Prof. Mary Holland is a Director of the Graduate Legal Skills Program at New York University School of Law, specializing in international human rights, public law and vaccine safety law and injury compensation. She also has a son who regressed into autism following the MMR vaccine. Mary has degrees in Russian studies from Harvard, and graduate degrees in international relations and a JD from Columbia University, where she has also taught international law at its Law School. Mary is the co-author of “Vaccine Epidemic" about corporate greed and bad science behind the vaccine industry. And her most recent book co-authored with our other guest is "The HPV Vaccine Trial: Seeking Justice for A Generation Betrayed" -- the most concise book behind the history and adverse effects of HPV vaccines such as Gardasil, with a preface by the Nobel Prize Winner in medicine Dr. Luc Montagnier.
Kim Mack Rosenberg is a litigator and partner at the Bouer Law firm in New Jersey, and the president of the National Autism Association's New York Metro Chapter. She also serves on the board of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy and is a member of the Health Choice Executive Leadership Team. She received a degree in political science at Carleton College and her JD law degree at Case Western Reserve University Law School. Kim is the author of the "Parent's Autism Sourcebook" -- a guide to screenings, services and treatments, and Prof. Holland's co-author on the recent release of The HPV Vaccine on Trial.
Wikipedia : the Modern Delphic Oracle
By Helen Buyniski
Can we trust Wikipedia as an unbiased source of truth? Can we at least offer it the same trust we place in our news media? The country is experiencing a crisis of confidence. Establishment credibility is collapsing all around us. We know that the New York Times boasts more Pulitzer-winning journalists writing in its pages than any other paper, as well as robust editorial review boards. Yet even this paper, written by experts, has become a source of politically-motivated misinformation, and trust in the news media is at an all-time low. Trust in government has similarly cratered. We fumble blindly for a trustworthy source, and where expertise has failed us, we reach now for the Vox Populi. Surely, everyone else can’t be wrong.
A 2014 YouGov poll showed that UK residents trust Wikipedia more than the news media.1 While no such poll was conducted in the US, we can safely extrapolate the popular climate of media mistrust across the Atlantic. According to Reuters, 61% of Americans think news media is doing a good job covering the most important news events, but only 56% think they report the news accurately and 58% think they cover the government well. Only 47% think they report on all sides fairly, and among supporters of the government, only 21% think the news media is fair2. A Gallup poll paints an even bleaker picture: only 32% say that they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, and only 14% of Republicans say so.3 Meanwhile, only 33% of Americans trust their government “to do what is right,” according to Edelman, which rates media slightly higher at 42%.4 Expertise is no longer valued because the experts have failed us. The “smartest guys in the room” gave us Enron; “expert” journalists brought us lurid tales of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq; financial savants gave us the crash of 2008; and savvy pollsters and Democrat careerists brought us an election contest between the two most unpopular candidates in history.
Officially, there is no barrier to entry to editing Wikipedia, and this paradoxically contributes to its perceived trustworthiness. If one is willing to suspend disbelief and cling to a fleeting idea of the essential goodness of humanity – if one has never before visited an online forum and seen the race to the bottom accelerated by trolls, sociopaths, and other misanthropes – perhaps one can believe that an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” will trend toward the truth in a sort of benevolent consensus reality. But would we read a peer-reviewed medical journal written by people with no background in science or medicine? Wikipedia is just such a journal. There is no guarantee an editor writing about a living person or a concept under development has any knowledge of the subject. Worse, there is no guarantee they are not concealing some bias or looking to grind their personal axe through editorial control of an article or an entire section of the encyclopedia. In what world would we allow the inmates to run the asylum?
The reality is that Wikipedia is not a grassroots collaborative crafted through the shared effort of People Like Us. Its rules are applied selectively and secretively. It is common to find articles on living persons written up as smear jobs, replete in some cases with outright libel but more often disguised as “neutral” assessments in which undue weight is given to negative evaluations and mischaracterizations of a person’s work while their defining achievements are minimalized or left out. Victims of these hit pieces have no opportunity to address the attacks on their reputation by anonymous editors whose qualifications are frequently nonexistent. Despite Wikipedia’s stated protections against character assassination – drawn up in the aftermath of a scandal which saw a journalist smeared as an accessory to the Kennedy assassination – the rules are selectively enforced and there is a clear bias toward individuals whose work supports the status quo, whatever their field.
Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales has not been shy about espousing his political philosophy. He is a devotee of Ayn Rand, whose belief in “the virtue of selfishness” survives in the neoliberalism that forms the economic core of both US political parties. While Rand is more openly championed by the political Right today, Wales’ British wife worked in Tony Blair’s Labour cabinet and he moves in centrist Democrat circles in the US. He is also an avowed Skeptic, meaning he eschews all but the most established scientific orthodoxy as “lunatic charlatanism.” Wales thinks homeopathy should be illegal5 and has expressed hostility toward users of his site who support alternative and holistic medicine.6 All his biases are on display on Wikipedia – they are the edits left in when others are reverted. Yet even as it sports the hallmarks of a dictatorship, Wikipedia embodies the pitfalls of democracy, falling prey to mob rule – with the mobs led by Wikipedia’s administrative oligarchs. At Wikipedia, expertise is given short shrift, as any amateur can edit a page they know nothing about and there are always more amateurs than there are experts on any particular topic. These amateurs can easily be marshaled to “dogpile” on a rogue expert who expresses ideas outside the range of acceptable theories. Thus Wikipedia is led by petty dictators, each leading ideologically-motivated armies to guard their fiefdoms, be they medical, political, or religious in nature. Politically, it truly is the worst of both worlds. And the reputations of living people are suffering because of it.
John Pilger is an Australian journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker. His 1979 documentary Year Zero, filmed after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, inspired viewers to raise substantial donations for the UK’s first relief shipment to Cambodia, purchasing much-needed medicines, food, and clothes. Pilger worked as a war correspondent for the Daily Mirror in Vietnam, Biafra, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. He has also made several documentaries about indigenous Australians and exposed the 1998 legislation that deprived them of their common-law rights. His documentary on the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Death of a Nation, scored record ratings and contributed to the massive international outcry that culminated in Indonesian withdrawal from the province in 2000. The audience response to his films has been cited as proof that humanity has not yet succumbed to “compassion fatigue.” Yet Wikipedia calls his work “full of falsehoods,”7 quoting conservative journalist Oliver Kamm, who is not an authority on journalism, international conflicts, or documentary filmmaking. Unfortunately, Wikipedia’s libels are beginning to have a real-world effect: Pilger has stated that “my written work is no longer welcome” in mainstream publications, a chilling thought given his stellar track record. His last column was dropped in 2015 from the Guardian, whose Board includes such luminaries as Jimmy Wales.8
Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author best known for the concept of morphic resonance, which posits that “self-organizing systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems.” Organisms and groups develop or change along teleological “paths” worn by their predecessors, and patterns are imposed on otherwise random or indeterminate activity according to the previous and contemporaneous iterations of that system. The theory radically reimagines everything from memory (memories no longer have to be stored inside the brain in a fixed location) to the notion of a collective unconscious (members of a species have access to the sum total of their knowledge). Sheldrake has written 13 books and 85 scientific papers. He has a PhD in biochemistry from Cambridge University. As a Fellow of the Royal Society, he discovered the chemiosmotic model of polar auxin transport in plants (auxin is a plant hormone that influences cell differentiation). His Wikipedia bio focuses almost exclusively on negative responses to his work without giving a proper explanation of that work. But then, Sheldrake is a vocal critic of what he calls the “dogmatic materialism” endemic to much of current science, which he likens to religion. His outspokenness on this front has made him the enemy of organized Skepticism, and the outcry they orchestrated following his TEDxWhitechapel talk in January 2013 both spilled into and fed off of his Wikipedia page.
Guy McPherson is an author and professor emeritus of conservation biology and natural resources at the University of Arizona, where he has taught for 20 years. He is the leading authority on abrupt climate change leading to near term human extinction, having coined the term “Near-Term Extinction” to designate the possibility of human extinction before the year 2030. McPherson became a tenured full professor before the age of 40 and is among the most accomplished faculty members at the University. His works include Walking Away from Empire, Going Dark, and Letters to a Young Academic. McPherson is also one of the most slandered scientists in the climate change field, and Wikipedia has not hesitated to jump on the bandwagon, taking a New York Times quote that describes him as an “apocalyptic ecologist” far enough out of context to imply he’s some sort of cult leader with an “End of Days following,” then shoehorning in a quote from science blogger (and unreliable source, according to the Wikipedia rule which bars blogs and personal websites from being used as sources for the biographical articles of living persons) Michael Tobis, who accuses him of climate denialism “of a different stripe,” whatever that means – even though McPherson’s whole thesis is that mainstream climate science is itself denying the reality of humanity’s impending extinction.9
Sharyl Attkisson is an author and television journalist who currently hosts the public affairs program Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson on channels owned by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Her book Stonewalled was a New York Times e-book bestseller. Attkisson began her journalism career on a PBS affiliate in Gainseville, Florida, and worked at local stations in West Palm Beach, Columbus, and Tampa before moving to CNN. She moved to CBS in 1993 and spent 21 years there, working as an investigative correspondent on the channel’s Washington DC bureau. From 1996 to 2001, she also hosted a medical news program on PBS. Attkisson has won Emmy awards for her reporting on the American Red Cross (2002), the Troubled Asset Relief Program (2009), and the BATF’s “Fast and Furious” program (2012). Wikipedia drags in the ubiquitous vaccine defender Dr. Paul Offit to criticize Attkisson’s reporting as “damning by association”10 because of a piece she aired on vaccines, while neglecting to even mention a second book she wrote, The Smear. Several other awards she received are also omitted, while the better part of a page is devoted to making her claims of being hacked for surveillance purposes seem less than credible.
Jeremy Corbyn is a UK politician currently serving as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition. A Member of Parliament since 1983, he identifies as a Democratic Socialist. Corbyn opposes military intervention and austerity cuts to public services and supports renationalizing the UK’s public utilities, including its railway network. He has proposed the Bank of England issue funds for large-scale public spending such as housing, energy, and transportation projects, calling the policy “People’s Quantitative Easing” to contrast it with existing quantitative easing policies that attempt to stimulate the economy by buying commercial banks’ assets. He has been a strong campaigner for nuclear disarmament and active in the anti-war movement since his youth. Corbyn’s public support of the Palestinian cause has led to predictable allegations of anti-Semitism perpetuated by the Israeli lobby despite his widespread support among British Jews, and such allegations have metastasized to consume a third of his Wikipedia biography – certainly more space than his actual political views – and spawned several articles of their own.
Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist, eco-feminist, and author who promotes seed freedom and water rights. She has brought global awareness to the destructive effects of GMO farming in her native India, where Monsanto seeds have largely supplanted natural crops and thus must be purchased year after year, leaving farmers so hopelessly in debt that many commit suicide. She exposed genetically modified “golden rice” as a fraud with negligible health benefits and fought against the patenting of living organisms. Shiva began her activist work in the aftermath of the Union Carbide leak in Bhopal. She was also an early voice warning the public about the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate. Beloit College, honoring her with its Weissberg Chair in International Studies, called her a “one-woman movement for peace, sustainability, and social justice.”11 Wikipedia opts to focus on criticism of her work, giving half a page to a single article written in response to a New Yorker piece about her.
Craig Murray is a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan turned whistleblower and human rights activist. While working for the UK Foreign Office in Samarkand, he informed his superiors that the Uzbek regime was torturing thousands of dissidents every year, employing such techniques as rape, asphyxiation, pulling out fingernails, and immersion in boiling liquids. Because the regime had just permitted the US military to move into a military base near the Afghan’s border to facilitate the hunt for Osama bin Laden – a privilege it was paying for with half a billion dollars in annual aid payments – it enjoyed a privileged status with regard to international human rights law; Murray was outraged at the “conspiracy of silence” perpetrated by his fellow diplomats, and spoke out against the regime’s abuses at an October 2002 human rights conference. He was subsequently drummed out of the Foreign Office with a series of fictional and trumped-up charges.12 While much of the worst material in his Wikipedia article has been removed – the editor responsible was banned from editing topics related to contemporary British politics for six months after several of his victims brought his misdeeds to media attention – the article is also missing any reference to Murray’s achievements before becoming Uzbek ambassador, including his roles brokering a peace deal in Sierra Leone, supervising Ghana’s first democratic election, and negotiating the UN’s convention on the law of the sea. The main “Craig Murray” page was even set up to redirect to the biographical article of an ice hockey player before it was fixed.
Meg Patterson developed Neuro-Electric Therapy as a treatment for drug addiction, having discovered its therapeutic effect as a side-benefit of the electro-puncture treatment a colleague used as surgical anesthesia. A tiny electrical current is tuned to various frequencies, stimulating the release of chemicals including endorphins and allowing addicts to detoxify without experiencing the most unpleasant of their withdrawal symptoms. Her patients included Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Boy George. Patterson also received the MBE in 1961 for her work establishing and expanding clinics in India and was the only woman member of the Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons at the time. Wikipedia dismisses NET for its “reputation based on celebrity endorsements,”13 as if these are somehow disqualifying.
Deepak Chopra is an author and speaker known for bringing Ayurvedic medicine to a mainstream audience. He is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology and focuses on mind-body spiritual healing through multiple modalities, aiming to integrate Ayurveda with quantum mechanics to create “quantum healing,” linking shifts in consciousness to shifts in biology. Chopra runs a spa retreat featuring meditation, yoga, massage, and Ayurvedic meals. Because he was one of the first practitioners attacked by Richard Dawkins on his “Enemies of Reason” television series, he has been hounded by the Skeptics who idolize Dawkins. They flock to Chopra’s Wikipedia page to pay homage, and as a result it is cluttered with derogatory phrases in quotation marks, linked to blogger and oncologist David Gorski, who appears to take great joy in verbosely mocking alternative medicine practitioners.
Susan Sarandon is an Academy Award-winning actress with dozens of film and TV credits to her name, including Thelma and Louise, The Lovely Bones, The Hunger, and Cloud Atlas. Reading her Wikipedia page, however, you would have no idea she was also an impassioned political activist. Sarandon most recently made appearances at multiple rallies for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Entire paragraphs detailing her history of activism for third party candidates like Sanders, Jill Stein, and Ralph Nader, against the war in Iraq and other imperialist conflicts, for economic justice with Occupy Wall Street, and against mass incarceration have been removed, with no substantial explanation given for their deletion. Does Wikipedia think actresses should confine their work to the screen, or just shut up and look pretty?
These are just a few examples of the type of reputational attacks found on Wikipedia – some quite subtle, some lying by omission, some giving undue weight to minor incidents in a figure’s life or giving space to “opposition voices” when no such courtesy is afforded voices who disagree with establishment dogma. They are not limited to politicians, scientists, journalists, or activists. There are as many ways to smear a person on Wikipedia as there are victims of Wiki smears. But to confirm that Wikipedia’s weaponization as a character assassination tool is more than theoretical, we tried to correct the record on nutritionist, investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker Gary Null, whose biography is a particularly egregious mess of libel, unsubstantiated allegations, and baseless smears.
