The Wikipedia project is popularly celebrated as an online encyclopaedia, but has met with a growing number of critics, from both the academic and citizen sectors. Some regard Wikipedia merely as a controversial website. Critics regard the aggregate pseudonymous editorship and administrative procedure as a major drawback, in addition to other factors of objection such as article content and talkpage problems.
1. Citizen Philosophy
2. Wikipedia as a Sectarian Avenue
3. Attack Strategy of Administrator Smartse
4. Wikipedia Attack Forum
5. Jimmy Wales Deletes SSS108 Attack
6. Removed from the Registers
7. Fifelfoo's Dismissal Ignores Citizendium
8. Sai Baba Movement Obscured by Surfers
9. A Sufi Matriarch and Ethnic Blanking
10. Wikipedia Gestapo
11. Wikipedia Flaws and Misinformation
12. Wikipedia as a Social Problem
1. Citizen Philosophy
This article is the successor to Wikipedia Anomalies. I have never been a contributor to Wikipedia, and the following commentary is that of a complete outsider. Some background information is relevant.
During the years 1981-93, I undertook a private research project at Cambridge University Library. As a citizen observing the academic scene in Cambridge, I found that both insular and liberal attitudes were represented. The liberal category of academic always wins my admiration, and it was one of those who sponsored me for admission to CUL. A veteran psychologist, he was interested in the fact that I was an unprivileged citizen, prepared to give much time for no pay, rather than an official researcher who was generously funded by the conventional academic channels. I heard the view expressed that most researchers would never do any research if they were not paid for their labours. I met other liberal academics who were also concerned at how I would survive without any funding.
The conservative category of academic was rather different. They would not generally concede any relevance to a non-academic background, for instance. This meant that only the academic activity had any validity; the public sector did not count and were effectively non-existent. The man in the street was just a non-intellectual robot doomed to a mundane occupation, while the academic elite were the cream of society and could be relied upon to get everything right. It was they who became the politicians and the bureaucrats, for example. They were even knighted by royalty (just like pop stars). There was a limit to my patience with such caste attitudes.
Although I valued my accumulating notebooks, library study was not the determining criterion of experience for me. Such social issues as "self-published books" were a feature of my own argument. The citizen philosopher may need to contradict the agendas contrived by the elitist mentality, e.g., all relevant books must be published by prestigious university presses. On Wikipedia, the alternative is "reliable third party publishers," meaning the sphere of commercial publishing so frequently hallmarked by big business concerns. The literate citizen who dares to negotiate the commercial publishers has no entity on Wikipedia, whose guidelines do not recognise any validity in self-publishing, and fail to distinguish between the vastly different categories of that phenomenon.
Citizen patience could wear very thin when faced with the excuses of academic philosophy. In nearly all the various guises of this elite activity, the basic denominator is that the public sector do not really exist, and certainly not in the intellectual sense. After four centuries of modern Western philosophy, the scenario is that of a substantially contracted assignment. The amateurs like Descartes and Spinoza are all dead, we are told, and anyway quite useless now by comparison with the splendour of analytical and postmodernist discourse, associated with Earl Bertrand Russell and the Foucault/Derrida version of Hiroshima. Leibniz is just an obsolete metaphysical signpost to the past, and so forth, even if he did race neck to neck in calculus discovery with Isaac Newton.
As for Islamic philosophy, that is often dismissed by postmods. Neoplatonism and all that outdated stuff, what a joke for the progressives. Yet one could dare to suggest that Spinoza would have understood the renunciate background of twelfth century citizen philosopher Suhrawardi, who insisted that the big subject (of philosophy) inherited from the Greeks must begin with a basic renunciation and discipline. However, Suhrawardi was not translated into Latin, and (outside Iran) was only rediscovered in very recent times, an event attended by contrasting interpretations in the academic camp, further serving to delay understanding.
Of course, a doctoral degree is necessary today for legitimate philosophy, those credentials wielding angelic status. There is a contrary argument on this point, but so heretical that it can rarely be mentioned without fear of total censure. The brickbats could weigh a ton.
The real life citizen contribution is unlikely to be found on the listings of Big Business Books International Ltd, and will automatically be rejected by High Status University Press. The point has to be laboured in the face of anything resembling Wikipedia.
My own output has varied, including biography, history of religion, philosophy, and history of science. On Wikipedia, it is mainly my books on religion and "guru subjects" that have gained attention, with both supporter and opponent factors. (1)
2. Wikipedia as a Sectarian Avenue
There are rather numerous academics who choose, on principle, never to cite or link to the notoriously pseudonymous project called Wikipedia. The vast majority of Wikipedia editors do not use their real name.
We live in a backward society, where misinformation still exists much as it did in earlier centuries. Yet with the difference that, in those past times, the misinformers and miseducators generally used their real names. The internet has given life to various forms of dubious web presence, from cyberstalkers and spammers to the bloggers with no name. When this factor percolates a purported online encyclopaedia, hazards can be expected.
Diverse critics of Wikipedia have lodged strong complaints. For instance, living real name persons are liable to dire afflictions when becoming the subject of Wikipedia articles and User pages. They risk severe distortion at the hands of unsympathetic pseudonymous editors, and the results can be transmitted elsewhere on the web, with potentially adverse consequences. Another prospect is deletion from the Wikipedia files, and in circumstances which may provoke disagreement.
Attacks and libels from the guru cults and their supporters can amount to a serious social problem. In my own case, Wikipedia was the attack launch for a sectarian activist editor (afterwards banned). In 2006, SSS108 (Gerald Joe Moreno) proscribed my books on a User page. This was because I had relayed criticisms (in appendices of one book only) of a controversial guru (Sathya Sai Baba) by disillusioned ex-devotees. This partly pseudonymous American (SSS108, alias Equalizer) gained the strong repute of being a cyberstalker, which is not the best role model. His libellous blogs nevertheless influenced pro-Deletion editors in 2009, especially the entity called Dazedbythebell, who was keen to delete a Wikipedia article about the present writer. Dazedbythebell was a supporter of the Meher Baba movement.
Despite the articulate protests of a real name academic editor (Simon Kidd, educationist and philosopher), the pseudonymous Wikipedia administration deleted the article on Kevin R. D. Shepherd. They did this despite strong implications that the American pro-sectarian cyberstalker would consider himself justified in his tactics commenced on Wikipedia. Simon Kidd was the only participant who belonged to the real name world, and some weight attaches to his observation made at the time of occurrence: “In my opinion, Moreno’s prompt blogging only reinforces the suspicion that Wikipedia editors in sympathy with him were involved in the Shepherd AfD [Article for Deletion] nomination.” This disclosure met with a very suspect degree of indifference.
The Wikipedia anomalies mean, amongst other things, that pseudonymous entities associated with this project have a potentially greater power than real name entities, whether the latter are academics or citizens. Wikipedia pseudonymity has also led to situations in which disguised cultists, and even a cyberstalker, were greatly assisted in their tactics.
There are a number of pronounced flaws in Wikipedia procedure. The most obvious problem is that of pseudonymous identities. In respect of the religious "cult" resistance to non-sectarian citizen output, I can here quote an earlier reflection of mine:
"Responsible parties in America are urged to consider what the outcome will be if American cult attitudes gain ascendancy in the new world, bringing back medieval European standards of inquisition and false testimony operating under the influence of rabidly obsessive beliefs."
3. Attack Strategy of Administrator Smartse
In January 2012 commenced the Noticeboard campaign of administrator Smartse to eliminate three of my books from Wikipedia. This situation reveals substantial discrepancies.
Overall, I have argued for a citizen position in relation to philosophy and science, without denying these fields a relevance, in contrast to the tendency of new age or "new spirituality" exponents. When my standpoint is misrepresented, I may have cause to complain. A process of abuse started with a pro-sectarian troll on Wikipedia, whose blog biases and libels were repeated by some other pseudonymous Wikipedia editors, even after the culprit (SSS108, Gerald Joe Moreno) was banned from Wikipedia in 2007.
Internet trolls have recently become recognised as a social menace, but there is insufficient attention given to necessary controls. The troll has been described as an internet yob, of whatever background, who expresses verbal damage and/or libel while hiding behind a pseudonym. This offence is not limited to the popular social networking sites like Facebook.
A grievance of some critics has been the laxity of Google Inc. in failing to regulate blogspot.com against trolls, and requiring an expensive legal document to eliminate the offence. As one victim of this laxity, and referring to an internet terrorist, I can here affirm that guru cults are a danger to citizens and academics alike. The Google robot should be reprogrammed to avoid further social damage. This issue has dimensions that include pseudonymous academics on Wikipedia who transgress codes of practice elsewhere in evidence.
