Anatomy of an Online Atrocity: Wikipedia, Gamaliel, and the Fletcher Prouty entry

A recent article (August 2014) reports:

As David Gerard – a 47-year-old London-based computer systems administrator, who has been editing the site since 2004 – says, it is “literally true that nobody runs Wikipedia”.

Hence, “if you want to get anything done, you have to actually convince everyone to go along with you” and as a consequence, the “social environment can be very off-putting at times.”

Gerard has been quoted elsewhere extolling the virtues of Wikipedia owing to its reliance on “consensus,” and is a go-to figure for news outlets seeking a pro-Wikipedia insider opinion. (Indeed, a certain Wiki user “Gamaliel” even quotes from Gerard on his user page.)

The same article [1] in a separate section describes the overwhelming demographics of Wikipedia editors without making any connection to the above:

Male, and geeky

Wikipedia desperately needs new recruits. The proportion of editors identifying as female hovers between 8% and 15%, despite the goal set by Sue Gardner, the former executive director of the WikiMedia Foundation, to raise the share to 25% by 2015.

Most Wikipedians are also from “Western” countries, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather “geeky”.

The demographic imbalance translates to a worrying imbalance in the topics covered on the reference site. As a case in point, there are more articles in the Lord of the Rings category than in the sub-Saharan Africa group.

Thus, it should be clear that what “consensus” on Wikipedia really means, more often than not, is consensus among “male and geeky” editors heavily interested in topics like The Lord of the Rings.

1. “Gamaliel”

A few short months after the creation of a Wikipedia entry in 2004 for L. Fletcher Prouty – a career military man who had briefed presidents and who was undeniably involved in the conduct of major clandestine operations at the start of the Cold War – a certain Wikipedia user under the name “Gamaliel” began editing the entry. Gamaliel would spend the next ten years systematically skewing the perspective on Prouty in the entry toward the negative, adding links to anti-Prouty websites, removing links to Prouty’s own official site over a period of years until finally getting that official site blacklisted from Wikipedia in 2011. Users outraged or frustrated at Gamaliel’s antics would be banned from Wikipedia for life. Gamaliel would highlight associations between Prouty and unsavory groups, exaggerating them until the material was moderated by other users. He even created Wikipedia entries for Prouty critics, later denying he had ties to those critics at all. You might well ask: How was this possible? Wouldn’t this kind of persistent bias and even vandalism be corrected by Wikipedia?

The answer is, of course, no. The reason why is that Fletcher Prouty, a man who coordinated between the Air Force and the CIA from his office in the Pentagon for nine years, committed the unpardonable sin of being unconvinced by the Warren Commission’s official finding that President John F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald – and Oswald alone. [2] No matter that most of the American public has not believed that story for decades. No matter that the Warren Commission was a panel of political appointees and not forensic experts. No matter that the story of Kennedy’s assassination is replete with miracles such as “reverse trajectory momentum” and CE 399 – a bullet that passed through two bodies multiple times shattering bone and coming out with only a slight deformation at the back end. Because Prouty was a public critic of the findings of the Warren Commission, that meant he was a “crackpot” to whom standards of fairness clearly did not apply.

Why was this so? Was Gamaliel a rabid right-wing politico as some have speculated? Gamaliel’s real name is reportedly Robert Fernandez, and at least at one time was living in Florida. Was he descended from anti-Castro Cubans who are believed by some to have been involved in the assassination?

In fact, the story is rather less lurid, but rather more stomach-turning. Gamaliel, cybersquatting on the Fletcher Prouty bio entry for ten years (continuing today), did so because he is a typical, even stereotypical member of that easily recognizable type that is the “male, and geeky” Wikipedia editor.

2. Comic Book Guy


Quoting from that estimable source, Wikipedia: “Comic Book Guy […] is based on ‘every comic book store guy in America’ and represents a stereotypical middle-aged comic-book collector. […] Comic Book Guy is a morbidly obese, nerdy and snobby man best known for his eloquence and sarcastic quips. He is obsessed with collecting comic books and is an avid science fiction buff. He holds a master’s degree in folklore and mythology (having translated The Lord of the Rings into Klingon as part of his thesis), as well as a degree in chemical engineering, has an IQ of 170, and is a member of the Springfield branch of Mensa.”

The type lampooned by The Simpsons is now classic. “Nerdy and snobby,” Comic Book Guy’s smug demeanor and arch contempt for lesser beings are in laughable contrast to his rather slovenly appearance and his silly, even irrelevant interests. The Comic Book Guy is funny because he chooses the domain of comic books and entertainment as ground for high intellectual combat. He is the 20th- and 21st-century version of the pedant: someone who has acquired all the style of deep learning with none of the substance.

