Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Yesterday, Deepak Chopra’s organization made an attempt to get him fair representation on his Wikipedia biography. This is the statement in full:
Deepak Chopra editors: Binksternet Mishash Bgwhite TheRedPenOfDoom Alexbrn, Lacolorstudio, Xanthis, Rjwilmsi, De-charlatan, Vzaak, Barney the barney barney, KiethBob, John of Reading, Roxy the dog, Afterwriting, Fcp, WikiDan61, Charhenderton, Anomalocaris, HMSSolent, QuackGuru, Philip Cross, Ajo102688, Feross, QTxVi4bEMRbrNqOorWBV, Nonnyme, Mastcell
Hello. I am a representative from Chopra Media. We have genuine concerns about this article. This has been an issue for sometime and we were not sure of the best way to approach this problem as Wikipedia is very complex to new comers. We want to do this the right way. We apologize for any previous fumbles that may have occurred or will occur. please don’t bite the newbies :)
I am here to address inaccuracies and the inappropriate misframing of Deepak Chopra’s biography on Wikipedia and seek the assistance of neutral and experienced Wikipedians to help.
The article itself mentions that Dr. Chopra is a magnet for criticism but fails to mention that the entire article on Wikipedia is serving only this purpose. Most paragraphs support the framing of Dr Chopra from the point of view of skepticism and criticisms frame every section – and this is before we even get to the section called Skepticism.
I want to make clear we do not find issue with the publications criticisms of Deepak Chopra as a matter of biographical record on Wikipedia. We also understand the balance between WP: BLP and WP:FRINGE. Our concern is the weight of these criticisms in relationship with other points of view and reputable sources. Dr Chopra is a world leader in mind body healing and represents view points of millions of people and many distinct cultures. We find the viewpoints expressed here and framed as factually neutral to be disrespectful to many other worldviews and cultures. For the purposes of human dignity and respect we request this article be reviewed and framed neutrally. We believe Wikipedia’s five pillars and general guidelines for a BLP already protect and cover what we request.
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.
For example, the lead sentence frames Dr. Chopra as a new age guru on one hand and simply a ‘practitioner’ of alternative medicine. Not only is this disrespectful (in some contexts this is a pejorative, and sometimes even a racist pejorative) – it also fails to inform the reader the full picture of who Dr Chopra is, what his ideas are and what his contributions are. Yet President Bill Clinton reference to Dr Chopra as a ‘pioneer of alternative medicine’ is a notable source. And it is indeed accurate to the role Dr. Chopra has played as a world leader in mind body healing. Why is that quote buried at the bottom of the article while the caricature using pejoratives is floating at the top?
First and foremost, Dr. Chopra is a physician – licensed in both western medicine and alternative medicine.
We believe the nature of this article is to serve to the discredit not only of Dr. Chopra – but to discredit the philosophy and practices of world religions, worldviews, and millions of people of all different cultures.
How would the community advise us proceeding to make the article better? ChopraMedia (talk) 00:57, 10 April 2014 (UTC)
I have highlighted some of the editors in blue. Those are part of the crowd that gave Sheldrake’s biography so much trouble. In other words, it’s all the usual suspects and then some. Wikipedia has a reputation for being disrespectful to experts, and this was no exception. The response to this consisted mainly of requests for more information, but there were a couple of gems interspersed that indicated which way the wind was going to blow:
The framing of the content of the article from 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. — TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 01:41, 10 April 2014 (UTC)
I’ll translate: What he’s saying here is that Wikipedia will judge the article according to the reactionary ideologue skeptic point of view, which they insist is mainstream and therefore a neutral point of view.
ChopraMedia 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. -Roxy the dog
Translated: We will sadly find all of your sources to be inadequate because they don’t reflected the “neutral” point of view which we have defined by gaming the system to arbitrarily apply the Wikipedia pseudoscience and fringe guidelines to you, which cannot be removed by any amount of contrary evidence. Since we’ve stuck you with these labels, this allows us to dismiss your sources no matter how good they are.
Having written about this very problem in my book, I can say with some certainty that what is going to happen next is fairly predictable. He will get the Sheldrake treatment. At least one person appears to be already building a case to get this editor banned.
ChopraMedia, Could I ask for a clear explanation of what exactly “Chopra Media” is, and your function there? Is it for example the case that you are being employed or contracted to edit this article on Chopra’s behalf? I take it you are aware of the guidance at WP:COI? (and WP:ADVOCACY is a useful supplement). Alexbrn talk|contribs|COI 03:32, 10 April 2014 (UTC)–
COI stands for conflict of interest. That might be true if Chopramedia were editing the biography itself, but this is a talk page and the rules are being followed.
While I certainly understand that such an inaccurate and defamatory article should be contested, it is frankly a complete waste of time. With so many ideologues on the page, there is no chance at all that anything about this
hatchet job biography will change for the better. A persistent effort on Chopra’s behalf will most likely only result in many people getting banned as “fringe” editors. It’s how Wikipedia really works.
“No, you have to be kidding me,” he writes. “Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”
“Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
“What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.”
Of course this work has been published in scientific journals and evidence has been demonstrated through replicated scientific experiments, but Wales clearly isn’t letting facts get in his way. The criticisms of Wikipedia have been going on for many years, and this provides some explanation as to why he’s insensitive to them. He’s an ideologue himself. Wikipedia is ideologically opposed to alternative medicine and that puts Deepak Chopra in their crosshairs.
I was surprised to see just how deep this problem is. Here’s a quote from an article from the group “A Voice for Men” that seeks to counter what it perceives as over-the-top institutional bias against men. They have a point of course. In the U.S. for example, men lose custody battles for children in divorce proceedings unless the mother is an out-of-control psychotic homeless drug dealing addict doing bondage porn for the Mafia. Even then it’s a toss up. Here’s what they had to say about Wikipedia:
It used to be that with Wikipedia, all you had to worry about were errors written by people who didn’t know what they were talking about. Nowadays you don’t just have to contend with mistakes on Wikipedia, though. You also have to contend with overt censorship, bullying, and ideological thuggery–all of it invisible on the front pages of Wikipedia, but which can be seen on Talk, Revision, and Blacklist pages all over Wikipedia, by the people who control what the general public sees on the front pages.
Sound familiar? yet another legitimate point of view is shut out of the conversation. Wikipedia is being used as a soapbox for a particular point of view. The very thing that was supposed to never happen and that they are supposedly guarding against has become standard practice.
I suggest that everyone who is interested in Wiki editing without the trolls move on over to Citizendium. It’s a Wikipedia competitor that actively discourages the horrible behavior that has become so commonplace on Wikipedia. A lot of people want to change Wikipedia for the better, and they have my sympathy, but I personally regard this as way too difficult. It seems to be a better idea to simply render it irrelevant by providing a more accurate encyclopedia elsewhere. Wikipedia articles can be ported over and their glaring mistakes corrected without writing a whole new article.
Getting back to Deepak Chopra, I wish him the best. He’s a successful businessman, but he’s so much more than that. I’ve gotten to know a bit more about him lately through things that happen behind the scenes and I’ve seen that his desire to help people is a fundamental part of his character. He is literally doing everything he possibly can to make the world a better place. We need more people like him. I would very much like to see his Wikipedia page represent him fairly. He deserves as much.
But I’m not holding my breath.