We began by invalidating the article’s primary source as unreliable per Wikipedia’s own rules. “QuackWatch,” the personal website of discredited ex-psychiatrist Stephen Barrett, is cited no less than eight times in Null’s biography, even though as a self-published personal website it meets none of the standards of Wikipedia’s “Reliable Sources” policy. Barrett has spent most of his life railing against alternative medicine on his various websites, and his bias is so persistent that it has been called out in a court decision,14 so he also violates Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy. Wikipedia’s policy on Biographies of Living Persons mandates editors “Remove Contentious Material That is Unsourced or Poorly Sourced”15 – yet when we tried to do so, we were unequivocally and rudely rebuffed.
Other sources used in the article include a Salon.com book review titled “Quack Record” in which the author, Peter Kurth, states in the opening paragraph that he “can’t be impartial about Gary Null’s book” – another source that must be struck for failure to adhere to NPOV. When we finally do find a reliable source, the TIME article “The New Mister Natural,” it doesn’t include the information for which it is used as a source (Null’s alleged denial that HIV causes AIDS). The rest of the sentence is not even sourced, suggesting that the article was written or copy-pasted first and sources haphazardly added later to lend the appearance of legitimacy. Another false allegation follows, citing two articles, neither of which supports the false statement that Null was hospitalized as a result of consuming his own supplement – an incorrect statement clearly written to defame Null, conspicuously placed in the introductory paragraph where it would not belong in any case even if true, being at most a minor footnote in Null’s four-decade career.
The next paragraph cites Barrett’s biography of Null as the source for negative information about Null’s alma mater, the Union Institute, even though the Barrett website does not contain any information about Union’s alleged dissolution or the restructuring of its PhD program. It is unknown where this information originates, if it was made up out of whole cloth or if the editor who added it merely neglected to include their source, but in any case it flagrantly violates Wikipedia’s policies on multiple levels. A later paragraph cites the TIME and Salon pieces as sources for Null’s alleged statements that “HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS,” something he has never said and which even these pieces do not claim he said. Repetition does not create veracity. The article then brings in Seth Kalichman to compare Null to a Holocaust denier, ironically accusing him of “cashing in on HIV/AIDS” despite the fact (not mentioned anywhere in Null’s Wikipedia article, yet important to any unbiased assessment of Null’s work) that Null has never charged any of the AIDS patients he has treated. Kalichman’s source for his evaluation of Null? Barrett. Kalichman’s own dubious history16 should disqualify him from opining on anyone else’s credibility, and it is worth considering whether his history of assuming fake identities might extend to Wikipedia editing. The article frames Null’s fundraising activities for PBS negatively, deliberately misattributing to Null a statement about “quacks and charlatans” made in reference to a Deepak Chopra special on spiritual healing. Blogger and journalism professor Keith Kloor is quoted about Null’s documentary Seeds of Death, though he is not an expert in the scientific field and his opinions are therefore irrelevant to a serious discussion of Null’s work. The article then devotes an entire subheading to claims about an incorrectly-manufactured supplement made earlier in the article. Though Null has produced over 20 documentaries and 25 television specials, his article lists just three, adding that they are both “self-produced” and “low-budget,” unsourced adjectives that appear pejorative.17
To read his Wikipedia article, the uninformed researcher would not know that Null is a board-certified clinical nutritionist who has conducted over 40 clinical studies on lifestyle and diet, more than anyone else in his field. He hosts the longest-running daily non-commercial radio program in history and for 12 years ran the most popular show on WABC. He has published over 700 articles, many in peer-reviewed journals, and has been invited to present his findings at scientific conferences. His research showed humans could not only survive but thrive on a diet wholly devoid of animal protein. His documentaries, including Death by Medicine, AIDS: A Second Opinion, and The Drugging of Our Children, have won more than 276 awards, placing him among the country’s top documentary filmmakers. He has counseled tens of thousands of people over his 50-year career, never charging a penny. None of this information – all of which can be confirmed with reliable sources – appears in his Wikipedia article.
In our attempts to set the record straight, we were not only unable to make our reliably-sourced changes to the biography of Gary Null stick, but after approaching the matter from various angles found we were unable to make any changes at all. Worse, our attempts to add truthful and reliably sourced information to the article were met with active hostility on the part of entrenched editors, who added more defamatory material and further degraded the quality of the article. More than once, the article was “frozen” in a libelous state, preventing anyone from editing it.
Any number of people who could have had their lives changed for the better have been dissuaded from investigating Null’s work and the work of people like him who have the courage to stand up to the medical establishment. The reasons cited by Wikipedia editors in refusing to allow our edits – a bureaucratic death by a thousand cuts consisting of endless rules about “fringe” theories and “pseudoscience” – don’t hold water given the voluminous scientific proof we have on hand. Null has reversed the course of AIDS in 1,200 patients, a fact attested to by their doctors and medical charts. He has been on PBS eight times discussing his work; PBS is a reliable source even given the hyper-establishment guidelines set forth by Wikipedia.
Null has demonstrated conclusively that AIDS is not a death sentence – that natural therapies can reverse the course of the disease. His findings were published in the Townsend Letter of Medicine, a respected medical publication, yet none of this information is permitted in his Wikipedia article because it threatens the merchants of death at the helm of the medical establishment. Since the publication of this false and defamatory Wikipedia article, Null has experienced a steep drop in invitations to speak at conferences, and some academics and other professionals have refused to work with him. Had he not built a strong audience over the decades preceding the rise of Wikipedia, he would have been swept into the dustbin of history by now. No one unaccountable website should have the power to imprison people in an online gulag, unable to address the charges against them even as their reputation is put before the firing squad. Wikipedia articles appear at the top of the Google search most people run on unfamiliar names. First impressions are everything, particularly as the pace of our daily lives increases and few have the luxury of conscientious research. Wikipedia ensures that Null and people like him who question the prevailing wisdom of society are blacklisted, censored, and blocked from reputable outlets. What you don’t know can’t help you, and that’s what Wikipedia and its puppetmasters are counting on.
Wikipedia hides behind the tax-exempt structure of the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit formed by employees in 2003 to shield Wikipedia from tax requirements. As a lifelong Objectivist, Wales believes taxes are theft. Objectivists hold government interference to be a mortal sin – an institutionalized form of altruism, which they liken to mental illness – and feel no compunction about bending the rules to avoid supporting the governments they want to see wither and die.
The IRS forbids 501(c)(3) organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation from participating in political campaigns “on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” a ban which extends to “contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” IRS policy clearly states that “violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.” The policy further explains that “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”18
The Wikimedia Foundation paid $436,104 to hire the Minassian Group,19 run by Clinton Foundation Chief Communications Officer Craig Minassian, to train Wikimedia’s c-suite employees, directors, and managers in media strategy starting in the 2014-15 fiscal year.20 In 2016, they paid Minassian $406,957 to conduct a “communications audit” and presumably continue its earlier work.21 While the details of Minassian’s activities are not public, the group did issue a report detailing its audit findings, which primarily consisted of parsing media coverage by subject, country, publication, and author and ranking outlets in terms of prestige Wikipedia was advised to focus on portraying itself as trustworthy and neutral in the media even while “seeking out and dispelling controversial issues.” The audit recommended concentrating on building a rapport with “friendly” journalists writing for what Wikipedia’s editors would call “reliable sources.”22 Minassian has a history of planting stories favorable to the Clinton Foundation in “friendly” media, as WikiLeaks revealed in its Podesta emails dump, which included a message from Craig Minassian himself boasting of favorable coverage he had secured for the foundation on the Colbert Report.23 Shortly after Minassian published the results of its audit, Wales announced the launch of WikiTribune, a crowdsourced news platform to combat “fake news.”
Some Wikipedia editors expressed their unease at the Wikimedia Foundation’s decision to spend almost half a million dollars in such a politically polarizing manner. Sashi Manek linked the Minassian hire to the arrival of militant editors on the Clinton Foundation article, which was kept clean of any mention of the billions of dollars in donations that had never been distributed to Haitian earthquake victims and the Foundation’s choice to build a lucrative industrial park in an undamaged part of the island instead.24 Clinton’s own Wikipedia article is similarly spotless, bearing only a sanitized summary of her “email controversy” and no mention at all of the revelations from WikiLeaks’ DNC and personal email document dumps. No mention is made of the invasion of Libya on false pretenses or the fallout from that invasion – indeed, reality is directly contradicted with a mystifying sentence reading “there was a trend of women around the world finding more opportunities and in some cases feeling safer, as the result of [Clinton’s] actions and visibility,” sourced to a book called The Hillary Doctrine. The article is “protected” – frozen so that only high-level administrators can make changes.25
Wikipedia’s glowing treatment of Clinton can be contrasted with its lukewarm article on Bernie Sanders, which is careful to include statements from journalists and adversarial politicians contradicting Sanders’ positions – auditing the Fed, for example, “would expose the Federal Reserve to undue political pressure from lawmakers who do not like its decisions,” and Sanders’ total neglect by the media was “proportional to his standing in the polls” despite approximately half of Democratic voters favoring him over Clinton.26 Wikipedia’s article on Donald Trump wastes no time in pointing out that many of his public statements “were controversial or false,”27 and the article “Efforts to Impeach Donald Trump” was created before he was even inaugurated.28 Trump’s article is protected now, but the 2016 election saw a huge disparity in editing activity between the two candidates29 before it was locked. In May 2016, articles relating to post-1932 American politics received an additional degree of protection in the form of “discretionary sanctions,” meaning editorial disputes can be resolved by uninvolved administrators called in for reinforcements. The measure is merely another hurdle low-level editors must jump in order to make edits without incurring penalties or being reverted, and the logic behind these “discretionary sanctions” is impenetrable, perhaps deliberately so.30
Many administrators make no secret of their political beliefs, which is not in itself an issue until one recognizes the techniques they use to freeze out opposing views. For example, admin BullRangifer wrote that non-believers in the Russiagate conspiracy “lack the competence needed to edit American political subjects.” They should be “monitored carefully,” since their political views are “at odds with the basis of all editing here,” and banned when they attempt to cite “fake news” as a source.31 Excluding information sourced from “fake news” sounds reasonable enough until one scans their list of “reliable sources,” which excludes anything to the left of the Huffington Post or to the right of The Economist.32 BullRangifer is also a proud Skeptic, displaying this affiliation on their userpage. They openly drop hints to other Wikipedia editors about how to insert biased information into political articles, recognizing no conflict of interest even as they call out the same behavior in their ideological opponents.33 Other editors use private mailing lists to enlist reinforcements when they are outnumbered in an “edit war” or administrative dispute.34 One expects this sort of behavior in online message boards, but not from the people in charge.
In the runup to the 2016 election, Wikipedia became ground zero for discussion of the “Russiagate” conspiracy. An administrator previously banned for conflicts of interest, impersonating multiple accounts (“sockpuppeting”), and hostile behavior toward other users resurfaced with a new account, Sagecandor, and proceeded to make thousands of edits on articles related to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and related talking points, from “fake news websites” (904 edits), “Russian interference in the 2016 election” (631 edits) to “Murder of Seth Rich” (275 edits), “Comey memos,” “kompromat,” and “efforts to impeach Donald Trump.” Sagecandor also participated in at least 19 disciplinary actions in just three months, resuming their previous behavioral pattern of picking fights with other editors. Instead of another ban, however, this confrontational behavior got them promoted – given auto-patrolling and page-moving powers and allowing them to edit protected entries, like Hillary Clinton’s article and some of the Russiagate material, without another editor signing off on their changes.35 A closer look at some of these pages and their frequent editors reveals a group of users working on the same controversial topics and supporting each other’s’ edits, voting in each other’s favor in disciplinary proceedings, and generally working to ideologically shift Wikipedia toward a neoliberal-Democratic position. These editors, including Volunteer Marek (a mainstay of one of the extra-Wiki mailing lists under a previous username)36, BullRangifer, Neutrality (who cleaned up Tim Kaine’s Wikipedia bio before Clinton publicly named him as her Vice President pick)37, MjolnirPants, and Snooganssnoogans, frequently overlap with the Skeptic camp. Both viewpoints are favored by Jimmy Wales.
The efforts of a clique of ideologically-motivated editors are of particular interest given the deployment of such teams on other social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter during the 2016 election. Clinton strategist and fundraiser David Brock’s Correct the Record (CTR) superPAC spent at least $1 million during the election to “push back against” negative posts about Clinton as part of a program called “Barrier Breakers,”38 and it’s unlikely that such an operation would have overlooked Wikipedia, which other social media sites often use as a fact-checking tool. Brock has come under scrutiny before for bending campaign finance rules – superPACs aren’t supposed to participate in individual elections, and Media Matters for America, the organization for which he is best known, is a 501(c)(3) and therefore barred from conducting political activity on behalf of any candidate.39 A former CTR contractor estimated the group’s expenditures at $5-6 million as of August 2016 in a post on an anonymous message board in which he encouraged others to sign up for easy cash, explaining that CTR employees were given high-ranked and backdated accounts on Reddit and Twitter so as to more easily blend into the discussion.40
In 2016, Wikipedia dispensed a $16,100 grant to the New Venture Fund,41 a Washington DC-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that makes grants to “left-of-center advocacy and organizing projects,” according to InfluenceWatch, which also cautions that New Venture’s critics have called it a “dark money” organization used to cloak left-leaning groups’ donations to advocacy issues. New Venture founder and chairman Eric Kessler worked with the Clinton administration managing conservation issues and is still a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.42
One Clinton link can be dismissed as a coincidence, but when multiple links surface in conjunction with spotless articles relating to the Clintons and their Foundation – personal friends of Jimmy Wales – the facade of political noninvolvement must be reexamined. According to Jonathan Schilling, the self-appointed guardian of Clinton’s Wikipedia page interviewed by Business Insider, Wales actually contacted Clinton to find out her preferred nomenclature – Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton – and was told she preferred Rodham. Schilling is the ranking editor on Clinton’s page, having logged 2,269 edits in nine years.43 Minassian neglected to mention this article (which has since been removed from Business Insider’s site) or Business Insider itself in the communications audit, perhaps because of the obvious conflict of interest in attempting to treat its primary client objectively.
The Clintons are of course not the only politicians to benefit from Wikipedia’s protection, though they are the most obvious, given their high profile in the recent election and the long list of scandals that must be swept under the rug to keep their pages clean. John McCain’s Wikipedia page is a paean to the fallen war hero most Americans believe the senator to be. Reality only intrudes upon the talk page, where several concerned editors tried to insert material relating to McCain’s stonewalling of POW-MIA recovery efforts in the early 1990s. Though comprehensively documented with reliable sources – the definitive article on the scandal was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Sidney Schanberg – the guardians of McCain’s legacy ultimately ruled the material inadmissible.44 US politicians are not Wikipedia’s only beneficiaries and victims, either; one need only regard the differences between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May’s biographical articles for evidence that special treatment for the few at the expense of the many extends to the UK and beyond.
