint yielded some interesting insights. she made her primary interest very clear to me:
I don’t judge people by their beliefs but on how they treat other people so my sympathies lie with those who can remain civil and who strive overcome any bitterness or animosity they might feel towards those who are different from them.
And she also made these statements:
Since the body of the world’s scientists or theologians don’t gather together to debate these matters, it all becomes a race for sources that back up what you believe to be true. Instead of swords, people pull out references and duel with them. You would think the least painful resolution for all concerned would be compromise but it’s become a matter of ideology so people consider this a matter of TRUTH (WP:But it’s true!) so Editors are reluctant to back down from their entrenched positions. From what I can gather, the most common way for disagreements on contentious subjects to be settled on Wikipedia is:
- outnumber your opponent by bringing in reinforcements
- overwhelm them with data/references and ask them to refute each one
- get them kicked off of WP for 3Rs or edit warring
- someone gets frustrated, angry and gets bounced off WP for launching a personal attack or
- you wear your opponent down until they get tired of the fight and leave
Wikipedia is people and people have virtues and vices so Wikipedia does, too.
. . . There are those Editors who are very smart about the way to file complaints, who have allies who are Admins, who are ready to back up any claim with a “diff” and if an inexperienced (and even some experienced) users run afoul of them, good luck! They are very effective at mustering support for whatever they propose because they know the system well while most newbies don’t even know the WP jargon, what a noticeboard is or that in a defense of their actions they can’t be sarcastic, flippant or angry (which, frankly, is a standard internet response).
They begin at a disadvantage that is difficult to overcome and becomes impossible if the complainant is able to get them labeled a “troll”, “vandal”, “sock”, “puppet” or the nebulous “disruptive Editor”. Whether these identifications are valid or invalid, these labels are almost impossible to shake and they follow a user even if they quit WP, go away for a few years and then return under a different username.
This pretty accurately describes what I witnessed. It was a very polished performance which seemed to demonstrate that these ideologue-skeptic editors had a great deal of experience at getting other editors banned. Where did they get all this experience? Why do they all work so well together, cooperate with each other so completely and seem so very well organized? Since the Guerrilla Skeptics have the capability and motivation to pull this off, it’s hard not to suspect their influence.
Finally, I want to point out what I’m not talking about: editing the Sheldrake article. I have no time for that. The issues have morphed from getting skeptics to cooperate by discussing the actual issues, to a bunch of behind-the-scenes lawyering and politicking.
At least it’s nice to know that when I enter into discussions on the talk page, every single word I write will be parsed, dissected and examined in order to discover if it can be twisted in such a way as to get me banned. So much for the spirit of cooperation.
Tumbleman’s response to indefinite ban:
The fact that the very real issues of neutrality on the Rupert Sheldrake page have now become about Tumbleman is a problem, not just for me, but also the the good of Wikipedia. Ideas, even conflicting ones, should rest on their own merit – not the people discussing them and the problems in the Sheldrake talk page are not served by focusing on an account called Tumbleman.
So I ask that any reasoned observer simply judge my account not for the derogatory and misleading claims (trolling, sockpuppetry, etc) that editors are making, but rather judge my participation on WP by looking at my actual contributions, such as my Sandbox where I was building consensus with another editor, my edits in the revision history or the TALK section, where I made my reasoned arguments and requested rational consensus a number of times.
I think that if any reasonable person can look at attempts to make changes in the article and requests to discuss before reverting where clearly ignored by other editors and see that my contributions were neutral, honest, reasoned, and in the spirit of building consensus.
That’s all i want to be judged on. I took WP seriously when WP guidelines talk about the value of neutrality, reasoned arguments, and consensus building. I want to be held at my word, and I ask WP to hold itself to it’s own. I don’t expect to be judged on who I am as a person, or anything other than the contributions I made the the Wikipedia Article.
At the last hearing to ban me, with the accusation of trolling which finally succeeded – editors were referencing personal work I was doing online in 2005 as proof I was violating WP in 2013. That’s seems a little irrelevant to this editor.
I want to thank everyone, including a number of admins, who jumped in and supported me.
I’ve decided to post this publicaly for two reasons. One I am not even allowed to defend myself on my talk page, and now editors from the investigation to bump me are leaving rather derogatory personal commentary about me , and more than likely will continue to do so on a page where I cannot even respond.
Two, a blogger covering the issue has requested an interview (which I am declining) and oddly enough another reporter, from a much larger publication is oddly now in contact with me requesting more to this story. So I felt a need to send any interested party somewhere to get my closing comment. I refer everyone to the Sheldrake talk page to address this issue.
If posting this has violated any WP guideline, I apologize – but I have been banned and this is my only option for posting my voice on an issue that appears to be getting public attention, so I do this in the interests of transparency and to avoid any attention to my personal life. Please respect my privacy.