Likewise, a (slightly chubby) Robert Fernandez or “Gamaliel” appeared on Wikipedia in February 2004, and spent several months editing entries on cartoons and comic strips. His user page indicated that he was studying for a M.A. in library science at the University of South Florida. His edits gradually turned to Democratic Party figures, putting those subjects in a more favorable light. He began making anti-conspiracy edits, for example, to an entry on Vince Foster. Judging from a record of his edits from this period, Gamaliel was in front of the computer for most of the day, sometimes editing for more than twelve hours continuously. As with Comic Book Guy, Gamaliel brought his “supercilious” attitude to complex topics such as the Kennedy assassination despite the fact that in them he had zero special expertise.

But is Gamaliel a special case?

In 2014, another Wikipedia editor was brought in as a “neutral, disinterested” party to mediate in the ongoing dispute between Gamaliel and a variety of other users on the Prouty entry. That editor goes by the Wikipedia screen name of Amatulic.

From Amatulic’s user page:

“Hi, I’m Axl Matulić. How does one define oneself? I’m reminded of the episode in Babylon 5, ‘Comes the Inquisitor,’ in which a Vorlon inquisitor is never satisfied with Delenn’s answers to his repeated question ‘Who are you?’ Well…. […]

“I’m a scientist who has worked as an engineer for the past 25 (approx) years, mostly in the field of stealth technology. I don’t contribute much to stealth topics on Wikipedia except to correct minor misconceptions written by those not versed in the field. Independently, on my own, I spent a year or so studying religions of the world and biology. Along the way I also got an MBA degree in addition to my B.S. in Physics.

I enjoy anime, role-playing games, educational topics, and especially travel.”

It would seem that Wikipedia editors are, in fact, typically male with an interest in comics, science fiction, and so on. Indeed, this simply stands to reason – the only people who would be willing to spend twelve hours a day in front of a computer are computer “geeks,” and they usually have such interests.

In fact, David Gerard quoted by the BBC above, who on his website calls himself “a volunteer media contact for the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK,” is said by the BBC in the article to be “47-year-old London-based computer systems administrator”.

3. The Secret Lives of Geeks

Of course, the reason why Comic Book Guy is funny is because the character paints a truthful image: a social misfit (Comic Book Guy) cloaks himself in the armor of smug discernment and superior knowledge precisely because he is a “geek” or a social outsider. He climbs to the top of his self-chosen field of expertise so that he has some weapon he can use against everyone else. Other areas of interest, of course, do exist for “geeks” to express themselves. One that has served this purpose for decades is computers. Wikipedia, for wedding the non-stop use of computers with the geeky desire to assert one’s expertise and to appear intellectually superior, not only allows geeks to assert themselves as individuals, but for countless thousands of geeks to get together, to mimic and mirror each other and form their own sub-class – eventually, inevitably, bullying and dominating others.

Why would a “Gamaliel” be resistant to the “insanity” of Warren Report detractors? (The term from his userpage.) The idea that a Wikipedia-geek editor has a slavish pro-State devotion like a “Red State” pro-military, gun-toting, flag-waving right-wing ‘Murrican doesn’t really hold water. Indeed, Gamaliel’s user page shows he is a member of the Democratic Party, and many of his edits as mentioned were done to be favorable to Democratic Party figures. Rather, it is because it is consistent with the geek’s desire to assert expertise – which is another way of saying, the stupidity of others.

Ever since the media operation in the 1960s following the Kennedy assassination to paint doubters of the official story as “conspiracy theorists,” i.e. wild fantasists who promoted a vision of political reality that couldn’t possibly happen in America, those who see something wrong with Kennedy denialism have been easy targets. Indeed, though the better portion of the American public has always entertained a healthy suspicion about the improbable official story, the intellectual classes in America have always been in lockstep with the State on the issue. Naturally, the lower, would-be intellectual classes – obsessive computer users, pedantic geeks eager for a way to look superior – but also the scientifically-educated who for having no education in the humanities have no sense of political history or the depth of human folly outside the cute practical jokes of their colleagues – these naive types who consider themselves educated are happy to accept at face value a politically-contrived myth so long as it lets them feel superior to others. David Gerard, on his user page, states that he is “a 2014 trustee of the RationalMedia Foundation, who host RationalWiki,” a skeptical wiki that dismisses all sorts of unexplained phenomena with the same supercilious disdain of Comic Book Guy. The site also dismisses the very idea of conspiracy since, as anyone who has never studied history knows, conspiracies are impossible for all sorts of reasons. Except when they’re not – and the truth of them has come out. But all other conspiracies are impossible. [3]

