george knapp

George Knapp’s Bio on Wikipedia: A Guerrilla Skeptic Assault

People’s biographies on Wikipedia are serious business. It can hurt people if they are biased against them, even if this is done in a subtle way. That’s the case here. Because someone tried to correct it recently, I have a chance to show what’s going on. I was alerted to this by a woman who prefers to remain anonymous in order to keep away from the crosshairs of skeptical retribution for her work on Wikipedia. She shared her story with me about attempting to edit the biography of George Knapp and also shared the links to what she had done and how the skeptics had responded. From there the Wikipedia entries speak for themselves.

George Knapp is an American journalist with a long and distinguished resume of work, as noted by 8 News Now Las Vegas in his biography:

Since 1995, George has been the chief reporter on Channel 8’s I-Team investigative unit. In that capacity, he has earned five regional Edward R. Murrow awards and two national Edward R. Murrow awards for his investigative stories, and is a nine-time winner of the Associated Press, Mark Twain Award for best Newswriting.  His investigative reports have been awarded the highest honors in broadcast journalism,  including the DuPont Award from Columbia University and the Peabody Award (twice). He has also won 24 regional Emmys. In 1990 his series about UFOs was  selected by United Press International as best in the nation for Individual Achievement by a Journalist.

I’ve been told by a reliable source that George Knapp actually has 28 Emmys and 4 or 5 Genisys awards as well, and that these haven’t been updated on his official biography.

george knapp guerrilla skeptics

Because of his interest in UAP’s (unidentified aerial phenomena) and paranormal phenomena, Wikipedia editors produced a biography that is subtly slanted to make Knapp look a bit unhinged. I immediately recognized this particular style. This kind of bias was the work of the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. This is yet another story of how their weird beliefs combined with administrative control on Wikipedia affects the public’s knowledge of notable people.

The parent organization for the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) is the Center for Inquiry, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting secular humanism throughout the world. They are formidable, with an annual budget exceeding seven million dollars, and they host several websites promoting their particular brand of atheism. This is not speculation. Here is how they describe themselves in their 2022 tax returns:

image 4583530106a7c3d4d76e77746c67fbcd 800 Paranormal Daily News

It’s important to understand just what their specific beliefs are in order to understand how they’re affecting Wikipedia. They believe in what’s known as atheistic materialism. This is the belief that there is no soul and that the material world is all that exists. In practice, this means that they categorically reject all things paranormal, UAP’s, holistic medicine and cryptids. The Guerrilla Skeptics have been on Wikipedia practically since its inception, so they have enough administrative control to enforce their beliefs and no one can do anything about it.

guerilla skeptics instagram post b57b0db37fb0af13e7f1776533e0d9d7 800 Paranormal Daily News

In December 2023, an editor, DuncanGT, whose only previous encounter with Wikipedia was to attempt to correct Knapp’s birthday, (incorrectly) to Wikipedia, made a good faith attempt to fix the bias and errors on the George Knapp biography. This alerted a GSoW editor, LuckyLouie, (who is strongly suspected to be UFO debunker Mick West by researcher Rob Heatherly), who then began the process of reverting the page back to its original biased state. LuckyLouie then accused DuncanGT of a conflict of interest on her talk page. This is particularly odd because there isn’t even a shred of evidence to suggest any conflict. LuckyLouie made up this accusation out of thin air. What’s also interesting is that if LuckyLouie is Mick West, he would surreptitiously be smearing his adversary.

DuncanGT took an interest in George Knapp’s biography, assuming that the article could be corrected . . . and that other editors would behave reasonably. What this editor got instead was a barrage of hostility. Not exactly a welcoming environment for a new editor. In fact, Wikipedia is down to about 15,000 active editors, about half of what they had ten years go, and this is one of the reasons why:

LuckyLouie wrote:

"Regarding this much needed rollback to the last good version of the article: recent changes had left the article looking like a whitewashed WP:RESUME. WP:SPAs had been watering down sourced criticism [2], adding WP:PUFFERY that is unsourced or sourced to promotional materials [3] etc. Per WP:BLPSELFPUB, press releases or publicity materials that are unduly self-serving, involve claims about third parties, and weight the article so it is based primarily on such sources should be avoided.

Since Knapp is best known for and primarily engaged in the promotion of ufo conspiracy theories, WP:FRINGE and WP:FRINGEBLP apply to this article. We need to avoid using sources that promote or merely repeat WP:EXTRAORDINARY claims uncritically. WP:FRIND sources are best to use when describing extraordinary claims. When extraordinary or fringe claims are made, a rough WP:PARITY of sources can help provide critique or analysis of those claims."

In the first paragraph, the sources for DuncanGT’s edits came from Knapp’s bio from his employer, channel 8 News, which had vetted the journalist. It is therefore an excellent mainstream source. LuckyLouie hand waves this away as puffery and self publication. However, journalistic awards are also being referenced. They are highly relevant to a journalist’s biography. In this case, 44 awards have been reduced to appear to be 26. There is no reason for that other than spite. Wikipedia's articles do not need to be edited for length and in fact, should represent the most complete biography available.

The second paragraph basically states that because the GSoW have decided that Knapp is promoting UFO conspiracy theories simply by reporting on them, he falls under the “fringe” and “extraordinary claims” rules which have been defined as “an idea that departs significantly from the prevailing views or mainstream views in its particular field”, which in this case comes from a never ending stream of exclusively skeptical sources. In other words, the GSoW use their own skeptical sources to describe mainstream opinion, which they then use to claim that competing sources aren’t mainstream.

LuckyLouie cites The Skeptical Inquirer, Skeptic Magazine, two blog posts by Jason Covalito and one by Robert Scheaffer and the Washington Spectator, all of which are questionable sources, but ones that LuckyLouie agrees with.

The deleted sourcing included books by George Knapp as well as a hearing by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on 2023-12-27 that would legitimize Knapp’s interest in UFO’s.

Gaming the rules is their stock-in-trade, which is why they defend themselves from criticism by stating that others “just need to learn the rules and follow them.” Such an attempt was made by Rome Viharo. He wrote of the experience:

My case study into Wikipedia governance shows that if you break the hidden rule, or even if you are suspected of breaking the hidden rule in the future, Wikipedia’s skeptic community will begin to weaponize Wikipedia and other MediaWikis in bizarre social vendettas against the subjects.

Anyone who faces a system in which the rules/laws overwhelmingly favor and are controlled by the very people one is protesting knows that “just follow the rules/fight within the system” is a futile task. The Guerrilla Skeptics, by controlling administrative privileges, get to call all the shots. One must protest outside the system to hope for any effect.

Such an attempt was made in early February when someone put out a petition to Wikipedia to ban some of the Guerrilla Skeptic editors including LuckyLouie and Susan Gerbic. It gathered a few hundred signatures before petering out. This was also done several years ago and garnered over 11,000 signatures, also to no effect.

DuncanGT was accused of edit warring, which is an offense that can get a person banned. The GSoW then used this as an excuse to get the article edit protected, meaning that no one could improve it.

In the end, all of DuncanGT’s work was reverted to how it was before she started editing. George Knapp’s biography remains broken, Wikipedia loses yet another editor and the world is apparently protected another day from the horrors of woo.

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