The Wikimedia Foundation is a noted beneficiary of politically-linked funds, several of which have ties to the New Venture Fund mentioned earlier. The Hewlett Foundation donated $1.3 million to the Wikimedia Foundation in 2010 for “general operating support,” a grant the Heartland Institute (a right-wing think tank that has itself been a victim of ideologically-motivated Wikipedia editing) claims coincided with Wikipedia’s political shift.45 Also in 2010, Wikimedia received a $2 million grant from the Tides Foundation, which pioneered the “dark money” approach to political fundraising, anonymizing donors and recipients to shield both from IRS, media, and political scrutiny.46 Wikimedia donated $5,000 back to Tides in 2016,47 even as Tides continues to be listed as a “Major Benefactor” of Wikimedia.48 In 2011, the Stanton Foundation made what was then the largest gift in Wikimedia’s history, donating $3.6 million, a fraction of which was used to hire a “Wikipedian in Residence” at Harvard to make edits to politically-sensitive articles reflecting the American foreign policy point of view. The hire, Tim Sandole, even spoke at an event in support of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, directly violating the IRS’s prohibition on political campaigning by nonprofit charities.49 Hewlett and Tides have both funded the New Venture Fund at various times.50 51
Wikipedia also uses the Communications Decency Act as a shield against legal action by character assassination victims, specifically section 230, which states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”52 This provision enshrines the concept of neutral content platforms in internet law, preventing them from being held liable for the potentially actionable speech of their users, and is integral to the functioning of social media platforms, search engines, and ISPs. However, as Facebook, Twitter, and – yes – Wikipedia increasingly involve themselves in the curation of content, they move into a gray area in which section 230’s applicability becomes debatable. Just as Facebook or Twitter, by blocking one user for posting “hate speech” while allowing another user posting similar material to continue unmolested, violates this provision, Wikipedia, in applying its own rules unevenly, involves itself in the stream of content provision. Wales himself has edited articles on multiple occasions, including his own biographical article, from which he repeatedly excised Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger.53 He has been accused of trading edits for sex (with ex-girlfriend Rachel Marsden)54 and money (from Wikimedia donor and former Novell employee Jeff Merkey).55 Some users are rewarded with admin privileges for breaking rules that get other users banned, and these bans are heavily concentrated toward the sections of the ideological spectrum furthest distant from Wales. It is not for nothing he is referred to as the “god-king” of Wikipedia.56
Wikipedia’s editorial choices have much further-reaching implications than Facebook or Twitter. Its articles appear at the top of search engine results and are assumed to be neutral, truthful, and beyond reproach. As some of the more easily parsed elements of Wikipedia (names, dates, places) are shifted into the Wikidata project, whose Creative Commons license dispenses even with the need for sourcing (“reliable” or otherwise), the system becomes even riper for abuse. As of 2015, half the data in Wikidata was unsourced. That data feeds directly into Google, where it appears in “knowledge boxes” in response to search queries.57 Google can skew election results,58 a prospect which should alarm anyone committed to transparency, as the internet giant has admitted to manipulating search results both to avoid offending certain groups and to stop the spread of so-called “fake news” (as if every search engine query is meant to turn up nonfictional material!).59 Even when Google isn’t deliberately manipulating its search algorithm, editorial changes to Wikipedia – such as the substitution of “Nazism” as the ideology of the California Republican Party a week before that state’s electoral primaries earlier this year60 – have the potential to cause political chaos. No unaccountable anonymous editors should have this kind of power, whether or not they have the blessing of Wikipedia’s administrators.
The IRS’s rules barring nonprofit groups from engaging in political activity exist for good reason. Just as our declining trust in the news media stems in part from that news media’s dominance by six major corporations, our trust in any institution should take into account the institution’s backers. If the Wikimedia Foundation claims to be an independent charity, we should be able to fact-check its claims by examining its financials without venturing into the murky territory of quid-pro-quo political editing. When the very structure of a tax-exempt foundation is perverted to obfuscate the real special-interest backers of the “people’s encyclopedia,” it makes a mockery of the entire system.
Similarly, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act only applies when an online platform is not exercising editorial control over the content it hosts. Wales and a cabal of ideologically-motivated editors control what can and cannot be uttered by the modern Oracle of Delphi with a Kafkaesque thicket of rules that morph to suit their purposes, locking outspoken anti-establishment voices in reputational cages from which there is no conceivable escape. A governmental investigation of the Wikimedia Foundation is long overdue.
1 Jordan, William. “British people trust Wikipedia more than the news.” YouGov. 9 Aug 2014. https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/08/09/more-british-people-trust-wikipedia-trust-news/
2 Mitchell, Amy et.al. “Publics Globally Want Unbiased News Coverage, but Are Divided on Whether Their News Media Deliver.” Pew Research Center. 11 Jan 2018. http://www.pewglobal.org/2018/01/11/publics-globally-want-unbiased-news-coverage-but-are-divided-on-whether-their-news-media-deliver/
3 Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup. 14 Sep 2016. https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx
4 “2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.” Edelman. 2018. http://cms.edelman.com/sites/default/files/2018-02/2018_Edelman_Trust_Barometer_Global_Report_FEB.pdf Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
5 Wales, Jimmy. “Homeopathy – Oscillococcinum in Particular.” Quora. 31 Jan 2013. https://jimmywales.quora.com/Homeopathy-Oscillococcinum-in-particular
6 Wales, Jimmy. “Jimmy Wales’s response.” Change.org: 23 Mar 2014. Retrieved 18 Aug 2018. https://www.change.org/p/jimmy-wales-founder-of-wikipedia-create-and-enforce-new-policies-that-allow-for-true-scientific-discourse-about-holistic-approaches-to-healing/responses/11054
7 “Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero:_The_Silent_Death_of_Cambodia Accessed 12 Sep 2018.
8 Walker, James. “John Pilger says Guardian column was axed in 'purge' of journalists 'saying what the paper no longer says.'” Press Gazette. 24 Jan 2018. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/john-pilger-says-guardian-column-was-axed-in-purge-of-journalists-saying-what-the-paper-no-longer-says/
9 “Guy McPherson.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_McPherson Accessed 12 Sep 2018.
10 “Sharyl Attkisson.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharyl_Attkisson Accessed 12 Sep 2018.
11 Specter, Michael. “Seeds of Doubt.” New Yorker. 25 Aug 2014. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/seeds-of-doubt
12 Walsh, Nick Paton. “The envoy who said too much.” The Guardian. 15 Jul 2004. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/jul/15/foreignpolicy.uk
13 “Meg Patterson.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meg_Patterson Accessed 12 Sep 2018.
14 National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. v. King Bio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. Case no. BC 245271. Revised Statement of Decision. 17 Dec 2001.
15 “Biographies of Living Persons.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons Accessed 20 Aug 2018.
16 Bauer, Henry H. “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll-Kalichman and Mr. Hyde-Newton.” HIV/AIDS Skepticism. 4 Apr 2009. https://hivskeptic.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-kalichman-and-mr-hyde-newton-chapter-1/
17 Greenfield, Neal S. “Legal Letter to Wikipedia Requesting Removal of False Gary Null Bio.” Progressive Radio Network. 14 Mar 2018. http://prn.fm/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Letter-Wikipedia-removal-Gary-Null-Bio.pdf
18 “Requirements – 501(c)(3) Organizations.” IRS.gov. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-section-501c3-organizations Accessed 23 Aug 2018.
19 Wikimedia Foundation. IRS Form 990. 2015. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/44/Wikimedia_Foundation_2015_Form_990.pdf Accessed 23 Aug 2018.
20 “Communications Quarterly Review.” Wikimedia Foundation. Quarter 2 2014-2015. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Communications_WMF_Quarterly_Review,_Q2_2014-15.pdf Accessed 23 Aug 2018.
21 Wikimedia Foundation. IRS Form 990. 2016. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/6/67/Form_990_FY_2016-2017_-_Public.pdf
22 Minassian Media. “Communications Audit.” Wikimedia Foundation. September 2016. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/4a/Wikimedia_Foundation_communications_audit_-_2014-2016.pdf Accessed 23 Aug 2018.
23 Minassian, Craig. “CGI U – The Colbert Report Special Episodes.” WikiLeaks. 10 Apr 2013. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/46703
24 X, Sashi. “Re: Some people in the comments have raised concerns…” Medium:WikiTribune. 13 Jul 2017. https://medium.com/@sashi_x/clinton-foundation-does-pr-for-the-wikimedia-foundation-6f53eb511d82
25 “Hillary Clinton.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
26 “Bernie Sanders.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Sanders Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
27 “Donald Trump.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
28 “Efforts to impeach Donald Trump: Revision History.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Efforts_to_impeach_Donald_Trump&dir=prev&limit=500&action=history Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
29 Alcantara, Chris. “The most challenging job of the 2016 race: Editing the candidates’ Wikipedia pages.” Washington Post. 27 Oct 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/presidential-wikipedias/
30 “Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/American politics 2.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/American_politics_2 Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
31 BullRangifer. “Political ideology and sourcing.” Wikipedia. Accessed 23 Aug 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:BullRangifer/Political_ideology_and_sourcing
32 BullRangifer. “The quick and lazy guide to reliable and unreliable sources.” Wikipedia. Accessed 23 Aug 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:BullRangifer/The_quick_and_lazy_guide_to_reliable_and_unreliable_sources
33 “Talk:Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections/Archive 18.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Russian_interference_in_the_2016_United_States_elections/Archive_18 Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
34 carbuncle. “Dirty tricks cabal or just idle talk?” Wikipedia Review. http://wikipediareview.com/lofiversion/index.php?t26604-0.html
35 “An Open Letter to ArbCom.” Creolista. https://ling.creoliste.fr/index.php?title=En-WP:Press_Release_/_An_Open_Letter_to_ArbCom Accessed 23 Aug 2018.
36 Wikipedia Review, op.cit.
37 Meyer, Robinson et.al. “Is Wikipedia Foreshadowing Clinton's Vice-Presidential Pick?” The Atlantic. 22 Jul 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/is-wikipedia-foreshadowing-clintons-vice-presidential-pick/492629/
38 Collins, Ben. “Hillary PAC Spends $1 Million to ‘Correct’ Commenters on Reddit and Facebook.” The Daily Beast. 21 Apr 2016. https://www.thedailybeast.com/hillary-pac-spends-dollar1-million-to-correct-commenters-on-reddit-and-facebook
39 Watson, Libby et.al. “Behind the Clinton campaign: Dark money allies.” Sunlight Foundation. 3 Dec 2015. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2015/12/03/behind-the-clinton-campaign-dark-money-allies/
40 “Drawing the Public Eye: The Unintentional Consequence of “Astroturfing” by Political Organizations.” Web of Slime. 10 Nov 2016. https://sites.google.com/view/webofslime/article
41 Wikimedia Foundation, op.cit.
42 “Board of Directors.” New Venture Fund. http://www.newventurefund.org/about-nvf/board-of-directors/#eric Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
43 Tani, Maxwell. “Meet the guy who has protected Hillary Clinton’s Wikipedia page for almost a decade.” Business Insider. 15 May 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20160712180251/www.businessinsider.com/meet-hillary-clintons-wikipedia-editor-2015-5
44 “Talk:John McCain.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:John_McCain#Schanberg's_allegations_during_2008_election Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
45 “The Hewlett Foundation.” Left Exposed. http://leftexposed.org/2016/01/the-hewlett-foundation/ Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
46 “Tides Foundation.” Left Exposed. http://leftexposed.org/2015/11/tides-foundation/ Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
47 Wikimedia Foundation, op.cit.
48 “Benefactors.” Wikimedia Foundation. https://wikimediafoundation.org/support/benefactors/ Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
49 Russavia. “Belfer report – analysis from Russavia.” Wikimedia-l (mailing list). 21 Mar 2014. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2014-March/070665.html
50 “Grantee: New Venture Fund.” Tides Foundation. https://www.tides.org/project/new-venture-fund/ Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
51 “New Venture Fund: For The Moving Beyond Oil Project.” William + Flora Hewlett Foundation. https://hewlett.org/grants/new-venture-fund-for-the-moving-beyond-oil-project/ Accessed 21 Sep 2018.
52 “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230 Accessed 24 Sep 2018.
53 Cadenhead, Rogers. “Wikipedia Founder Looks Out for Number 1.” Workbench. 19 Dec 2005. http://workbench.cadenhead.org/news/2828/wikipedia-founder-looks-out-number-1
54 Metz, Cade. “Jimbo Wales dumps lover on Wikipedia.” The Register. 3 Mar 2008. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/03/jimbo_wales_rachel_marsden/
55 “Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales in donations row.” The Telegraph. 11 Mar 2008. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1581512/Wikipedias-Jimmy-Wales-in-donations-row.html
56 Smith, Wes. “He’s the ‘God-King,’ but you can call him Jimbo.” Seattle Times. 15 Jan 2007. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/hes-the-god-king-but-you-can-call-him-jimbo/
57 Kolbe, Andreas. “Whither Wikidata?” The Signpost. 2 Dec 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2015-12-02/Op-ed
58 Epstein, Robert. “How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election.” Politico. 19 Aug 2015. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/how-google-could-rig-the-2016-election-121548
59 Solon, Olivia. “How Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias.” The Guardian. 16 Dec 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/16/google-autocomplete-rightwing-bias-algorithm-political-propaganda
60 Thompson, Alex. “Google listed ‘Nazism’ as the ideology of the California Republican Party.” Vice News. 31 May 2018. https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbq38d/google-is-listing-nazism-as-the-first-ideology-of-the-california-republican-party
The Saudi-American War of Terror in Yemen
Professor Rajan Menon holds the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science at City College of New York and is a senior research scholar at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is also a Global Ethics Fellow at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs. His research has focused on American foreign and national security police, globalization and international relations, and Russia and the former Soviet states during the post-Cold War era. He has served and consulted for many foudnations and international institutions, and in the past has taught at Leigh and Vanderbilt universities. Professor Menon has written many opeds for the LA Times, Newsweek, Financial Times, Christian Monitor, Boston Globe and others and appeared on major American and foreign broadcast networks. He has written seven major books, the latest being "The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention."
The propaganda war between corporate and independent media and the rising epidemic of censorship of independent -- particularly activist - online news and commentary sources
Abby Martin is one of our leading international voices among younger American journalists and media activists. She is the host of the investigative documentary news program The Empire Files on the pan-Latin American network Telesur TV English out of Caracas Venezuela. Recently US sanctions against Venezuela has forced Telesur to stop broadcasting after having its wire cut. The Empire Files features hard hitting investigative history and insights into subjects ignored by mainstream corporate media. Earlier Abby was the host of Breaking the Set on the Russia Today network. Abby is a founder of the organization Media Roots that supports citizen journalism, and serves on the board of the Media Freedom Foundation which manages Project Censored, which airs on the PRN network; and she also co-directed the film “99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaboration.” Older Empire Files episodes can be viewed at TheEmpireFiles.tv and on Youtube, and her personal website as an accomplished visual artist is AbbyMartin.org
WICKED, WICKED WIKIPEDIA: THE CORRUPTION AND COLLAPSE OF THE LEGENDARY PEOPLE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA.
WICKED, WICKED WIKIPEDIA: THE CORRUPTION AND COLLAPSE OF THE LEGENDARY PEOPLE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA.
