Revising this to include more comments from “That fellow,” April 23, 2019. New comments are indented and in bold.
Comment on Astroturf or idiocy? by “That fellow from Cornwall” 2019/04/08 at 8:31 pm
Cornwall, I’d prefer to use a consistent name for you, and if you use a consistent name, your comments will already be approved.
He whom you will know of went on a massive shitposting spree across dozens of websites rendering my identity rather compromised. Such is life.
And that’s what he has been doing for years, but there are two, not one. And I don’t know if you yet realize the extent of it. A small handful of actual socks of mine (almost all disclosed) on RatWiki has been conflated to “many” by the brothers, though massive impersonation, and Bongolian repeated that idea in February on the mod discussion page. Where did I claim to have “many socks.”? At one point I think I mentioned how many proxy IPs were allegedly available, but that isn’t socks.
Didn’t realize that was possible, tis done. 🙂
And you are welcome. If the Smith brothers could actually carry on a cogent conversation, they would be welcome too. Skeptics are especially welcome. I do have a thing about honesty, and I just can’t resist roasting trolls for snacks. Delicious!
In general, I prefer open accounts, and you have been very open about your identity, but it is your choice. I’d actually prefer that you register an account here, and then I could give you advanced privileges. Link added to the following:
Yeah you definitely have to read “The core of fascism” post first to understand what is being said here. Medical fascism is interesting terminology, I have heard totalitarian medicine used before, but truthfully I am not convinced that people can see the word fascism objectively enough to not think of Josef Mengele’s whenever it’s used. :S
Quite possibly. Yet I also think that pointing out that fascism exists on a spectrum, that it can be of the left or the right, and about almost anything, the core being what I described in that post, suppression of diversity of opinion. In science, it’s seriously chilling. A sane reaction to it is not flipping to the other side, which commonly happens. There are certain kinds of arguments and practices common to all kinds of fascists, and yes, it is horrifying to think that we might be fascist, but the same is true for other strongly rejected categories. Fascism as well can be extreme and violent and deadly, or milder, and this shades into simple protection of society from harm, real harm.
A sign that a movement is fascist is that the dangers and harm are exaggerated. A small increase in actual risk becomes “murder.” And I’ve seen this with antivax and with statin skepticism.
I don’t have a clue about satins unfortunately.
What, you don’t know everything about everything? I thought you were a RatWiki tech!
With statin skepticism, in particular, the public is assumed to be ignorant and easily deluded, and it may be, but protecting people from their own delusions shades into protecting them from their own opinions, which then becomes an attempt to control the public mind, to only allow “correct” expression, and is fascist.
In a democratic society, it is necessary to recognize that any form of suppression of expression is dangerous, to be done only if actually necessary. It might be necessary! This boils down to the possibility that some degree of fascism is necessary!
To disentangle this mess requires discussion where diverse elements may be expressed. It does not require equating, say, vaxx with anti-vaxx, which merely reports positions, “he said she said” journalism. But that kind of journalism is closer to full reporting than journalism that assumes a correct position and only presents other opinions as incorrect and pseudoscientific or worse.
The strong rejection of racism creates a problem, and I personally ran into it. I adopted an Ethiopian daughter, she’s quite “black” (Southern Tribal Region, not the lighter-skinned Amhar peoples). She was enrolled in a very progressive preschool, here, and there was some trouble. It became very clear that the administration was racist. But they would be completely horrified by such an accusation. We took our daughter out and put her in another program, Montessori. There were no problems.
The extreme rejection of racism as if racists are not even human, but monsters, makes it extremely difficult to identify racism in ourselves. Waking up White explores this in depth.
I will throw in my 2 cents.
It is worth at least fifty cents. Thanks for the contribution.
There is no such thing as unbiased journalism and never will be, every human being has bias, both conscious and unconscious, often deep-rooted and cultural.
Yes. However, that every human has bias, does not require that all journalism is biased.
It is possible to train ourselves to recognize bias. That process will never be perfect, but if we don’t believe it is possible, we will quite naturally fail to move toward it. The goal of “no bias” is unrealistic, because all expression is imperfect, and unconscious bias will cause us to fail to recognize how our own history influences our interpretations, and some level of interpretation may be necessary in expression.
