User:Askolnick/evidence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search



About My Published Research on the TM Movement’s Fraudulent and Deceptive Practices[edit]

In 1991, as an associate news editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), I published a lengthy investigative report on the deceptive tactics the TM movement uses to promote its high-priced and unproven nostrums. I was given the assignment after JAMA's editors learned they had been tricked into publishing a deceptive TM promotional article written by Deepak Chopra (who was then the chief promoter of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's remedies) and two TM co-authors, Dr. Hari Sharma and B.D. Triguna (Skolnick, Andrew, "Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Guru's Marketing Scheme Promises World Eternal `Perfect Health," October 2, 1991, JAMA 266 (13): 1769–74). (For a report on Sharma's continued use of deception regarding his research: [1].)

Shortly after, the editor of "ScienceWriters: The Newsletter of the National Association of Science Writers" asked me to write an article on how the TM movement was able to infiltrate and bamboozle scientific institutions and publications to provide its pseudoscientific and occult claims the appearance of scientific credibility. (Skolnick, Andrew, Fall 1991, "The Maharhishi Caper: Or How to Hoodwink Top Medical Journals". ScienceWriters. [2])

In response, the TM movement filed a $194 million SLAPP suit [[3]] against me and JAMA's editor, Dr. George Lundberg. Although the suit failed to identify a single defamatory statement in my report and was quickly dismissed without prejudice, it achieved its desired effect: The AMA ceased reporting on TM affairs and it put heavy pressure on me to stop writing about TM.

The frivolous suit also gave TM spinmeisters the argument that I was NOT an objective reporter because I was a litigant "with an axe to grind." They further deceived the public by telling Newsweek and other news media that they had prevailed in their libel suit, falsely claiming we had "settled for an undisclosed amount" of money [4]. There was no such settlement. Indeed, TM's threat of refiling that suit hung over the AMA's head as a means to keep the AMA and me quiet.

More recently, I had to go after TM's Ayurvedic operations in Germany after they published a counterfeit letter it claimed was sent by Ohio State University which they said showed I had lied about Dr. Hari Sharma. They removed the fraudulent letter from their web site after I obtained a statement from Ohio State University's Assistant Vice President for Research Communications that the university never wrote such a letter.

I continue to watch in dismay as TM researchers and publicists mislead and deceive editors, other researchers, and the public. In my opinion, the dispute being arbitrated here results from the ongoing efforts of the TM movement to infiltrate and deceive scientific and academic institutions.

I don't know which editors involved in this arbitration dispute are legitimate and which are not, but I do know that the TM movement has many writers, editors, and PR people working hard at their guru's plan to bring "Heaven on Earth." I am not surprised some have dedicated themselves to removing anything from Wikipedia they think might hinder that plan.

To give an example of the absurd lengths the Transcendental Meditation's PR machine will go to promote Maharishi's world plan, here is one of my favorite news releases written by Dean Draznin, a tireless TM Purusha (monk) who was and may still be a chief PR person for the TM organization (he now has a PR firm in Fairfield, Iowa)[5]. In this news release, he claims a group of TM "Yogic Fliers" saved Texas from the terrible wrath of Hurricane Gilbert by bouncing on their butts to "enliven the unified field" and "increase coherence" throughout society and nature. I'm still looking for the news release reporting how a bunch of TM Yogic Fliers saved New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. What Maharishi's army of "researchers" and flacks mostly do is look for "arrows" they can "draw bulls-eyes around," and then find a publication gullible or careless enough to publish their "scientific evidence."

There is an elephant in the room that some in this dispute don't want others to notice: Fairfield, Iowa is a company town and that company is the Transcendental Meditation movement, which owns and controls the university and scores of TM businesses and front groups in Fairfield. Hundreds of people in the that community are dedicated to convincing the world to buy TM services, products, and its dubious and often deceitful "scientific research." It is no surprise that nearly all the attempts to turn Wikipedia into a promotional guide to the World of Transcendental Mediation is coming from ISPs in or around Fairfield, Iowa.

My JAMA article concludes with a quote from Curtis Mailloux describing the "SIMS shuffle," a skill he said he learned while a member of the Student International Meditation Society, one of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's many front groups.