Richard Gale and Gary Null
Progressive Radio Network, September 18, 2018
It is time to take a serious, critical look at Wikipedia and its mission. Is it everything it purports to be as an objective encyclopedic source of knowledge or just another anti-democratic social media dynasty resorting to the censorship and suppression of unorthodox medical science, social criticism and political dissent contrary to its founder’s rigid ideological beliefs? With over 5.6 million articles totaling 45 million pages, Wikipedia offers an enormous amount of information, and the majority of it is recognizably accurate. Over 30 million people are registered as editors for the site, but the number of active editors fluctuates around 130,000 and is decreasing steadily. On the other hand, entries on contemporary issues that elicit controversy and debate, often when commercial interests and public policies are at stake, have become opportunities for editors to post propaganda, gossip, launch character assassinations, add flagrant misinformation and untruths, and delete truthful data to spin and strengthen specific ideologies, beliefs, and conflicts of interest contrary to the encyclopedia’s rules.
Today all major media, Left and Right, as well as the larger Silicon Valley firms that support it, employ news and commentary that serve as weapons for mass public ignorance. It is common for people’s reputations to be destroyed. Conservatives and liberals alike claim the other disseminates fake news and each attempts to demonize and censor the other regardless of the accuracy or relevancy of what is being reported. There are still many investigative journalists with deep integrity and a commitment to expose the truth, such as the late Robert Parry from Consortium News, Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer at Truthdig, Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford at the Black Agenda Report, Henry Giroux and William River Pitts at Truthout and others who have since had their sites blocked by Google and Facebook. But these are only several of hundreds of other online outlets and news blogs that have been banned and left without any recourse to address grievances. There is no arbitration. And this trend is increasing at lightning speed.
For over a decade we have been reviewing hundreds of articles on a daily basis about medicine and health, climate change and the environment, geopolitics and culture. We apply a strong litmus test to determine accuracy and trustworthiness. Consistently we discover that the public is being misled by special interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum. The Left and Right control large segments of the media through advertising or direct ownership. Billions of dollars are spent annually on lobbyists, consultants, think tanks and foundations, public relations firms, and astroturf groups. And behind these entities are even more powerful organizations such as federal intelligence and health agencies, the Business Roundtable, the Atlantic Council, the mega-internet firms, and of course the pharmaceutical industry.
Control of the media and the internet, to silence important voices, denies the public an opportunity to gaze upon the larger picture. For the powerful, it is preferable for the public to see only a small sliver of reality in order to keep citizens in check. For example, in the past, it was not the federal CDC, FDA or the National Cancer Institute that initiated efforts to warm the public about the risks of smoking or to avoid exposure to asbestos. Instead it was from people of conscience, such as whistleblowers, insiders and independent scientists and journalists, who alerted Americans and spoke in opposition to the corporations determined to keep the health risks hidden away in the dark. It was an insider Daniel Ellsberg who brought the Pentagon Papers to public attention, and without Edward Snowden we would not know the full extent of the government’s surveillance state. Mainstream media of its own volition would have remained silent about it.
After many hundreds of hours of investigative research into Wikipedia, a shocking story is being uncovered. Throughout the Wikimedia Foundation’s organizational structure, and reaching into the editorial hierarchy of its open-sourced encyclopedia, are multiple layers of deception, dangerous ideologies, extreme biases, and conflicts of interests. The site has built a wall harboring a cesspool of unprofessional and undefinable editors to obfuscate the truth and slander people and entire professions. In short, a kind of deep state is now acting with authority to control Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has repeatedly shown his personal intolerance towards topics he disagrees with, particularly non-conventional and alternative medicine and whatever else that does not fit into his picture of the reality or whatever he decides is phony or “fake news.” More recently, Wales mission has been to fight fake news. As we further demonstrate below, Wales also presumes the prevailing pharmaceutical drug paradigm and the Skeptics support of the Science-Based Medicine ideology is science’s final word for determining the diagnosis and treatment of disease; all other medical modalities outside Big Pharma’s purview is fair game for ridicule, incrimination and ultimately censorship.
Censorship is exclusion from public discourse and debate. Institutions that hold and maintain power are always the least welcoming of contrarian and dissenting voices; therefore the powerful make every effort to define the parameters of debate and select the participants worthy in its eyes. In its wake, censorship silences important stories, enormous bodies of research, science and expertise necessary to sustain democratic integrity. The public is left impoverished for it is denied invaluable knowledge, even information that can be life-saving.
Democracy is steadily being threatened by Silicon Valley, including the San Francisco-based Wikimedia Foundation, which holds the gatekeeper’s keys for allowing or obscuring the free-flow of reliable knowledge and commentary to the public. In concert with Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major internet firms promoting the large media conglomerates, the Foundation has entered the frenzy to censor and denigrate individuals, medical disciplines, and political voices threatening the dominant citadels of power and hegemony. And Wikipedia editors have been undermining entire fields of knowledge and wisdom for over a decade unbeknownst to the vast majority of its users.
In February 2017, the British tabloid The Daily Mail, the UK’s second large daily newspaper reaching over 4.5 million readers and surpassing the New York Times as the world’s most visited news site on the internet, was banned by Wikipedia as an unreliable news source. Jimmy Wales decided the paper was a distributor of “fake news.” Speaking on CNBC, Wales accused the Daily Mail of “mastering the art.. of running stories that simply aren’t true.” Founded in 1896, the paper publishes editions in Scotland, Ireland, Continental Europe and North Africa. On seven occasions since 1995 it has earned the prestigious British Press’ “National Newspaper of the Year” Award for breaking noteworthy stories. It is worth noting that Google’s artificial intelligence laboratory, DeepMind Technologies, relies upon the Daily Mail’s extensive archives as one of its two primary sources to “teach” its computers “to read” and acquire “verbal reasoning.” Wales’ decision to ban the Mail sets a dangerous precedent that should delegitimize any Wikimedia claims of fairness and objectivity. According to Wikipedia’s own platform, it is the responsibility of editors to undertake fact-checking before referencing any source The banning of news sources is in short an egregious cop out that will only accelerate the current trend of censorship to favor the powerful who hold sway over what the public can know and what should be denied.
The initiator behind the Daily Mail ban is a 35-year old regular Wikipedia editor and British misfit named Michael Cockram, who goes by the pseudonym Hillbillyholiday (perhaps taken from a Massachusetts musical band by the same name). Only a tiny fraction (under 1%) of Wikipedia’s administrators voted in favor of including the Mail on its blacklist. At the time of the controversy, when not editing for Wikipedia, Cochram spent his time on his personal Facebook page that was found to be filled with obscenities, sexism, and racist and Islamophobic remarks. In his first posts in the Wikipedia discussions arguing about the ban, he indicated Wales would approve of the decision
No doubt, the Mail, sometimes described as the UK’s equivalent to Fox News, is not without its controversies. Many of its stories are outright silly. It has been caught and charged with poor journalism and for reporting misleading and spun stories; however, this is becoming endemic in most mainstream corporate media, including the New York Times which promoted the Bush-Cheney lie about Sadaam Hussain’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Or there was the Washington Post’s false claim that Russian hackers penetrated the nation’s electrical grid. All the major networks and news outlets were completely wrong about the charitable White Helmets’ operations in Syria. The group has now been confirmed conclusively by independent Western journalists on the ground in Syria and testimonies of residents living in the vicinity of the Helmets’ activities, to serve as a propaganda operation behind the US-supported anti-Assad extremists associated with terrorists groups such as al-Nusra and al-Qaeda But nobody would call the Washington Post a fake newspaper although it upsets the Right because it definitely leans heavily towards Democrat positions. Nor can Fox News qualify as a “fake news” source for its full embrace of the Right. Truth and lies are found throughout both sides of the political spectrum.
Nevertheless, on occasion the Daily Mail publishes noteworthy news not found in liberal-leaning sites. There is reason to believe that Wales’ banning the Mail is an act of personal revenge given the paper’s stories challenging Wikipedia’s reliability and labeling Wales as a liberal insider with the intention to destroy conservativism. For example, the Mail published a story about research coming out of Campbell University about the widespread inaccuracy of medical information on Wikipedia’s 20,000-plus health-related pages. It is feasible to regard the Mail’s article as a public service to warn readers not to rely on Wikipedia for high quality medical research nor to attempt to self-diagnose themselves based upon Wikipedia’s misinformation. In 2017, the paper reported on a study by Oxford Internet Institute noting that algorithmic bots have been used for over a decade on Wikipedia pages to “enforce bans, check spelling, links and import content.” This includes the undoing of manual and robotic edits made to Wiki pages. And in 2014 the Mail instructed all of its writers and reporters to never rely on Wikipedia as a single source.
Sites that can properly be described as “fake news” are actually sources for disinformation campaigns. In this context, specific subjects covered by Wikipedia fall more in line with this definition than the Times or Post, or even the Daily Mail for that matter.
Wales refuses to take personal responsibility for the gross disinformation, covert marketing, and editorial censorship that plagues Wikipedia. Rather, he consistently hides behind the ruse of the encyclopedia being an open invitation for anyone to edit content, or at least attempt to do so, and reaffirms his belief that truth will prevail through the infighting between Wikipedia editors. He consistently reassures critics that he is aware of the problems and that Wikipedia’s editorial process is not perfect. However, the fundamental corruption on the site resides within the administration of content, which is not based upon any expertise whatsoever in a topic under review, but on seniority based upon how many successful edits a person has made.
It is not uncommon to find Skeptic sites praising Wales’ embrace of Skepticism and acknowledging him as one of their own. The sites Skeptical Science and Skeptools portray Wales in glowing terms for his attack against energy psychology. “Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week” reports Skeptools, “sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence.” After giving undue applause to the success of Susan Gerbic’s Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, the article continues,
” Wales makes clear what I have been saying all along – the rules of evidence on Wikipedia are pro-skeptic and pro-science. If you are pushing an idea that science rejects, Wikipedia will reject it too…. Paranormalists and pseudoscientists take note: skeptics are not bullying you off Wikipedia. We are only enforcing the rules of evidence as clearly stated on the service. If you cannot provide adequate evidence for your ideas, they will not be accepted. So says Jimmy Wales, so say we all.”
The hubris in this statement is obvious. The author knows the Skeptic movement has fully hijacked the encyclopedia. He speaks as someone who is in control and serves as a gatekeeper to rule over any discourse over what should be labeled as “pseudoscience.”
In an earlier report, we noted how Wikipedia vilifies homeopathy outright: The Wiki page states that homeopathy
“….is a pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, indicating that any positive effects that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect, normal recovery from illness, or regression toward the mean…. Outside of the alternative medicine community, scientists have long considered homeopathy a sham or a pseudoscience, and the mainstream medical community regards it as quackery. There is an overall absence of sound statistical evidence of therapeutic efficacy, which is consistent with the lack of any biologically plausible pharmacological agent or mechanism.”
Back in 2013, a study out of Rutgers University discovered that homeopathy and Jesus were the two most controversial pages on Wikipedia the enflamed the greatest debate. The study was reviewed by the Washington Post.
A question. Are these biases solely those of Skeptics who commandeer the Wikipedia’s homeopathic page, or are Skeptics taking directions from Jimmy Wales or at least being given his green light?
Back in 2013, Wales composed a letter to his readers on his Quora page based upon his experience at a London pharmacy where he was offered the popular homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinium for a sore throat and cough. Besides writing that Oscillococcinum “is a complete hoax product,” Wales reveals his support for flu vaccines, his utter contempt for homeopathy, and offers his services to prevent its use:
“What I want to know is this: why is this legal? Or, if it is not legal, then what can be done about it? … In The Guardian article, “Take-up of flu jab drops” it was reported that the percentage of high-risk elderly people in the UK receiving the vaccine was just under 50%. How many of the other 50% chose not to take it because they believe this hoax remedy will protect them? … My understanding is that the legal situation in the UK is particularly bad. Homeopathic remedies of no value whatsoever are legally marketed as cures for specific diseases. Who should I talk to about this in order to encourage the creation of a campaign to stop this? This is not my primary area of interest and so I am not the right person to lead it myself. But I would like to help.”
And Wales did help. And he gave plenty of it. Controlling the fifth most popular website on the internet, Wikipedia has been a boon for the Skeptic movement and its propaganda machine to disseminate its radical rationalist interpretation of science and demonize all alternative medicine. Guerrilla Skeptics’ Susan Gerbic replied to Wales’ offer:
“Jimmy you have already done more than anyone could possibly dream that can be done. You created the most amazing resource in the world. I mean that, not only in English but in every language possible. The English homeopathy page alone gets over 140K views EACH MONTH. That is a lot of people being educated about homeopathy. Thank you. Allowing us editors to ‘do our job’ and keep these articles honest and correctly cited is enough. I can’t imagine what else you can do, my brain is teeny tiny compared to your mighty brain, if you come up with something please oh please let us in on it, we want to help.”
Thank you Susan for blowing Jimmy’s cover. In a video of a lecture Gerbic presented at a Guerrilla Skeptic workshop, she informs participants about her team’s success in frustrating other Wikipedia editors who oppose their tactics and subsequently removed themselves as editors.
There has been growing dissatisfaction and frustration among Wikipedia’s volunteer editorial base who are dedicated to the Foundation’s mission to bring free knowledge to the world. Dissent is turning more vocal and going public. Blogs and articles critical of Wikipedia’s adverse behavior and disruptive culture increase. Brian Britt, an assistant professor of journalism at South Dakota State University calculates that 77% of Wikipedia’s content is now composed by only one percent of its editors—the vast majority being men—who have achieved editorial seniority. Out of disgust, editors are leaving Wikipedia in greater numbers, largely due to senior administrators’ rampant marginalization, backbiting and prejudices against editors who challenge them. As of 2015, the number of core active editors declined by 40%. The opinion of many former Wikipedia devotees is that the encyclopedia is collapsing into a chaos of psychobabble. Earlier in the year we had conversations with Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo who has been documenting his unsettling experiences on the encyclopedia for several years. On his blog Wikipedia, We Have a Problem, Viharo writes:
“A number of skeptic activists on Wikipedia believe that only they are qualified to edit a large swath of topics and biographies on Wikipedia, and they seek to purge other editors from those articles or Wikipedia itself. Skeptic activists take this very seriously and treat Wikipedia like a battleground for their activism, where online harassment, slander, bullying, character assassination, and public shaming are all used as tactics to control editing permissions on the world’s largest repository of knowledge.”
Ergo the question: who does this one percent of editors represent? Who is capable of spending many “unpaid” hours daily to edit Wikipedia pages? What conflicts of interest do they have, and are they using Wikipedia as a public relations platform to disseminate propaganda favoring commercial, partisan and ideological biases and to attack opponents?
We have a very serious problem here that is in direct violation of Wikipedia’s written and posted rules and ethics and everything Wales projects publicly to the world about himself and his project. Wales’ letter is a confession of motive and intention. It violates Wales’ belief that truth can be reached from the distillation of volunteer editors debating a topic. Not only does the encyclopedia exclude any published clinical evidence supporting homeopathy’s efficacy for treating certain illnesses, it makes every effort to discredit its leading advocates including the late Dr. Peter Fisher, Queen Elizabeth II’s personal homeopathic physician. For the record, a Cochrane review of Oscillococcinum trials concluded that the remedy did not prevent the onset of flu; however four other trials “suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours.” Another statistical review of the published literature conducted by Sloan Kettering Cancer Center concluded that the same homeopathic preparation “probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting influenza symptoms.” This information is blocked from being posted on Wikipedia’s page for “Oscillococcinum.”