If we only provide sources and quotations relevant to a topic, our choices may be cherry-picked. However, neutrality is an ideal to be approached and there are methods that work for doing that.
Those methods are practically impossible on Wikipedia itself, because of the encyclopedic design.
They were possible on Wikiversity until this was demolished by the bureaucrat Michael Umbricht, in the name of order and preventing argument and disruption. Those were fascist arguments, and as is common, were rooted in deception.
The cold fusion resource on Wikiversity, predating my participation there, had never been a source of controversy, there had been no revert warring. None. If it was not neutral, it would be because people with differing points of view had not participated, not because those points of view would have been rejected and suppressed. I created most of that content, and attempted to present skeptical and pseudoskeptical arguments fairly, even when I disagreed with them, i.e, I had personally come to the conclusion that these were misleading.
That resource was a sprawling study, and because Wikipedians looking at it imagined that it was an “article,” thought that fixing it to make it neutral was impossible. But it actually would have taken about five minutes. Fascists are not interested in reality, but in their own point of view prevailing, because other points of view are dangerous, misleading, wrong, and fattening or deadly.
There isn’t really any truly reliable journalism either, the authors of such materials are simply presenting a second-hand view of whatever they were told by their sources, which themselves may not be reliable.
The catchword here is “truly reliable,” which fails to consider that reliability is not absolute, but relative. When a fact is attributed, it either was presented by the source or not. That is a fact, not an interpretation. Interpretation comes into the picture with “summarization,” i.e, extracting what is “important” from the source, which is the opinion of the author or editor.
Back up. If neutrality is not an absolute, what is it and how can it be determined? I’d say the core ontological error of the Wikipedia community was in a belief that neutrality was absolute. Many editors preferred a particular point of view (often the “scientific point of view”) to neutrality. They were correct in that neutrality as an absolute was a fantasy, as you, also correctly, point out.
But neutrality can be measured. There are various ways to define a measure, but I will give this:
If there is a community of interest in a topic, and if all members of this community agree on text as neutral, it is 100% neutral.
(This does not mean that it is true, and neutrality is dynamic, it can shift, particularly as new information becomes available, or new analysis. Systems that use consensus to enshrine some position in stone are vulnerable to becoming minority rule, I saw this happening in consensus organizations, which I studied for years.)
In order for this measure to produce meaningful results, the community must not be warped by participation bias, other than natural (i.e., only those interested in a topic sufficiently to become informed about the topic need participate, and, in fact, the opinions of the ignorant can be excluded. But that exclusion should be self-defined and voluntary, not externally defined and coerced, otherwise we run the risk of biasing the process. (It is better to have 95% consensus than 100% by excluding ignorant or minority opinion.)
So then in a neutral project or journal or encyclopedia, the goal would be that each article or coherent collection of articles find a 100% agreement from involved persons, as to overall neutrality. Overall neutrality can and must include divergent views with any significant advocacy. The problem with Wikipedia is that detail is severely limited to what is “notable,” which then generates a bias toward “mainstream,” which generates more sources than the fringe. So the Wikipedia problem is more difficult.
But Wikiversity allowed subpages in mainspace, and so detail can be shoved into subpages, and subpages can be attributed (in practice, “owned” by a user or a set of users who agree to collaborate.) What is then required to preserve neutrality is an overall presentation that is not biased toward any of the positions expressed on the subpages. On the Wikiversity cold fusion article, some pages were higher-level and specifically intended as neutral. If they were not neutral in someone’s opinion, it was trivial to push them down, and make them attributed to authors. This was never tested with cold fusion, because no “skeptic” ever tried to dominate those pages. There were discussions as part of that resource that examined skeptical arguments, as presented by a skeptic. These led, in fact, to the generation of questions for experts, and answers were found.
This was collaborative process.
There was another topic on Wikiversity where a major and dedicated critic of the topic showed up and tried to make the resource a report of all the Bad Things associated with the topic. What I did blew his mind. I took the entire resource as I had created it and moved it to a subpage, as a “section,” created a section for him, and created another section intended to be neutral that anyone could work on. He was able to write all the negative stuff he wanted, in his section. The top-level page did little other than define the topic (agreed 100%), link to the Wikipedia article (and nobody wanted to declare that Wikipedia was biased; this was a bone tossed to Wikipedians), and present a brief, unobjectionable summary of each section.