This is the mindset, in short, of the Wiki-editor/conspiracy doubter – a “Gamaliel”. While surely some people come to the idea of political conspiracy because it offers a titillating or lurid fantasy – people who for personal and psychological reasons wish to believe in all-powerful groups like the Illuminati orchestrating world events – there is an equal and parallel psychology involved, for example, in Kennedy denialism. The same people – a Gamaliel, an Amatulic, presumably even a David Gerard – who claim to prize science above all else and poke fun at creationists, and who endlessly assert the importance of empirical evidence, nevertheless pooh-pooh all the empirical evidence in the Kennedy case, dismissing it all as “factoids”. Why? Because empiricism is less important for them, ultimately, than belonging to the group that asserts the need for empiricism. And everybody knows, that group – computer geeks, scientists, Wikipedia editors – doesn’t believe in conspiracy.

4. Gamaliel in action

Wikipedia editors – like Gamaliel – are not particularly deep thinkers. Nor are they individuals in any real sense. They are “geeks” who have banded together, and pursuant to that their primary purpose, their overriding silent aim, is to preserve the territory carved out for themselves known as Wikipedia. They share and mirror each other’s assumptions, and inevitably, over time, push out other users whose ideas about the world conflict with their own. It is reported today, for example, that increasingly, edits on Wikipedia are being done by a core set of editors, and that new editors – especially women and others differing from the Wikipedia “type” – are simply too turned-off to participate. Wikipedia editors engage in endless edit wars, often over points of exasperating triviality. They accuse each other of a half-dozen different logical fallacies using their Latin names, but demonstrate the true shallow nature of their learning by never pointing those categories at themselves. Consistent with the weak outcast type, they seem disproportionately interested in the feelings of power derived from edit war “victory”.

With these motivations, it’s no surprise that a Gamaliel could spend ten years keeping a Wikipedia entry on a lockdown – a truth lockdown.

The online atrocity began in the summer of 2004. As detailed at, [4] Gamaliel stumbled by accident into editing entries related to the Kennedy assassination. In July 2004, Gamaliel was editing an entry on the silent film “Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy”. He apparently added text for that entry by accident to the Wikipedia entry on the Zapruder film. Gamaliel caught the mistake, and changed the text back.  But then he immediately embarked on a “reorganization” of the Lee Harvey Oswald Wikipedia entry. Without apparently ever having studied the life of Oswald or the assassination, Gamaliel started making changes. For example, Gamaliel edited Oswald’s entry to say that government “enquiries” (plural) found that “Oswald was the only assassin”(untrue: see Footnote 1 below).  Gamaliel also started adding links to notorious debunker John McAdams’ JFK site hosted at Marquette University where he is an associate professor. McAdams, something of a crank among academics, has never published anything peer-reviewed on the Kennedy assassination; indeed, most of his output is limited to articles in favor of the death penalty.[5][6] Overlooking this, however, in keeping with its true priorities, the liberal corporate media from PBS to Time Magazine has featured McAdams whenever any anniversary or JFK-related news item needed debunking treatment.

Gamaliel in July 2004 spent his time adding links to McAdams’ debunking site as well as images from that site to the Oswald entry. He also made changes to the Wikipedia biographical entry on Gerald Posner, another JFK debunker and noted plagiarist. [7] (Posner is also author of such books as Mengele and Hitler’s Children.) Gamaliel’s edits were favorable to Posner, defending him against the charge that he actually hadn’t interviewed certain witnesses for his book – a charge made by the witnesses themselves.

On July 16, 2004, Gamaliel removed the word “controversial” from mention of the Warren Report on Oswald’s Wikipedia entry. Two days later, in the Talk section of the Oswald entry, Gamaliel described any connection between Oswald and “Al Hidell” as “entirely made up” – despite it being non-controversial that when Oswald was arrested by Dallas Police, he was carrying an identification card with the name “Alek James Hidell”. Or so, at least, it was reported by the Warren Commission.

Having spent a whole week on the subject of Oswald and his Wiki entry, Gamaliel then proudly declared on July 20 on his user page:

What I’m proudest of and spent more time working on than anything else are my contributions to Lee Harvey Oswald. The article is even mentioned in a piece on wikipedia.