Wales is steeped in Skeptic philosophy and has been an invaluable enabler of the movement. Richard Dawkins, the modern founder of the New Atheism and a god-king among Skeptics, attended Wikipedia’s tenth anniversary celebration; Wales was photographed alongside his hero. During a 2007 TED talk, Dawkins presents his case that only atheists can serve as the intelligentsia necessary to preserve civilization and continue its march towards progress. He scornfully made the call for “militant atheists” to become more aggressive in the fight against superstition. As an aside, Skeptics protect Dawkin’s Wikipedia biography which is shiny white and makes no mention that felon Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, received his inspiration from Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene, a book possibly responsible for the social Darwinism that has caused enormous damage to citizens at the mercy of mega-corporations and their elite executives.
Susan Gerbic, with the support of her Skeptic guru James Randi, took up Dawkins’ call to arms by co-founding Skeptic Guerrillas on Wikipedia. And apparently Wales has too. In her video noted above, Gerbic goes on to brag about her team’s success in “drastically” changing Wikipedia’s page on homeopathy and inserting the word “quackery.” She also goes on to share her success in using Wikipedia to increase the visits on external Skeptic homepages, primarily the James Randi Educational Foundation she is affiliated with. Elsewhere in her training lecture, she makes a Freudian slip, you can “change the rul (rules)…. er… pages.” Bending the rules may include redefining reliable references, such as including the Skeptics main journal, Skeptical Inquirer, which is not peer-reviewed and represents only a tiny fraction America’s readership. It is reasonable to assert that Gerbic received Wales’ nod of approval for her accomplishments.
Gerbic’s work has received the highest praises from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and Center for Inquiry — the leading starships of the Skeptic movement. She was elected as a Center for Inquiry fellow to join other leading Skeptics such as Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse, Carl Sagan, Michael Mann among others. This network of Skeptic associations, along with the fringe Science Based Medicine organization, now serve as an influential deep state operating freely and without impunity on Wikipedia.
Given Wales close association with the Skeptic mission, we need to ask ourselves about the sincerity of Wales’ incessant rhetoric about democracy, freedom of information and net neutrality, and his espousal of “positive defiance.” As we have shown, he does not feel this way about medicine and health, nor about long-standing news outlets that disagree with his left-leaning Libertarian ideology. His claims of Wikipedia’s neutrality is a facade.
Wikipedia’s page describing its Arbitration Committee on Pseudoscience sets forth principles and criteria to determine what can be properly labeled as a “pseudoscience” on Wikipedia entries. The “scientific focus” of articles are expected to “reflect current mainstream scientific consensus,” however no further definition is provided. A “neutral point of view” is also required, which means “fair representation of significant alternatives to scientific orthodoxy… and legitimate scientific disagreement.” This would include non-conventional therapies that now have volumes of peer-reviewed research published in medical journals throughout the world. Skeptics repeatedly violate this rule. Only astrology is listed in the Arbitration rules as an example of what can properly be called a pseudoscience on a Wiki page. With respect to “questionable science,” if a theory, for example acupuncture or Chiropractic, has a substantial following, although some would allege it to be a pseudoscience, it should not be characterized as such. And finally, under “alternative theoretical formulations,” if a theory has a following “within the scientific community” then it must not be labeled a pseudoscience because it is “part of the scientific process.” Therefore, the many non-conventional modalities of medical practice that are now recognized and incorporated in medical school curriculums, hospitals and now being researched at prominent conventional medical institutions, cannot be framed in derogatory terms. Based upon this criteria, a living person who practices or follows any medical system that is not qualified as a pseudoscience should not be referred to as a quack or in Jimmy Wales’ terms a “lunatic charlatan.”
Speaking at the 2016 MindRush conference hosted by Business Today in India, Wales’ lecture was entitled “Why Positive Deviance Works.” Briefly, positive deviance is the idea that behavioral and social change can successfully be created by a small community of individuals who deviate from social norms of practice. The premise is that a small group can arrive at better outcomes than the majority of its peers. Since its inception in the 1970s, positive deviance has been successful in many practical instances, such as finding solutions to improve public health in poorer communities; however, as a principle it is an unstable, impractical and terrible model to apply to content on Wikipedia. What we have been describing above is a very small contingent of individuals, who are unquestionably deviant from modern scientific norms, who have been given direct permission and received inspiration and license from Jimmy Wales to capture Wikipedia’s pages on natural and alternative health to dramatically distort the debate their favor. Instead of following Wikipedia’s rules of the jungle to magically produce objectivity and truth out of conflicting analysis, argument, and conversation, a tiny group of Skeptics have been granted permission to impose its own solutions for how Wiki pages should be reframed and according to their own unpopular ideological beliefs. None of the many non-conventional medical disciplines disparaged by Skeptic activists accurately qualify as pseudoscience based upon Wikipedia’s arbitration criteria. On the other hand, Skeptics have moved the boundaries and evidence clearly shows Wales condones this.
“The prime goal of censorship is to promote ignorance,” writes American author Felice Picano. Skeptics habitually misinterpret, misrepresent or censor all valid scientific research that might give support to non-conventional medical practices. Often, Skeptics’ edits are utterly absurd. In their attacks on Orthomolecular Medicine, based upon the work of two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling to support the evidence that optimal nutrition, including supplementation and mega-vitamin therapy, can prevent disease, Skeptics describe this alternative medical theory as “faddism and as quackery.” An editor attempting to add a sentence had it immediately deleted because it would have lent support to orthomolecular theory. He wrote, “Diseases that are accepted by conventional medicine to be the result of vitamin or other nutrient deficiencies are: scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, rickets, tetany, osteoporosis, goiter, Keshan disease and iron deficiency anemia.” This sentence would find agreement with every allopathic medical physician. Yet if you go to the individual Wikipedia pages for each of these illnesses listed, you will find direct references to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiency as a primary cause. Seemingly, Skeptics have yet to get around to flatten these pages with their nonsense.
And in the case of Wikipedia this means banning expert editorial opposition, real scholarship and permitting vicious attacks by corporations, organizations and groups—notably the apostles of the scientific Skepticism movement—to infiltrate the encyclopedia to disparage and condemn individuals and provable facts that challenge commercial positioning, and their unwarranted influence and control over a narrowly defined criteria of scientific dogma. Even people challenging misinformation posted on their personal Wikipedia pages must spend many months or years to diligently have it changed or risk being banned for attempting to do so. For all of Wales’ Libertarian accolades and unwavering belief in reductionist science and technology as the driving engine of his Randian or Objectivist ideas of progress, it is censorship that hinders real scientific and medical progress.
The primary leaders and spokespersons for the Skepticism movement such as Quackwatch founder Stephen Barrett and Science Based Medicine’s Steven Novella and David Gorski have pristine Wikipedia biographies. Criticisms, conflicts of interest and controversies are not permitted to be added. Editors attempting to bring a realistic balance to these people’s lives can be quickly banned. The Skeptic groups with whom Wales has aligned himself and handed over managerial editorial rights run roughshod over matters pertaining to the full spectrum of available healthcare, especially non-conventional practices. They act blatantly with malice of forethought. In a letter posted online to Dr. Deepak Chopra, biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake opines:
“… Wikimedia skeptics are the self-appointed frontier guards of science, a job for which they think they need no credentials except their fervor….. it is easy to be a media skeptic. You get the last word. You can say what you like. You don’t have to spend years doing actual research. And you yourself can remain immune from criticism, because those you criticize have no right to reply.”
The Wikipedia entries for Drs. Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have been repeatedly victimized by radicalized Skeptics for many years. Although both have impeccable credentials and are visionaries in their own right, their positions on consciousness, mind-body medicine and psychology have been anathema for Skeptics’ materialistic and reductionist beliefs. Earlier, Dr. Sheldrake’s TED Talk lecture had been censored on the best of atheist Skeptics PZ Meyer and the new darling of the radical Skeptic movement Prof. Sean Carroll at Cal Tech. Coming to Sheldrake’s and Chopra’s assistance, Wikipedia editor Rome Viharo attempted to edit their Wikipedia pages on their behalf as case studies to provide decisive evidence for how Skeptic activists maintain control over entire entries.
Skeptic crusaders act with premeditative intent to falsely discredit all and everything that conflict with their 19th century Cartesian view of a mechanistic reality. Without any clinical nor medical experience or expertise, many Skeptics such as the recruited medical illiterates and trolls in Susan Gerbic’s and Tim Farley’s Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (recently renamed to About Time) have free reign over Wiki pages pertaining to research into the paranormal and potentially life-saving drugless therapies for relieving and reversing disease. Chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and energy medicine are all criticized as pseudoscientific and quackery on Wikipedia.
The Gurerrilla Skeptics and Jimmy Wales are excellent examples of what Marcoen Cabbolet at Vrije University in Brussels calls pseudoskpticism or “bogus skepticism.” Pseudoskepticism was first coined in 1987 by Marcello Truzzi, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University, himself an ardent Skeptic who founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. A year later he turned against the organization he founded for gross unscientific behavior and for having been usurped by virulent Skeptics speaking against subjects they either had no professional background and expertise or for improperly weighing the scientific evidence of questionable claims. Pseudoskepticism has no intention to discover truth; rather it is based solely upon efforts to disparagingly discredit opponents and medical and scientific research it regards offensive. Cabbolet identifies several “tell-tale signs” for identifying pseudoskeptics; each sign is prominently recognizable on Wikipedia pages devoted to non-conventional and natural medicine as well as the biographies of many of its leading practitioners and advocates:
⦁ Ad hominem attacks as a rhetorical strategy to marginalize others and label them as charlatans, quacks, crackpots, etc.
⦁ Vitriolic tones or the use of belittling phrases and pejoratives. Often such attacks border on being libelous.
⦁ Non-specific comments that indicate pseudoskeptics have made little or no effort to understand either the research or the professional credentials of a person being discredited.
⦁ Absence of proof or what Cabbolet describes as “one of the most shameful ways to attack someone else’s work is to put forward outright fabrications.” One common Wikipedia reference to discredit alternative or natural health claims it denounces is to state “there is insufficient scientific proof.” Yet more often than not it is the case that there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of scientific studies supporting non-conventional medical claims and therapeutic achievements.
⦁ False metaphors in order to draw associations between the person, discipline or theory being criticized with something known to be factually untrue.
⦁ Targeting the mass media or making efforts to distribute pseudoskeptic attacks on someone or a discipline to the wider public. Since Wikipedia is today the fifth most popular website on the internet, it has served as a perfect forum for Wales’ pseudoskeptic friends to reach out to a larger audience and disseminate biased, misleading propaganda. Moreover, and far worse, Skeptics, wittingly or not, service the pharmaceutical industry’s commercial interests more effectively and at no advertising costs.
There is no evidence that Wales, who has no notable scientific background, and certainly none in medicine, has stopped to question Skepticism’s extremism and its worship of reductionism. In a reply to a petition to withhold donations to Wikipedia posted by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology on Change.org, Wales replied to the Association’s president, Debby Vajda, he wrote: (cite inline or below)
“No, you have to be kidding me. 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.”
Those of us who investigate the Skeptics immediately took note of Wales’ use of expression “lunatic charlatans” that is commonly found on pseudoskeptic screeds to disparage practitioners of alternative medicine. In return Vajda provided 51 peer-reviewed articles and studies, 18 which were randomized controlled studies, appearing in professional journals, including the American Psychological Association, the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Psychotherapy Theory Research and Practice and others showing positive statistical results outside the range of chance. But none of this made any difference for having the Wikipedia pages changed.
Pseudoskeptism is not only a perversion of healthy skepticism but it diminishes the entire legacy of scientific integrity and inquiry. For example, Skeptics’ use of tabloid journalism on Wikipedia also fervently attacks and ridicules those who reject the atmospheric and geologic evidence confirming anthropogenic climate change. Jimmy Wales has a low tolerance for climate change deniers. Forbes magazine ran an article, “Wikipedia Censors Global Warming Skeptics,” noting that “global warming is a pet hobby of founder Jimmy Wales.” Nevertheless, as the underdog facing a gargantuan body of scientific literature indicating that humanity is in fact altering the climate and contributing to global warming, it is up to climate change opponents to demonstrate their case scientifically, with convincing statistical and/or measurable evidence, and to accurately refute the evidence showing otherwise. Although we believe this will be an insurmountable task for the tiny faction of scientists opposing anthropogenic climate change to accomplish, the debate should be accommodated and offered on Wikipedia. Censorship and contempt will never win over those who need to be convinced about the defects in their beliefs.
Dissent has always been a healthy component of scientific progress. Without opposition to dominant theories and the prevailing paradigm, science would be nothing more than an orthodox and dogmatic way of knowing. Yet science, and in particular the soft sciences such as medicine and psychology, also operate in the realms of power, economics and politics. Consequently, medical battles over truth are in fact reflections of power struggles, with the Skeptics’ dominant power creating an inhospitable environment for discussion and debate and unwilling to accommodate contrarian ideas that also provide sound, reputable evidence.
Being registered as a non-profit organization and relying heavily upon tens of thousands of volunteers rather than paid employees to orchestrate and manage the encyclopedia’s content, Wikipedia has so far succeeded to escape the scrutiny and public condemnation it deserves. Its method of censorship is more subtle, covert, than the widespread censorship tactics used by Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in cooperation with US intelligence agencies. All the problems Wikipedia faces and discussed above can simply be blamed on difficulties in administering tens of thousands of unpaid volunteer editors rather than there being a systemic fault within Wales’ Foundation.
Wikipedia should be properly understood both as a large public relations behemoth as well as an open-source encyclopedia. Unlike the Encyclopedia Britannica, which relies upon highly learned experts and scholars in chosen fields, Wikipedia accommodates numerous amateurs and even “know nothings” about subjects they are responsible to manage. It is unnecessary for an editor to reveal his or her real name, education level or professional background in order to climb the Wiki ladder to a senior administrator position. Many senior editors keep their real identifies and affiliations hidden and only use anonymous names. Editors can even pretend to hold doctoral degrees or disguise themselves as medical professionals. The deep fundamental flaws and failures in Wikipedia’s structural base have been noted repeatedly by frustrated editors and observers since its founding. And the site continues to degenerate parallel with its growing worldwide popularity and deepening pockets of large donations. Some of the larger donors remain hidden or anonymous.
New York Times best-selling human rights author Edwin Black best described the dangers Wikipedia poses for social progress in his article “Wikipedia: The Dumbing Down of World Knowledge” published on the History News Network:
“…. Wikipedia, the constantly changing knowledge base created a global free-for-all of anonymous users, now stands as the leading force for dumbing down the world of knowledge. If Wikipedia’s almost unstoppable momentum continues, critics say, it threatens to quickly reverse centuries of progress… In its place would be a constant cacophony of fact and falsity that Wikipedia critics call a “law of the jungle.”