That was a neutral resource, by 100% consensus. So it is possible, but it is neutrality by inclusion, since each subsection could have as much detail as any user cared to include (and could be, and was, an entire hierarchy of pages). Deception was not allowed, but, bottom line, edit wars were extremely rare on Wikiversity, because it is far easier to build content than to attempt to create content acceptable directly to everyone — unless it is through a process like this. Wikipedians sometimes hated this, but that particular user — an experienced Wikipedian, but famous for getting into strong disagreement — was so impressed that, later, when a conflict arise on Wikiquote, as I recall, involving him, I was accepted as a mediator and was able to completely defuse it. The traditional Wikipedia, duke-it-out with edit wars and arguments would have created him and I as enemies.
Journalists and academics are trained in “neutral tone” and practice. Good scientific articles will recognize contrary opinions and points of view contrary to those of the author, and will attempt to present them fairly, not to create straw man presentations, to use to shoot them down.
In cold fusion, I cringe when I see an article that claims as the goal of the work to “prove” this or that.
Failure before they even start! I’m not always popular in the field, but the best scientists (in my opinion!) support what I do, which is gratifying.
So if you are looking at Wikipedia’s reliable sources policy, you immediately have to understand that a “reliable source” is basically anything resembling the mainstream American point of view with a certain amount of support.
While that is not wrong, it is also incomplete and misses what is actually fundamental about WP RS policy. RS policy most centrally establishes notability. A mainstream publication shows that a responsible publisher, concerned about presenting material of interest to its readers, has deemed the topic worthy of coverage.
As well, reliable source must have a fact-checking process, but, again, the core of this is that the publisher has an interest in not publishing nonsense, and especially a financial interest, or, like it, an academic interest.
What I saw in dealing with the pseudoskeptical faction was that articles in mainstream journals of high reputation were still rejected on the basis that the author was a believer in the topic. The author is irrelevant in RS policy.
However, RS presence does not mandate inclusion of the material as fact. If there is editorial consensus that the material is verifiable and not misleading, fine. Otherwise it can be included as attributed opinion. Attribution turns any claim into a fact.
Consensus is the basic standard for neutrality, but fails when minority points of view have been excluded.
One who has a point of view will be a sensitive detector of bias in the other direction, so what is possibly neutral is the community as a whole, not any individual or faction, not even a faction that believes that it is the authorized agent of neutrality.
But what arises, commonly and eventually, is fascism, unless there are protective structures.
The entire policy and it’s supporting guidelines and essays are little more than an explanation on how to verify a source meets this standard.
All as a castle in the sky, ideals. Without reliable enforcement structures, meaningless.
Noobs come in and see obvious bias, read the policy, attempt to act on it, and are whacked by the oligarchy if they make any mistake at all. Few can learn actual practice well enough and quickly enough to survive that, unless they start as basement-dwellers who spent months or years in the
salt mines, ah, Recent Changes Patrol, and follow AN/I, which makes one’s watchlist explode.
The structure, as it is, does not protect the noob against any admin with a bias, plus non-admins with a bias and experience know how to manipulate the structure.
But none of that means that neutrality is impossible, only that Wikipedia did not set up structures that would be effective in seeking maximized consensus, and, in fact, what was set up often made it impossible.
There was an solution I found. One of the paradoxes of WP policy was that article talk pages were not for discussing the topic, but only, in theory, the text. The faction would freely use the talk page to accuse subjects of this or that, but if someone new attempted to discuss the topic in the other direction, they were told that they were violating policy and must stop, or they would be blocked.
There are sister wiki templates, and any topic could be discussed on Wikiversity (just as any topic can be discussed in a university, generally). However, what was found by me and others was that sister wiki templates to Wikiversity were rejected because Wikiversity resources were allegedly not neutral, because it was a wiki. But this argument would apply to See Also links to other Wikipedia articles.
The reality was that the dominant faction and culture was fascist. It’s goal was to suppress what it did not like, and they would use any handy excuse that might sound reasonable to the users who only consider shallow, knee-jerk reactions.
