Chopra and his employee try to edit his Wikipedia entry, but lie about it

This is a bit of drama—some National Enquirer stuff for this site—but it does bear on things we’ve discussed recently, viz., the probity of Dr. Deepak Chopra. Besides, it’s a slow news day.

A piece by Tim Farley at Skeptical Software Tools, Quantum variations in Wikpedia rules: Deepak Chopra and conflict of interest,” shows us that Deepak is still up to no good: using his minions to profusely edit Chopra’s Wikipedia page and then dissimulating about it. (Farley is not only a software developer and security specialist, but a research fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.)

Tim sent me the link to his post (which is long and complex yarn, but an intriguing one), and also provided the short version. Only a computer detective could do such a thorough job:

TL;DR version: an editor who has been working on Chopra’s biography on Wikipedia for 5 years turned out to be an employee of Chopra, though they had vehemently & repeatedly denied it.  Chopra accidentally “outed” this person by posting an open letter to Wikipedia on his website on November 7 – which was then taken down the same day.  Lots of gory details and supporting links in the blog

If you want a bit longer version, but don’t want to read Tim’s whole post, here are some excerpts (quoted verbatim):

The editor who filed the OTRS ticket uses the login name Vivekachudamani. The name refers to an ancient Sanskrit poem about Hindu philosophy, and thus is clearly a pseudonym.  Since this person started editing on December 7, 2008 they have made 189 edits, and 112 of those were to actual public articles (as opposed to discussion and other administrative pages which few see).

The user contributions history for this editor shows that all but two of those 112 edits were to the article “Deepak Chopra” – his biography. The two remaining edits were to add Sanjiv Chopra (Deepak’s younger brother) to the list of notable faculty of a particular hospital.

. . .During the COI discussion, a link was posted by the OTRS volunteer to a web page on the Chopra Foundation website entitled “My Open Letter to Wikipedia” and dated November 7, 2013. Google indexed it the same day at 15:50 UTC and the OTRS volunteer linked to it at 18:36 UTC.

But by 18:51 UTC on that same day it had already been removed from Chopra’s website. (One of the editors even commented: “Whoa – that’s been taken down pretty quickly!”). The page originally resided at this URL: http://www.choprafoundation.org/science-consciousness/my-open-letter-to-wikipedia/ (that page now returns an error). There is an internet web page archival service (I’ve written about them before) that has a copy of this page, and it from that archived copy that I am quoting here. (Do not attempt to link to the archived copy in the comments, per my warning above).

Here are some excerpts from Chopra’s letter:

I’d like to address the unfair and slanted editing of my Wikipedia article. As much as I and the Chopra Center support the ideal of a democratic, open-sourced encyclopedia, serious attention should be paid to bullying editorial gangs who use Wikipedia to further their skeptical agenda. News stories are already appearing to this effect, including a recent spot on BBC World News.

To that end, I’ve attached a letter directed to you from [redacted]….

The part I’ve redacted there is the name of a person. [JAC: that person is the real name of "Vivekachudamani", whose name Farley can't reveal because it violates Wikipedia ethics to name editors]

. . .The most interesting part in the open letter, is the attached “letter” (actually, an email) from the person whose name I redacted.  In that email, part of their complaint to the Wikipedia OTRS, they write:

Here’s an update on Chopra’s page. On November 5, I put up this entry:

There follows a tedious description of a series of edits, which through cursory examination of the edit history of the Deepak Chopra article, can be tied to the aforementioned Vivekachudamani account. The wording “I put up this entry” is clear. In fact, the OTRS volunteer commented in the COI discussion:

Note: this may be moot, as a COI may have just been declared here (Note the email came through OTRS – the only person with access was Vivekachudamani)

In other words, in his opinion, Vivekachudamani had just declared a conflict of interest on themselves by posting this. This ran counter to the Vivekachudamani’s own repeated denials during September and October of any personal conflict of interest which you can read on their own Wikipedia user page.  That sparked some more digging.

