Wiki Warriors wanted


Martin is in a protracted Wikipedia battle with a cult, Falun Gong, that is trying to erase unpleasant aspects of their ideology from the record. I know there are a few dedicated Wikipedians aroung these parts, so you might want to help him out.

Comments

  1. says

    Having read this, I cannot help but feel that these guys look alot like the eastern versions of the Mormon Church. Just as nutty.

  2. Chris A says

    According to the Chinese embassy(who is probably a tad biased), The leader claims that the earth is due to explode any second – and he is the only one who can prevent it because he is more powerful than Jesus Christ and the Universe

  3. says

    I spent way too much time getting into that (since I don’t edit Wikipedia anyway), but I did find this, quoted from one of the primary people fighting to have the article remain free of any criticisms:

    I will continue to remove all edits which misrepresent Falun Dafa and force a POV on wikipedia.–Asdfg12345 11:59, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

    That first post kind of sums up what he’s doing — defending the wackiness of that religion against criticism. Then he realized what he was doing, and tried to backtrack:

    I hearby solemnly declare that the previous post does not accurately express my intentions, heart and attitude toward editing on wikipedia. I now retract this statement and apologise for any confusion or miscommunication, as it was not intentional. My statement of intent and understanding of my role on wikipedia are more fully and accurately expressed in a later post. –Asdfg12345 16:50, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

    Found here, where they were (gasp!) getting someone banned who was critical of Falun Gong.

    Looks like the same small group of people have been babysitting that entry since at least March 2006.

  4. Thomas says

    I’ve got a very lengthy essay about Wikipedia that I will one day finish. Wikipedia is a beautiful idea: the absolutely free exchange of knowledge, but it has the awful side effect of being a democratic effort — as Stephen Colbert has done such a good job of illustrating. I personally believe that knowledge should be free, just as medical care should, that you have a right to it. But this one bold attempt at free information is destined to fail if it remains on its current course.

    I’m sure PZ probably doesn’t think all knowledge should be free — how else would he get his paycheck? Start making “bear” porn?

  5. says

    I’m sure PZ probably doesn’t think all knowledge should be free — how else would he get his paycheck? Start making “bear” porn?

    Wow, that was stupid.

  6. DrFrank says

    Wikipedia is a fantastic source for quickly checking up on something, and most articles are fine. You just need to be conscious of whether a subject that you’re looking for is likely to be the subject of an edit war.

    For example, I would suspect that the article on quantum physics is pretty good for basic information, while I’d guess that the intelligent design article is constantly having all opposing information censored from it.

  7. says

    On topics which crazy people don’t care about they are pretty much the authority. Honestly if something just broke or you want in depth explanations of minor characters on Stargate or Middle Earth, Wikipedia is fantastic. You simply need to avoid anything that crazy or stupid people care about.

    Am I right that Falun Gong believes everybody has a bunch of souls and when you’re sick the souls are missing and you need some kind of shaman to restore your soul or you can’t get better?

  8. Jer says

    I just want to see something about the alien invasion of the human mind and other dimensions included in the article. They quoted Li Hongzhi in a Time article talking about them.

  9. Kesh says

    This is why it’s a bad idea to solicit people to help “correct” a Wikipedia article: it draws a bunch of people who don’t understand the rules of Wikipedia, and disrupts any attempt to fix the problem.

    There’s already proper channels to deal with this sort of thing, but recruiting people to mob the page isn’t it.

  10. raven says

    A favorite activity of fundie cultists is vandalizing Wikipedia. The Xian terrorist article is a case in point. It is all but useless. At one point they had Eric Rudolph the doc murderer and Olympic bomber declaring himself an atheist. The article on Darwin at various times blames him for everything from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah on.

    Wikipedia is a great resource but anything that the Liars for Jesus can get to has to be fact checked carefully.