All of this may appear innocent on the surface or from a particular perspective of tolerance. However, on the matter of health and medicine, Wikipedia’s editorial apparatus may lean towards criminal behavior. Wikipedia bans upwards to 1,000 IP addresses daily. Even senior editors have been forced off the site for erratic, belligerent and condescending behavior that might be clinically diagnosed as a mental disturbance. Sadly, enormous damage was already done before Wikipedia administrators get around to take firm action to remove the functionally deranged.
Providing wrong medical information and ignoring accurate facts can be life-threatening for those who refer to Wikipedia for reliable knowledge. It is not simply ironic that Wikipedia Skeptics, who control and edit the site’s healthcare pages have no clinical or professional medical education or experience, it is pathological. Jimmy Wales has opened the doors for the creation of a nefarious culture to pervert the entire discipline of objective medical science can easily be conveyed by means of an analogy.
Imagine you are a medical student and the medical college drags in a passerby off the street to teach a class. He refuses to identify himself and calls himself “Anonymous” or gives a silly fictitious name. He begins his lecture by stating, “Let me tell you right off. I have no experience in medicine. I have never attended medical school nor have I received any higher learning in molecular biology, genetics, physiology nor any other curriculum associated with human anatomy and the etiology of disease. I have never worked in a research laboratory nor have I ever diagnosed or treated anybody. I only live in my mom’s basement and spend my days surfing the internet and editing Wikipedia pages. Nevertheless, Jimmy Wales has given me permission to join you today so I can teach you everything you need to know about medicine. And you cannot challenge anything I say. If you attempt to correct me, I will have you immediately removed from class. Perhaps indefinitely.”
“First and foremost — and burn this disingenuous rule deeply into your brains — at no point in your medical practice are you permitted to use any kind of complementary and alternative medical modality. You are not permitted to use nutritional therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, or Chinese and Ayurveda medicine. Meditation, prayer, body-mind and energy medicine and massage are nonsense and therefore also forbidden. Not only should you never use any of these non-conventional medical therapies in your practice, neither should you ever seek scientific information on the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed database, the world’s largest repository of peer-reviewed medical research, to learn about any of these fake, pseudoscientific practices. Just believe me. I am here to tell you that no research supporting this quackery exists. So save yourself the time and effort because Jimmy wants you to know the gospel truth. And Wales should certainly know because he doesn’t have any medical credentials either. Pretend this doesn’t exist and if you do come upon research supporting any natural medical practice or find people who promote it, know it is false and those who advocate for this chicanery are “lunatic charlatans,” to quote Wales. Report them to their state medical boards because they are delusional.”
As this street person is about to exit the lecture hall, a student raises her hand and blurts out, “Anonymous, I am confused. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) now publish their own peer-reviewed medical journals. These natural practices you condemn are included in curriculums in most medical schools today. Many hospitals and clinics offer acupuncture to relieve pain, recommend natural diets, supplements and herbs. Nurses are being trained in mind-body energy techniques, and the value in meditation to reduce stress in cancer patients is now commonplace. There are tens of thousands of studies supporting all of these non-conventional medical therapies and theories and patients are increasingly turning to these modalities because conventional pharmaceutical drug-based medicine is failing. So what is the basis for your scholarship?” Anonymous replies, “Barely any of us in the Skeptic movement have an academic background in medicine. We don’t read the medical literature. We only need to rely on the reason of our common sense in order to determine whether a treatment is ‘plausibly’ effective or not. Our personal opinions are more important than all the medical literature in the world. Besides, Jimmy Wales supports us and that is all we need to demand your attention and obedience.”
To keep people dumbed down and ignorant, all that is necessary is to recruit under-educated Skeptics, such as Susan Gerbic and even Jimmy Wales for that matter, who are oblivious about molecular biology or quantum uncertainty and put them on a soapbox. In a sermon to her militant Skeptics, Gerbic reveals that her recruits do not require any professional expertise or knowledge in a field in order to edit Wikipedia pages. She writes, “Pick your topic, psychics, vaccines, cryptozoology or whatever gets your heart rate going. You can work with the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia team (we train) or hundreds of other ways to take care of these issues. Quit bitching in your beer, rolling your eyes and DO SOMETHING!”
Knowing that these are the very same people controlling Wikipedia’s articles on non-conventional medicine and the biographies of natural health’s advocates, how can any information on these pages be regarded as trustworthy and not be severely compromised? It remains to be investigated whether Skeptics may be engaging in racketeering activities on behalf of private corporate interests. For certain, Skeptical positions regarding health are fully aligned with pharmaceutical interests and the most orthodox of medical practice. But Skeptics are not limited to backing conventional medicine.
Gerbic’s guerrilla efforts also target the debate over the benefits and potential health risks of genetically modified crops or GMOs. Skeptics give their full weight in support of GMOs and the agricultural chemical industry. Wikipedia continues to argue that “there is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food.” The entry makes no reference to French molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini study first published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, and later in Environmental Sciences Europe, which reproduced Monsanto’s own studies to prove that rats fed with genetically modified Roundup Ready corn had a dramatic increase in tumors and shorter lifespans. Since GMO crops are heavily laced with glyphosate or Roundup, and other pesticides, there is also no reference to the August 2018 California court ruling that glyphosate-based weed-killers cause cancer. The sole purpose of GMO crops is to spray more chemical toxins. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million for its cover-up of this fact. For Wikipedia’s entry for Dr. Seralini’s biography there is far more emphasis on referencing criticism of his research. The actual results of his groundbreaking research are not mentioned. This is a case example of how Skeptics revert knowledge to align with and shield corporate interests by denying the readers the truths that could protect them.
There is a direct relationship between agricultural scientists shilling for Monsanto, the major Skeptic organizations and Gerbic’s activists on Wikipedia. Kevin Folta, chairman of the department of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, received his fellowship from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry alongside Susan Gerbic. In 2015, a Freedom of Information Act submitted by the California organization US Right to Know caught Folta shilling for Monsanto and the agricultural industry. An article in Nature confirmed the details. In 2016, Gerbic interviewed Folta for the Center of Inquiry. The discussion confirmed that the Guerrilla Skeptics are also active on editing Wikipedia’s GMO pages.
Unfortunately, medical students, and even clinical physicians, rely heavily upon Wikipedia as a major source of healthcare information. An article published by the American Psychiatric Association headlined, “Is Wikipedia taking over textbooks in medical student education.” Upwards to 70% now refer to Wikipedia for medical information.
In a study published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers at Campbell University in North Carolina conducted an analysis of references on Wikipedia for ten of the most costly disease conditions (ie., coronary artery disease, lung cancer, depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back pain and hyperlipidemia). The study randomly selected medical professionals to conduct the reviews. The results found statistically significant inconsistencies and discordance between Wikipedia’s cited resources and the corresponding peer-reviewed medical literature. The study concluded that “physicians and medical students who currently use Wikipedia as a medical reference should be discouraged from doing so because of the potential for errors.”
The consequences of the Campbell study become more onerous in light of an even more disturbing study jointly conducted by Katholieke University in Belgium and Washington University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Medical Information Association. Online statistical analysis revealed that Wikipedia ranked among the first ten results in upwards to 85% of search engine keyword queries concerning health issues including life-threatening diseases. On Google alone, where Wikipedia has been bestowed favored status, it reached first place on 40% of occasions and 68% of the time among the top five. In other words, Wikipedia health entries were likely viewed more regularly than all other legitimate professional medical online resources, including the federal health agencies, MedlinePlus, Medscape, the Mayo Clinic, KidsHealth and WebMD. No doubt Wales is proud of this achievement; it generates more traffic and hopefully more $5 and $10 donations. Although primarily devoted to conventional medicine, sites such as the prestigious Mayo Clinic (ranked in the top five for 20.8% of searches), WebMD (6% of times in the top five) and Medicinenet also provide beneficial and accurate information and advice about integrative and alternative medicine, naturopathic herbal and Chinese medicines, acupuncture and the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. No user visiting Wikipedia would ever gain access to such accurate information because Jimmy Wales has assured its visitors that non-conventional medicine will remain marginalized, falsified and worse, demonized.
In an interview with TechCrunch.com, Wikipedia’s Chief Revenue Officer, Lisa Gruwell, acknowledged the Wikimedia Foundation’s relationship with Google is the best among the tech giants and “partnerships” exist between them. Although the actual details of these “partnerships” are sketchy, during the 2017-2018 fiscal year Google donated over $1 million. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, the liberal Tides Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network Fund are other top donors.
Many people use Wikipedia to self-diagnose themselves and seek medical solutions for illnesses they either have or imagine they have. Due to the vast inaccuracies in Wikipedia’s health pages, people are surely misdiagnosing themselves. This can be catastrophic, particularly for serious life-threatening diseases that might be ignored after referring to a Wikipedia article full of errors. In 2012, a British company Balance Activ conducted a survey of 1,000 women who were referring to “Dr. Google” to determine the cause of various symptoms they were experiencing. Twenty-five percent of the women were misdiagnosing themselves and treating themselves improperly.
By turning Inquisitional power over to Skeptics, Wales is paving the way for a new round of witch hunts and perhaps future legal trials against alternative and natural physicians. In the 1960s and 1970s, the American Medical Association’s Committee on Quackery made efforts to accuse and jail chiropractic doctors for fraud until a federal court found thatthe AMA engaged in a conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1986. Throughout the 1990s, Stephen Barrett’s National Council Against Health Fraud took up the same mantle under the banner of Quackwatch to continue the persecution of non-conventional medical disciplines in courtrooms. Wales turning Wikipedia’s health pages over to the Skeptics undoubtedly delights the pharmaceutical industrial complex, and the small faction of radicalized Science-Based Medicine doctors, such as Drs. Steven Novella, David Gorski, Harriet Hall, Paul Offit who are frequently cited as reliable sources by Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors. Aside from Offit, none are notable researchers or practitioners in their fields of specialty.
Although contemporary Skeptics’ strategies differ from the Quackbusters’ costly efforts to press legal charges against alternative health practitioners in the courts, their motives and goals are unchanged. Skeptics continue to rely upon the large Quackbuster database to reference condemnations against every discipline of non-conventional medicine and biographical character assassinations. Editorial fact-checking is absent. Yet it serves as a primary resource for Skeptics to go on the offensive. And Wikipedia continues to permit Barrett’s disreputable database to serve as a legitimate primary source for Wikipedia citations to destroy the careers of honest alternative health practitioners and advocates as well as visionary scientists and physicians who are looking outside the box of medicine’s orthodoxy to find new and safer ways to treat illnesses. Wales has proven himself to be another public enemy to health and well-being. And despite everything Wales has to say, Wikipedia has evolved in his image and now incorporates his biases and prejudices. And the encyclopedia is now a propaganda arm for Wales’ favoritisms, intolerance, and animosities.
The power of propaganda, according to Chomsky, “generates an irrational loyalty to an otherwise meaningless community [such as the Wikipedia community] that serves as a training ground for subordination to power and immature chauvinism.” For all practical purposes Jimmy Wales is rabidly pro-corporate and a shallow thinker who adheres to and provides support to the irrational doctrines of pseudoskepticism. He has allowed his encyclopedia to deny the legitimacy to tens of thousands of health professionals practicing in the alternative fields of chiropractic, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, the nutritional sciences, homeopathy and other healing modalities. In some cases lives and careers have been destroyed by cretins skilled in the art of defamation. Yet if conventional medicine were to be such a savior, there would be no need for alternative medical treatments. If there was convincing scientific proof that the average American diet kept us healthy, trim and mentally fit, there would be no need for vegan diets or to purchase only organic produce. If our water, air and soil were truly clean, we would not be facing a growing epidemic of environmentally caused illnesses because our federal agencies would be advocates for health. Rather Wikipedia is an enabler for the worst conventional medicine has to offer and Wales intends to keep the public in the dark to prevent people from awakening to this fact.
The late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington observed that the wielders of power must keep a population in the dark. However, when people are exposed to the sunlight, power begins to evaporate. Throughout our series of over a dozen articles we have been unveiling the dark side of Jimmy Wales and his Wikimedia Foundation, the encyclopedia’s condemnation of non-conventional medicine, radicalized Skepticism, and the cult of Science Based Medicine. We will continue to do so because Wales does not deserve your dollar.
1 Horn A. “Wikipedia founder to fight fake news with new Wikitribune site,” The Guardian. April 24, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/wikipedia-founder-jimmy-wales-to-fight-fake-news-with-new-wikitribune-site
2 Jimmy Wales interview with the Atlas Society. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-wvNbXVxY
3 “Examples of bias in Wikipedia: conservative pesonalities.” Conservapedia. https://www.conservapedia.com/Examples_of_Bias_in_Wikipedia
4 Black, Edwin. “Wikipedia: Dumbing Down of World Knowledge.” History News Network. April 19, 2010
5 Andre Damon. “As social opposition mounts, Silicon Valley and Washington step up internet censorship.” World Socialist Web Site. September 4, 2018
6 “List of Atlantic Council Donors.” Think Tank Watch. http://www.thinktankwatch.com/2015/11/the-donors-of-atlantic-council.html
7 Sheldrake, Rupert. “The problem with negative media skepticism.” Skeptical About Skeptics. http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org/examining-skeptics/rupert-sheldrake/rupert-sheldrake-the-problem-with-negative-media-skepticism/
8 Viharo, Rome. Wikipedia, Please delete my article: Deepak Chopra’s Wiki-War,” Wikipedia We Have a Problem. July 8, 2016. http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/2016/07/wikipedia-please-delete-my-article-deepak-chopras-wiki-war-part-1/
9 Cabbolet, Marcoen. “Tell-tale sings of pseudoskepticism (bogus skepticism)” http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Cabbolet15.pdf
11 Karlgaard, Rich. “Wikipedia censors global warming skeptics,” Forbes. June 6, 2008.
12 Oberhaus, Daniel. “Nearly All of Wikipedia Is Written By Just 1 Percent of Its Editors.” Vice. 7 Nov 2017.
14 Viharo, Rome. “Factual harassment versus fictional harassment, Deepak Chopra’s Wikipedia article reflects larger problem,” Wikipedia We Have a Problem. March 26, 2016. http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/2016/03/factual-harassment-versus-fictional-harassment-wp-editor-manul-jytdog-and-deepak-chopra/
15 Chomsky, Noam. Propaganda and the Public Mind. Haymarket Books: Chicago, 2015
16 Black, Edwin. “Wikipedia: Dumbing Down of World Knowledge.” History News Network. April 19, 2010
17 “The Dark Side of Wikipedia.” Full Measure. 21 Aug 2016. http://fullmeasure.news/news/cover-story/the-dark-side-of-wikipedia
18 Laurent M, Vickers T. “Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter” J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009 July-Aug 1 6(4): 471-479.