And we never want to hear that we are fascist, especially if we are.
Ideally, since the same policy is used across all of Wikipedia, the entire work should have roughly the same point of view, which is apparently neutral, although many would disagree with it’s neutrality. This is more vocally noted by the US conservative right-wing, but Wikipedia’s treatment of many non-US and left-wing subjects is sadly far more dismal.
This assumes a discriminable entity, “neutrality.” As well, the pseudoskeptical faction assumes a “scientific point of view,” when science is not — ever — a point of view, it is a method, which generates experience, and from experience we may develop opinions, i.e., points of view, but those are our own opinions. Science does not have an opinion.
Of course this is fine for the most part, one has to have a pretty fringe viewpoint to really get worked up about Wikipedia’s point of view.
Actually, I got worked up as a Wikipedia editor, seeing blatant administrative bias, violating policies, and I confronted it, and was told “I see a block in your future.” Nice people, these are. Not.
I was holding or working on no point of view other than that.
So I went to RfC, walked through the process, prevailed (ArbComm reprimanded the admin), but then, as predicted by a very experience user who cosigned the RfC, discovered for myself what happens if you win against an administrator like that. Their friends go after you.
You’d better not jaywalk. And there is no protection. As a result of all this, I was then topic-banned by an affiliated — and actually involved with me — admin, on cold fusion, with no disruptive editing, only an attempt to find consensus after an ally of that admin massively disrupted the article, using tricks that I saw later being used, including recently.
Interrupt the process of finding consensus by going to RfPP. He played them like a flute. The revert warrior was him, alone against many other editors.
The admin banned me and I took it to ArbComm. In the former case I was not involved with cold fusion. I believed more or less the same as everyone else, wasn’t this not reproducible, all a big mistake? But I was focused on neutrality policy and it was being blatantly violated. But now, in this second case, I had become involved and was starting to see that there might be something to the field. When I attempted to move the article toward what was in reliable source, very conservatively, it was strongly resisted. I later found that this had been going on for years.
The outcome of that case, to make a long story short, was that the admin was desysopped. But I was also topic banned for a year, site-banned for three months, and a new ban was invented, never used before or since, an “MYOB ban.” I was to be prohibited from commenting in any dispute where I was not already involved. But there was an exception, unless my mentor approved.
There was no disruptive activity as a basis for the new bans. The justification for the alleged POV pushing finding was a link to a comment by someone on the other side, in an ArbCom case, where he was arguing against the ArbCom position. The way it had been presented, it looked like that was my position, though it was actually the opposite of my position. I.e., ArbCom massively screwed up. They do that all the time, I had been fooled by decisions where they don’t.
I later found, because of hacked emails, that there were arbitrators who wanted to ban me in the first case, but who found no excuse. Later, they could make an excuse, so they did what they wanted. The MYOB ban looked harmless, but … the provision for a mentor failed, but surely I could still obtain a trusted mentor.
An arbitrator volunteered (I was very popular with some — and this arbitrator always recused in cases where I was involved, which leads to an interesting result: those who might understand my work might recuse (several did), and those who did not would not recuse. Bias caused by defective structure, and a misunderstanding of the role of the arbitrators.)
That arbitrator was forbidden by the Committee from mentoring me. I don’t know the reason. The arb resigned in short order because he was threatened in real life with harm to his family — by thugs, face-to-face. He decided that it wasn’t worth it for a hobby, Wikipedia.
Scientist. Understood what I was doing, had been inspired by it.
Anyway, I’m grateful I was banned, because Wikipedia was absorbing, an addiction. It freed me to turn to far more productive pursuits.
Not to mention how Wikipedia is unreliable by design, and practices sub-standard epistemology by policy. Pretty sure it’s possible to go on about Wikipedia for a long time though, I haven’t even touched upon the the issues presented by the medicine specific MEDRS reliable sources policy.
What do we expect from a collection of free software enthusiasts? Sophisticated ontology?
What I’ve seen, generally, is that policies often look good but stink in practice because there is no reliable enforcement.
Changing policies to reflect actual practice, to prevent waste of time and an ability to predict outcome was strongly resisted, I tried that with notability issues for amateur radio organizations, it was obvious that AfDs were falling down on two sides, rather randomly. I proposed a change that reflected actual outcomes where there was adequate participation. Waste of time, there are those who sit on the policies and they don’t GAS about editors wasting time.
