Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mathsci and MastCell

We could also call this one "Skeptics on Wikipedia" or "The Science Police"; both of these (academic or medical) clowns should be using their brains and skills within their own fields, but instead they are wasting time arguing with non-scientists and non-doctors on Wikipedia, though we are beginning to understand that the doctor actually gets off on arguing/ganging up on dissenters/banning people. The fight is why these two remain on Wikipedia; if they were actually interested in presenting skeptical views of the "pseudoscience", both Mathsci and MastCell would have decamped to RationalWiki long ago.

The Mathematician: Antony John Wassermann

Wassermann (b. 1957) is a British mathematician who lives in Cambridge, England. He is the son of Gerhard Dietrich Wassermann, a mathematician and parapsychologist; his mother is Bertha Edith Weiss, whom G.D. Wassermann married in 1948. Antony Wassermann went to Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne for his elementary education, and received his Ph.D at the University of Pennsylvania in 1981, studying under Jonathan Micah Rosenberg. All that I just wrote was found out by Captain Occam (Jonathan Kane); according to him, A.J. Wassermann hasn't published since 1998 which Kane didn't understand. An unspoken rule of thumb of mathematicians is that you see fewer and fewer papers from them as they get older; the flame of genius burns out, and they just teach the shiny new things. The great irony of Wassermann being Mathsci on Wikipedia is that there isn't even a stub article on Antony John Wassermann, even though he was a Miller Research Fellowship recipient in 1986-88, winner of the Whitehead Prize in 1990, and allegedly an expert on the Baum-Connes conjecture, but nothing he wrote on it was mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

Wassermann became Mathsci in 2006, though his early history (like most of the real pissants of Wikipedia) was retroactively screwed with by his friends. And his friends are such august figures as Herr Doktor Lukas Pietsch (Future Perfect at Sunrise), Charles Matthews of Wikimedia UK, and MastCell, who protected him like the Turkish heavy artillery did Aqaba harbor in 1917, because Mathsci was endlessly useful as a "meatpuppet." A quote from Cla68 (Charles Ainsworth), March 2013: "One interesting aspect of the Mathsci Steamroller is the protection he gets from a select group of admins. Future Perfect and MastCell are academics like he is. If you can find some real-life connection between them, even if it's just social such as being friends on Google+, then that will make the narrative more compelling. The deeper, core problem that the Mathsci Steamroller hits on, IMO, is the use of Wikipedia by activist, agenda-driven editors. Future, MastCell, Mathsci, the global warming gang (not cabal:)), etc are mostly minor academic types or wannabees who apparently feel compelled to use Wikipedia to spread their message because they feel their opinions have not been sufficiently heeded by the general public." The name Mathsci came from AMS Mathscinet, a search system for academic publications that is subscription-only. It would be like if an archaeologist used the Wikipedia handle JSTOR_Jones. The one truly decent thing about Wassermann on Wikipedia (beyond his math and classical music articles) is that he never ran for administrator.

The major dogfight Mathsci was involved in was the Race and Intelligence clusterfuck aka "Japanese People are the Master Race." As the reader can tell, I am neither interested nor offended by this quasi-scientific, quasi-racist timewaster, but Mathsci was, so we have to write about it, dammit. The Wikipedians who were pro-heredity were: Captain Occam, Varoon Arya aka Aryman, David.Kane aka Ephery, Mikemikev, and Mirade aka Acadēmica Orientālis. Opposing them and supporting the "environmental" position were: Ramdrake, Mathsci, Hipocrite (Robert Djurdjevic), WeijiBaikeBianji, ArtifexMayhem, and Volunteer Marek. Then there were the intermediate people who thought the environmentalists were bullying the hereditarians, but mostly backed the environmental position: Ludwigs2, Vecrumba, Maunus, and VsevolodKrolikov. Mathsci was accused of numerous underhanded dealings during five years Race and Intelligence was in Arbitration and before that; when it first went up to Arbitration in 2009, Mathsci threw a fit claiming that Reubzz, the mediator "wasn't professional enough." Reubzz quit. In 2011 he followed Mirade around undoing everything he wrote, then claimed Mirade had a "real name" account on Deviant Art, never mind that he was gunning after the wrong target. In 2010, Rvcx quit Wikipedia after the Race and Intelligence Arbitration ended with Mathsci not being thrown out on his ear; Rvcx told Captain Occam this in a private email: "My reason for requesting the arbitration was to try to find *someone* with admin privileges who was willing to stand up for Wikipedia's professed principles, and the general notion of collaborative editing. In fact the ruling has made abundantly clear that ArbCom endorses Wikipedia as not an encyclopedia project, but a reputation economy: Mathsci has purchased the right to abuse other editors—and in fact rewrite ArbCom findings at the last minute when it's clear which way the votes are swinging—by spending so much of his time editing. As has been said about Wikipedia so many times by so many others, it's game where the most persistent editors with the most time to invest inevitably win.....Like several others have made clear through this case, I have more important things to do in life than play such a game. I have an academic career to pursue (with, quite frankly, far more significance than Mathsci's mathematical hobbies; we have names for faculty who exploit tenure without significant research contributions) and have no interest in a version of Farmville in which mainspace edits take the place of crop-watering." So that made Reubzz, Rvcx, and Distributivejustice the three editors Mathsci chased off in three-four years; that has to be some kind of record. As for the 2011 Mirade stalking the following exchange occurred:

Miradre: Talk: Cultural_anthropology "Please respect my privacy."

Mathsci: Talk: Cultural_anthropology  "Ha, ha, ha, ha."

Miradre: Talk: Cultural_anthropology "You have already been cautioned against such incivil remarks."

Mathsci: Talk: Cultural_anthropology  "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha."

The problem with explaining Mathsci's horrible behavior is that there is so much of it; my source had forty pages of material with links.....he was abusive from day one with Syrran (Gianni Giachetta) whom he chased off and then openly named on the 26th of August, 2006. So that actually makes four editors he chased off. And we haven't even gotten to the sockpuppets; he both investigated other people for sockpuppets while running his own socks, Aixoise and P0CF1A, of which most of the information about them was deleted; notice the name of the first, a French term for an inhabitant of Aix, a commune in Southern France. Guess who has a residence in Aix-en-Provance, the university city? Luckily for us he finally smashed too many toes with a sledgehammer because they blocked him at the end of 2013, then banned him outright in October 2014.....during the ban period, he actually had the chutzpah to send Rschweib unsolicited emails on the algebraic mutation article! He also edited his own talk page under the ban. A textbook Wiki-junkie if there ever was one.

A long comment from my source's material:

"Apart from the group of admins who've used their tools in unusual ways to protect Mathsci, there are a few long-term patterns which are worth noting here. The first is how his misconduct has been basically constant for the past four years, despite all of the warnings he's received, the times that arbitrators expressed certainty that his conduct would improve, and the times he promised this himself. During this period he's twice promised to disengage from RI disputes (once in December 2010 and once in April 2012), and broken that promise shortly afterward; he's twice been sanctioned or admonished by ArbCom (once in August 2010 and once in May 2012); he's been warned three times by individual arbitrators (Risker in April 2011, Jclemens in December 2011, and SilkTork in May 2012), and arbitrators have twice decided against taking action about him because they were confident his conduct was going to improve (Cool Hand Luke in September 2011 and Newyorkbrad in December 2012), only to have him return to the same conduct a few months later. This is apart from all of the numerous uninvolved editors and admins who've asked him to stop or registered their disapproval with him at various points. The second is the number of editors who he has one way or another driven away from the project. If we exclude editors who Mathsci believed to be socks, we have observed nine examples of this: Reubzz, DistributiveJustice, Rvcx, Varoon Arya, Ludwigs2, Captain Occam, Ferahgo the Assassin, TrevelyanL85A2, and Deltahedron. With the possible exception of DistributiveJustice, none of these were single-purpose accounts, and all but the the first three had nothing to do with Race and Intelligence articles when Mathsci got rid of them. (Deltahedron never edited in the RI area, at all.) The actual number of people he's eliminated is probably much higher than nine, because this number doesn't include editors he got rid of because he thought they were socks, or editors where this happened without anyone noting it. It also doesn't include editors who quit the project after being attacked by Mathsci but who never explicitly stated that he was a reason for their leaving. One example of someone like that was HPotato, a newbie who disappeared after having an argument with Mathsci in January 2013:Link.

And the last thing of importance, a large portion of the community seems to be aware of this problem, or at least of some part of it. ArbCom has come very close to doing something about Mathsci on several occasions, and would have done so if not for the lengths gone to by his supporters. In November a majority of arbitrators supported turning the one-way interaction bans into mutual bans, but changed their minds because of Timotheus Canens' threat. In December, at least four arbitrators felt that a full case was needed if someone were to request one in 2013, and ErrantX was planning to request it himself, until (according to ErrantX) Mathsci's supporters forced him out of Wikipedia with their threats against him. In the past year, at least twelve uninvolved editors have urged ArbCom to take some action about Mathsci in the various arbitration threads about him: Silver Seren, Penwhale, Vecrumba, Only in Death, A Quest for Knoweldge, Collect, SB_Johnny, NE Ent, ErrantX, Seraphimblade, Youreallycan, and D. Lazard."
                                                  Marta Aseda, Antony Wassermann on piano 
                                                                  or computer,Vaughn Jones in background.
                                                                  Cropped photo from Los Angeles, 2004.