"I was taught to lie and to get around the pretty rules of the 'unenlightened' in order to get favorable reports into the media," says Mailloux, a former TM teacher and chair of the TM center in Washington, DC. "We were taught how to exploit the reporters' gullibility and fascination with the exotic, especially what comes from the East. We thought we weren't doing anything wrong, because we were told it was often necessary to deceive the unenlightened to advance our guru's plan to save the world."

The question for this arbitration group is whether Wikipedia should be open to editors who dance the SIMS shuffle.--Askolnick (talk) 14:33, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Rebuttal to Kevin Carmody[edit]

Kevin Carmody states: "Peer review often significantly delays publication, but it removes much of the doubt about author bias."[[6]]

Anyone knowledgeable about the peer review process of scientific publications knows this is naive, wishful thinking. In my ScienceWriters article [7], I quote a noted authority on the peer review process, Dr. Drummond Rennie:

"There seems to be no study too fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, and too contradictory, no analysis too self-serving, no argument too circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print."

Indeed, it took the Hagelin six years to find a journal willing to publish its much-ridiculed Washington, DC crime study. It's not impossible to get flawed and bogus science published in a research journal, it just takes longer. ("Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June--July 1993" was published June 1999.[8])

Recent scandals involving major scientific publications show that researchers continue to deceive journal editors and readers about their financial conflicts of interest and often fudge their data or completely make them up. The most recent example finally led the prestigious journal Lancet this month to retract a 12-year-old fraudulent study that supposedly linked the rising incidence of autism to the the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. [9]. It turned out the lead author Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who made many false statements in his Lancet study, received financial support from lawyers representing parents suing the vaccine companies. In addition, he owned a patent on a different measles vaccine that could have made him extremely rich if the current vaccine were withdrawn or discredited. So much for the power of peer review to remove "doubt about author bias." It took 12 years for the fraudulent article to be retracted. Meanwhile many hundreds of children were hospitalized and some died from these infectious diseases because their parents were scared away from vaccinating them.

For Wikipedia not to become a joke, it is imperative that its administrators make sure parties with serious financial interests are NOT allowed to control the editing process for any article.--Askolnick (talk) 14:58, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Rebuttal to Hickorybark[edit]

Hickorybark says that I agree "the TM organization has acquired 'the appearance of scientific credibility' in the mainstream scientific establishment." Here is what I believe is an example of a TM spinmeister at work. I never said this because it's simply not true.

Infiltrating publications and bamboozling some naive and gullible editors is not the same as "acquiring the appearance of scientific credibility in mainstream scientific establishment."

Indeed, most scientists familiar with TM's brand of religious-based pseudoscience are not the least impressed with the movement's efforts to repeal the law of gravity or replace the scientific method with magical thinking. John Hagelin, TM's physicist-turned-perennial-TM-candidate-for-President-of-the-United-States, inspires mostly head shaking and tittering among the world's leading cosmologists and physicists. Indeed, Hagelin suffered the indignity of winning an Ig Nobel Prize in 1994 for his study that claimed TM butt bouncers lowered the crime rate in Washington, DC. In his book Voodoo Science, physicist Robert Park called the TM study "a clinic in data manipulation," noting that during the TM yogic flying experiment, Washington, DC's murder count "hit the highest level ever recorded." [10] (Hagelin's rebuttal -- no pun intended -- was that the murder rate would have been even higher if the TMers weren't in Washington bouncing on their butts.)

MIT and Harvard biologists -- who witnessed Tony Nader start his rise through the ranks of TM science to wear a heavy, solid gold crown [11] as he struts around TM circles as "His Majesty Raja Nader Raam" and "The the First Sovereign Ruler of the Global Country of World Peace -- are no more impressed with the credibility of TM science then they were when Nader misused his connections to those institutions to help deceptively sell Maharishi's herbal remedies (http://cultmediation.com/infoserv_articles/skolnick_andrew_mmy_ayurveda.asp).

The scientific community overwhelmingly either ignores or rejects the bulk of TM's religious beliefs that have been deceptively repackaged as Maharishi's new age science of cosmic consciousness. If you have any doubt of this, go ask your nearest climatologist or astrophysicist whether TMers are able to chase killer hurricanes away by flying through the air yogically with legs crossed in the "lotus position," as TM "scientists" claim(ed). [12]

So I could not disagree more with Hickorybark that TM "science" has acquired the appearance of scientific credibility in the mainstream scientific establishment.