An American troll (SSS108, alias Equalizer) attacked me on Wikipedia in 2006, employing a User page as influential ballast in his cultist campaign against all critics of Sathya Sai Baba. My books were maligned on the basis of a single appendice mentioning ex-devotee accounts. Perhaps even worse, an academic scientist (strongly associated with Cambridge), operating under the pseudonym Smartse, abused his administrative role on Wikipedia when he tried to portray me as a writer and publisher of "new age" associations. This strategy of Smartse in 2012 was evidently devised to cover up for his earlier deletionist role in abetting the tactics (against me) of no less than four guru cults active on Wikipedia, including affiliates of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Adi Da Samraj, although the major two sectarian hostilities were those representing Sathya Sai Baba and Meher Baba.
This combined Wikipedia activity of the cultists and their two academic associates (one using his real name, and well known for Cambridge connections) was instrumental in deleting my books from Wikipedia articles and bibliographies. The hostile tactic employed the stigma of self-publishing, but the issues at work were evidently much in excess of that factor, as the context attests. See further Wikipedia Anomalies.
The plant biologist Smartse opted to confuse me with a New York publisher (Larson), insinuating that my output was similarly deficient. This calculating juxtaposition effectively amounted to damning association with the Larson array of "new spirituality" authors like Ram Dass, alias Richard Alpert, the American academic and psychedelic enthusiast who inspired a tidal wave of drugmania and pseudo-Hindu lore in the 1960s and after. Such Wikipedia functionaries as Smartse deceive via acute neglect of the data they seek to dismiss.
I am known in more discerning circles as an opponent of new age entrepreneurs and drug promoters like Alpert, having made many references to the latter in published works suppressed on Wikipedia by the alliance of plant biology and sectarian affiliates (see also my Letter to BBC Radio). Science was here the accomplice of cult, a situation not made any the more impressive by Wikipedia pseudonymity, a common resort of the American underground, and held in question by many academics. In contrast, I have always used my real name, and have strongly warned against cannabis, Ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, and LSD, also the promoters and pushers. The Grof psychedelic movement was one subject criticised in my book Pointed Observations (2005), but all such critique is merely "new age" to the Smartse misrepresentation.
I still require to know why I was associated by Smartse (via Larson Publications) with such writers as Paul Brunton, Kenneth Hurst, Joseph CampbelI, Ram Dass, Joan Halifax, Willis Harman, Rupert Sheldrake, Rene Guenon, and Huston Smith. I still require an explanation as to where the convergence lies with my eleven books featuring four thousand annotations, plus my six websites and some fifty blog commentaries (with bibliographies) to date. My first website was notably in contention with new age activities, and included lengthy epistles of complaint. The same tendency is reflected on other websites of mine, and is evident even to superficial scrutiny.
My independentphilosophy site features over 800 annotations, and in relation to the Zoroastrian and Islamic heritages that tend to be completely missing from new age coverages. I still require to know what equivalent historical/biographical research the Smartse-referred writers have accomplished, as distinct from occultism, pop-psychology, pseudo-shamanism, new spirituality, psychedelic theory, Jungian mythology, Guenonian perennial philosophy, and new age lecture roles. I have explicitly disagreed, e.g., with the enthusiasm of Huston Smith for hallucinogenic plants and chemicals (Pointed Observations, p. 78, where I describe Smith's Cleansing the Doors of Perception as "a psychedelic pitfall").
In contrast with many of the new age spokesmen, I do not repudiate science, although I disagree strongly with animal experiments, and also genetic engineering. I have defended the subject of climate science against commercial interests, and on the basis of materials linking to my first book. The misleading classification attempted by the Wikipedia biologist Smartse is not conducive to fair reporting. I have also contributed an interdisciplinary coverage in annotated format (Meaning in Anthropos, 1991), but Wikipedia science (in the guise of Smartse) does not recognise due classification, instead facilitating calumny, awarding the maximal benefit to cultist deviation from fair representation. Such hindrances pass muster as NPOV (neutral point of view, a primary Wikipedia guideline).
An American librarian, active on Wikipedia, had earlier set the pattern for exclusion. In 2009, the verdict of DGG resulted in deletion of an article (about me), not in itself an issue, but nevertheless a matter converging with biases nurtured by cult factions operating on the same deletionist page as DGG, who effectively endorsed their hostility. The only concession made by DGG was that I had produced a lengthy web article about Sathya Sai Baba (and Wikipedia). He had not even read that item properly. DGG was completely unfamiliar with the complexities involved, having merely scanned some Google listings. His derogatory opinion was gleefully included by the cyberstalker troll SSS108 on a notorious attack site, which magnified the deletion details, as the real name academic editor Simon Kidd pointed out to the indifferent Wikipedia personnel who ignored his support for my position.
The subsequent verdict of Wikipedia manager Jimmy Wales placed the whole situation in question. In 2012, Wales personally deleted the very influential Wikipedia User page of SSS108 (alias Equalizer) which had been significantly utilised by the opposition, a matter ignored by DGG. That User page had militated against my books, and was now considered inexcusable. SSS108 had been banned from Wikipedia in 2007. Yet much damage had been done on the internet, with many victims in addition to myself. The troll had scored for years, and by means of such web devices as his Wikipedia User page of 2006, also featuring the "cult promoter" Jossi Fresco. Wikipedia editors believed the mistakes and libels of SSS108 /Equalizer and accepted these as fact.
As a consequence of the Smartse strategy, his pseudonymous colleagues (sporting ridiculous names like Hoverfish and Fifelfoo) censored, e.g., my early book A Sufi Matriarch, the only annotated monograph on Hazrat Babajan, and the only hardback publication in existence on the subject. That book was a gesture to feminist interests, so often excluded from male repertories. Hazrat Babajan was a Pathan mystic buried alive by fundamentalists, but who survived to score (benignly) over the British Raj at Poona. Anglo-American suppression of the only annotated work on the subject is perhaps no more appealing than fundamentalist censure. To write about traditional religion/mysticism is no proof whatever of a new age orientation, as numerous university scholars could surely confirm.
The Smartse strategy confused a literate citizen with the new age of drugs, therapy, and occultism, despite evidence to the contrary. The pseudonym Smartse implies finesse but amounts to an absence of ethical deportment and due explanation. Furthermore, the attack of this administrator arose in support of agitations visible at that time on the Wikipedia Meher Baba page, where the editors Dazedbythebell and Hoverfish sought to retain their monopoly.
Smartse had already dialogued with Dazedbythebell (a Meher Baba supporter) in an episode of article deletion, working to my disadvantage. That episode featured a very questionable tactic of Dazedbythebell, who paraded (on a deletion page) links to Equalizer (Gerald Joe Moreno) attack blogs. Dazedbythebell treated those libellous blogs as authoritative documents, and as justification for deletion of a Wikipedia article about myself. The cult scenario has been considered horrific by close analysts. An academic investigator has since discovered the real name identity of Hoverfish, meaning Stelios Karavias, who is a devotee of Meher Baba, and one of a trio involved in Wikipedia editorship.
4. Wikipedia Attack Forum
Critics of Wikipedia say that an internet encyclopaedia cannot successfully be conducted along the lines of a web forum, in which pseudonymous entities contribute. Some Wikipedia "noticeboard" discussions have been observed to resemble an attack focus, in whole or part, and in a questionable context of opinion that departs from established rules of investigation found elsewhere.
The Smartse campaign is now notorious in terms of an attack forum, though not all the participants were attackers. A real name academic editor, namely Simon Kidd, was clearly in sympathy with my case, contrasting with the hostile attitude of several other editors. This academic philosopher argued in favour of myself, and did not exhibit any trace of sectarian biases. He was exasperated by the dogmatic campaign of the cultists, who were unable to assimilate textual sources. The most eccentric expression of hostility occurred in the instance of editor Hoverfish, who emerged as an affiliate of the Meher Baba movement, and who relayed a misleading statement evidently derived from that contingent. The accusations against me were extremely distorted, and I have responded to these elsewhere.
Hoverfish was obviously pro-sectarian in his assertion that: "Contrary to the use of Shepherd's references, the references from Kalchuri's Lord Meher in the biography articles of Meher Baba, Upasni [Maharaj], Shirdi [Sai] Baba and elsewhere do not refer to his personal opinions but strictly and only to historical recorded facts" (28 January 2012). Simon Kidd responded: "Hoverfish, have you actually read any of Shepherd's books? And what you say about Kalchuri is absolutely not true, since anyone can see that Kalchuri's work is replete with his own (devotional) interpretation of events." (2)
Another adamant opponent of Kidd was Fladrif, who maintained that my books were irrelevant because they were self-published. It was obvious that he had not read those books, similar to the instance of Hoverfish (and also other editors and administrators). Some statements of Fladrif implied familiarity with cyberstalker attacks at saisathyasai.com, and more specifically, the resort of Gerald Joe Moreno to "vanity" press stigma. (3) Fladrif employed highly selective quotations from two academic partisans of Sathya Sai Baba, the context of which is more complex than might at first appear. (4) Simon Kidd had actually read the literature concerned, and he countered by giving appropriate information.