By the end of the month, Gamaliel – who had begun by making edits to entries on comic books and comic strips – had made edits on the entries for Oswald, J.D. Tippit, James Tague, and Gerald Posner; the Texas School Book Depository, the “Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” and Dealey Plaza. In each case, this brand-new assassination expert made edits favorable to the lone gunman theory and critical of “conspiracy theories” of the assassination. By the end of the summer, he would make the same type of changes to entries on Jim Garrison, Clay Shaw, the “Single-bullet theory,” Ruth Paine, Marina Oswald Porter, Mary Moorman, Jean Hill, “Babushka Lady,” Abraham Zapruder, Jim Marrs, Lee Bowers, Oliver Stone, and others. And in making every change, Gamaliel the Wikipedia editor was not guided by an advanced degree in history, nor by a long, patient study of the details as a concerned citizen. Like Comic Book Guy, he was guided by the certainty he simply knew better.

5. Gamaliel and the Prouty entry

Gamaliel came to the Prouty entry on July 22, 2004, “condensing” three links to where writings by Prouty were hosted into only one – yet adding three anti-conspiracy links including two to McAdams’ site. When this was reversed three days later, Gamaliel simply reverted the change. The Prouty entry got a reprieve for nearly a full year, with Gamaliel focusing on other pages, passing summary judgments such as “HSCA conclusions discredited and irrelevant to this article” in one case, calling critics “conspiracy theorists” and “assassination buffs” in others, and adding links to the McAdams site whenever he could.

Between 2005 and 2007, Gamaliel added factually false statements to the Prouty article. For instance, he stated as fact that Prouty had never met legendary district attorney Jim Garrison. This naturally wasn’t so. Prouty not only exchanged letters with Garrison, the two met at the July 1991 wrap party for the film JFK. Nevertheless, despite attempts to reverse Gamaliel’s statement on the entry, Gamaliel always reverted back to his misstatement. The edit war over this single inaccurate statement lasted several months until Gamaliel finally conceded that, yes, the two had met.

But why the statement in the first place? Why the (incorrect) insistence that the two men hadn’t met? Because in Oliver Stone’s film JFK, of course, one of the film’s instances of dramatic license involved a climactic scene between Garrison and “X”, a Pentagon official based on Prouty. In the breathless and fast-paced scene, X unloads a barrage of truths on Garrison, which because of his position as a Pentagon insider, frames the whole assassination for the viewer in a way that is highly important. Instead of the “how?”, the character X addresses the “why?”

It goes almost without saying: someone like a Gamaliel would want to disqualify this scene. Even though Stone’s JFK was not a documentary, and though dramatic license is essential to what film is, Stone’s film was attacked in the corporate media for the changes necessary to tell the story in film. The point of whether Garrison actually met X on the Capitol Mall could be used by anyone with enough bias against the film and enough of a primitive outlook to assert the film was untrue. Though Prouty and Garrison did not meet face to face until well after the events depicted in the film, they exchanged many letters during Garrison’s investigation in which Prouty outlined much of the same material. Nevertheless, it was important for an editor like Gamaliel to stress they never met at all in order to discredit the film. [8]

Again the question presents itself: Why would a Wikipedia editor take it upon himself to add false statements to a biographical entry out of the simple conviction they were true? Why would a person studying for a degree in library science more at home with comic books and comic strips – and who had never studied the Kennedy assassination – now feel entitled based on his own anti-conspiracy bias and buttressed by a few anti-conspiracy websites (like McAdams’) to dominate an entry on a notable person – whom he also knew nothing about? In May 2005, for example, Gamaliel reversed edits made by Len Osanic, co-founder of Prouty’s official website and someone who had recorded interviews with Prouty over the space of many years. Why would someone like a “Gamaliel” lack even the most basic self-doubt, failing to even hesitate when completely reversing edits done by someone with considerably more expertise on Prouty?

The answer is that what we are dealing with on Wikipedia is the smug arrogance of Comic Book Guy. Not real intelligence, but faux-intelligence, carefully practiced for years through mimicry and imitation, but one that is essentially thoughtless.

Between 2004 and 2010, Gamaliel would add links to the McAdams site eight separate times. One of the links was to a McAdams page which asks rhetorically in its title whether Prouty is a “crackpot” and imputes to him a variety of false beliefs (for example, that Churchill poisoned FDR). In early 2007, McAdams made a number of edits to the Prouty entry himself. The changes were bad enough that it raised the question of whether McAdams was even a serious academic and settled, in any case, whether he was in any way objective. (Indeed, McAdams would receive a warning from Marquette University about his online antics vis-a-vis the Kennedy assassination.) McAdams’ edit:

However Prouty has taken controversial positions on a wide range of issues. He has repeated (with apparent approval) claims that Franklin Roosevelt did not die a natural death, but rather was poisoned by Churchill. He has insisted that oil is not a fossil fuel, that Princess Diana was killed by the “Secret Team,” and that the U.S. government was responsible for the deaths of People’s Temple members at Jonestown.