19 Heater, Brian. “Are corporations that use Wikipedia giving back?” TechCrunch.com. March 24, 2018. “Wikimedia Foundation,” Left Exposed.org. http://leftexposed.org/2016/08/wikimedia-foundation/
20 Gale R, Null G. “Medical Despotism: The American Medical Association (AMA) Offensive Against Chiropractic,” June 3, 2018. https://www.globalresearch.ca/medical-despotism-the-american-medical-association-ama-offensive-against-chiropractic/5642840
Today is September 17th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
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Today is September 13th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
In this episode Gary goes into a deep discussion on Michael Brenner's Plutocracy Now! article
CONSORTIUM NEWS September, 2018 •
By Michael Brenner
Plutocracy literally means rule by the rich. “Rule” can have various shades of meaning: those who exercise the authority of public office are wealthy; their wealth explains why they hold that office; they exercise that authority in the interests of the rich; they have the primary influence over who holds those offices and the actions they take.
These aspects of “plutocracy” are not exclusive. Moreover, government of the rich and for the rich need not be run directly by the rich. Also, in some exceptional circumstances rich individuals who hold powerful positions may govern in the interests of the many, for example Franklin Roosevelt.
The United States today qualifies as a plutocracy – on a number of grounds. Let’s look at some striking bits of evidence. Gross income redistribution upwards in the hierarchy has been a feature of American society for the past decades. The familiar statistics tell us that nearly 80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2 percent and 65 percent to the upper 1 per cent. Estimates for the rise in real income for salaried workers over the past 40 years range from 20 percent to 28 percent. In that period, real GDP has risen by 110 percent – it has more than doubled.
To put it somewhat differently, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the top earning 1 percent of households gained about 8 times more than those in the 60 percentile after federal taxes and income transfers between 1979 and 2007 and 10 times those in lower percentiles.
In short, the overwhelming fraction of all the wealth created over two generations has gone to those at the very top of the income pyramid.
That pattern has been markedly accelerated since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Between 2000 and 2012, the real net worth of 90 percent of Americans has declined by 25 percent. Meanwhile, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates et al, i.e. the wealthiest 1 percent of the world’s population, now own more than half of the world’s wealth (according to a Credit Suisse report in Nov. 2017). Croesus is green with envy.
Not By Accident
Theoretically, there is the possibility that this change is due to structural economic features operating nationally and internationally. That argument won’t wash, though, for three reasons.
First, there is every reason to think that such a process has accelerated over the past nine years during which disparities have widened at a faster rate. Second, other countries (many even more enmeshed in the world economy) have seen nothing like the drastic phenomenon occurring in the United States. Third, the readiness of the country’s political class to ignore what has been happening, and the absence of remedial action that could have been taken, in themselves are clear indicators of who shapes thinking and determines public policy.
In addition, several significant governmental actions have been taken that directly favor the moneyed interests. This includes the dismantling of the apparatus to regulate financial activities specifically and big business generally.
Runaway exploitation of the system by predatory banks was made possible by the Clinton “reforms” of the 1990s and the lax application of those rules that still prevailed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, let’s recall, went so far as to admit that the Department of Justice’s decisions on when to bring criminal charges against the biggest financial institutions will depend not on the question of legal violations alone but would include the hypothetical effects on economic stability of their prosecution. (Those adverse effects are greatly exaggerated).
Earlier, Holder had extended blanket immunity to Bank of America and other mortgage lenders for their apparent criminality in forging through robo-signing of foreclosure documents on millions of home owners. In brief, equal protection and application of the law has been suspended. That is plutocracy.
Moreover, the extremes of a regulatory culture that, in effect, turns public officials into tame accessories to financial abuse emerged in stark relief at the 2013 Levin Committee hearings on J P Morgan Chase’s ‘London Whale” scandal. Morgan officials stated baldly that they chose not to inform the Controller of the Currency about discrepancies in trading accounts, without the slightest regard that they might be breaking the law, in the conviction that it was Morgan’s privilege not to do so.
Senior regulators explained that they did not see it as their job to monitor compliance or to check whether claims made by their Morgan counterparts were correct. They also accepted abusive treatment, e.g. being called “stupid” to their face by senior Morgan executives. That’s plutocracy at work. The Senate Finance Committee hearing drew only 3 senators – yet another sign of plutocracy at work. When mega-banks make illicit profits by money laundering for drug cartels and get off with a slap on the wrist, as has HSBC and others, that too is plutocracy. FDR, it rightly is said, saved American capitalism. Barack OBAMA saved predatory financial capitalism.
When the system of law that is meant to order the workings of society without reference to ascriptive persons is made malleable in the hands of officials to serve the preferred interests of some, it ceases to be a neutral instrument for the common good. In today’s society, it is becoming the instrument of a plutocracy.
The financial behemoths and big business in general can count on sympathetic justices to bail them out when cornered by prosecutors. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was making an earnest attempt to call to account several predators when the New York Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under him. Their generous interpretation of the dubious Supreme Court decision on wrongful trading cases upheld the overturning of the conviction of Michael S. Steinberg, the highest-ranking officer of notorious hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors. Bharara was obliged to drop seven outstanding cases against the Wall Street biggies.
Corporate Tax Dodging
There are myriad other examples of complicity between legislators or regulators, on the one hand, and special business interests on the other. Environmental Protection Agency judgments that are reversed under the combined pressure of the commercial interests of affected and beholden politicians is one. The government’s decision not to seek the power to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over the price of drugs paid for with public funds is another. Tolerance for the concealment of offshore profits in the tens of billions is a third. This last is the most egregious.
Some of the most profitable companies pay little or no federal taxes. Apple is outstanding among them – it has paid zero. Facebook and Microsoft follow closely behind. General Electric received a tax refund in 2015 – after revenues of $8 billion. Its global tax rate in all jurisdictions was 3.2 percent.
In California, several corporate giants (including Apple and Genentech) have launched an aggressive campaign in an unprecedented effort to be reimbursed for real estate taxes on the grounds that their assets have been over-assessed – and their profits unfairly cut. The Silicon Valley town of Cupertino hosts the world headquarters of Apple, which built its vast campus there in 2014. It has 13,000 employees. How much does it pay the city of Cupertino for the services provided? $6,000.
Apple has rejected polite suggestions that it might raise that amount on grounds that doing so would be in contradiction of its business model. The threat of packing up and moving the whole shebang to Sheboygan is hardly credible given the multi-billion investment in concrete and glass. Apple’s power to get its way is political and cultural. Cupertino, by the way, was a prosperous town before Apple set up shop there.
Even in Seattle, bastion of progressive politics, Amazon has shown how easily it can intimidate and muscle politicos to do its bidding. A path-breaking corporate tax was enacted in May that would raise $50 million annually to help cover the cost of desperately needed affordable housing programs. It was passed unanimously by the City Council to nation-wide acclaim.
In June it was scuttled by a 7-2 vote. What had happened to produce this ‘epiphany?’ Simple – Amazon announced that it was suspending all expansion plans for Seattle, and were joined by Microsoft, Starbucks and others in a declaration of war against the city. Mayor Jenny Durkin caved in: “We heard you,” she said while waving the white flag and bowing to her masters.
In short, a city besieged by barbarians saved itself by enslaving itself. Thereby, Seattle is little different from an old style corporate run mill town like Bethlehem or Scranton, Pennsylvania. That’s our bright high-tech future under plutocracy.
Please note: Seattle and Silicon Valley are where Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders go to plead for money from hedge fund vultures and IT billionaires to fund their ‘Republican-lite’ ‘reform’ campaigns.
The ethic of corporate entitlement is carried to its extreme by Uber. The company flouts laws and regulations as a matter of course. It exploits its disposable gig workers to build a clientele and then tells local authorities that if they enforce the rules, Uber will leave – and leave angry voters behind. Currently, they are hotly contesting a ruling of the California Supreme Court that its throw-away workers are not “independent contractors.” In its typical aggressive fashion, Uber leaders are buying politicians and stirring its promoters to get a legislative exception. Board member Ariana Huffington, former progressive activist, is in full support. So it goes in a plutocracy.
Relaxed interpretations of the tax laws by the IRS to the advantage of high income persons can be added to the list. So, too, can the give-away to sole source contractors of the tens of billions squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of such direct assists to big business and the wealthy is endless.
The point is that government, at all levels, serves particular selfish interests no matter who holds high positions. While there is some difference between Republicans and Democrats on this score, it has narrowed on most major items to the point that the fundamental properties of the biased system are so entrenched as to be impervious to electoral outcomes. The most revealing experience that we have of that harsh reality is the Obama administration’s strategic decision to allow Wall Street to determine how and by whom the 2008 financial crisis would be handled.
Systemic biases are the most crucial factor is creating and maintaining plutocratic orientations of government. They are confirmed, and reinforced, by the identities and identifications of the persons who actually hold high elected office.
Our leaders are nearly all rich by any reasonable standard. Most are very rich. Trump’s cabinet is dominated by billionaires. Those who weren’t already rich have aspired to become so and have succeeded. The Clintons are the striking case in point. That aspiration is evinced in how they conduct themselves in office.
Congress, for its part, is composed of two rich men/women’s clubs. In many cases, personal wealth helped win them their offices. In many others, they knit ties with lobbies that provided the necessary funds. Former Senator Max Baucus should have worn a Big Pharma jersey, like soccer players, if truth in advertising rules pertained. Whether they are “bought off” in some sense or other, they surely are often coopted. The most insidious aspect of cooptation is to see the world from the vantage point of the advantaged and special economic interests.
The devolution of the Democratic Party from being the representative of ordinary people to being just “another bunch of guys” is a telling commentary on how American politics has degenerated into a plutocracy. The party’s rolling over to accommodate the interests of the wealthy has been a theme of the past decade or longer.
From the Obama White House to the halls of Congress, party leaders (and most followers) have conceded the dominance of conservative ideas about macro-economic strategy (the austerity dogma), about retaining largely untouched the for-profit health care “non-system,” about bailing out the big financial players at the expense of everyone else and the economy’s stability, and about degrading Social Security and Medicare. The last item is the most egregious – and revealing – of our plutocratic ways and means. For it entails a combination of intellectual deceit, blatant massaging of the numbers, and disregard for the human consequences in a time of growing distress for tens of millions. In other words, there is no way to conceal or spin the trade-offs made, who is being hurt and who would continue to enjoy the advantages of skewed fiscal policies.
The most compelling evidence of how the money interests shape American politics is the systematic disregard for the most overt manifestations of predatory capitalism. Consider the tax exemption corporate leaders have granted themselves by devising ingenious ways of incorporating themselves in tax havens (or even no-tax cyber space) where all profits are registered via the manipulation of transfer pricing – as noted above. Yet, there is not a single bit of proposed legislation to remedy this gross misappropriation of wealth being considered by either branch of the United States Congress. It was raised, albeit tangentially and briefly, by only one candidate in the 2016 election – Bernie Sanders.
No one is raising it in this year’s mid-terms. As for the hedge fund/private equity vultures, they were singled out for denunciation by Newt Gingrich – of all people – back in the 2012 Republican primaries against Mitt Romney. It was the main reason for his surprise victory in South Carolina. Then came the much publicized debate in Florida. To everyone’s surprise, Gingrich was completely silent about hedge funds and never mentioned Romney’s career as a hedge fund predator. What happened? The Party heavies made him a proposition he could not refuse: either shut up or you’ll never eat lunch again in Washington. Fold up your lucrative consultancy, turn in your celebrity card, and start getting your new wife accustomed to dinners at Eat & Park.
The Media’s Job
There is another, absolutely crucial dimension to the consolidation of America’s plutocracy. It is controlling the means to shape how the populace understands public matters and, thereby, to channel thought and behavior in the desired direction. Our plutocratic guides, prophets and trainers have been enormously successful in accomplishing this. One object of their efforts has been to render the media into either conscious allies or to denature them as critics or skeptics. Their success is readily visible.
Who in the media has challenged the plutocracy serving falsehood that Social Security and Medicare are the main cause of our deficits whose imminent bankruptcy puts in jeopardy the American economy? Who even bothers to inform the public that those two programs’ trust funds draw on a separate revenue source from the rest of the budget? Answer: no one in or near the mainstream media.
Who has performed the most elementary service in pointing out that of all the jobs created since 2009, small as the number has been, 60 percent at least have been either part-time or temporary? Answer: again, no one. Who has bothered to highlight the logical flaws in the market fundamentalist view of the world that has so deformed perceptions of what works and doesn’t work in macro-economic management? Yes, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and a handful of others – although even Krugman’s colleagues writing on business and economics at The New York Times seem not to have the time to read him or else lack the wit to comprehend what he is saying.
Think Tank Takeovers
A second objective in a similar vein has been to dominate the think tank/foundation world. Today, nearly every major Washington think tank depends on corporate money. Businessmen sit on the boards and shape research programs. Peter G. Peterson, the hedge fund billionaire, took the more direct route of acquiring the International Institute of Economics, renaming it after himself. He then set about using it as an instrument to carry on the campaign against Social Security which has become his life’s work.
Then there is Robert Rubin. Rubin is the distilled essence of financial malpractice, and the embodiment of the government-Wall Street nexus that brought the country to wrack and ruin. Author of Clinton’s deregulation program while Secretary of the Treasury: later super lobbyist and Chairman of the conglomerated super bank CITI (only made possible by his deregulation) in the years before it was pulled from the brink of bankruptcy by Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner; and adviser to Barack Obama who stocked the new administration with Rubin protégés. He since has ensconced himself as Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and Director of the highly prestigious, lavishly funded Hamilton Project at Brookings. By happenstance, both organizations late last year featured presentations by Jaime Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, America’s biggest bank. The presentation was billed as a forum for a leading global CEO to share priorities and insights before a high-level audience of CFR members. This is plutocracy in action.
The third objective has been to weaken public education. We have witnessed the assault on our public elementary school system in the name of effectiveness, efficiency and innovation. Charter schools are the watchword. Teachers are blamed as the heart of the problem. So privatization, highly profitable privatization, is sold as the solution to save America’s youth in the face of ample evidence to the contrary. Cast aside is the historical truth that our public school system is the one institution, above all others, that made American democracy. It also is a bastion of enlightened social thinking. It thereby qualifies as a target.
The same goes for the country’s proud network of public universities. From state to state, they are starved for funding and made sacrificial lambs on the altar of the austerity cult. They, too, are stigmatized as “behind the times,” as no longer doing the job of supplying the business world with the obedient, practical skilled workers it wants. Business schools, long a dependency of the corporate world, are held up as the model for private-public partnership in higher education. Distance learning, often managed by for-profit “expert” consultants or “entrepreneurs”, is advertised as the wave of a bright future – a future with fewer liberal-leaning professors with fuzzy ideas about the good society. Distance learning is the higher education companion to the charter school fad. Lots of promises, little delivery, but well conceived to advance aplutocracy friendly agenda.
Here, too, boards of regents are led by business men or women. The abortive coup at the University of Virginia was instigated by the rector who is a real estate developer in Virginia Beach. The chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Texas system where tensions are at a combustible level is a real estate developer. The chairman at the University of California is CEO of two private equity firms – and the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein. His pet project was to have the moneys of the California teacher’s pension fund (CALPERS) placed in the custody of private financial houses. Two former directors of the fund currently are under criminal investigation for taking very large kick-backs from other private equity firms to whom they directed monies – and which later employed them as ‘placers.’ That’s plutocracy at work.