"In his 2005 book, Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, Shepherd addresses the critical comments by [Antonio] Rigopoulos and [Marianne] Warren (the index contains 39 page references to the former, and 25 to the latter). It should also be borne in mind that both Rigopoulos and Warren were devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, and would not therefore have been sympathetic to Shepherd's [brief] critical comments about their guru. Warren later changed her opinion about Sathya Sai Baba" (Reliable Sources Noticeboard, 27 January 2012).
These relevant details were ignored by Fladrif, in preference for the refrain against self-published books, compatible with G. J. Moreno attack policy. (5) The doubtful nature of the opposition tactic did not come to terms with the cult-laden values of the Rigopoulos-Warren literature, effectively justifying those values against self-published non-sectarian objections. The late Dr. Marianne Warren's book Unravelling the Enigma (1999) evidences her pronounced belief in miraculous events, a belief strongly influenced by Sathya Sai Baba, whom she subsequently repudiated as a decadent guru after discovering some shocking details. (6) See Marianne Warren's Rejection of Sathya Sai. Fladrif was effectively supporting miracle lore and the questionable guru role which became a focus of strong allegations about sexual abuse.
The stigma of "vanity publisher" was earlier the resort at saisathyasai.com, a medium for libellous hate campaign, and with the explicit purpose of "Exposing Critic's Smear-Campaigns against Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba." All criticisms of the favoured guru are here treated as crimes by Gerald Joe Moreno (Wikipedia SSS108), who has resorted to many defamations of the various critics. (7) Many observers have considered this situation to be acutely irrational, and also potentially dangerous.
Moreno (alias Equalizer) has used numerous blogs, and even attacked relatives and supporters of critics. He has strongly resisted his sole known web image from being displayed, though he freely uses the images of victims, even to the extent of creating offensive triple images, a symptom of excess quite apart from the fact that he has caricatured one victim as an ape-like monster. There is no sign of fair representation in Pro-Sai attack tactics, a drawback which is said to have influenced some Wikipedia events.
Simon Kidd found that the anomalies and drawbacks posed by the Wikipedia ideological climate were formidable. For instance, the attack on my books as being self-published, posed extensive discrepancies with the endorsed situation of many sectarian books found in Wikipedia bibliographies, books lacking the desired "third party reliability" which the opponents were emphasising. (8)
Fladrif high-handedly blanked some comments in the Noticeboard discussion, and gave the impression that the consensus of supposedly "uninvolved editors" (including himself) was five to one against the use of my books as reliable sources. Fladrif asserted: "Most of those commenting conclude that the [Shepherd] sources should not be cited." Kidd countered that such numbers do not prove accuracy, and observed that the numbers had been misrepresented, the consensus really amounting to three against two (Kidd, point 29, in the document subsequently blanked by Fifelfoo). These numbers were quite apart from the "involved editors" who were taking sides in the discussion.
5. Jimmy Wales Deletes SSS108 Attack
Wikipedia is now even more strongly associated with the pro-sectarian stance, involving miracle lore and other drawbacks. However, there is here an acute anomaly requiring mention. The Wikipedia manager Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, at this same juncture, made a strong gesture of resistance to the pro-sectarian attitude. In early February 2012, he personally deleted the 2006 User page of the banned editor SSS108 (Gerald Joe Moreno), who had proscribed my books in an obvious mood of sectarian bias. That User page had been showing on Google for several years, but now Jimbo effectively countered the "sectarian attack" image afflicting Wikipedia. The significance of this event was slow to dawn, being completely ignored by some Wikipedia personnel.
6. Removed from the Registers
Simon Kidd felt obliged to write a lengthy defence of my books in the face of a Noticeboard dismissal based on dubious and inflexible criteria. I was surprised at the detail in the document by Kidd, which enunciated 40 points in a logical manner. The print-out was 10-14 pages, depending on font size. The statement was entitled Self-published sources (Kevin Shepherd), and was posted on 11 February 2012 (three days after Jimbo had deleted the SSS108 User page). This relevant statement was promptly blanked by an overbearing entity called Fifelfoo, who contemptuously tagged the academic document as "disruptive soapbox." Kidd responded with a quotation from George Orwell's 1984:
"In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated.... the past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."
Afterwards, Kidd produced a shorter document, listing only ten points, and only two pages in print-out. Even this was considered too long to read by other editors, one of whom requested a short single paragraph summary of the key points. Unread documents add to the list of deficiencies in this sector. Brief statements of 50 words or so were emphasised as the ideal form of communication. Skeletal detail is another deficiency. One party incorrectly described the unread document in terms of "sermonising."
A dismissive response came from editor JN466, who briefly commented: "This is exactly the sort of wall of text Shepherd produces on his own website, e.g., Wikipedia_Anomalies."
The accusations concerning "wall of text" are associated with the non-academic American presence on Wikipedia. Brief communications are in favour, and longer ones are too much for casual scrutiny. The "coffee table" reading appetite sees long articles or books as an alien factor, and judgements made at this level are frequently infantile by academic (and some citizen) standards, and occasionally admixed with offensive comment.
A few days later, JN466 mistakenly extrapolated from another "wall of text" web article of mine that "Shepherd has worked in some capacity at Cambridge University Library." The erroneous suggestion was made that this "has something to do with his works being held by more than the expected number of academic libraries." The negative implication was obvious. I was actually a private researcher at CUL, as my web article clearly stated, but research is not understood in the sectors opposed to "wall of text." CUL cannot be successfully implicated as the artful and conniving distributor of my works on the international library circuit. I was also incriminated by JN466 as the son of Kate Thomas, whom the hostile editor obviously did not like. It remains to add that JN466 was one of the initial agents of deletion in 2009 for the Kevin R. D. Shepherd article on Wikipedia. This editor is strongly associated with the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) sect via wordings on his Wikipedia user page.
What did the blanked document actually say? For one thing, it provided a record of the Noticeboard discussion by an academic analyst who had participated. Various aspects of the attendant themes were covered. A basic recommendation was that "in exceptional circumstances, a self-published author may be acceptable if he has multiple publications, over a sustained period, uses the scholarly apparatus, and is cited by other (preferably academic) authors" (point 37).
Of course, there was a lot more to the argument, but Wikipedia had no interest whatever in such complexities. Only indifference, jibe, and pedantic assertions were in vogue. The dismissal of unread books, and the gross inattention to editorial discrepancies (including sectarian allegiances), is surely not the sign of a duly efficient or progressive encyclopaedia.
In my favour, Simon Kidd disputed the belief that more reliable sources existed in the Wikipedia articles citing myself. This belief was committed to the elevation of pro-sectarian sources at my expense. Some of the more critical observers (outside Wikipedia) have dubbed the hostile attitude as "cut-throat cultism." The educationist Kidd was far more polite. "Shepherd is no more unreliable than authors published by organisations associated with the subjects of NRM (new religious movement) articles; indeed, in my experience, he is more reliable" (point 31). Further, "Shepherd is at least as reliable as Rigopoulos and Warren, who were both devotees of Sathya Sai Baba when they wrote their books, and Warren expressed her own misgivings about Rigopoulos' blind acceptance of statements by his guru" (point 31).
Kidd also reminded that the administrator DGG, in relation to the Shirdi Sai Baba article, stated in 2010 that my output was "considerably more acceptable than many of the other sources in the article." Kidd also observed that a theme raised in the Noticeboard discussion had been ignored in favour of a digression, avoiding the fact that some books regarded as more reliable sources were in fact written by devotees of Meher Baba, and that the publishers were exclusively partisan to this subject (point 30).
The same analyst included the results of his investigation into WorldCat library holdings relating to Antonio Rigopoulos, Marianne Warren, and four books of mine. Those holdings only extend to America, Canada, and Britain, and are by no means exhaustive in terms of global library holdings. Kidd concluded that "the distribution of Shepherd's books in the major libraries of three of the top English-language-speaking countries of the world is comparable to that of Rigopoulos and Warren" (point 26). He also informed that Rigopoulos was represented in the e-book domain, which is a more specialised facility. He explained that the number of holdings for all three authors was relatively small, as the subjects involved did not comprise a major area of academic interest. The four books of mine here discussed were A Sufi Matriarch, Gurus Rediscovered, Meher Baba, an Iranian Liberal, and Investigating the Sai Baba Movement. Three of those were early works, and they do not represent my overall output.