The Doctor: David H. Gorski, M.D., Ph.D.

This guy is well-known in the "anti-vaccination" crowd (i.e, the parents of young children terrified that their vaccinated children will become autistic); he used the name Orac online for years, in fact he still uses it to blog. He runs a website called Science-Based Medicine where he and other medical doctors rant about what a threat not-immunizing children is; his personal page on that site is shot through with disclaimers and flimsy financial statements (but he will admit to writing for pay), but the bottom is an overblown "the people on Google are trying to destroy me" rant complete with hidden links making himself out to be the aggrieved party, even though a few paragraphs above he said he got involved in "refuting pseudoscience" on a lark; he has been on the Internet since the 1990s, and yet he has never figured out that people will act like crazed Berserker Vikings online if their precious personal beliefs are attacked, especially if it has to do with their young children. It should be noted that his personal page hasn't changed a lick since 2011.

As with Mathsci, Dr. Gorski became MastCell in 2006, the year before Wikipedia began imploding thanks to the Essjay scandal and Durova's (Lise Broer) "cyberstalking" secret email list, among other fiascoes. He wrote about cancer drugs like desatnib (aka BMS-354825 and "Sprycel")  and vinblastine ("Velban"), which gave many the suspicion that MastCell was doing paid editing on Wikipedia for the drug companies, which is an accusation made by his many anti-vaxxer enemies. One of his first edits was to the article on Matthias Rath, a German doctor whose "cancer cure" uses "micronutrients"; MastCell accused him of being an AIDS denialist on top of slamming his system. As with Mathsci, MastCell has his own sockpuppet Jinkinson (popped into being, January 2013) who wrote a BLP of Dr. Gorski in March 2013 using hard-to-find references. He was made an Administrator in 2007, the RfA begun by Durova. Notice that the only dissenter, Wooyi, was browbeaten into supporting Dr. Gorski's appointment. Following in the golem-like footsteps of Mathsci, MastCell has one true redeeming feature: he wants disclaimers at the top of medical articles at Wikipedia. Nobody else at Wikiproject Medicine agrees, so any gibberish can be passed off as medical knowledge on medical pages. Aside from that, he supports all the scumbags Mathsci hung out with so it's like replacing the White Spy with the Black Spy from Antonio Prohías' Spy vs. Spy cartoons, except that he isn't as much of a thuggish goon like Ernst Kaltenbrunner-like Mathsci. It doesn't hurt that he's getting tired of the whole thing: 

"I'm sure you're right. I dunno. Wikipedia forces us to choose between playing a primarily "editorial" role or a primarily "administrative" role. It takes a lot of effort to do either one well, and I certainly don't have the time, energy, or interest to try actively fill both roles anymore. And I feel like I have a more important role to play on the administrative side. I've been sort of appalled at the level of attrition among clueful, mature, reality-based people here. I'm even more appalled at what passes for serious discussion of meta-issues and project-level dilemmas.

"And finally, I've dealt with a lot of tendentious axe-grinders and nonsense-peddlers here, and I recognize the corrosive effect that such people have on the time and goodwill of well-meaning editors. I feel an obligation to deal with problem editors in order to preserve the editing environment for people who actually care about creating a reputable online reference work. And because I've got an admin bit (and a lot of hit points, and a solid armor class) I feel especially responsible for taking on these kinds of cases, because not a lot of other admins can or do. After all, anyone can join and edit, but not many people are in a position to deal with problematic situations from an administrative perspective.

"There used to be a group of admins who were smart and had good judgement and could wade into these situations, but their numbers have dwindled to the point that I feel pretty alone in that regard. There really isn't any roadmap for someone like me - I honestly don't know of anyone who's been active as long as I have in editing and adminning primarily controversial topic areas. I've outlived my natural wiki-lifespan.:) I don't think it's as simple as going back to editing articles more, because that's not as fulfilling as it used to be. The people who made this place fun for me are mostly gone, or else they're still here but burnt-out shells of their former wiki-selves. (Present company excluded, of course).:)

"That said, I'd be happy to work on the esophageal cancer article. I'm not sure I'll be able to work on it in a timely fashion; I've been contributing fairly little for a while now because of real-life demands. Anthony, I'll follow up with you by email. Thank you both for the notes—they are genuinely appreciated, and it's always good to hear from both of you. MastCell Talk 04:13, 26 September 2014 (UTC)"


  1. What I don't understand is why no one's tried beating the will out of them. We know their names, where they live. It'd be virtually impossible to connect a random wikipedian to the crime. Not just for the good of the project or some sense of "justice" - but for their sake. The way incarceration often helps addicts recover, I think a forced wiki break would improve their quality of life long term.