What I did write, here and in a number of respected publications, is that members of the TM movement have been able to infiltrate many publications and educational institutions to help conduct a PR campaign aimed at selling TM's trademarked programs and products. And that's exactly what they appear to be doing with Wikipedia.

I also dispute Hickorybark's argument that I have a "conflict of interest" because TM hit me with a SLAPP suit [[13]] in an effort to stop me from reporting on its dishonest researchers. That argument has the cruel irony of the joke about the sociopathic teenager who killed his mother and father and then pleaded for mercy because he is an orphan.

A key defense strategy the TM movement uses against critical reporting is to sue or threaten to sue editors and reporters who don't backoff -- and then to attack the journalists as having a "conflict of interest" because they were sued.

A few months after hitting JAMA's editor and me with its $194 million SLAPP suit, the TM movement threatened the editor of Oncology Times with similar treatment unless she published a 3000-word-minimum article written by TM researchers. The attempt at extortion was reported by science writer Keay Davidson ("A New Tactic: Print Our Data or We'll Sue," San Francisco Examiner, April 16, 1993):

"What does concern me," Davidson wrote, "is a much larger issue -- one posed by the last paragraph of [Maharishi University of Management (MUM)'s General Counsel William] Goldstein's letter to Oncology Times":

'To mitigate the damage caused by your October article, we further require the printing of a response piece to be written by leading researchers and/or clinicians in the field of Maharishi Ayur-Veda, which will provide an overview of the work being done in this field and its relevance to medical practice. This article should be a minimum of 3000 words in length.'"

Davidson points out the horror if TM's strategy spreads: "Scientific journals might be forced to publish articles on every idea under the sun by any pseudoscientific movement with substantial financial and legal clout."

The publisher and editor of Oncology Times stood up to attorney William Goldstein's threat, but not all publishers have the integrity and the bank account to withstand an expensive SLAPP suit. Some simply retract the story and some may publish articles touting TM "science."

In JAMA's case, the TM movement withdrew its libel suit to allow the journal to consider publishing a "science article" written by TM researchers. The article TM submitted was rejected twice following recommendations of outside reviewers. The TM movement did not refile its suit. They instead let it hang over the AMA's head to keep us quiet, while publicly making false claims that we had "settled for an undisclosed amount."

The record on this matter is clear: TM's suit was dismissed without prejudice in just 8 months. It resulted in no payment of any damages, in no apology, and in no retraction of anything I reported in either JAMA or ScienceWriters. What I wrote in JAMA nearly 20 years ago remains one of the most cited records of the deceptive practices of TM scientists and promoters in the peer-review literature. What that suit did accomplish, however, was to stop the AMA's publications from ever again reporting critically on TM's deceptive research.

The TM movement's campaign to stifle criticism with threats of SLAPP suits[[14]] continues -- as is clear from this blog a few weeks ago reporting how MUM's General Counsel William Goldstein's threats of legal action led to examiner.com's removal of Doug Mesner's critical article of TM's claims and research. [15] Mesner has republished the article and is daring TM's lawyer to sue.

This record shows a nearly two-decades long policy of suing or threatening to sue its critics, so that its spinmeisters can dismiss the criticism as having come from "biased" sources who have an "axe to grind." It reminds me of the ploy Charley Manson pulled during his trial for the murder of Sharon Tate, the Biancas, and others. Manson held up the L.A. Times with its 4-inch banner headline saying "Manson Guilty, [President] Nixon Declares," and then asked for a mistrial because the jury were biased by the president's comment. Judge Charles Older, who had kept the jury sequestered so that they would not be influenced by news reports, refused Mason's request, citing the long-held principle in law that wrong-doers are not to be rewarded for their wrong doing.

I believe my record of achievements and awards for investigative reporting from journalism and humanitarian groups [16] show the only bias I'm guilty of having is a bias against falsehoods, fraud, and the abuse of the powerless by the powerful. That's the bias I was taught at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism by some great journalists and mentors, like Fred Friendly, who with Edward R. Murrow, stood up to the intimidation and threats of Sen. Joseph McCarthy -- the evil scoundrel who gave his name to this kind of smear by baseless insinuations.--Askolnick (talk) 14:58, 1 March 2010 (UTC)