The same commentator stated that "as a philosopher, I find that the whole discussion on this (Noticeboard) page lacks any rigour; points are made and then not addressed" (point 32). He complained that Fladrif had blanked "two significant portions of the discussion," which included the concession of one editor (Dmcq) that "if there is good evidence the author was involved with the subject [Meher Baba] then they [i.e., Shepherd] can also be used as a primary source I'd have thought" (point 27). Kidd had touched upon my association with primary source material via the book Iranian Liberal. This factor was evidently unwelcome to the opposition, which featured a pronounced misrepresentation of myself mediated from the Meher Baba movement via the editor Hoverfish. See further Meher Baba Movement on this website.
See also the article by Kidd entitled Wikipedia and Kevin R. D. Shepherd.
7. Fifelfoo's Dismissal Ignores Citizendium
Simon Kidd pressed Fifelfoo for a belated response to the 40-point document. This took ten days to materialise, and transpired to be a sweeping rejection of the content. The mood of blanket dismissal was all too obvious, and with the explicit judgement that "Simon Kidd needs to produce far more concise contributions." The tone was set for acute reductionism. This response was posted at the Reliable Sources Noticeboard on 21 February 2012.
Fifelfoo simplistically employed the same argument used by Fladrif (), emphasising criticisms made in my direction by the pro-Sathya Sai writers Antonio Rigopoulos and Marianne Warren (without naming them), and implying that these criticisms were a sound factor on which to base a conclusion. In this context, he misleadingly affirms that "the intensity of scholarly criticism is significant." This distorting view shows not the slightest cognisance of scholarly issues involved, and ironically misrepresents the two writers abovementioned. The pseudonymous dismissal is accompanied by an erroneous assumption that my output is not cited anywhere else save in one American publication. An Americentric orientation is discernible.
Fifelfoo was evidently not aware that Rigopoulos and Warren only referred to one of my early books, which Rigopoulos actually described as "a ground-breaking work," and which Warren also credited with very relevant innovations that she herself supported. The intensity of scholarly approval was not in abeyance, though invisible to superficial scanning on the web. Indeed, the scanning may not have gone much further than the extremist Gerald Joe Moreno version of myself and Warren on a cyberstalker blog dating to 2009.
Fifelfoo did not even know what the subject matter comprised in my case. I am classified in his version as "history, biography and sociology of a new religious movement." He refers exclusively to an NRM (new religious movement), but in fact several movements/sects/figureheads are involved in certain books of mine. The people who just read the titles of books are easily confused. Investigating the Sai Baba Movement is a well known encoded title for a conglomerate of movements, but Fifelfoo was ignorant of that complexity. The fact that this book was published some years after the Rigopoulos and Warren compositions does not count in Wikipedia Noticeboard lore, where superficial assessments too often occur.
There was again the same neglect of the prodigious complexities attached to this issue, and which had been argued so competently by Simon Kidd, a real name academic who was here being snubbed by unknown persons. There is no indication whatever that Fifelfoo had read any of the literature under discussion here. There was instead the diversionary statement that "Shepherd is not quoted in summaries of Muslim or Hindu devotional practices, or new religious movement devotional practices." This distraction is irrelevant, as I did not cover devotional practices, which anyone familiar with my books would know. The unread material was rather more radical than the constriction here imposed.
The assertion is also made that "Shepherd is not quoted in scholarly encyclopaedia with relevance." He certainly was cited at Citizendium, which has rather more repute for scholarship than Wikipedia, and which is one of the more publicly visible resources. The academic (Dr. M. Emmans Dean) who wrote a relevant article (accessed 19/03/2012), favourably cited a book of mine, and reported on Citizendium in 2007 that his "article was rescued from Wikipedia and edited back to the impartial state I left it in before followers of Meher Baba adopted it and turned it into a devotional exercise."
The ham-fisted dismissal by Fifelfoo soon resulted in further mutilation of the Sheriar Mundegar Irani article as this has survived on Wikipedia. My name and book were removed from that article by zealous followers of Meher Baba. The Citizendium academic had privately acknowledged that my book From Oppression to Freedom (1988) was the inspiration for the original article. The contents of both the article and book were evidently unknown to Fifelfoo, whose tactic is significant for extensive omission via haphazard web surfing.
Fifelfoo was unaware that SSS108 pro-sectarian errors, magnified on the talkpage of the Wikipedia article Sheriar Mundegar Irani, were disproved by the Citizendium version. See Zoroastrian Issue [and Wikipedia Sectarian Strategies]. In recognition of this anomaly, the Wikipedia manager Jimmy Wales deleted the offending statements, only to find that further damage to the Wikipedia article was achieved via the Meher Baba partisans unleashed by Fifelfoo censorship of myself. Another sectarian camp caught in the act, so to speak. A passage in the Citizendium version reads:
"He [Sheriar M. Irani] has been linked with the ishraqi tradition of Iranian illuminationist philosophy, as mediated by the 16th century Iranian Zoroastrian sage Azar Kayvan (Shepherd 1988). The circle of savants associated with Kayvan combined Zoroastrian, Sufi, neo-Platonic and other gnostic beliefs with a nonsectarian approach to the study of comparative religion. Sheriar taught the odes of Hafez to his second (and 'favourite') son Merwan, later Meher Baba, but a possible connnection between his Kaivani-ishraqi interests and Merwan's encounters with advanced Sufi teachers such as Hazrat Babajan and Shirdi Sai Baba was overlooked by Meher Baba's earlier biographers (e.g., Purdom 1964). More recent scholarship [Shepherd] suggests that the polyglot Sheriar provided Merwan with a good education and a command of languages, and an ecumenical approach to mysticism. These advantages, and the unusual position of the Irani family - recently nested within the Parsi community, embedded in turn in the Indian social and religious context - may have prepared the ground for the inclusive syncretic teaching for which Meher Baba later became known."
Only one sentence of the above-quoted passage survives in the current Wikipedia version (accessed 21/06/2012). My name and reference were deleted. Much of the original context was despatched to oblivion. Subsequent readers could only find a lop-sided reference to the Kaivani savants. Those entities are treated elsewhere. Informed observers have viewed this Wikipedia episode as confirmation of the sectarian tendency to tamper with original documents. For this reason, one cannot trust sectarian versions of documents, and nor sectarian documents. The chaos of Wikipedia format is assisted by arbitrary rulings of the Wikipedia administration [see also Wikipedia Matters].
8. Sai Baba Movement Obscured by Surfers
In another direction, the tactic of Fifelfoo (and Fladrif) further amounted to suppression of the sole book (out of three) which argued against hagiology and miracle lore in the presentation of certain saints/charismatic entities. The suppressors endorsed a questionable interpretation of the two Sai Babas favoured by Rigopoulos and Warren (). When my dissident Investigating the Sai Baba Movement was published in 2005, there were only two other books committed to analysis of the "Sai Baba movement," one of these by Rigopoulos and awarding a very minor profile to Upasni Maharaj and Meher Baba. That is the most visible book to American web surfers; an earlier book was published in India, while mine was published in Britain. The differences in format have not been recognised on Wikipedia, which specialises in dismissing unread books, a feat which has elsewhere earned the description of WSSC (Wikipedia Surfer Superiority Complex).
To date, Investigating is the only book in this field to award Upasni Maharaj and Meher Baba equal coverage to Shirdi Sai Baba. I have been led to understand that this is a sufficiently notable factor to warrant references elsewhere, despite the cordon imposed by Wikipedia cultism (in 2006) and semi-literate Wikipedia Noticeboard bias against documents over 50 words in length (2012).
Amongst literate parties, there is the major issue of reincarnatory lore, here meaning the claim of Sathya Sai Baba (d.2011) to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba (d.1918). This claim is accepted by devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, but strongly resisted by the devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba. This aggravating factor has caused much confusion, in both India and Western countries, and continues via Wikipedia.
There is also the controversial implication (urged by ex-devotees) that the reincarnatory claim of Sathya Sai Baba was used as a cover for the activities decried by allegations of sexual abuse. There are so many allegations that these cannot be discounted in the assessment of events as a whole.
The reincarnation claim of Sathya Sai Baba was an underlying feature of the books authored by Rigopoulos and Warren, and their subscription in that direction is not a convincing academic mode of analysis, but rather a lamentable susceptibility to sectarian overtures. The reincarnation claim is the means by which the "Sai Baba movement" theory was promoted by partisans of Sathya Sai Baba. The so-called "Sai Baba movement" implies a progression from Shirdi Sai Baba to Sathya Sai Baba, with the rival entities Upasni Maharaj and Meher Baba being conveniently implied as sideline figures by comparison with the culminating Sathya Sai. (9)
This cultic formulation was contested in my Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005). The flagrant suppression of this annotated book by Wikipedia is a very questionable symptom of deference to the opportunistic avatar scenario associated with Rigopoulos and Warren. See further Shirdi Sai and the Sai Baba Movement. This suppression is reminiscent of cordoning events in 2006, when the SSS108 User page reacted to the same book. The very same month (Feb. 2012) that Fifelfoo created another cordon, Jimmy Wales deleted the proscribing SSS108 User page (), a significant gesture lost upon insular and pro-sectarian Wikipedia personnel who were devising a contrasting agenda.