An irredeemable disaster zone, in which the rules may or may not exist, but if they do, nobody can agree on what they actually mean.
Exactly. There was a “rule” that was usually not followed (because it was basically dumb, a principle that has some application, but that fails, and that, in real discussions, the community *usually* rejected). Attempting to clarify the policy to avoid many useless AfDs (and then DRVs to fix them when they occasionally followed the policy), there was strong opposition from those who sit on the policies and care nothing about actual practice. But this is merely one more example of how unreliable an adhocracy can be, when it gets large. Problem is, wikis can work very well with small communities with a coherent purpose, and they obviously work very well for generating huge amounts of “sorta reliable” content, but could never approach traditional encyclopedias, professionally edited, for overall reliability. A traditional encyclopedia was “reliable source.” Which, as you know, does not mean “error-free,” but rather relatively reliable. One of these days, a Wikipedia Killer will come along that harnesses Wikipedia but makes it reliable. And that will be valuable enough to pay for the labor — and it will be highly profitable, I predict. Reliable knowledge is too important to entrust to anonymous volunteers!
There is no overall supervision that operates with any level of efficiency. There was a proposal years ago that could have changed this. The necessary structure, with voluntary participation, was presented as an experiment, to see what could be done with it. It was vehemently rejected, with calls to delete and salt the proposal, “terminate with extreme prejudice.”
Fascist. Obviously. The MfD failed, but the structures were deleted. Nothing was allowed that might shift power to the community.
As far as the vaccinations are concerned, I am unabashedly pro-vax and support mandatory vaccinations and suppression of all anti-vax views, medical fascism be damned. If I happened to be editing the relevant pages, I would no doubt pitch in to help these pro-vax people with their point of view pushing, supported by sources or not. xD
Well, fascist shill for Big Pharma, obviously you should be suppressed, blocked, banned, whatever it takes to get you to shut up.
Once I realized there were no rules and no enforcement on Wikipedia I simply stopped worrying about it. Bans and blocks are inconvenient, but I have plenty of both.
If one has become heavily involved in the Wikipedia game, it can be quite a shock to be blocked. It’s like sudden withdrawal from an addiction, cold turkey. But if one gets curious about this response, one discovers that, “OMG! They liberated me! I no longer have any responsibiilty for what happens in this crazy place!” One also notices that the banhammer doesn’t actually hurt. Since the fundamental contract, what people assume is how they will be treated, is not how Wikpedia actually treats people, has been abrogated, one can then do whatever one thinks best. It actually is a promotion, which I wrote years ago (admittedly inspired by the RatWiki trope.)
I later did a very short period of socking to demonstrate how Wikipedia could actually harness banned editors to create useful edits, to create cooperation where there had been conflict, without complicating ban enforcement, and actually making it easier. The experiment demonstrated that WP:IAR was utterly dead. Which I already knew, but I’m a scientist at heart: test it!
It was such a relief to no longer have any responsibility for dealing with a vast pile of idiots (to be fair, there are many smart Wikipedians who are not quite smart enough to figure out what is actually happening.) So I never socked on WP again after that. They held a ban discussion for nothing but grave-dancing. If I had wanted to edit, it would not have stopped me, and you realize that.
Maybe I can create google results to make you look like Something Really Bad. Perhaps if I look hard enough, I can find some place where you wrote something about Killing Babies, or maybe something about age-of-consent reform, which would make you appear as something that if I mention it, some will come completely unglued, worse than “fascist.”
Passes for humor these days I am told.
Darn! You did not edit that. However, I can now claim that Bongolian supported killing babies. Maybe I can claim that one of the editors was actually a Smith brother. Too bad I hate lying. I could come up with some doozies. Of course, Oliver actually did write something that sure looks like an apology for the Columbine killers. Close enough. (He was only 16, to be sure, and racist.) He has never figured out that the way to handle the errors of youth is to admit them and openly move on. “I was wrong” can do wonders in real life.
