Monday, October 10, 2011

JREF President issues challenge to psychics

If I might paraphrase Wikipedia editor Dustin Phillips who says he got into editing Wikipedia because he kept putting up great links on his Facebook page to share with his skeptic friends, after awhile it seemed to make more sense to put those same links up on Wikipedia so everyone could see them.  Exactly.

Posting links for your friends is a good idea.  A better idea is to get the links in a place that the world can enjoy.  A place that holds an encyclopedic hold on our hearts and knowledge.  Maybe a place like Wikipedia?

Found this link left on Mark Edward's Facebook page today and I knew exactly who needed to be reading it.  Yep you know where. 

So I read through all the links on the page (thank you DJ for including so many).  I went through every single link and made a nice paragraph that could be inserted on the pages of Van Praagh, Sylvia Browne, Carla Baron, John Edward and Alison DuBois.  I just changed a few words here and there to make it fit nicely into their pages.

On Van Praagh's page I went a bit farther.  Because of the links that DJ left in the Huffington Post I was able to add two awesome YouTube videos to his page.  I didn't label them as "failures" like the videos state, but just mentioned one as "Van Praagh often appears in the media to promote his group readings, seminars and workshops. One such appearance on the TV show "The Circle" shows Van Praagh giving a 5 minute reading to several audience members". The 5 minute reading is pretty horrible to watch BTW.  I didn't put these two sentences under criticism/skepticism but under the category of "Career as a Medium", mainly because I don't want to give my opinion that it is a failure of a reading, I'm just letting the viewer decide.  I'm sure true believers will think he did rather well (he did seem to get a few hits) and they might say that they know he is for real because sometimes he has a bad day. 

In another link I wrote a completely separate paragraph about a medical statement he made about Barbara Walters.  He told her that she had elevated white blood cells, she went to the doctor and found out that her blood was normal.  She states on the video that what he told her is harmful.  So I left that video for his fans as well.

I'm sure that the JREF's exposure on, ABC, Nightline, AOL, Huffington Post and on and on will get more readers than my few paragraphs on the psychics pages on Wikipedia.  But they work together, people go specifically to Wikipedia to learn about these people, and will look at the references left.

What kind of numbers are we talking about anyway?  Lets look at only Sept 2011 and see what kinds of hits we can expect Oct 2011 will get.

James Van Praagh - 4,156
Carla Baron - 718
John Edward - 16,244
Sylvia Browne - 14,003
Alison DuBois - 263

So about 35K people are looking at these pages each month.  That's quite a lot when you think it just took me about an hour to update these pages.  Almost a half a million will view these citations in a years time.  Also leaving these citations exposes readers to our skeptical spokespeople, publications and organizations, that is a win for Guerrilla Skepticism!  

So keep this in mind the next time you paste a link to your Facebook page or Twitter feed.  That's nice and keeping your friends informed is a good thing.  But if you aren't willing to take an hour once in awhile to edit that link into Wikipedia, then maybe you should bring it to the attention of someone who will.

Seriously think about this next statement of mine.  Are you a skeptic, part of the skeptical community?  Fine, hang out, share links, socialize and bitch about stuff.   Or are you a part of the skeptical movement?  If so, what are you doing? If you are in the movement then you need to start doing so. 


  1. This is good work, Susan. You are posting objective, publicly available news articles on these celebrity psychics, and Wikipedia is all the better for it. Cheers!

  2. Just lost the John Edward edit. The other editor is saying that John Edward is barely mentioned in the citation I left. I'll leave it alone. Pick your battles.

  3. Lost the Sylvia Browne reference now also. Too much about Randi, not enough about Sylvia.

  4. It sounds like the editors who are watching John Edward and Sylvia Browne are closely monitoring those pages. We have to do an equally good job of catching edits that we do not find to be neutral point of view.

  5. We do need to watch carefully. Remember as an editor you are responsible for reverting bad edits and assessing articles.

    In this case I was reaching by adding the reference to John and Sylvia's pages. They were just mentioned in the reference but they weren't the focus of the article.

    The other edits have stayed.

    This just in... Someone named Strongbad1982 as reverted the Sylvia edit. The comment they left to add my cite back in is "Feud with randi is an important part of Browne's career information." The other editor had taken it out because they said the article is about Sylvia not Randi.

    So we shall see what happens. Intriguing!

  6. Wikipedia is great. My edit has been removed again, this time the editor named Ravensfire says this
    "Remove section with redundant information and WP:COATRACK - majority of section wasn't about Browne. Please discuss on talk page before re-adding"

    If you look up that term you can see that my edit probably does fall into that category.