The entry on Wikipedia at effectively demolishes these claims:

In Prouty’s piece on the death of Roosevelt, Prouty relates a story told by Elliot Roosevelt in the February 9, 1986 issue of “Parade Magazine” in which Roosevelt recounts a conversation he had with Stalin in 1946. Stalin is said to have stated his view that President Franklin Roosevelt had been assassinated by Churchill. While Prouty recounted the story in his own article, he did not say he himself was of the opinion that Roosevelt was assassinated. Nonetheless, McAdams claimed Prouty did. McAdams also claimed that Prouty “insisted” that Princess Diana had been assassinated, whereas Prouty had merely said “it would not surprise me” if Diana had been assassinated. While Prouty wrote a short piece about abiogenenic oil for the website, the brevity and tone of the piece make it unclear whether the piece should be taken as a bit of speculation or provocative food for thought. Finally, while McAdams claimed that Prouty said the “U.S. government was responsible” for the Jonestown tragedy, a cursory reading of the article he quotes reveals that Prouty only claimed that there was evidence the Joint Chiefs of Staff had “prior knowledge”. No suggestion is made by Prouty that the U.S. government had the power to stop the deaths or was in any way “responsible”. [9]

Despite Gamaliel’s jealous guarding of the Prouty entry (making nearly thirty “revert” edits over ten years), McAdams’ false claims would be allowed to stand for over a year without any challenge, along with other minor edits made by McAdams designed to make Prouty look bad. For example, McAdams changed “his time in the Air Force and holding upper-level government/military positions give his contentions some credibility” to “his time in the Air Force and holding upper-level government/military positions might seem to give his contentions some credibility”. McAdams also simply removed the Wikipedia warning at the top of the page saying there were issues with the entry’s neutrality. And though Gamaliel would later deny being “chummy” with McAdams when pressed by a variety of frustrated users, McAdams’ dubious edits were among the very few never reverted by Gamaliel. Indeed, in a friendly gesture, Gamaliel created the John McAdams entry on Wikipedia on January 26, 2010 (despite concerns voiced by others about “notability”). One might regard it as an homage of sorts to the eccentric academic whose website had turned Gamaliel overnight into a Kennedy assassination expert. – But not just on the Kennedy assassination. Along with the Reitzes page (which Gamaliel linked to four times on the Prouty entry during that period), the McAdams site had endowed Gamaliel with savant-level expertise on the life of L. Fletcher Prouty as well as the lives of other JFK assassination researchers including Jim Marrs, David Lifton, Jack White, and others whose entries Gamaliel also edited.

 6. Banning

On Wikipedia, the standard operating procedure – if you are an editor like Gamaliel competent in the ways of wikilawyering – is to perform a number of edits that clearly reflect a certain overt bias, and then when those edits produce an inevitable backlash, attempt to appear as the responsible party, citing a number of Wikipedia policies, suggesting your opponents are irrational – and wherever possible, get them banned.

Gamaliel has had considerable success in this regard. In 2006, exasperated by the level of stubborn bias on the Wikipedia entries on Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination, user “RPJ” started making a variety of changes. While in many cases, the changes amounted to “vandalism” because the user was interjecting comments into the body of the entries themselves such as “Cover up?”, in context it is clear that the user objected to the cybersquatting and domination of various entries by Gamaliel. A dispute ensued that spread over several assassination-related entries until, backed up by other like-minded editors, Gamaliel saw to it that RPJ was blocked and banned from Wikipedia.

History was to repeat in 2010-2011 – this time on the Prouty entry. User “Threeafterthree” objected to the external links to the McAdams site. While not familiar with Prouty, Threeafterthree responded to what he felt was clear bias in linking to a page with relatively little content about Prouty, the word “crackpot” in the title, and what amount to smears in presenting short excerpts of Prouty’s words out of context. Off and on over the space of a year, Threeafterthree would return to find the links to the McAdams site restored by Gamaliel or by McAdams himself, sometimes from an anonymous IP address. By August 2011 – after a year and a half of casually editing the Prouty entry and finding his changes reverted and his arguments ignored – Threeafterthree erupted. Reverting some of Gamaliel’s own edits on other articles, Threeafterthree removed links to the McAdams site on the Prouty entry and added a new link to a page hosted by that collected together in one place over a dozen pages criticizing McAdams, suggesting McAdams himself might be a “crackpot,” suggesting he was “asleep at the wheel”. The page also had a picture of Gamaliel himself and a Nazi symbol that at one time had been on his user page.

