A Wikipedia Nightmare

Wiki Puzzle Piece
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0User Kimbar

One Scientist’s True Horror Story with Wikipedia and the So Called Guerilla Skeptics

Exactly 10 years ago someone created a Wikipedia page in my name. That page was very poorly edited and put together with incorrect information. Maybe this was done in good faith, but I couldn’t accept it the way it was set up, and I pointed this out quite sharply. With a lot of patience I sent the correct information to the Wiki editors, namely what defines me professionally with lots of supporting documentation. Finally, the page acquired some semblance of accuracy and so it remained for over a decade.

Less than a month ago I received a notification that my wiki page was proposed for cancellation. I must admit that I jumped from my chair.

Why after a decade did they decide to delete it?

I can easily do without a Wikipedia page, as factual information on me can be found elsewhere on and off the internet, such as my Research Gate portal, and many books, but it was still a shock for me to receive that notification. And this happened on a weekend when traditionally here in Italy everything is shut down for the mid August holidays. I guess the Italian wiki editors were working overtime.

Nevertheless, what happened became inevitably a matter of principle for me. In fact, I repeatedly asked the Wiki editors – who are always hidden behind a pseudonym – the exact reasons for this cancellation. They said that my page “is not encyclopedic enough” but rather represented what a normal astrophysicist does and with no reason for appearing in Wikipedia. The point was that they – deliberately were ignoring what was written therein, namely: not only my activity in astrophysics, but also an additional and long-lasting scientifically oriented research on so called “frontier topics” such as UFOs, new interpretations of quantum physics and consciousness, plus a huge involvement in didactics and science divulgation both on these topics and most of all on standard physics and astronomy.

I am one of the very few astrophysicists in the world who has rolled up his sleeves and attempted to study the so called “UAPs” using scientific methodology by preparing strategic research planning, carrying out scientific expeditions on site, and measurement campaigns, doing data analysis and calculations, and building physical models. These models deal very little with the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitation in spite of the fact that I worked on the SETI Project for quite a long time. I like to study new *hypotheses*  that are passed for “theories” by too many people, where quantum mechanics could be involved. And most of all through my love of science and my research interests in particular, I have demonstrated to be a good science divulger in books, articles and lectures for decades.

Only a few astrophysicists do this, in addition to their standard work in that field. I did that, having an entire life of intense, all-absorbing and motivated work, oriented to innovative and explorative science and knowledge, and always at my own expenses and risk. Many serious journalists have understood this for the past 25 years, and I received almost 300 interviews in all forms of media, in Italy and abroad: this is what people say of me, when they are asking questions in such interviews, and this is public knowledge, including the many citations my name has on Google. This is not at all narcissism, but rather objectivity on documented facts. Why should I deny this? By providing the wiki editors with all of this information I was called a narcissist. I guess by their thinking Carl Sagan, and Michio Kaku among many others are narcissists too. 

I have been doing research, lecturing and science divulgation not to feed my own ego, but rather for the audience with the only intent to trigger the minds of others, the younger scientists in particular, and driven only by my passion and motivation. And not by opportunism as I well know a few of those young scientists are much more talented than me.

Someone among the Wikipedia editors asked me what Massimo Teodorani has done of note to deserve a place in Wikipedia. Well, I  answered them as I have wrote above, not by celebrating myself, but simply showing meticulously the documented facts. All the interviews I received on my work were invitations from the interviewers themselves and not my courting a media career. This includes an invitation I received to present at EU Parliament on the topic of UFOs in 2010.

Therefore, I expanded my Wiki page of at least 50%, by adding my interviews and drastically expanding the number of my technical publications and lectures in the note section. Scientists provide evidence of their claims. 

The reply from some Wiki editors – whom I answered precisely on the reasons why my name should stay on Wikipedia – was that the new version I created was not acceptable according to the standards of Wikipedia, which instead, in order that a page is considered as “encyclopedic”, it must cite only “third sources” and not “first sources” the latter being true documentation, scientific as a case in point and the first being links to media sources in Italy and from other nations.

This means in practice  only other people’s opinions, whatever they are, and no matter if they are lies can be used. Well, independently from articles, books, lectures and interviews, there are many internet pages speaking of me, most of which are good, while very few others are partly critical in a civil way (we live in a democracy) and a very few partly superficial, and manipulative. I provided them with those sources.

What kind of encyclopedia is Wikipedia? Now that I know the entire story, and I am not alone in being treated this way I am extremely happy that my Wiki page has been removed: my name and my work must have no space where biographies can be based in superficiality, lies and occasionally – defamation.

The Wiki editors were asking questions and I was punctually answering in much detail speaking of my documented work in all the above mentioned activities, and not of false or fraudulent information. By the way, who exactly moves the ranks of Wikipedia? I will speak more about this and what I just discovered. But this is, evidently, not all.

After their denial of my new Wiki version, some volunteers built up a new version of my page, which was pretty decent even if slightly diminutive and gaunt. I accepted that version: at least the claims in the text were fully documented by true work and not by gossip. It seemed this was going to be accepted.

But they deleted it anyway. 

.All these moves were probably a sort of psychological torture in order to put me down every day more. At least that is how I lived it. Fire and water, water and fire. Stick and carrot, carrot and stick. An old strategy, well known among soviet or fascist police and the “holy inquisition” some centuries ago. In fact, also this new version of my Wiki page was attacked and unapproved. At some point, also those who were apparently defending me became totally silent. Were they really defending me? Or was this some ruse to feign some semblance of neutrality? When in reality there was no fairness or balance. 

