Wikipedia Editors: A Psychological Profile

Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, August 22, 2019
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD

In looking up information on alternative health issues using a legitimate, highly respected encyclopedia such as Encyclopedia Britannica we find a fair, balanced, and scholarly review of the available literature on topics such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. Britannica and any of the other six (6) comparable encyclopedias name the editors and provide curriculum vitae demonstrating their expertise in the area of their editing. There is no debasement. There are no attacks.

No sense that a person reading any entry should feel mentally incompetent for choosing a particular piece of information. Also, at no point in these highly revered encyclopedias is there character assassination, ridicule, mocking, or disparagement of people supporting any of the alternative and complementary medical approaches. The process is transparent, instructive, and a benefit.

Now let’s compare that to an experience on Wikipedia which calls itself an encyclopedia, but fails even the most rudimentary challenges. Most of the editors are anonymous with no curriculum vitae to see if they have expertise in the area they are editing. Also, words such as “charlatan,” “quack,” “lunatic,” “fringe,” and “pseudoscientific” are not uncommon. There is zero transparency. One feels an oozing sense of condescension viewing the biographies of biologist Rupert Sheldrake, or physician Deepak Chopra, or the investigative work of Sharyl Attkisson. And these are just a few of the many individuals who are held in utter contempt, who have been judged as being of no legitimate value. And even worse, they have been condemned as quacks, charlatans, opportunists, without ever having been interviewed, as if in a Stalinistic show trial—condemned without an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

What type of person would attack individuals whose contributions to society have positively impacted the lives of so many? An online troll perhaps?

According to a study conducted at PsychTests.com insensitivity is a common trait of online trolls. Insensitive people are more likely to have underdeveloped social skills and emotional IQ and have self-control issues. Perhaps surprisingly, 38% of those insensitive people (compared to 17% of sensitive people) admitted that they themselves are sensitive to remarks of others and easily offended. And with respect to self-control, the study indicates that 43% of insensitive people take their frustrations out on other people (compared to 12%). Being insensitive and having underdeveloped social skills and emotional IQ and self-control issues and taking their frustrations out on others is only the beginning of the inquiry.

In an article published in Psychology Today entitled “Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists,” Jennifer Golbeck Ph.D. writes, “Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.” Similarly, in a study conducted by researchers at the School of Health Science and Psychology at Federation University in Mount Helen, trolls scored higher than average on two traits: psychopathy and cognitive empathy. The researchers suggested that even though trolls “exhibit one kind of empathy, coupling it with psychopathy ultimately makes them nasty.” They also found that trolls were likely to be high in sadism and were more likely to be male.

“Narcissists don’t really love themselves,” writes Darlene Lancer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, “Actually, they’re driven by shame. It’s the idealized image of themselves, which they convince themselves they embody, that they admire. But deep down, narcissists feel the gap between the facades they show the world and their shame-based self. They work hard to avoid feeling that shame.” According to Lancer, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder lack empathy and need admiration from others. They are self-important, dream of power, believe they should only associate with other high-status people or institutions, and have an attitude of arrogance.

Whether they are trolls, or cyberbullies, or both, there is no denying that the some of the anonymous editors on the alternative and complementary medicine pages on Wikipedia are engaging in the character assassination of individuals connected with alternative and complementary medicine. ‘Character Assassination’ is a practice in which a deliberate and sustained effort is made to damage the reputation or credibility of an individual. Social groups or institutions can also be the target. Martin Icks of the University of Amsterdam and Eric Shiraev of George Mason University introduced a classification of seven character assassination methods, which they defined as “anonymous lies’, ‘misquoting’, ‘silencing’, ‘acts of vandalism’, ‘name-calling’, ‘mental illness’ and ‘sexual deviance’. The authors identified the website of Wikipedia as a common context for ‘anonymous lies’. Our investigations have shown that ‘misquoting’ and ‘silencing’ are also quite prevalent.

And whether they are narcissists or sociopaths, there can be no doubt that they are abusive. As Lancer tells us, “abuse is abuse, no matter the abuser’s diagnosis.” People with other mental illnesses, such as antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy) are also abusive. And character assassination is abuse.

Science is not on their side. One-hundred thousand studies in journals prove that alternative and complementary medicine works on scientific and clinical levels. Billions of patient visits in India, China, and the United States show that alternative and complementary medicine works on the patient level. The lifetime commitment of one-hundred thousand physicians and clinicians helping people cannot be denied. And yet, a tiny group of abusive people have shown that Wikipedia has a serious psychological problem. How is it that anonymous editors with no expertise, without any real debate or discussion, are in a position to judge people whose contributions to society have positively impacted the lives of so many? How are they in a position to destroy reputations and intimidate readers from a cloistered, emotionally dark place. Like spitting cobras all they can do is strike and reload their venom. Strike and reload.

And what have the anonymous editors on the alternative and complementary medicine pages on Wikipedia contributed to society? How have they improved the world? It is past time we say no more Wikipedia. No more anonymous trolls with psychological problems abusing accomplished professionals/professions without consequence, intimidating the many people who support and rely on these accomplished professionals, or those who would have sought support from these professionals if they hadn’t been made to feel mentally incompetent just for looking them up in a so-called encyclopedia. No more. It is time to take away the power they have been given and get them the help they need for their insensitivity, their underdeveloped social skills and emotional IQ, their self-control issues, their frustration, their shame, and their arrogance. And perhaps when they receive that help, they too will be able look at Sheldrake, or Chopra, or Attkisson and recognize what it means to make a positive contribution to society.