  11. dave says

    You’re a naughty boy recruiting editors, though I note that it’s artfully phrased to suggest that established editors have a look rather than instructing clueless newbs to butt in. For those enquiring, both the intelligent design and Charles Darwin articles are pretty stable. A “guess that the intelligent design article is constantly having all opposing information censored from it” is wrong, both scientific and anti-science viewpoints are shown in a careful neutral balance.

  12. DrB says

    To be honest, it seems like a good waste of effort. After all, there’s really no corresponding “unpleasant aspects of ideology” section for the Christianity or other major religions pages and, to paraphrase the old language/dialect distinction, what is a religion other than a cult with an army? Admittedly, the scheißestorm that would unleash would be faneffingtastic.

    As others have said, Wikipedia is a great quick resource for getting a general idea about a subject, but if someone is using it to scout out what god they want to kneel to, they’re an idiot.

  13. Thomas says

    @MAJeff:
    It was a joke. Obviously it wasn’t funny, but that doesn’t change its jovial nature.

  14. Matt Heath says

    @Thomas (#5): I think that you are very wrong indeed about the relationship that either bloggers or academics have to their academic property. With very few exceptions they get ahead (more wages/advert money) by growing their reputations. They want free copies about.

    You are fairly wrong about wikipedia. It rights itself pretty well; that’s why Nature found it to be as accurate as Britannica for science things. It is really that democratic either. The decision-making processes are pragmatically hacked together from passed experience; they often involve calling in admins (from the point of view of making an encyclopaedia I think they call them in too often).

    If you look at similar things, like the Larouche movement you see what happens. The articles will probably come out of this fight with all view points clearly sourced to the people claiming them and a stack of cultists (and PRC fans) banned for ignoring the norms for editing.

  15. Hael says

    I’d say Wikipedia is always useful. If you see one of the neutrality disputed tags you just need to know to read the discussion page. Sure at some times an article will have bullshit added to it and it won’t be pointed out immediately, but over longer periods of time it tends to be self-correcting.

  16. says

    The best way to help is to holler for the Admins at Wikipedia to freeze the page because of vandalism (assuming the unpleasant aspects are documented) and move the debate to the discussion page. Only facts get moved to the main page.

  17. Thomas says

    Just to point this out one more time:
    I MADE A COMMENT ABOUT PZ NOT WANTING KNOWLEDGE TO BE FREE — IT WAS A JOKE. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THE COMMENT SERIOUSLY. I love everyone who posts here, you’re all dandy, but sometimes you’re all just way too serious. Some comments are tongue in cheek.

    There are exceptions, Matt, but I do believe that because (a) every article cannot be monitored 24/7 (b) there are too many topics to be reasonably controlled lest they decide to away with public editing and (c) the corporate machine would love to see Wikipedia destroyed or, better yet, acquired by News Corp. It’s a good idea, but I still think it’s doomed to fail.

  18. says

    The solution is to add an “unpleasant aspects” header to the Christian article, add a few minor points, and see what develops. It might become a major section. Then perhaps it would spin off into the core of a new “Unpleasant aspects of Religion” article, which would be part of the class of “Unpleasant aspects of deeply held ideologies” and thus include “religions” like Maoism, Stalinism, etc.

  19. Mus says

    I wish I could help, but I don’t know anything about the Falun Gong. I also really have to stop procrastinating and write this stupid paper…

  20. kid bitzer says

    yeah, i got no love for falun gong (or dafa, whatever).

    on the other hand, one of the few groups i like even less is the chinese communist party, and they *hate* falun gong, and falung gong hate them good and plenty too.

    for a while, i was actually inclined to feel supportive of f.g. simply because they were sticking it to the red army.

    now, eh, i try to remember that the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

  21. says

    Honestly if something just broke or you want in depth explanations of minor characters on Stargate or Middle Earth, Wikipedia is fantastic. You simply need to avoid anything that crazy or stupid people care about.

    I have not found this to be reliably true. If a piece of bad information on a non-controversial topic is widely repeated, Wikipedia is likely to include that information uncritically.