    1. I did not mention that Wassermann actually edited from a hospital bed while recovering from heart problems in 2012:

      "I have no idea why people doubt what I wrote about the emergency heart operation. I was unaware that I had either ischaemic heart disease or hypertension, but on 29 Sept-1 Oct I had minor heart attacks in the middle of the night, without being aware what they were. On the advice of a nurse I know, I asked for a checkup at AE at UCL hospital on 2 Oct. I was admitted immediately and told by the cardiologist that I almost certainly would need some kind of surgery, since blood tests indicated I had had a heart attack and my lower heart muscle was damaged. Following an echocardiogram and X-rays, I was transferred to The Heart Hospital for an angiogram and operated on on 8 Oct (triple bypass). I edited WP from my bed in AE on 4 Oct and from the Resource Room on the third floor of The Heart Hospital on 7 Oct. I would love all this to be untrue, but that is unfortunately not the way things are. Since I was otherwise fairly fit, doctors have said my recovery has so far been smooth and quite quick. The painkillers are standard - paracetamol and dihyrocodeine. Dispersable aspirin is prescribed for other reasons. It is painful if I cough and my left lower leg and foot are swollen because of excess fluid following the arterial graft. Full recovery can take between 4 to 6 months. The edit to a BLP is related to a not-unknown person who was sleeping in the next room to me during my second minor attack.He wrote his column from the apartment on the Sunday."

      He's a nut.

  2. MastCell (David H. Gorski) lives in the same town as a man named David GERARD Gorski. Very curious!

    1. Possibly a relative; the Wikipedia David Gerard lives in Britain.

  3. Hi, this is Jonathan Kane / Captain Occam. I've just stumbled across this post, and I've got an idea who the author is, because there are only a handful of people who know the details you've mentioned about Mathsci's family, and some of the other information here was only shared with selected people at Wikipediocracy. I won't say who I think you are in case you'd prefer to keep that private, but I will say that I think it's too bad you aren't very active at WO anymore. I'd have appreciated your help with the blog post we ran a few months ago about about Roger Davies.

    Anyway, there are a few details in this post you might want to correct. First, Mathsci has been indefinitely site-banned since 2013, not 2014. Here's the motion where ArbCom banned him, in October 2013. I think you might be confused by the fact that he lost permission to edit his talk page for a little while in February 2014, but he was already banned before that point.

    Also, we don't really know whether or not he was responsible for Ludwigs2's ban, since ArbCom wasn't clear about how much Mathsci's lobbying influenced their decision to ban him. It might be my fault that you've included Ludwigs2 on your list of editors he drove off the project, because I initially thought the evidence Mathsci was responsible in that case was clearer than it actually is. It would be more accurate to say that there are eight editors he definitely drove away, and Ludwigs2 may or may not be a ninth. (Also, three of them--Deltahedron, Feragho The Assassin, and TrevelyanL85A2--have returned to the project now that Mathsci is banned.)

    Finally, if you're going to discuss both Mathsci and MastCell, I'm surprised you didn't mention the number of times MastCell violated the WP:INVOLVED policy on Mathsci's behalf. The document you're using as a source is at Google docs (I think you have the URL), and there's a section towards the end that discusses the cases where he and Future Perfect misused their admin tools in order to protect him.

    1. Sorry for the late response but I'm not who you thought I was in 2015, I'm just using their work with their permission. I nailed David Gorski (aka "MastCell", "Respectful Insolence", "Orac", etc.) after I wrote this article, but I breezed through Wassermann's issues....Hell I don't think I've gotten to the center of either of these people, I was hoping that the Barbour-Damian book would blow everything open, but that volume may never reach the public. So I might delve further into the horror of A.J. Wassermann's personality.

  4. I personally knew mathsci and spent the best part of a year drinking with him. He described me as his best friend in Aix, which coming from him is a complement. Yes, he is a pain in the butt, he is also a good man. Perhaps your problem is that he is smarter than you all are

    1. Mathsci is a double talking, whiny, trouble causing Asshole. I don't give a shit if he is "smarter" than anyone. He is not that smart. There are plenty of Mathematicians in the world, whereas he acts like he discovered numbers and math itself. He just got banned again a few days ago, but some asshole is giving him another chance to edit Wikipedia again. He will soon be banned forever, and I shall dance a jig of glee when he is banned for good.

  5. For him, it is a game he plays on the internet. He can be an asshole, but he did lend me some money once, so he cannot be all bad. He's very good company and in real life is neither whiny nor double talking.

    1. Everybody thinks I know these guys personally - but I don't.