Of course, this was “beyond the pale”. What allows Wikipedia editors, above all, to exercise their total contempt for fair play is their anonymity. As would become obvious later, Gamaliel was incensed that his privacy had been broken. Other editors, sensing the gravity of the crime and contemplating the grievous harm that would come to them if their own identities were widely known, circled the wagons. Gamaliel made this complaint:

User:Threeafterthree has for some time objected to links to the website of John C. McAdams, a Marquette University professor who has published a book on the JFK assassination and whose website is widely recognized as an excellent resource. McAdams’ credentials are detailed in his WP article. Threeafterthree has periodically removed links to this website with merely the edit summary “per WP:EL” and has generally refused to discuss the issue. On the few occasions he has engaged in talk page or noticeboard discussion, he has made broad generalizations about the quality of the website or about McAdams himself, abandoning the discussion before substantiating any of these generalizations in any way. He will then generally wait a few months and remove the EL again.

After I restored a couple of such links today, Threeafterthree retaliated by

  • going on a deletion spree of McAdams links
  • reverting me on an entirely unrelated article which he does not appear to be currently editing
  • libeling McAdams in an edit summary which I’ve deleted
  • Replacing links to McAdams with links to [ a website] (his own?) devoted to the late L. Fletcher Prouty, a former USAF officer who has become a hero to conspiracy theorists for his rather bizarre allegations regarding the JFK assassination, the CIA, etc. The page linked to is basically an attack page directed at a BLP, calling McAdams “Laughing stock of the Internet”. Not only that, it is an attack page directed at me personally, with a picture of myself apparently taken from Wikipedia cyberstalker Daniel Brandt’s hive mind hit list and (obviously false) allegations that I’m a Nazi.

This is really beyond the pale, something I’d expect from a drive-by anon, not an editor who has been here almost six years. Contentious editing and refusal to discuss is certainly one thing, but I would think libeling a living individual and posting an attack page directed at a BLP and another editor demands some sort of serious and immediate sanction. Gamaliel (talk) 21:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

In what would become a recurring refrain, according to Gamaliel, McAdams had been “libelled” – a tricky legal standard and not one for Wikipedia editors to determine – though the page simply matched both the tone and the depth of content in the McAdams page. But perhaps more importantly, the complaint demonstrated the total freedom from self-criticism that Wikipedia editors seem to enjoy. Gamaliel never asks himself how “an editor who has been here almost six years” could be driven to the point of engaging in behavior that Gamaliel himself had already been engaged in for half a decade: adding links to attack sites, remorselessly reverting edits, and ignoring all criticism of the same.

Threeafterthree was banned. Despite at all appearances being a competent editor who had contributed to Wikipedia on numerous entries, he continues to be banned from Wikipedia as of August 2014 after at least two attempts to be allowed to return., the official website of Prouty, would also be “blacklisted” as a spam site.

7. Keeping Banned

Though it is absurd on its face not to offer readers a notable person’s official website among the external links where one exists, in the case of, Wikipedia since 2011 has done just that. Indeed, though “consensus” on Wikipedia – which should be understood as the loyalty wikilawyering editors pay to other editors – has supported it, there were some Wikipedia editors who recognized the absurdity. From the 2011 discussion on blacklisting (from Wikipedia “bureaucrat” Infrogmation):

Personally, I think some of their recent actions bring credit to neither User:Threeafterthree nor User:Gamaliel. I think both have removed relevant and appropriate links (that appear to differ from their own personal viewpoint). Gamaliel, really, removing and blacklisting prouty dot org “the Fletcher Prouty Reference Site” from the article on Fletcher Prouty? How is Wikipedia supposed to aspire towards accuracy and NPOV when we can’t link to the subject of the article’s own words? That a notable person who is the subject of an article has “non mainstream” or “fringe” opinions does not by itself seem reason for wholesale removal and blacklisting of any links to their own words.

Nonetheless, was blacklisted – and even the mention of the site’s name was forbidden on Wikipedia. Over the next few years, various debates took place in the Prouty entry’s Talk section. Not only were there attempts to remove external links from the Prouty entry to the McAdams attack site (always reverted by Gamaliel), discussion of why was banned was pressed in the Talk section until Gamaliel, cornered, “archived” the Talk page to obscure from public view the cogent and conclusive cases made as to why the ban was misguided and why Gamaliel’s own control of the page had been destructive.