    An example with which I’m closely familiar is in the entry on the Joshua tree, which aside from including misleadingly incomplete information (They “thrive in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park,” with no mention of a thousand other places in which they thrive) and contradictory information (“There is some concern that Joshua trees will be eliminated from Joshua Tree National Park,” despite the allegation of “thriving” earlier on the page), contains statements that seem to have no basis in fact. The item about the name “Joshua tree” originating with Mormon pioneers, most notably on that page, seems to be pure folklore. But it’s widely repeated, and thus is deemed more reliable than the experience of someone who’s looked in vain for uses of the name in any printed literature at the time. In fact, it seems no one called it the Joshua tree for about 60 years after the Mormons were pioneering the area. But that’s “original research” and thus barred.

    I tend to find the worst errors, in other words, in the articles that no one cares about, because they escape scrutiny. A controversial article may contain horribly false and biased information for a time, but seems to me those usually get feuded into a shallow and equivocal accuracy.

    I usually use Wikipedia to find the collection of primary sources at the bottom of the article.

  22. Dave says

    OK, so I know almost nothing about falun gong other than some vaguely cultish looking people occasionally stand around on the streets of NYC holding signs about how badly the PRC hates them. (I keep in mind two thoughts there: 1) the PRC seems to be willing to oppress anyone who is not the PRC, and 2) Rule 29) Since the point of this blog entry seems to be that the wiki article is biased and uncritical, can someone point to a website that does describe the downside to falun gong? Just curious as to what the issue is.

  23. Kesh says

    @24
    The solution is to add an “unpleasant aspects” header to the Christian article

    No, it’s not. People tried that before, and it was a disaster. The solution was a separate article Criticism of Christianity.

    This is why recruiting a mob to edit an article is a bad idea. Often, people have already tried the obvious solutions, and found them wanting. Another solution is in place, or being negotiated… and the whole thing goes to hell when a bunch of folks mob the page to do exactly what failed the first time around.

    If folks really want to help prevent bias on articles like this, try signing up for Wikipedia and learning how it works, reading the Talk pages of articles to see what’s already been discussed, and propose solutions. Don’t try to brute-force it.

  24. MarkW says

    #27:

    How about you edit the wiki article as follows: “no one called it the Joshua tree for about 60 years after the Mormons were pioneering the area.” — source, this page on Pharyngula…

  25. Avenel says

    I good place to look for descriptions of religions is the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance website. Thier page on Falun Gong/Dafa is here.

  26. BrendanH says

    Kesh says:

    If folks really want to help prevent bias on articles like this, try signing up for Wikipedia and learning how it works, reading the Talk pages of articles to see what’s already been discussed, and propose solutions. Don’t try to brute-force it.

    That’s the best advice in the thread.

  27. says

    Heh, you want to see a Wiki-war, wander over to Chiropractic sometime. Terrible, and there’s nothing any non-chiro can do about it at this moment. Homeopathy is also pretty bad, but we’re at least managing to hold the line with a good article. By comparison, Intelligent Design is quite good. There are trolls, vandals, idealogues, etc., but they always get pushed away pretty quickly.

    Right now, I’m trying to remedy some of these problems. I’m working on a series of posts which will help skeptics learn the rules of Wikipedia so we can work together to fix it. My dream is a day that the Chiropractic article won’t blindly advocate for it…

  28. Interrobang says

    Skip that OCRT link. Normally, they’re pretty good, but someone got to them in this case. The article contradicts itself in at least three places, on major issues (as far as I’m concerned). First they claim that it isn’t a “religion, sect, or cult” but that it’s made up primarily of Buddhist/Taoist beliefs and a few other things, and then goes on to list all kinds of weird beliefs that have nothing whatsoever to do with any interpretation of Buddhism or Taoism I’m aware of. Then they claim that it has no leader and no organisation, but a few paragraphs lower, they identify its “founder and current leader” by name. Thirdly, they mention that Falun Gong/Dafa practitioners may have superhumanly supernatural abilities, mention the James Randi Challenge as a weak nod towards skepticism, and then trot out the old canard about these techniques being so arcane that they’d be difficult to replicate in a controlled laboratory environment. (Hm, could that be because the only people who ever see them happening already believe they can?)