Binksternet turned up a short biographical sketch on an unrelated website matching the (redacted) name in the letter, in which a person with the same name claims to have spent the last 15 years working with Deepak Chopra on various projects.

Vivekachudamani appears to admit this connection, but downplays it writing in the COI discussion:

Have fun guys. That blurb was more fantasy than fact, and based on a school board interview that was sexed up. I actually index medical textbooks and other technical manuals. I once did some research that Chopra happened to use a long time ago, but he probably doesn’t remember it…. But hey, go crazy with this. You score double points for embarrassing me to Chopra as well for pretending involvement that wasn’t there.

Naturally, I and the other editors were dumbfounded that this person was defending lying about a conflict of interest by admitting that they lied about their background in the context of a job!

Vivekachudamani notes that he discussed this kerfuffle with The Chopra, who was lighthearted about it and then offered the offender a “research project”!

Farley then Tw**ted a question to Chopra:

Picture 1

But of course Deepak, so quick to answer those who criticize his woo, has not answered this query.  Chopra has blamed the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia group for enforcing Wikipedia‘s own standards of scientific accuracy against his biography, but in fact that group has no documented connection with Chopra’s Wikipedia page. Rather, Chopra’s attempts (or rather his minion’s attempts) to promulgate woo have been expunged by other rationalists.

I’m not clear in all this about whether Chopra himself lied about this issue, but it’s suspicious that his letter naming his Wikipedia-editing employee was quickly taken down. But “Vivekachnudamani” certainly lied, and, as Chopra’s employee, probably altered Deepak’s Wikipedia page with Chopra’s knowledge, permission, and perhaps at his request. And it’s surely a violation of Wikipedia rules, which bar editing by people having conflicts of interest.

Chopra is obsessively concerned with his image, and in this case did something unethical to try (unsuccessfully) to burnish it. What’s ironic is that Chopra has been angrily accusing others of altering it (in the other direction) out of self-interest!

40 Comments

  1. Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the kind words!

  2. muggleinconverse
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Color my imaginary aura unsurprised.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha! I wonder what colour aura indicates “unsurprised”.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Black.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          I would’ve thought beige.

          • NewEnglandBob
            Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

            Black is the new beige due to the quantum properties of its lack of color.

      • muggleinconverse
        Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Mmmm…bland grey.

  3. gbjames
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Who needs ethics when intuition is the continuity of an abundance of silence and eternal stillness constructs intrinsic choices? And quantum!

    • gbjames
      Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      forgot to sub

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        2

    • Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and especially when you eat things into consciousness and perception creates reality.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Technically, under limited circumstances Wikipedia allows editing by folks with conflict of interest as long as they !*admit it on the talk page*! of the article, although WP doesn’t recommend it. WP especially frowns on !*paid employees*! of anyone from editing WP articles about their employer!!! (I have on three occasions edited articles about respectively a friend, a family member, and an employer, and I stated boldly my exact connection with the topic on the talk page all three times).

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Declaring_an_interest

    Of course, if an employee of Deepity has edited the article without disclosing this and has done so in a way that violates the Wikipedia neutral point of view philosophy, they are indeed doing something reprehensible.

    To my knowledge, the only organization that has every IP address registered to it !*permanently*! banned from editing Wikipedia is the Church of Scientology.

  5. Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Episyllogism: philosophy and the arts and commented:
    Is this the result of a blend of new-age-spirtuality-meets-monotheism-with-some-anti-scientific-environmentalism-thrown-in-for-good-measure mumbo jumbo?

  6. Pete Cockerell
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    So if Chopra was using a minion to edit his Wikipedia page by proxy, does that count as “spooky action at a distance”? Sounds like he’s just living his quantum beliefs.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Clearly Chopra was just a victim of quantum entanglement.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        :D

  7. Bob J.
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” attributed to P.T. Barnum

  8. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Why be surprised at the improbity of someone who has been proven dishonest and fabricates word salads?

    • Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      You too can generate Chopra word salads:

      http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/

      • Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        So far my fave is:
        “Nature is rooted in a symphony of farts.” :-)

        • Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

          “Your body unfolds into deep external reality”.”