In 2012, the attacking Wikipedia entities, sporting false names, were effectively pro-sectarian (however indirectly). Smartse, Fladrif, and Fifelfoo rank alongside Dazedbythebell and Hoverfish, two supporters of the Meher Baba movement who have proved aggressive in my direction (one of them being a primary agent in the earlier deletion of the Wikipedia article on myself). These two pro-sectarians started the recent attack, in which other misinformed aggressors subsequently took the leading roles.
All five of these pseudonymous personnel were unrelenting extensions of the hate campaign commenced against me on Wikipedia in 2006, when SSS108 (Gerald Joe Moreno) attacked with the evident approval of the (now notorious) arch-supporter of cults, Jossi Fresco. Their cordon in 2006 did not last. Other pro-sectarians later became menacing. Not content with the 2009 deletion of the Wikipedia article on Kevin R. D. Shepherd, the five sequel specialists in cordon and apartheid also wanted to suppress my books. American democracy can be overpowering.
Not one of these pseudonymous entities has demonstrated the slightest familiarity with the arguments and data represented by Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, and their illiteracy in this respect is memorable. I have been studying the various traditions and sources involved since the 1960s, but annotated format is lost on Wikipedia attack (and gossip) forums, where participants prefer 50 word statements instead of due analysis, and who can react to longer statements with a gesture of censorship, even when a relevant document is contributed by an academic editor duly conversant with the sources urgently requiring evaluation.
What emerged via Fifelfoo's rejection of a painstaking academic 40-point document (by Simon Kidd) was the effective Wikipedia support for hagiology and miracle lore. That is the realistic purport of suppressing the critical counter (i.e., my own books on the Indian/Irani subjects, starting with Gurus Rediscovered, and ending with the rather more detailed Investigating the Sai Baba Movement). This cordon has been viewed in terms of Wikipedia malpractice and myopia. Again a "cultist" victory had occurred, with Wikipedia dogmatism and intolerance insisting upon the inflexible guideline which too conveniently jettisons all self-published output.
Fortunately, WSSC has no control over the literate community outside their online restrictions. See further my recent book Sai Baba of Shirdi: A Biographical Investigation (New Delhi: Sterling 2015). This is over four hundred pages in extent, and thus may elude the 50 word digests preferred by trolls.
9. A Sufi Matriarch and Ethnic Blanking
Another pronounced discrepancy was in evidence. The disapproving Fifelfoo mentioned only one academic book (American, of course) which cited my output (apart from the Rigopoulos and Warren sources). In that book can be found a reference to my early work A Sufi Matriarch: Hazrat Babajan (1986), the first annotated treatment of the subject. The impression was thereby given by Fifelfoo that no other academic sources had cited this work (or any of my works), and indeed, no attempt was made even to define which book was cited in the sole source stipulated (the average reader would not even know which book was meant, in the absence of all details). This feat of WSSC (Wikipedia Surfer Superiority Complex) may be described as an extreme symptom of misrepresentation, and a strong indication that improvised web surfing is blind to relevant scholarship.
It is known elsewhere that at least four academic sources have to date cited A Sufi Matriarch, but Wikipedia is an unreliable index to such occurrences. The subject was even confused by Fifelfoo with an NRM or new religious movement, whereas the tradition involved is Sufism. This error arose from confusion with the Meher Baba movement, which can indeed be considered an NRM.
This matter is further aggravated by the fact that Hazrat Babajan is a Pathan (Pashtun) figure, strongly associated with Afghanistan, and not so easily to be dismissed by Western biases, despite the customary low rating given to Muslims by some Western voices. Female Muslim scholarship has proved partial to A Sufi Matriarch, a matter totally uncomprehended by the repressive tactic evident on Wikipedia, a project predominantly associated with American administrators and editors. Fifelfoo was dismissing, e.g., Tahera Aftab, Inscribing South Asian Muslim Women: An Annotated Bibliography and Research Guide, the author also being editor of the Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies. The ethnic and sexist insensitivity of WSSC is unenviable, quite apart from the errors made in assessing the content of diverse sources by rule of thumb, which too often seems to be what the Wikipedia guidelines inspire.
On the basis of the very misleading Fifelfoo verdict, my book A Sufi Matriarch (10) was soon after deleted from the notes and bibliography of the Wikipedia article on Hazrat Babajan. The interests of the Meher Baba movement were strongly represented in that article by the devotional biography (of Meher Baba) which Simon Kidd had queried. The Hazrat Babajan article is regarded by informed parties as a supplementary promotion for the Meher Baba movement, via editor Dazedbythebell, who was keen to have the article on myself deleted in 2009 (and even using libellous blogs from SSS108, alias Sathya Sai defender Gerald Joe Moreno, to falsely incriminate me).
Fifelfoo also missed out other relevant sources of citation in relation to my output, and instead asserted that if I wanted my books to be "taken seriously" on Wikipedia, I should start "publishing in a popular commercial, or scholarly manner." This deliberate insult ignores the fact that all my books are annotated, and most of them too much so for the popular commercial publishing world. Extremist opponents of citizen initiative are not necessarily correct in their prohibitions and malpractice. Fair representation cannot be taken for granted on Wikipedia, either for citizens or academics. The dangers of misrepresentation are pronounced.
Some critics say that many Wikipedia articles on religion should be scrapped or revised. The issue of books being "taken seriously" on Wikipedia is acutely anomalous, in that many editors and administrators do not appear to know what the priorities are. Academic books promoting miracle lore are not the remedy. The suppression of literate citizens, when they disagree with such faulty promotionalism, deserves the due description of facilitating Public Hazard. The superstitions currently afflicting the American and British public are rife.
I have been complaining for years about sectarian molestation originating on Wikipedia, and other forms of Wikipedia misrepresentation. Pedantic personnel with false names should be more cognisant of what their real name manager (Jimmy Wales) has commendably done in relation to correcting Wikipedia misconduct visible on Google (). Dogmatic personnel are the effective extension of SSS108 User page syndrome.
At the end of a Wikipedia suppression feat, Fifelfoo rather pretentiously asserted his scholarly accomplishment as being in demand elsewhere, and on this pretext, he made an exit from further discussion. His trolling manners did not command universal approval, whether or not he was an academic, and whether or not he was committed to a sectarian agenda.
A recent book of mine reverses the tendency to ethnic blanking. See further Hazrat Babajan: A Pathan Sufi of Poona (New Delhi: Sterling, 2014).
10. Wikipedia Gestapo
The domineering behaviour of pseudonymous editors and administrators has frequently been in question. A strong complaint is on record: "Wikipedia resembles the Third Reich rather than a free media."
This evocative reflection was quoted by Professor Carl Hewitt in his Corruption of Wikipedia (2010), a well known PDF feature formerly showing on Google. Another quote from the same critical source affirms that Wikipedia "is a blog disguised as an encyclopaedia, controlled by a limited number of people with administrator tools who have particular axes to grind about living people with real names."
In my own case, I have been protesting about the excessive latitude given to religious sectarian or "cultist" strategies, which have occurred on the Wikipedia Noticeboard and also in some Wikipedia articles, talk pages, user pages, and an AfD page. The insensitivity and evasion obstructing this complaint has been deemed remarkable by critical observers (whose numbers are increasing). The tendency to personal attack is not commendable under the auspices of NPOV. At the same time, the rather exceptional instance of real name editor Simon Kidd has been noticed.
Another exception to the in-house lethargy was Wikipedia manager Jimmy Wales (Jimbo), who grasped that a major error was being perpetuated by Wikipedia, via the extremist 2006 sectarian User page of SSS108 (Gerald Joe Moreno), an attack that was still showing on Google Search. Jimbo personally deleted that offensive User page (which proscribed my books) on 8th February 2012. See Jimbo Deletes SSS108 User Page. Fifelfoo and others are viewed by some observers as ignoring the mandate of Jimbo, who was effectively warning against sectarian complications. Yet other analysts regard the overall Wikipedia drawbacks in terms of an administrative straitjacket endorsed by the entrepreneurial activities of Jimbo.
Carl Hewitt covered the scenario in which "academic experts who have tried to participate have been denigrated as 'self-promoters,' censored, and then banned on the grounds that their views are not in accord with Wikipedia-imposed administrator point of view." According to the same informant, "the power of censorship tends to corrupt administrators."
One of the grievances quoted is that "Wikipedia is a playground for belligerent adolescents." The average age of editors is sometimes assessed in terms of the mid-20s. Of course, a number of the personnel are much older, it would seem.