    Personally, I’d be inclined to believe they’re some form or other of a cult strictly from the general principle that authoritarian societies tend to beget authoritarian structures. Since the PRC authorities hate them so much, they’re likely to be a competing authoritarian structure. Hm… (On the other hand, my definition of “cult” is pretty broad and includes any religion with mandatory tithing, so YMMV.)

  29. David Marjanović, OM says

    Regarding the Joshua Tree: don’t complain, act. Mention where it occurs. Mention that the etymology is widely believed although there’s no evidence for it (leave it at that to avoid original research). Cite some of the literature you’ve looked in that doesn’t contain the name.

  30. David Marjanović, OM says

    Regarding the Joshua Tree: don’t complain, act. Mention where it occurs. Mention that the etymology is widely believed although there’s no evidence for it (leave it at that to avoid original research). Cite some of the literature you’ve looked in that doesn’t contain the name.

  31. says

    Regarding the Joshua Tree: don’t complain, act. Mention where it occurs. Mention that the etymology is widely believed although there’s no evidence for it (leave it at that to avoid original research). Cite some of the literature you’ve looked in that doesn’t contain the name.

    I have a life to live, a book to write, and neither time nor patience for dealing with rules lawyers in order to benefit a site that has pretty much lost any credibility with anyone I want to reach, a site on which expertise of any sort is seen as anti-democratic and fact considered a matter for consensus.

    The thing is fatally flawed.

    I am interested in Citizendium, though.

  32. says

    In my opinion, many of the woo-related articles are reasonably good. For example, the Intelligent Design article identifies the subject as pseudoscience, and then proceeds to dissect all the creationist claims listed. Similarly, the homeopathy article is largely written in a “homeopaths believe that…” form, and contains some fairly harsh criticism. In comparison to the popular press, Wikipedia is a bastion of reason.

    Success in an edit war depends on how well you present your case. In most rationalist-vs-nutcase scenarios, the good-guys will present their case calmly and formally, and will base their arguments around documented Wikipedia policy. Meanwhile, the bad-guys will resort to hysteria and mudslinging. Similarly, when it comes the the article itself, the good-guys will continue to make dispassionate and encyclopedic edits, whilst the bad-guys will get more extreme and more hysterical. When it comes to arbitration, the good-guys will win.

    Unfortunately, if seems as if these Falun-Gong cultists known how to play the system. If you want to win, you must outplay them. A comment such as “this article is biased nonsense” is precisely useless. Instead, you must attack it in a systematic, formal and dispassionate manner, with each point being clearly explained and based around documented Wikipedia policy. Eventually, they will slip-up and reveal themselves as the foaming lunatics they are. Once that happens, the good-guys (if sufficiently prepared) will win.

  33. j.t.delaney says

    I have to say, I’m very happy to see somebody willing to speak out against this cult. These guys get far too much of a free pass from the American media, where they are portrayed as these blameless victims of communism, and recruit very aggressively on university campuses. I’m grateful somebody is at least willing to try showing what these people are about.

  34. says

    for a while, i was actually inclined to feel supportive of f.g. simply because they were sticking it to the red army.

    The Chinese (unlike most Americans and Europeans) remember the Boxer Rebellion, and see the potential for Falun Gong to become another, similar disaster. The fact that the western powers implicity supported the boxers (because the boxers spouted as weird form of xtian crap) doesn’t do anything to make them more comfortable when they see the US government making rumbles that the Chinese should allow “freedom of religion”

    So you have a totalitarian state trying to cope with a burgeoning middle class (that won’t tolerate government stupidity much longer) and environmental collapse, looking at a potentially explosive cult of popular nutbaggery. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the ruling elite in China but they’re in a tough spot. The good news is that China’s likelihood of emerging through all this with superpower status is very low.