Seriously, there is a basis for possibly requiring universal vaccination. I think there is a stronger basis for providing accurate information to parents, through professionals, and for respecting personal choice. If we cannot convince enough of the population to be vaccinated to create herd immunity, something is weak about our position or how we are advocating it.
What worries me is suppression of contrary research and opinion. When that happens, science goes south. Is that happening? I don’t know, but there are events that worry me.
It depends what sort of suppression you look at. If I am being cynical I might say this;
Research programs are funded unevenly by those with the money (big pharma has the money) only funding the people who agree with their agenda. Then of course they fund education, making sure their message gets pushed across education too. And then even if a researcher does get something disagreeable researched, where do they publish? Certainly not in a respectable mainstream publication, not without the say so of herr fascist overlords. The whole thing is entirely stitched up.
Gary Taubes and Malcolm Kendrick have extensively documented the reality of this. Kendrick with humor.
Certainly if an industry has an invested interest in something that makes them money, they will hang onto it with everything they can (unless they see a way to make even more money). In this context that sure includes all the fascist oppression they can get hold of through lobbying government, selectively funding research, (mis)informing the media, etc.
This is standard practice in most controversial areas of science, which for the most part is in my opinion not nearly as free and open as it ought to be.
It’s all predictable from the structures, that was my realization maybe forty years ago. It is not about bad people. It’s about defective structures that create the roles. And when people try to “smash the machine,” what they replace it with is generally worse, and this pattern plays out over and over. There is a path beyond this, and some follow it and benefit, but many don’t. If you figure it out and teach it, you will be attacked as a cultist or fanatic or something, anything. Socrates, corrupting the youth!, hemlock! And depending on how well you practice the way (which is ancient), yourself, you just might be a cult leader and abusive also. Nobody is immune to self-interest, if it is not recognized.
And then when something is discovered, it takes a hell of a long time to overrule the previous best practices and get it widely accepted. Of course diet is prime example of this, but there are other novel examples such as the time that tobacco was good for your health, or that period people thought radiation exposure gave health benefits.
What I’ve been reading lately from the heretics is that sun exposure is good for your health. Yet we have years of warning about it, after all. prepare yourself:
It appears that, yes, more sun, more skin cancer, but the increased risk is actually small, and when studies look at all-cause mortality, people who get more sun live longer, and most of the skin cancer that they might then get is treatable. This is what Malcolm Kendrick has been pointing to: studies that narrowly focus on one negative outcome may show a “risk reduction” though overall mortality is not reduced, leading to a rather obvious conclusion: the condition studied (this can be about diet, statins, many things) may provide a “relative risk reduction” — which is, without other data, meaningless — while actually increasing overall risk of death, one dies from something else very possibly associated with what supposedly reduced risk.
I hate this one, about sun exposure. I just wanna sit at my computer, going outside into the sun is too much work — and how can I write (my true addiction!) while I’m out in the sun? I feel the same way about exercise. And I know that if I follow those feelings I will probably not live long.
(My training tells me we can “have it all.” I.e., there will be a way that I can accomplish what I accomplish by sitting at this desk, while exercising or being in the sun. It’s just not what I’m accustomed to doing. I have already established, a couple of years ago, an exercise program.)
Pretty sure it’s a more widely accepted fact now that the preservative used for meat (eg pork) is rather carcinogenic, something that has been “known” for a number of years. But that issue hasn’t really caused any changes in regulation yet, because nobody wants to change anything.
Right. You noticed.
I know the situation far better with diet, cholesterol, and statins.
I know a little about diet, mainly on the subject of blood sugars.
What I know, I know from a combination of personal necessity and experience, professional advice, an actual skeptical science journalist (Gary Taubes, see below), and then reviewing criticism of his work.
And thanks again for commenting. The trolls are still active on reddit. More is being revealed.
As Gary Taubes found, there is some really bad science that became mainstream opinion, around the 1970s or so, and his best work is in covering the history of that (and before he looked at diet and nutrition and heart disease, he wrote a book, Bad Science, on cold fusion, some cold fusion enthusiasts hate him. But I don’t hate anyone who does his homework and reports what he found, even if he makes mistakes.)
We need more open sharing of information, and we need more balanced study of diverse points of view. It is in the overall, collective understanding, that an approach to deeper understanding is possible.
Thanks for commenting.