Hewitt cites Professor John Harnad, who made the strong accusation that Wikipedia "has led also to an inner cult, shrouded in anonymity, with structures and processes of self-regulation that are woefully inadequate. Many of these tools and procedures are reminiscent, in parody, of those of the Inquisition: secret courts, an inner 'elite' arbitrarily empowered to censor and exclude all those perceived as a threat to the adopted conventions of the cult; denunciations, character assassination, excommunication. An arbitrarily concocted 'rulebook' and language rife with self-referential sanctimoniousness give a superficial illusion of order and good sense, but no such thing exists in practice" (Corruption of Wikipedia PDF, pp. 7-8).
When Professor Harnad attempted to correct some errors in a Wikipedia article, he was blocked by an undergraduate student who represented the Wikipedia system.
11. Wikipedia Flaws and Misinformation
Wikipedia guidelines rule against self-publishing, instead advocating third party commercial publishers (and academic press) in terms of reliability. All citizen efforts at independence are set at naught by Wikipedia. Citizen initiative counts for nothing; commercial giants are endorsed by the administration. Commercial third party publishers make enormous profits out of fiction, trivia, and dirt. The Wikipedia guidelines serve the dollars and the exploitation.
Further adding to the discrepancies is the fact that very numerous sectarian and other books listed and cited on Wikipedia do not represent the output of "reliable third party publishers," being instead the product of independent ideological concerns. To rectify that situation, a massive purge would be required, as distinct from deleting authors targeted by religious "cult" interests. Wikipedia anomalies are extensive.
For various reasons, I published three annotated and full length books under the logo of Citizen Initiative. One of these (Investigating the Sai Baba Movement) was repudiated in 2006 by the sectarian editor SSS108 on a User page, and the same book was suppressed by Wikipedia representatives of the Meher Baba movement. The evidence strongly indicates that neither of these parties had read the book. The Meher Baba contingent had even less justification than SSS108, as their figurehead did not receive any criticism in the suppressed book. The Meher Baba devotees were able to hide behind the misleading verdict of Fifelfoo, who reacted at being asked to read a lengthy document from Wikipedia real name editor Simon Kidd (). The absence of due literacy is not a commendable feature of Wikipedia.
The vast majority of Wikipedia contributors are pseudonymous, and real life identities can rarely be established. Strongly assertive editors clearly seek to dominate many of the talkpages. Critics have concluded that web surfing has replaced due research and scholarship. Google Scholar is no effective substitute for the real thing. The Wikipedia claim to expertise via citations and bibliographies has been dismissed at university level. Many Wikipedia articles fail to mention major works on the chosen subject. The history of religion is a particular disaster area. Major academic scholars (university professors) have been questioned in terms of notability by the haphazard editorial process.
Some critics insist that the majority of Wikipedia editors are under the age of 25. A 2010 global survey utilised data from over 176,000 respondents, with a heavy proportion of Russian speakers, English speakers, German and Spanish speakers. Over a hundred thousand were readers of Wikipedia, and over fifty thousand were contributors. The survey says that 25% of the respondents were under the age of eighteen, while 50% were under the age of 23 (the survey is no longer online).
The assessment of a Wikipedian says: "A very large number of people have found themselves drawn into disputes with anonymous trolls there [on Wikipedia], and then found that Wikipedia's processes are opaque, arbitrary, unfair, administered by children and more trolls, and most of these ordinary people have been forced out or been left bruised and upset."
The problems visible on Wikipedia have led to strong criticisms of founder and manager Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, dubbed "the God-King" by the Wikipedia administration. He is the ruling hand, and the only means of rectification that exists in his realm. In my case, he conceded that the SSS108 User page should be deleted, and he also opted to place a warning on the talk page of Hoverfish, an editor who had resorted to a hostile inset against me on the related User page. See Anomalies and Jimbo. However, these gestures of imposing restraint do not alter the Wikipedia bias against self-publishing, which editors can invoke in the routine endorsement of pronouncedly unreliable third party commercial publishers, whose frequent commitment to fiction and bad taste is a social affliction.
Deleted Wikipedia articles have frequently been a subject for grievance. One reaction to a deleted article comes from Danny Sullivan, who (in 2011) complained to the Wikipedia process about the deleted profile of a person he described as a notable search marketing pioneer. He did not find a user-friendly system but was frustrated by "a morass of bureaucracy," and got nowhere. Sullivan ended up by communicating to a pseudonymous editor about "the insane closed little world of Wikipedia editors, where non-specialist editors pretend to be experts on what's notable."
Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt innovated Wikipedia Watch, a former internet feature which commented on deleted articles. "The criteria of 'notability' and 'neutral point of view' and 'verifiability' for such [Wikipedia] articles are almost meaningless. A straw poll of mostly-anonymous editors is used to make such determinations. There are no conflict-of-interest controls, no accountability, and many editors are teenagers with big egos and little commonsense. These polls, known as AfD or 'article for deletion' procedures, are a joke."
The same source affirmed that "if an administrator has a political or personal agenda, he can do a fair amount of damage with the special editing tools available to him. The victim may not even find out that this is happening until it's too late. From Wikipedia, the material is spread like a virus by search engines and other scrapers."
One revealing insight into what can happen behind the scenes of a Wikipedia article has informed: "When I started contributing to a page called 'Da Costa's syndrome,' I was confronted by two editors who abused all of the basic principles and objectives by pedantically treating the large number of policies and guidelines as if they were rules carved in rock." Max Banfield complains that this situation involved an episode where "in May 2008 my main critic mixed up a potion of plausible misrepresentations and lies, and told a group of editors that their attitude readjustment tools had failed to 'scathe' me because I lived too far away in Australia, and that it may be necessary to act like the Wicked Witch of the West to drive me out of Wikipedia. The words Wicked Witch of the West included a gratuitous link to the Wikipedia article with that title." The reference concerns a fictional character created by an American author. The attitude problem was obviously extreme.
Some academic reactions to Wikipedia article content have been strong. A senior academic commentator, teaching at a university in Japan, gave the verdict: "Wikipedia is a production by armies of totally unqualified amateurs writing about, discussing and arguing about subjects they are wholly unqualified to write about, discuss or argue about. No professional would join such a discussion because his/her informed voice would be drowned out by the cacaphony of uninformed voices. Trying to fix the content of a Wikipedia article would be a waste of valuable time. It would be better to make one's own website on the subject."
The commentator (Charles T. Keally) was a specialist in Japanese archaeology, and he investigated the Wikipedia version of that subject in 2007-8. "It was far worse than poor, and all topics were full of errors," and "with no way for the ordinary reader to discern fact from fiction, accurate from erroneous."
The same writer added that: "I have no choice but to assume all 7,000,000 Wikipedia articles in 250 different languages are equally unreliable sources of information." Even if that judgement is considered over-generalising, a major problem in web format is under discussion, bearing in mind the prominence of Wikipedia articles on Google Search. A more clement verdict (in the academic world) is that some editors do try harder than others, but even the best Wikipedia articles are to be regarded as "starters" and not as definitive coverages.
Keally also commented: "Wikipedia was supposed to fill the minds of the world with all the knowledge the world ever produced. It was supposed to be the ultimate in one-stop knowledge shopping. In fact, Wikipedia likely is the greatest source of misinformation the world has ever had."
The internet article by Professor Carl Hewitt () dated to 2010; this account was detailed and very critical. For instance, Hewitt related that in a survey of 2008, the discovery was made that 73% of university students had been explicitly told by their Professor not to use Wikipedia. Two years later, a Wikipedia contributor (Yintan) made an exit from the project after making about 10,000 edits and struggling against vandalism. He reported that "vandalism is still rampant and any anonymous idiot can still ruin an article.... Other jokers just play the system time and again, as if it's some kind of sport " (Corruption of Wikipedia PDF, p. 26). This message appeared on the User talk page of Jimmy Wales in January 2010.
Professor Carl Hewitt, an expert in computer science at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), was amongst those who gave Wikipedia the benefit of the doubt by participating as an editor. He emerged as a very disillusioned critic, one who had been censored and misrepresented. Hewitt was banned from Wikipedia editing in 2007, allegedly because of "self-promotion." His counter strongly repudiated the situation of imposed disgrace, revealing the matter in a very different light to media reporting influenced by the Wikipedia administration. For instance, Hewitt describes how a zealous administrator instigated a libellous newspaper article against him, and subsequently attempted to justify this hostility. "The article served as an object lesson intended to intimidate other academics from challenging censorship by Wikipedia Administrators lest the same thing happen to them" (Corruption of Wikipedia PDF, p. 16).
The Hewitt coverage concluded that "Wikipedia is not an encyclopaedia - because of censorship by its Administrators, instant publishing of anonymously submitted content, lack of accountability, and disrespect for expertise" (Corruption of Wikipedia PDF, p. 10).
A matter of concern has been the age of some administrators. In 2013, the Wikipedian Andreas Kolbe informed: "Many Wikipedia administrators are school-going teenagers. The youngest I personally am aware of was 11 years old when he won administrator rights; at 12, he became a bureaucrat, which means he had the ability to close requests for adminship and appoint other editors as administrators."