          Well, that much seems true. I guess that the Chopra, like a stopped clock, can be right twice a day.

          • Achrachno
            Posted December 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            What about Chopped clocks? Never right I think.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          Love that!

      • Posted December 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        This is awesome. Always remember that “the universe is the ground of dimensionless external reality”!

        I also think that Deep’s accent adds some mystical credibility to his inane statements. Not sure if a guy from Cheyenne or Toledo would sound as convincing uttering this dross.

        These random word generators serve as a bit of a litmus test of psuedoscience. I tried it six times and each time it generated a statement that sounded no different from what Deepak actually says. With regard to the above random statement, I’d love to ask Deepak whether it is an accurate statement of his beliefs or not. Since he never really defines the terms he uses, it seems impossible to pin him down, but this also makes it impossible to differentiate his actual statements from parodies or nonsense.

        But if we populated this generator with all of the writings of Einstein on relativity, we would certainly come up with statements that would be nonsensical within the framework of the precise terms and testable propositions found in modern physics.

  9. Suri
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Deepitty is living proof that his methods to become a better person don’t work.

    It is very clear the ‘guruji’ is an as****e and a fraud.

  10. Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    He has to protect his quantum legacy.

    Even the copy-editing symbols and keyboards of Wiki editors have non-local consciousness.

  11. Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    A couple weeks ago, I made a JOKE about engaging in e-battle with unknown wiki authors about the correct spelling of “medieval” vs “medical”.

    And once again, reality makes my satire pale in comparison.

  12. Kelton Barnsley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Ha! Like a vampire trapped between two rivers, the woo-meister can only hiss and struggle while the harsh light of rationality saps his power.

  13. Dave
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Wait a minute, a wooey, religious type has been shown to have been dishonest. You’re right, it’s a slow news day!

  14. krzysztof1
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Vivekachudamani! Doesn’t that mean “Live to sneeze tomorrow??”

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Ha Ha!

  15. Posted December 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the ironing…Chopra is making such a ham-fisted mess of “enhancing” his “public perception” that he’s basically doing the most effective job possible of ruining it, short of getting caught with underaged prostitutes.

    Rand Paul recently fucked up his presidential aspirations not only by plagiarizing Wikipedia extensively but by demonstrating that he hadn’t a clue about what plagiarism is or why it’s not a good thing to do.

    Chopra here is doing pretty much the same thing.

    Sadly, the chances of Oprah noticing are slim to none, which means none of her viewers — who’re Chopra’s prime market — will notice, either. Ah, well.

    b&

    • Posted December 13, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      It is sort of like an even more bizarre and damaging version of Slashdot’s “Streisand Effect”.

    • Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, when he found out how much energy the prostitutes had, he couldn’t be certain of their age, because Heisenberg …

      /@

      • Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Oh, my…I will steal that one, though I’ll have to do it carefully!

        Though I imagine a clean version will work just fine with a bunch of boisterous children. “I’d ask you how old your boys are…but they’re so full of energy we clearly can’t be sure, because Heisenberg.”

        b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        I’ll be patiently waiting to use this one!

  16. Mobius
    Posted December 13, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Good work Wikipedia, though it seems to have taken 5 years to catch up.

    This is one downside to Wikipedia and one should always be aware of bias, particularly on controversial topics like Chopra.

    My own experience with redacting Wikipedia was rather good. In reading an article on evolution, I came across mention of Dollo’s Law. Having never heard of it, I went to Wiki to get a quick synopsis. Turned out there was some creationist nonsense about thermodynamics at the end of their article.

    I posted a rebuttal on the discussion page and in a few days the creationist stuff had been removed.

    My own rule of thumb is that if the article includes references, it is likely reliable. Not always the case, but checking a few of the references usually clears up the doubt one way or the other.

    Wikipedia certainly shouldn’t be used as a primary source of research, but I do find it useful as a place to find references to serious sources. A starting place, if you will.

  17. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the quantum fluctuations of destiny! Seems Deepak and his wikipage has seen some undue entanglement.


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