Of course they also were criticizing me in a constructive way, accusing me of not knowing the rules of Wikipedia. I accepted this, in spite of the fact that this way to build up an encyclopedia is in my humble opinion far from objectivity, and just simply demented. How can people trust an encyclopedia if it is based on others’ opinions and not in unbiased, and true published facts, such as technical articles?

Interestingly enough, many of these Wiki editors did offensive insinuations about my person and my work. When I was answering properly to this with documented facts, they were passing to new insinuations. And so on, sometimes in a loop.

In reality, all this was just only the tip of an iceberg, which – thanks to me moving the waters – randomly was turning around itself by showing its true volumetric face and goals. I believe I was able to see the bottom and the entire body of that iceberg for a sufficient enough time to infer what was really behind this was in reality an ad hominem attack to my person and a clear intent to purge me from Wikipedia and public visibility in general. The content and the timing of this are particularly interesting.

In fact, the person whom I would like to call “the rubber wall” who started the proposal for the cancellation of my wiki entry was insinuating that my page was posting “pseudoscience.” This is plain defamation. And self confessing without even reading my books and articles, by associating wrongfully my person with unscientific claims only because one of my publishers is publishing many new age and conspiracy books, in addition to mine and other truly scientific ones.

Flying over the maddening confusion of someone between physics and chemistry (I am not a chemist at all!) he took only one of my many presentations and copied and pasted only one sentence letting it pass as something pseudoscientific. This is called cherry-picking and even in that the statement is very much scientific! I believe that Lukashenko in Belarus uses conceptually the same method with his opponents. “The rubber wall” then went on ignoring all my technical papers and/or my redundant and patient explanations. At the same time his editor colleagues kept on speaking of “Wikipedia rules” that allow for opinions over the true substance of facts. In my humble opinion and interpretation this is a very strange and dishonest concept. And so the loop was going on and on.

But what is interesting is that the person above started his attack after 10 years of total calmness on my Wiki page.

Did Wiki rules suddenly change?

Just a few days after someone on “Query” an internet magazine of CICAP, the main Italian skeptical association published a well written article per se announcing a new important international scientific initiative where physical scientists started to study UFOs using astrophysical methods, in the ambit of mainstream scientific institutions. My name was mentioned in that article as a research affiliate of that group. The parrot-like phraseology of the individual wiki editor above was unmistakable. And clearly the timing is extremely interesting. It is not necessary to use conspiracy theory to make some very precise deductions, but only the theory of probability.

At the same time, during 10 days or so I underwent repeated defamation and slander by some other mysterious Wiki editors. Click the link for a pdf of the full discussion in Italian and particular insults highlighted. Calling publicly my person a “narcissist” or “self-styled” is plain defamation. Accusing me of using multiple accounts in order to support myself in a campaign of support is just slandering or calumnia.

Publishing in the “talk page” an unsigned fake sentence of support of my person by copying and pasting a phrase used only by me was just a hoax to make me appear to have multiple accounts and was not a supporter of mine at all in my opinion.

Indeed, I found not a few elements to launch a lawsuit, as I felt damaged.

But I will not do that. It is not worth it. It is just sufficient to see from the statistics of pertinence that lawsuits against some previous Wiki editors have been in general not often successful. Clearly these persons know this; otherwise some of them would have not taken their liberty to attack my person in such a shameful way. I have no time and no money to lose for these people.  I am very busy with important research work and lectures (and they know this too). I am more interested in results in science than in the improbable success of legal litigation in Italy.

In conclusion, this is what I believe with some evidence happened to me with “Wikipedia Italia.”

An Italian skeptic (or, if you prefer to call it, a “CSICOP-ian”) took the initiative to launch the entire thing, by proposing the cancellation of my Wikipedia page, just a few days after it was known that I am participating in a groundbreaking international academic research project on UFOs. When CSICOPian behaviour was mentioned in the discussion not one of them even bothered to inquiry what I meant by that phrase. Presumably because they know exactly what that means.

Other editors (all hidden behind a pseudonym) perpetrated defamation, slander and possibly a false support in order to deliberately trigger a climate of intimidation and offence. Meanwhile loyal bureaucratic Wiki editors kept on explaining to me (the uninformed schoolboy) how Wikipedia is supposed to work, that Wikipedia is not a place where the true value of a scholar (first source) is highlighted, and where “truth” is unimportant compared to “what people tell about you” (third source, as they call them). I did have some very diplomatic supporters among the Wiki editors, one who prepared the latest version of my ex Wiki page (Click here for PDF). But evidently, at some point, they vanished preferring to be diplomatic with their Wiki colleagues than fighting for a just cause that was not convenient to them.

Meanwhile, I read about the ample diffusion around the world of Taliban-like self-proclaimed “paladins of science” (rigorously unpaid, of course…) called “Guerilla Skeptics” founded by this person (here) They should not be confused with actual skepticism or critical thinking. 

I am now aware that their penetration inside Wikipedia is everywhere, by promoting themselves as the purveyors of scientific truth while it is impossible to check who they are and their own credentials. Their methods could block exploration and true innovation in Science and the evolution of human knowledge towards a better and more honest world. They are in fact anti-science even if they are unable to understand that for themselves.

Wikipedia is generally full of useful information when neutral issues are considered, but anything even slightly controversial will be slanted in specific and very biased ways or deleted out of existence by the “thought police.” Use it with this in mind. 

 

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