News Ian O'Doherty

Saturday 30 August 2014

The web law of Jimmy Wales

Ian O'Doherty

Published 27/03/2014 | 02:30

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Too bonkers even for Wikipedia: A change.org petition was rejected by the site. Photo: Gary Cameron
The conscious uncouple: Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin

One of the great myths of our time is that because all people are equal, all views and opinions must also be equal. In fact, we now live in a world where no knowledge is needed, no experience is necessary and being an expert in your given field can actually be seen as a bad thing.

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This kind of dumb refusal to pay any attention to something as 'establishment' and 'mainstream' as, y'know, facts and stuff can be seen in all walks of life and is, by and large, pretty harmless. Sure, it can also be incredibly annoying, but it's essentially harmless.

Whether it's religion or Colin Fry talking to your dead Nana, there will always be a market for people who think that science just isn't enough. And while we can envy their credulity, their defence is always the same – if you can't actually disprove something they believe in, then it is just as valid as something that can be proved.

It's a strange mindset and one that allows people like that mad bird who pops up on the telly to talk about angels to haughtily claim that just because she –apparently – believes this, anybody who disagrees is automatically intolerant and ignorant. Of course, nobody can prove that there aren't angels draped over her shoulders like some celestial fox-fur scarf. But that still doesn't mean we should take her word for it.

But gullibility can lead into dangerous territory when it comes to medicine and the not inconsiderable matter of actually keeping alive. And that's something that alternative medicine fails to do on a regular basis.

We saw a particularly troubling case a few years ago when a cancer patient died because she chose to take the advice of an 'alternative healer' over conventional treatment.

Now, anybody who has witnessed a loved one go through chemo will know how wretched a treatment it is, and it's understandable that someone would look for an alternative. But here's the thing – if there was an alternative treatment for cancer, don't you think we might have heard about it?

After all, that's the Holy Grail of modern science and if some self-styled shaman thinks that brewing a tincture of twigs and moss can provide a cure, then I'm sure Big Pharma would have copped a slice of the action by now.

But there's no arguing with such people – they take their empiricism on faith, and that's never conducive to common sense. Or staying alive.

Nearly 8,000 alternative 'healers' have sent a Change.org petition to Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, demanding the website give them proper recognition and they complain that: "People who are interested in the benefits of Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology... Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy and Tapas Acupressure Technique" aren't being taken seriously. As if. Although any technique involving tapas will at least be tasty.

Wales has remained steadfast against this rise of nonsense and rubbished the petition with a curt: "You have got to be kidding me... if you can produce evidence... then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately... what we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of true scientific discourse. It isn't."

You know your cause is bunkum when even Wikipedia, that renowned treasure trove of inaccuracies, fallacies and deliberate distortions, thinks you're just too bonkers to be represented in their pages.

After all, this is a site that ran a fake – admittedly rather funny – page on yours truly that claimed that I had been in a long-term, loving relationship with a certain gay, male RTÉ star.

I won't print his name here for the simple reason that he was appalled at the very idea.

In fact, as he laughed through tightly gritted teeth, he even reckoned he had more grounds to sue than I did because it implied he had terrible taste in men. I must admit, I found his horror at the idea strangely hurtful, as would any straight man who has just been informed that he's never going to be a gay icon. We'd never even been out to dinner.

So is Wikipedia's decision an example of intolerance of alternative ideas? Well, two things spring to mind – all those ancient Chinese remedies come from a time when half the population died before they hit 40, lest we forget.

And the other thought is even simpler – as Jack Dee points out, if you've ever been knocked down and find yourself sprawled on the road and surrounded by a crowd, do you really want to hear the phrase: "Let me through! I'm an aromatherapist!"?

No, I thought not...

WELL, WHAT HOPE IS THERE FOR THE REST OF US?

In the immortal words of Kang, or it may have been Kodos, these aren't tears. I'm vomiting through my eyes.

How else can one react to the news that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are to become consciously uncoupled? I know the break- up of a marriage is a terrible thing, but seldom has there been so much spontaneous open celebration and cheer. Which is rather unfair but entirely understandable. So, as Gwynnie drifted off into the garbled therapy patois for which we all love her, I was inspired to examine my own deeper feelings and emotions concerning this most dramatic of developments.

And after a period of solemn contemplation and deep thinking – five minutes spent hiding under my desk, refusing to come out, no matter how much the editor shouted at me – I have discovered that the news has left me in a state of serene spiritual equilibrium coupled with a positively vibrating sense of liberating wellness and emotional divestment.

Translation – I don't care either.

CHANCE WOULD BE A FINE THING

I had a pop at the smoking ban the other day and was immediately accused by some people of being in the pay of Big Tobacco.

This is an outrageously actionable accusation and those responsible shall be hunted down and sued until they've been forced to sell some organs to cover my massive libel reward.

For the last time – I am a proud journalist and I cannot, will not, be bought.

I can, however, be leased for short-term propaganda at very favourable rates.

All reasonable offers considered.

Actually, all offers considered...

Irish Independent

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