The same online article also relays the complaint of a veteran contributor to Wikimedia projects: "Under the current system, any little ignoramus who has chatted on IRC for ten days can amass enough support to become an administrator, and attack long-standing editors of the highest calibre, driving them away from Wikipedia. That these people... are treated with such disdain by a pack of semiliterate high school kids is depressing, because it spells the writing on the wall for Wikipedia."
Some scholars who attempted contributions to Wikipedia have been deterred by harassment. An instance is described online in which an administrator, aged almost 14, removed links to the website/blog of an academic specialist, namely Dr. Peter W. Dunn. The links applied to French and German articles on the Acts of Paul (Acta Pauli). The schoolboy interferer was called Anonymous Dissident, and the victim was a Ph.D. The latter commented: "I therefore recommend that scholars like myself [do] not bother to make edits on that platform [Wikipedia] where any non-specialist can take them down within seconds. Scholars don't have the time to waste on such games." See Roger Pearse, The Acta Pauli blog and Wikipedia trolls (2012).
A radical conclusion of Pearse, appearing in the same article, was as follows: "I am told that the founder-owner of Wikipedia, James Wales, made his money in the porn industry, and where people are treated like meat; and I see the same attitude in Wikipedia. It needs to be addressed. The solution is to remove Wales from the equation, get rid of all the 'administrators'/trolls/children, and get rid of the system where the REAL system administrators remain unknown. Instead, introduce a fair, sane, and transparent system of governance, run by responsible people who do so under their own names in an accountable manner."
Pearse has been a Wikipedia contributor, and is noted for saying on his User page: "As far as I know, I am one of the last online scholars to attempt to contribute; I will no longer do so. In practice, it seems that educated people cannot edit Wikipedia. Until this problem is addressed by the owners of Wikipedia, it is a mistake for us to try."
See also Criticisms of Wikipedia.
12. Wikipedia as a Social Problem
The most well known critic of Wikipedia is Larry Sanger, an American philosopher. This academic was the co-founder of Wikipedia, but became a dissident who created (in 2006) the rival Citizendium, an online encyclopaedia which emphasises real name contributors. Sanger became noted for resisting the pseudonymous "trolls" of Wikipedia.
In 2012, Sanger pointedly addressed the porn problem on Wikipedia, a media which "features some of the most disgusting sorts of porn you can imagine, while being heavily used by children." Sanger observes that "even pre-teen children are heavy users of Wikipedia, which is often ranked in the top five of all websites in terms of traffic." This issue is capable of arousing strong reactions, despite the abnormal degree of support for web pornography.
Sanger describes an acute anomaly. Wikipedia and other sites of the Wikimedia Foundation "host a great deal of pornographic content," even while "the Wikimedia Foundation encourages children to use these resources." This aberrant situation involves "an enormous and rapidly growing amount of pornographic content." That content is further described as "extremely explicit."
Sanger warns that "many parents and teachers are neither aware of the adult content on Wikipedia sites, nor that it is accessible to school-age students." Despite some stories to the contrary, "almost all the most frequently viewed media files on Wikimedia servers are sexually explicit files." The situation is such that "the Wikipedia community actively permits children to edit such [sexually explicit] content."
The scenario is one of a strongly entrenched obsession with crude stimuli, unconducive to intellectual study, and contributing to various social drawbacks covered up by commercial processes. Decadent cinema and sordid computer screen is perhaps one reason why foul language is so widespread in America and elsewhere. The so-called progressive society is a contradiction at basic levels visible to the thinking citizen, as distinct from the unfortunates who are manipulated by delinquent media.
Several years ago, a self-published work was one of the relatively few books going against the general trend of commercial indulgence assisting the escalation in crime.
"The same commentator referred to 'a twisted thread of sexual excitement' being visible in the volume of crimes. The reasons are obvious, as sexual excitement is one of the obsessions of sick literature and trash cinema. Say no to sexual excitement before it kills you or maims you. Many people with vested interests are supplying that excitement to an impoverished audience.... The high incidence of rape and other violent crimes have gone hand in hand with decadent cinema and television" (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 112).
Of course, such self-published themes are unwelcome on Wikipedia, which assumes the profile of a "reliable third party" source, associated with so many commercial publishers in the decadent capitalist world of pornography, violence, bad language, and fiction unrelated to facts.
Perhaps the worst symptom of malady on Wikipedia is the aggregate use of ridiculous false names. The pseudonymous editors and administrators have no real identity, and are accordingly part of the worst society yet devised: a faceless web community absolved of all responsibility for who they are, what they do, and what they say. They are neither real name citizens nor bona fide academics, and exist in an identity vacuum which has been mistakenly credited as a valid encyclopaedia.
Kevin R. D. Shepherd
March - June 2012 (modified July 2013 and March 2015; afterwards slightly modified)
(1) In the view of some readers, my most significant book was Meaning in Anthropos: Anthropography as an interdisciplinary science of culture (1991). This is unknown on Wikipedia, which is no disgrace, as many academic books are also missing from the listings. Wikipedia has been a scene of argument about some of my early works, and also Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), which has only been read by the supporter contingent. There are strong indications that the earlier works are also unread by opponents. There is a pervasive habit on Wikipedia of discussing books unread by the editors and administrators. As a consequence, the judgements can be pronouncedly haphazard and erroneous.
(2) This issue was further mentioned in Simon Kidd, Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, Feb. 2012, point 8, and commenting: "The book that Hoverfish refers to (Kalchuri's Lord Meher) is full of factual errors. Some of these I have seen myself, but no less an authority than the editor of the second edition [meaning the English version] actually admits it himself, blaming the shortcomings on the process of translation and re-translation, sometimes from one Indian language to another and then into English." Cf. Shepherd, Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), pp. 267-8 note 480. I would say that the actual number of surviving errors remains to be ascertained. The book under discussion is commemorated at www.lordmeher.org. The most well known exegetical problem is the theme of Yad rakh, promoted by Bhau Kalchuri, who became controversial amongst devotees for his repeated assertions that he heard Meher Baba speak aloud. See further Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, p. 268, in reference to that controversy, which early involved an accusation from Don Stevens concerning "accounts of conversations which, on closer examination, are seen as almost certainly never having occurred." In another direction, see the favourable account in Sheela Kalchuri Fenster, Growing Up With God (2009), pp. 763ff., describing the circumstances in which Bhau Kalchuri wrote Lord Meher during 1971-2. Kalchuri was evidently very committed to the task. The sheer speed of composition perhaps had some disadvantages. "Bhau wrote continuously, filling nineteen large notebooks, and he completed the entire biography in Hindi prose in seven months. There were no revisions" (ibid., p. 769). Subsequently, an extensive editorial process of amplification occurred. See further Meher Prabhu.
(3) "In the course of this discussion, Fladrif referred to Shepherd's books as 'vanity press publications.' This is a damaging misnomer. Self-publishing is a broader category than vanity publishing. Shepherd has addressed this issue himself in his Publishing Retrospect" (Simon Kidd, Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, point 10). The origin of the Fladrif stigma is not difficult to ascertain. The cyberstalker Gerald Joe Moreno (of New Mexico) described me as a vanity publisher, in the attempt to justify his original attack on a Wikipedia User page of 2006 (in his editorial role as SSS108). Persons who have read my books are aware of a different dimension to literary content. "Popular authors would not like Shepherd's books because they are too scholarly for popular tastes" (Kidd, document cited, point 11).
(4) Simon Kidd observed that Fladrif quoted only unfavourable comments from Warren and Rigopoulos about my early contribution, ignoring the positive remarks they both made (Kidd, Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, points 16 and 17). Kidd informs that "throughout his book, Rigopoulos makes several references to Shepherd, all of them indicating that he takes Shepherd's views seriously." Rigopoulos described one of my early books as "a ground-breaking work presenting [Shirdi] Sai Baba as a Muslim and a Sufi adept" (The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi, State University of New York Press, 1993, p. xxvii). Warren was obliged to mention that: "Shepherd was the first author to question this Hindu bias and to redefine the broad 'Muslim' category.... Shepherd observes many links between Sai Baba and the strong Sufi tradition in the Deccan.... most of his arguments concerning Sai Baba's Sufi connections are strong" (Warren, Unravelling the Enigma: Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism, New Delhi: Sterling, 1999, p. 15). Dr. Warren also asserted her one-upmanship in the sphere of Marathi, which I never claimed to read. The absence of a Marathi lexicon did not affect the nature of my contentions at all, as she herself proved by her assessment. She also criticised Rigopoulos for not using the Marathi version of Dabholkar (ibid., p. 18). In contrast to myself, Rigopoulos cited extensively from the defective adaptation in English. I knew that such texts posed serious problems, and was concerned to emphasise other sources instead. Neither Warren nor Rigopoulos were able to locate all the relevant sources in English, and this renders the Warren position defective. A basic point is that Rigopoulos "never academically questions the obvious Hindu bias" (ibid.) found in many sources. There is the small matter that my researches dated back to 1967, many years before either of the pro-Sathya Sai academics began their own versions. Warren was correct in stating that my "material was first drafted in 1967" (ibid., p. 15). She nevertheless failed to grasp that my critique of the hagiologist B. V. Narasimhaswami was derived from Meher Baba, to whom she defers, though she chose to criticise me on a misconceived pretext. Her difficulty in locating sources was not my fault. In point 18 of his analysis, Kidd countered the misleading accusation of Warren about the absence of a bibliography in my early monograph, found in Gurus Rediscovered: Biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasni Maharaj of Sakori (1986). "Fladrif would not be aware that the monograph in question is the first half of Gurus Rediscovered (on Shirdi Sai Baba). The second half of the book (on Upasni Maharaj) does have a bibliography. In addition, the Sai Baba monograph does have seventy-seven fully referenced notes." Some professional scholars say that full annotations render a bibliography superfluous, especially in contrast to those books which feature bibliographies but no annotations.