A full forensic analysis of the years of sordid shenanigans on the Prouty entry can be found at [9] However, it is easy enough to show in outline the disingenuous nature of the argumentation employed by Comic Book Guy/Wikipedia editor Gamaliel, aided and abetted by other editors and Wikipedia’s grotesquely bloated and unfair structure. In justifying the blacklisting, Gamaliel first claimed in the Talk section to the Prouty entry that was a “fringe” website, and that was not “the man’s primary website, the man is deceased and this is just some guy claiming it is official”. Gamaliel alleged: “Your claim that this is an “official” website is dubious, as Prouty has been deceased for 12 years. That would be like someone setting up an “official” website for Douglas McArthur or Patton”. When it was shown conclusively by user Greg Burnham and others that the website was started by Prouty and Osanic together before Prouty died – that Osanic and Prouty had appeared on talk shows together and Prouty had even named Osanic in a dedication to one of his books and that Prouty had written for his own official site – Gamaliel then shifted to other reasons.

[T]he website seems to have relatively little material on Prouty. Prouty’s books are instead links to amazon or other websites, and there are a few articles, but many are copyrighted newspaper articles which I doubt you have permission to post on your website. There are also links to purchase t-shirts and CDs unrelated to Prouty, which leaves the impression that this website is a personal venture and not an official one. Also, using the “official” Prouty website to host vicious personal attacks unrelated to Prouty furthers the impression that this website is a personal venture and not an official one. Removing these personal attack pages would go a long way to convincing Wikipedia editors of the professionalism of your website.

An even cursory glance at shows that it contains a bulk of material on Prouty not available anywhere else online. As users would note in the debate, not only had over six hours of audio conversation with Prouty not available elsewhere, the website also had original commentaries written by Prouty for his official site. Further, Prouty also wrote answers to reader emails, with those answers also available on the site.

Discussion shifted to the claim of copyright violation. It was pointed out that not only did the Prouty Wikipedia entry already link to – where entire books of Prouty’s were available free of charge without any concern by Gamaliel for copyright – John McAdams’ attack site, to which Gamaliel had scrupulously added and re-added links more than thirty times to the Prouty entry over ten years – featured not only excerpts from copyrighted newspaper articles but entire articles. Of course, the copyright infringement claim by Gamaliel was another red herring. As was pointed out in the Talk section debate, both the Prouty site and the McAdams site arguably had a right to use copyrighted materials under fair use.

When over a course of days and weeks, all this was made clear in the Talk section, the question of’s commercial status was raised. Gamaliel alleged that was a “personal venture and not an official one” because one could buy “T-shirts and CDs unrelated to Prouty”. This claim seemed to have merit until it was realized that the commercial venture Gamaliel referred to was not at at all, but at another site – – linked to by Thus, one could not “purchase t-shirts and CDs” at at all. Gamaliel had confused it with another site.

At this point, one might think that with all objections answered, some fairness might be observed and returned to the external links. But Gamaliel simply returned to his original claim: that was not an official site, but a “fan site”. No matter that it had been conclusively shown that Prouty was alive when it was started. No matter that it had been shown the Prouty had written commentaries for the site and answered emails. Just like editing a Wikipedia entry, Gamaliel had simply “reverted” his reasoning to an early point. Gamaliel alleged that the site was additionally disqualified from Wikipedia because of its appearance – for using basic HTML – despite the fact that, likewise, the McAdams attack site was presented in the same basic HTML.

8. The “attack” page

Gamaliel and fellow editor “Amatulic,” who for billing himself as a “neutral, disinterested” party, nonetheless predictably intervened in the debate only to take issue with the “attack” page on a fellow Wikipedia editor – both circled around what for them was ultimately the real bone of contention: that Osanic through a single page on would have the temerity to put up the real picture of a normally-anonymous Wikipedia editor alongside a Nazi swastika that had somehow appeared on his userpage (a fact that was beyond dispute as Gamaliel himself admitted it). This, for them, was the chief horror,’s cardinal sin. It was not, for example, that someone with clear bias and no expertise (Gamaliel) had been dominating the Wikipedia entry of someone with real credentials (Prouty) for ten years. It was not that Gamaliel had been relentlessly adding external links to McAdams’ own attack site in which McAdams effectively called Prouty a “crackpot,” took some paragraphs out of context, and on account of being a professor at a minor university somewhere was given a free ride. It was not that Gamaliel had been adding text and skewing the entry to make Prouty look like an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, and a long-term employee of the Church of Scientology. It was not that because Gamaliel’s troll-like tactics at least two users had been banned from Wikipedia. It was not that Prouty’s own official site had been banned from Wikipedia (thanks to Gamaliel) while a set of fairly pathetic pages negative on Prouty were promoted – pages that violated copyright, were written in basic HTML, had “relatively low information,” and were in essence attack pages. None of these entered into Gamaliel’s (and Amatulic’s) thinking because such is par for the course on Wikipedia. Smearing and skewing the perception of people still in living memory like Prouty is the whole point, the whole raison d’etre of Wikipedia: computer geeks finding a way to feel empowered by squatting on the entries on people and things to assert their own views and to feel powerful by influencing public opinion.