    Hmmm… Next competitor we have on the global stage – let’s innoculate their wealthy with scientology and sit back and watch the fun!!

  35. Ichthyic says

    Aaah, Wikipedia. So useful yet so unreliable.

    *sniff*

    I feel nostalgic for the argument Truth Machine and I had over Wiki a couple years back.

    it was like the great taste/ less filling argument, with TM on the “it’s useful!” side, and me on the “it’s unreliable” side.

    almost shut down the whole thread.

    good times.

  36. Ichthyic says

    let’s innoculate their wealthy with scientology and sit back and watch the fun!!

    *shudder*

    somehow I worry that that is probably far too close to what might already be happening.

    I also think the humor value would decrease exponentially.

    Mormons are funny.
    Heaven’s gaters (were) funny.

    Scientologists scare the shit out of me.

  37. says

    I really get confused over how established wikipedians suddenly oppose the idea of new users coming onto wikiepdia to add to the greater good of Wikipedia.

    Those of you who are most upset over this possibility, of course, do not need to worry – the Falun Gong article is blocked from use by newly registered users. Rest easy that no newcomers will come onto wikipedia just to unjustly represent views critical of Falun Gong.

  38. Someone says

    Another example on wikipedia : compare the articles on werewolves and vampires with the article on ghosts.

    The articles on werewoles and vampires clearly (and in the very beginning of the article) identify their subject as being fictional / mythological / folkloric.

    The ghost article, however, has been semi-vandalized by ghost believers and states “… Ghosts are a controversial anomalous phenomenon. According to a poll conducted in 2005 by the Gallup Organization, about 32% of Americans believe in the existence of ghosts …”

  39. Asdfg says

    If the intention was to get more people to find out about wikipedia and edit the Falun Gong articles in accordance with policy, to improve the encyclopedia, that would be great. It’s clear that this wasn’t really the intention, or Falun Gong would not have been characterised as a cult in the invitation.

    I am finding your (collective) views difficult to understand, and troubling. There is no evidence that Falun Gong is a cult, that it engages in any socially destructive behaviour, cuts people off from society, rips money off people, or causes any harm.

    The issue most of you have seems to be with the beliefs of Falun Gong, and you would call it a cult on these grounds. If you’re basing it on anything else, please let me know. This is a really troubling thing. Why is a group a cult because of certain beliefs? Falun Gong is based on belief in the divine, and includes things that are not part of empirical science. Who cares? Is it your job to weed out the heretics, or to even think anything bad about this at all? Many things have not been proven by modern science.

    Falun Gong has no organisation, there is no money involved at all, there is no membership, no formalities, no nothing. There is a set of free teachings and exercises that anyone can do or not do. It’s very simple. Many people have benefited enourmously from it, and they think it’s rather good. It has nothing to do with things like Scientology, which are known to involve money and whatever else. The term “cult” is a social term, and should be used accurately. You can’t label something a cult just because of beliefs. That is plain ideological struggle.

    No one should peddle stereotypes, either. You should find out what Falun Gong is about before making negative remarks. Falun Gong is a good thing. The fundamental thing it teaches is Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. There are five exercises as well. Falun Gong is wholly innocent, and you cannot rightly regard it as anything but innocent on the grounds that you do not like some of its beliefs.

  40. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Asdfg #46: “I am finding your (collective) views difficult to understand, and troubling. There is no evidence that Falun Gong is a cult, that it engages in any socially destructive behaviour, cuts people off from society, rips money off people, or causes any harm.”

    It’s a RELIGION based on SUPERSTITIOUS NONSENSE, ain’t it?

  41. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Sorry, that was in reference to Asdfg #47.

    BTW: “You can’t label something a cult just because of beliefs.”

    Yes I can. The belief at issue is ALWAYS criterion numero uno. It’s a CULT I say.