(5) Amongst other matters, Gerald Joe Moreno was keen to include the aspersions of Warren at his attack site saisathyasai.com, where he described me as "a pseudo-philosopher, pseudo-moralist and Findhorn fanatic." I have no connection with the Findhorn Foundation, and never did. I am a critic of the Findhorn Foundation, but that is a different matter. The elaborate and misleading vituperation devised by Moreno has been influential on Wikipedia, though only in the case of unwary personnel. Wikipedia manager Jimmy Wales proved immune to sectarian bias, and in 2012, he personally deleted the offensive 2006 User page of SSS108 (alias Moreno), which attacked my publishing venture and books. On his attack site, Moreno resorted to a typically misleading jibe: "it is amusing that Shepherd cited and eulogised the very same woman who condemned him for his subjective, unsupported and opinionated writings." I believed in being fair to Warren, despite her flaws in assessment. Furthermore, Warren did not condemn me; instead, Moreno was the agent of condemnation and superfluous rhetoric. Warren stated that my early book Gurus Rediscovered "introduces a new and thought-provoking perception of [Shirdi] Sai Baba" (Unravelling the Enigma, p. 15), and from which she evidently benefited. She did not obtain her Ph.D until 1996; her thesis was subsequent to my book, and some borrowings are evident. See also note 4 above. Moreno deviously quoted a brief reference in a web article of mine, accusing me of an incomplete quotation, but totally failed to give the due information earlier supplied in my annotated book Investigating the Sai Baba Movement (2005), where I explained the context of my resistance to the "apostle" hagiographer B. V. Narasimhaswami, a matter misrepresented by Warren. To accuse a writer of not having divulged all the details (as Moreno did), while avoiding his published account of those details, is reprehensible, and might also be called dishonest, which is a word that Moreno aimed at me with rather less justification. The book deceitfully omitted by Moreno has twenty-five indexed references to Warren, and fifty indexed references to Narasimhaswami. The literati can read, and Moreno deception is well known. See also annotation 43 in my web article Shirdi Sai Baba and the Sai Baba Movement, also ignored by Moreno. That annotation includes the comment: "I was here vicariously blamed [by Warren] for criticising the Apostle of [Shirdi] Sai Baba." Two relevant quotes concerning the Warren issue, from my Investigating the Sai Baba Movement, were appropriately provided in Kidd, Self-published sources- Kevin Shepherd, point 20. Kidd also included in point 20 a lengthy quote from my Pointed Observations (2005), bearing upon the same subject. Kidd also observed that the books of Narasimhaswami were published by an organisation of which he was the president, though he is cited in the Wikipedia article on Sai Baba of Shirdi, "which has GA [Good Article] status" (point 21). Kidd was here referring to the Wikipedia issue of reliable third party publications, and mentions other books on Shirdi Sai also.
(6) After her withdrawal in disillusionment from the Sathya Sai Baba sect, Dr. Warren became very critical of the guru, and also commented: "Even Rigopoulos was not discriminating enough in his book on Shirdi Sai, accepting Sathya Sai's pronouncements as gospel." Simon Kidd included that quote in Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, point 22. Kidd also commented: "Here one academic writer (Warren) undermines the objectivity of another (Rigopoulos), and in so doing she implicitly supports Shepherd's own take on the unreliability of devotees, notwithstanding their academic status" (document cited, point 22). The quotation comes from a letter of Warren, dated 2003, to the salient ex-devotee Robert Priddy, whom Kidd describes as an academic philosopher. See further the significant Priddy website.
(7) The hostile campaign of Pro-Sai extremist Gerald Joe Moreno is notorious amongst ex-devotees of Sathya Sai Baba. Moreno himself has been described as an ex-devotee, a factor considered ambiguous in view of his extensive support for Sathya Sai Baba, whose critics he has pilloried online for years. The Kidd version of events relates: "Shepherd's book [Investigating the Sai Baba Movement] became the target for [Wikipedia] editor SSS108 [Moreno], a former devotee of Sathya Sai Baba who was subsequently banned from editing [in 2007] due to his extremely belligerent behaviour." Kidd adds that this problem "spilled over into off-wiki attacks on Shepherd by the banned editor," though Moreno was not banned in any way because of me. "Later, I was also subject to off-wiki harassment by this former editor, just because I defended Shepherd as an author" (Kidd, Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, point 2). See also Kevin R. D. Shepherd Not Exposed, and especially Attacking all Connections.
(8) This matter is pressing. Simon Kidd has disclosed, for instance, that the Wikipedia article on Meher Baba, which has gained GA (Good Article) status, exhibits a chronic imbalance of sources, in that "over half (9 out of 16) of the referenced books are published by organisations with connections to Meher Baba: Sufism Reoriented, Sheriar Foundation, Avatar Foundation, Manifestation. Just to spell out the point, these GA-status articles are dependent on sources published by organisations that are linked to the subjects of the articles themselves. But it is Shepherd, for some reason, who is the subject of a reliable-source investigation" (Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, point 21). Close analysts of the attendant situation are able to discern that this rather oddly-weighted investigation commenced with the attack of Meher Baba movement supporters (Hoverfish and Dazedbythebell) on a new Wikipedia article, which they evidently viewed as a competitor to their GA-status article (on Meher Baba). The new article was deleted after an episode of friction and controversy, and was entitled Critics of Meher Baba. The author was Stephen Castro, who preserved his unabridged article elsewhere. See Critics of Meher Baba: Paul Brunton and Rom Landau. This deleted article was not hostile to Meher Baba. The deletion is symptomatic of a serious problem on Wikipedia. See also Meher Baba Movement, note 5.
(9) The affiliation of Rigopoulos is evident in The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi (1993), pp. 247-49, which refers approvingly to the reincarnation claim of Sathya Sai Baba, and also reports: "Satya Sai has announced that he will die at the age of ninety-six, and that eight years after his death, that is, in 2028 or 2029, he will be reborn as Prema Sai." Sathya Sai died in his eighties. Rigopoulos also urges that "what Charles S. J. White has appropriately termed 'the Sai Baba movement,' initiating with Shirdi Sai, may indeed be classified as one of the major religious phenomena of neo-Hinduism." Substantial components of this putative "movement" were not Hindu. The description is misleading. The reincarnation claim was also reported, without criticism, in Warren, Unravelling the Enigma (1999), pp. 28-9, and also in a glowing separate chapter on Sathya Sai Baba (pp. 366-79). Likewise promotional was Warren's Preface, in which she stated: "Sri Sathya Sai Baba has revealed that his divine mission to usher in a new golden age, will take the lifetimes of a triple avatar or descent of the divine in human form.... he has declared that this triple incarnation is Shirdi Sai Baba, Sathya Sai Baba and Prema Sai Baba" (ibid., p. xviii). Belief in this claim is ultimately what caused Warren to resist my criticism (mediated from Meher Baba) of the hagiological tendency in Narasimhaswami, an associated figure in the "Sai" corpus. She subsequently repudiated Sathya Sai Baba, and a revised edition of her book appeared in 2004, the year of her death. The revision was not thorough, and flaws still remained in the text. The current angle of pseudonymous Wikipedia editors on these two works is pronouncedly deficient, exhibiting a total lack of familiarity with all the complexities.
(10) The description by Simon Kidd of A Sufi Matriarch is: "the only full biography of Hazrat Babajan that is not written by a devotee" (Self-published sources - Kevin Shepherd, point 1). The devotee contingent here basically refers to the Meher Baba movement, whose literature has frequently referred to Babajan, though for the most part only briefly.
Copyright © 2016 Kevin R.D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved. Page uploaded June 2012, last modified January 2016.