Money as the Measure of All Things
The ultimate achievement of a plutocracy is to legitimize itself by fixing in the minds of society the idea that money is the measure of all things. It represents achievement, it is the sine qua non for giving people the things they most want. It is the gauge of an individual’s worth. It is the mark of status in a status anxious culture. That way of seeing the world describes the outlook of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. It is Obama who, at the height of the financial meltdown, lauded Jaime Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, as “savvy and successful businessmen.” It is Obama who eagerly became Dimon’s golfing buddy – an Obama who twice in his career took jobs with corporate law firms. It was Bill Clinton who has been flying the world in corporate jets for the past twelve years. It is the two of them who promoted Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to press for the crippling of Social Security. That’s plutocracy pervading the leadership ranks in both parties of what used to be the American republic.
Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of the plutocracy’s financial wing has been to convince the political class that its largely speculative activities are normal. Indeed, they are feted as being the economy’s principal reason for growth. Their ruse follows that their own well-being is essential to the well-being of the national economy and, therefore, they deserve privileged treatment.
Subtlety, discretion and restraint are foreign to their buccaneering style with deep roots in the country’s culture and history. Their behavior is often impulsive and grasping: greedy to display what they can get away with and that they are top dogs. They are playing with the nation’s wealth to enrich themselves rather than manage an economy.
There is little interest in building anything that might endure – no ‘new order,’ no new party, no new institutions. Not even physical monuments to themselves. Why bother when the existing set-up works so well nowto your advantage and your like-minded and like-interested associates who can turn ideas, money and policies in their direction with ease.
Meanwhile the public is blind to how they are being deluded and abused, thanks in large part to a supine news media. Little changes in a country whose civic ideology imbues the populace with the firm belief that its principles and institutions embody unique virtue. Challenging that is a threat to plutocrats and the media and the educational system they run or influence.
A Wall Street Police State
One of the most stunning examples of direct plutocratic involvement in the state was Wall Street’s audacity in coopting a part of the NYC Police Department in setting up a semi-autonomous unit to monitor the financial district.
Funded by Goldman Sachs et al, managed in part by private bank employees in key administrative positions, and with an explicit mandate to prevent and deal with any activity that threatens them, it operates with the latest high tech equipment out of a dedicated facility provided by its sponsors. The facility for years was kept “under the counter” so as not to tempt inquisitive parties to expose it. This is the unit that coordinated squelching of the Occupy Movement’s Manhattan demonstrations. It represents the appropriation of a public agency to serve and to serve under private interests.
The post-9/11 hyper-anxiety provided political and ideological cover for a deal devised by Mayor Mike Bloomberg (himself a Wall Street billionaire who went down the line to defend Wall Street against all charges of financial abuse) in collusion with his former associates. Is this simply Bloomberg exposing NYC’s fiscal dependency on financial sector jobs?
This is the same Bloomberg who killed a widely supported initiative to set a minimum decent wage of $10 an hour with health insurance ($11.50 without) on development projects that receive more than $1 million in taxpayer subsidies. He stigmatized the measure as “a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked…. The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn’t work out so well.” That’s as plutocratic as it gets – and in liberal New York.
No Conspiracy Necessary
Furthermore, the moving parts of plutocracy are not well organized. There is no conspiracy as such. It is the convergence of outlook and self-interests among disparate persons in different parts of the system that has accomplished a revolution in American public life, public discourse, and public philosophy.
Nobody had to indoctrinate Barack Obama in 2008-2009 or intimidate him or bribe him. He came to the plutocrats on his own volition with his mind-set and values already in conformity with the plutocracy’s view of itself and of America. This is the man who, for the first two years of his presidency, repeatedly misstated the coverage of the Social Security Act of 1935 – ignorant and not bothering to find out, or willfully ignorant so as to create a convenient comparison with his fatally flawed health care pseudo-plan. This was the man, after all, who cited Ronald Reagan as a model for what sort of presidency America needed. He has been living proof of how effectively Americans had been brought into line with the plutocratic vision.
This is not to say that the plutocrats’ success was inevitable – or that they were diabolically clever in manipulating everything and everyone to their advantage. There has been a strong element of good fortune in their victory. Their most notable piece of luck has been the ineptitude and shortsightedness of their potential opposition – liberal Democrats, intellectuals, professional asociations and their like. The plutocratspursued their goals in a disorganized, diffuse way. However, the absence of an opponent on the contested terrain ensured success.
As for cleverness, the American plutocracy is actually a stupid plutocracy. First, it overreaches. Far better to leave a few goodies on the table for the 99 percent and even a few crumbs for the 47 percent than to risk generating resentment and retaliation.
Since the financial meltdown, financial and business interests have been unable to resist picking the pockets of the weak. Fishing out the small change in the wake of grand larceny is rubbing salt into wounds. Why fight a small rise in the minimum wage? Why ruthlessly exploit all those temps and part-timers who have so little in the way of economic or political power anyway? Why squeeze every last buck from the small depositors and credit card holders whom you already systematically fleece? In the broad perspective, that sort of behavior is stupid.
To explain it, we must look to the obsession with status of America’s audacious corporate freebooters. These peculiar traits grow more intense the higher one goes in the hierarchy of riches. One is the impulse to show to everybody your superiority by displaying what you can get away with. “Sharp dealing” always has been prized by segments of American society. It’s the striving, insecure man who has to prove to the world – and to himself – that he can act with impunity. He is little different from the hoodlum showing off to his pals and to his moll.
These people at heart are hustlers – they crave the thrill of pulling off a scam, not constructing something. Hence, Lloyd Blankfein not showing up for White House meetings yet having Obama thank him for letting the president know, albeit after the meeting already had begun, that Blankfein can’t make it. Hence, Jaime Dimon indignantly protesting his verbal mistreatment by the press, by the White House, by whomever.
Then there is Jack Welch, the titan of American industry who struts sitting down, holding the Guinness record for the most manufacturing jobs outsourced by one company – and yet impudently calling Obama “anti-business” after the president appoints his hand-picked successor, Jeffrey Immelt, to head the White House’s Job Council. Or Bank of America’s faking compliance with the sweetheart deal it got from Obama on the felonious foreclosure scam.
The ultimate episode of egregious lawlessness is the MF Holdings affair – whereby under its chief, former Senator and Governor Jon Corzine, this hedge fund took the illegal action of looting a few billion from custodial accounts to cover losses incurred in its proprietary trading. JP Morgan, which held MF Global funds in several accounts and also processed the firm’s securities trades, resisted transferring the funds to MF’s customers until forced to by legal action. Punitive action: none. Why? The Justice Department and regulatory bodies came up with the lame excuse that the MF group’s decision-making was so opaque that they could not determine whose finger clicked the mouse. Shades of SNL. To pull capers like these and get off scot free without chastisement is the ultimate ego trip.
Where the Money Is
Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber of the 1940s, explained his targeting banks this way: “That’s where the money is.” Today’s financial swindlers go after high risk gambles because that’s where the biggest kicks are. That is more important than the biggest bucks – although they add to the thrill. The constant status striver and insecure financial baron is a compulsive gambler. He needs his fixes: of winning, of celebrity, of respect, or deference as transitory as all may be.
American culture provides few insignia of rank. No ‘Sirs,’ no seats in the House of Lords, no rites of passage that separate the heralded elite from all the rest of us. Since oblivion shadows the most famous and acclaimed, they often grasp for whatever is within reach – however ludicrous that might be. When IR Magazine awarded JPMorgan the prize for “best crisis management” of 2012 for its handling of the London Whale trading debacle, at a black-tie awards ceremony in Manhattan, Morgan executives were there to express their appreciation, rather than hide in shame. The only Wall Street personage who has played the celebrity game without being marginalized in the public mind is Robert Rubin. Through nimbleness and political connection he has semi-institutionalized his celebrity status. Yes, there is former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. But his stature is built on an unmatched record of service to the commonweal and unchallenged integrity. The Blankfeins and Dimons and Welchs and Rubins not only lack the critical attributes – they also appear to scorn the public, rathe than serve it, which even private financial institutions should do, while still making a decent profit.
The plutocrats’ compulsive denigration of the poor and the dispossessed is perhaps the most telling evidence of status obsession linked to insecurity borne of their often ill-gotten gains. That is at the core of their social personality. They seem to find it necessary to stigmatize the everyone not in their class as losers. Those at the lower end are condemned as as moral degenerates – drug addicts, lazy parasites – rather than victims of their financial system. This attitude is in part to highlight their superiority and in part to blur the human consequences of their rapacity. Behavior of this kind is the antithesis of a cultivated image of the statesman of commerce – even though they are paying a price in public esteem despite the media’s attempts to maintain their elevated status.
American plutocrats have a deep craving to believe in their own virtue – and to have others recognize it, despite the facts. Their perverse pride in beating the system does not tarnish how they regard their behavior. Blankfein said: “I have been doing the Lord’s work.”
Dimon swaggers through the Council on Foreign Relations or Brookings with the huddled masses in his audience beaming their adulation as they bask in his fame and thirst for his wisdom on the great affairs of the world. Would he give his views on whether the BRICS can rig the LIBOR rate with the connivance of the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve – or ignore regulatory reporting rules when they threaten to reveal a madcap scheme that loses $6 billion?
The Widespread Effect
Plutocracy in the current American style is having pernicious effects that go beyond the dominant influence of the rich on the nation’s economy and government. It is setting precedents and modeling the unaccountability and irresponsibility that is pervading executive power throughout the society. Three successive presidential administrations and two decades of rogue behavior by corporate elites have set norms now evident in institutions as diverse as universities and think tanks, the military and professional associations – even private clubs. The cumulative result is a widespread degrading of standards in the uses and abuses of power.
Plutocracy raises social tensions. Logically, the main line of tension should be between the plutocrats and the rest of us – or, at least, between the plutocrats and all those with modest means. But that is not the case in the United States. While it is true that there were bitter words about Wall Street moguls and their bailouts during the first year or so after the financial collapse, it never became a main line of political division.
Today, outrage has abated and politics is all about austerity and debts rather than the distribution of wealth, and the power that goes with it.The deep-seated sense of anxiety and grievance that pervades the populace manifests itself in outbreaks of hostile competition among groups who are in fact all victims themselves of the plutocrats’ grabbing most of the country’s wealth – leaving the rest of us to fight over scraps. So it’s private sector employees pitted against government employees because the latter have (some) health insurance, some pension and some security relative to the former who have been shorn of all three. It’s parents worried about their kids’ education against teachers. Both against cash-strapped local authorities. Municipalities vs states. It’s the small businessman against unions and health insurance requirements. It’s doctors against patients against administrators. It’s university administrators against faculty and against students, and faculty against students competing for much-reduced appropriations. It’s all of those against boards of regents and state governors.
Nearly everyone is frustrated by the ever-sharpening contrast between hopes and aspirations and darkening realities of what they might expect for themselves and their children. Meanwhile, the folks at the top wait confidently and expectantly above the fray that they have engineered – ever ready to swoop down to strip what remains by way of privatized public assets, no-bid contracts, tax and regulatory havens, commercially owned toll roads, student loan monopolies, rapacious buying of foreclosed properties with federal incentives, and myriad tax breaks.
President Obama used his State of the Union Address of 2017 to send the message loud and clear. “Let me put colleges and universities on notice” he warned, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” He thereby set forth a line of reasoning that put him on the same wavelength as Rick Perry because the reality is the exact opposite. It is because public funding has gone down by 2/3 over the past few decades that colleges and universities are obliged to raise tuition – despite flat-lining faculty and staff salaries. This is the essence of intellectual conditioning to the plutocracy’s self-serving dogma and the suborning of public authorities by the plutocracy. Beyond capture, it is assimilation.
Does this sort of perverse pride go before the fall? No sign of that happening yet. Plutocracy in America is more likely to be our destiny. The growing dynastic factor operating within the financial plutocracy militates in that direction. Wealth itself has always been transferred from one generation to another, of course; reduced inheritance taxes along with lower rates at upper income brackets generally accentuate that tendency. With socio-economic mobility in American society slipping, it gains further momentum.
Something approaching a caste identity is forming among the financial elites – as personified by Dimon who is the third generation of Wall Street stockbrokers and financial managers in his family. His father was an executive director at American Express where the young Dimon joined forces with Sandy Weill. As a revealing coda to this generational tale, Dimon, last year, hired his 81-year old father to work for JP Morgan Chase. His father’s first-year salary was $447,000; slated to rise to $1.6 million – now that the apprentice has some work experience under his belt, presumably. A sense of limits is not part of the financialplutocracy’s persona.
Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh
Today is September 11th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
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A deep history of the radical right's stealth plan for American - legacy and activities of the Koch Brothers and its future impact
Prof. Nancy MacLean is the William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University where she specializes in race, gender, labor history and 20th century social movements. In the past she was chairwoman for the Department of History at Northwestern University. She is a fellow of the Society of American Historians and received many awards for her publications on the history of Ku Klux Klan, the American women's movement, and segregation and human rights activism. Her most recent book is "Democracy in Chains: History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America" -- a piercing examination into the history and background of right wing academics in the tradition of Nobel Laureate James Buchanan and the Charles Koch and their campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change and make a radical revision to the Constitution. The book was named Most Valuable Book and Favorite Book of the Year by The Nation and The Progressive respectively and became a finalist for the National Book Award.
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Today is September 6th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
The Villa: Holistic Health and Wellness Retreat with Gary Null, Ph.D. and Luanne Pennesi, RN, MS
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LEANSE, DE-STRESS, REJUVENATE!
Personal health and life-issue counseling, gourmet vegan meals, juicing all day long, meditation, yoga, classes including cooking, sprouting, exercise, meditation, homesteading; nothing like it anywhere; and extremely affordable - only $2,500 for a full week per person - all inclusive (except airfare, ground transportation and massages)- everything else is included!
The Villa health and wellness programs are led by nutrition consultants and personal trainers that provide the expertise you need to understand your current nutritional profile and make easy and positive changes. We offer our guests delicious and nutritious vegan meals and juices.
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Today is September 5th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
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Today is September 4th and like always The Gary Null Show is here to inform you on the best news in health, healing, the environment.
September 12th 2018 Gary Null will be hosting a dance party in NYC please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to attend. More info is in the program.
NEXT RETREAT IS COMING UP
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For more information, please email Luanne at email@example.com
or call 903-881-7008
or call 903-881-7008
Join US for a week that could change your life... cleanse, de-stress, rejuvenate!
Personal health & life-issue counseling, gourmet vegan meals, juicing all day long, meditation, yoga, classes including cooking, sprouting, exercise, meditation, homesteading; nothing like it anywhere!
Chris Hedges is one of our nation’s most insightful cultural critics, social and political activists and investigative journalists. He is also Presbyterian minister and a visiting Princeton University lecturer. For two decades Chris was a foreign correspondent in war zones and conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, having reported for The New York Times and other news outlets from over 50 countries. While at the Times, he received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on global terrorism. That same year he received Amnesty International’s Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Chris has authored many bestselling books. His most recent is “America: The Farewell Tour”, a deep on-the-ground account of America's accelerating economic, social and political decay and the nation's descent into fascism. Chris also hosts the weekly TV program “On Contact,” with interviews prominent dissidents ignored by the media. It airs every Saturday on Russian TV at RT.com