  42. Asdfg says

    Yeah i came from wikipedia. I would recommend reading this article:

    “Breaking Through Conventional Scientific Paradigm” http://en.epochtimes.com/news/6-7-3/43492.html

    I can’t understand why you would want to marginalize a group simply because of peaceful beliefs that you do not happen to agree with. This is exactly what is wrong with religions, and what most of your gripes with religions would probably be about.

    You are saying that you have a problem with Falun Gong practitioners not because of what they DO, but simply because of what they BELIEVE. Surely there is something wrong with this picture. Please think critically. Falun Gong practitioners are all peaceful people, and the essence of what Falun Gong teaches is kindness. There is a lot of metaphysical stuff wrapped up in this, but why should it concern you? If you looked at it objectively, you could only praise Falun Gong for making such socially responsible, self-disciplined, inward-looking people who try to be good. This is simply what it is all about for me.

    You are criticizing Falun Gong’s ideology from just yet another ideological viewpoint. This itself is not a practical way of understanding the situation. If you just looked at the outward situation and did not concern yourself with whatever supernatural or mystical beliefs Falun Gong held, there would not be a problem, right? Is it something anyone has actually DONE WRONG? Or just BELIEVED WRONG? I would urge some more objectivity from people who are supposed to be upholding just that principle.

  43. Escuerd says

    Is Asdfg the home key for people with polydactyly?

    Was the quantum flapdoodle article from the well-known Objectiveâ„¢ source of news, The Epoch Times, relevant here in any way? It wasn’t clear what it had to do with your point.

    “If you looked at it objectively, you could only praise Falun Gong for making such socially responsible, self-disciplined, inward-looking people who try to be good.”

    Sounds pretty, um, Objectiveâ„¢.

    “You are criticizing Falun Gong’s ideology from just yet another ideological viewpoint.”

    Dear God, no! How dare anyone criticize anyone else based on their own viewpoint! What kind of monsters would do such a thing? And monsters they must be, Objectiveâ„¢ly speaking.

    “Is it something anyone has actually DONE WRONG? Or just BELIEVED WRONG?”

    My own (non-Objectiveâ„¢) experience is that they’re just a typical group that advocates incoherent nonsense, occasionally with a bit of pushiness. Other than that…well, they don’t take criticism too well, at least when it’s not Objectiveâ„¢.

  44. j.t.delaney says

    Falung Gong is a dangerous cult not merely for believing a lot of ridiculous things (i.e. rejection of the scientific method and western medicine), but also their actions. By denouncing western medicine and the scientific method, their beliefs put them and their loved ones at risk, as well as the general public. Pressuring people to quick taking medicines for chronic diseases, like insulin for diabetes, is not a “peaceful belief” — let alone pressuring people into self-immolation or other forms of suicide.

  45. Olaf says

    Falun Gong doesn’t reject the scientific method, where did you get that? We’re talking about a different ontological area. Some people use traditional Chinese medicine to get their health back, and you don’t see its adherents dehumanized because of that. Falun Gong doesn’t *pressure* anybody to quit taking medicine (or do anything else in their lives!), and the part about self-immolation and suicide is *ridiculous*: nothing but thoroughly & utterly debunked CCP propaganda.

  46. Asdfg says

    I support people having their own beliefs and assessing things for themselves. I was just trying to explain that Falun Gong is a peaceful belief system that you needn’t feel any negative feelings towards. It’s no danger to anyone, and it has improved a lot of peoples’ lives. You may regard it as incoherent or as you like, I’m just saying you shouldn’t waste your time hating it, life’s too short.

  47. Escuerd says

    “I was just trying to explain that Falun Gong is a peaceful belief system that you needn’t feel any negative feelings towards.”

    Well it’s good to know that we have someone to tell us who we do and don’t need to have negative feelings toward.

    “Peacefulness” is a necessary criterion for a belief system to be harmless, but not a sufficient one. For comparison, people who believe vaccines are responsible for unrelated health problems may be quite peaceful, but quite objectionable. The constant repetition about how peaceful your group is sounds like a red herring.