The so-called attack page on [11] – which was decried on Wikipedia as “libellous” – consists really of a set of links to other articles critical of McAdams. Perhaps three-quarters of the page’s content is devoted to that purpose. The remainder – not more than two-hundred words – is under the heading “McAdams and Nazis”. It dares to name “Robert Fernandez of Florida” (Gamaliel’s real name) and mentions that the Nazi symbol was at one time on his user page. It does not ever say that Gamaliel was a Nazi.

The tone of the page is certainly negative, but this is perhaps understandable from the viewpoint of Osanic, who for being a friend of Prouty’s and having started a website with him, had to watch for ten years as he was told by Wikipedia editors that pages attacking Prouty were legitimate while Prouty’s own official site was not official at all but a “fan site” and “fringe” with “relatively low content” – despite all the original writings and interviews found there. Calling McAdams “asleep at the wheel” and quoting others who had alleged McAdams had engaged in “academic fraud,” it is hardly clear that the page amounts to libel – especially when American libel law holds there is a category called vulgar abuse which does not rise to the level of true libel.

Nonetheless, to understand the true hysteria caused in a Gamaliel or an Amatulic by the page, one has to recall again the Wikipedia editor type – the computer geek. Insulated by the fact that their faux-intellectual combat takes far away from the safety of their living rooms, offices, or parents’ basements, the Comic Book Guy Wikipedia editor is able to callously dismiss standards of basic fairness and intellectual integrity without any real personal consequence. It is a whole other ballgame when he is “outed” on the web, his name and very general location mentioned, since now all of the sudden he is no longer able to hide behind the armor of his screen name. Psychologically, it is as if the fantasy world of online Wikipedia jousting is burst, and reality comes flooding in.

It is worth noting here that Wikipedia guidelines themselves – on so-called “attack” pages – clearly state that if a site is not engaged in wide-ranging attacks on Wikipedia, but simply an attack on a single editor because of a dispute that has been taken personally, then that site should probably not be banned.

Even so, the official site was banned. What was the reason? At the end of a long “debate” in which reason after reason offered by Gamaliel was rebutted and even shown to be disingenuous, Gamaliel resorted finally to calling any criticism of him an “attack,” and threatened to close down discussion. At the same time, Gamaliel took the unusual step – almost unknown on Wikipedia pages – to “archive” the Talk section. Having had his arguments refuted one by one, Gamaliel sought to remove the discussion as far as possible from public view as well as to close it down generally. By the end of the year, the Talk section – in which countless objections had been raised against Gamaliel for ten years over biased texts, links to attack pages, and the banning of Prouty’s own official site – was “archived”. Visiting the Talk page today, one finds nothing but a number of warnings, and off to the right under a tiny hyperlink from the number “1” the old Talk page is buried.

Farewell, Wikipedia: We Hardly Knew Ye – Conclusion

Like any field of human endeavor, whenever there is an interest, there is usually corruption. In government, these are today called special interests, where one very narrow wish or desire on the part of some group or institution makes itself felt, usually at the expense of the whole. But the same goes for individuals.

There is an interest when it comes to certain Wikipedia entries. The interest may not be that of any shadowy government group seeking to control public opinion. It may simply be that of misguided individuals who for their own personal reasons, in the classic human way, ignore all reason and refusing to apply any self-restraint or self-reflection, do whatever it is they wish to do.

What is the interest of a Gamaliel in entries on the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, and countless others? He is certainly not one of the citizen-researchers who sorrowed by the sad gravity of the crime gave up decades of their lives to research what really happened, and to spread the word in a kind of underground movement by preserving an oral tradition. Instead, he is simply a rather unexceptional person who corresponds to a specific type – the computer-geek Wikipedia editor. Choosing an area with relatively easy targets – today the only people with an interest in the Kennedy assassination are “conspiracy theorists,” a group universally derided for simply saying a government might be lying – Gamaliel has brought his personal brand of superficial expertise to a massive online project (Wikipedia) in order to project himself (and his own views) into the world.

Does a Gamaliel care what might have really happened? As in so many cases, truth and morality do not matter; what is at issue is a sort of immediate satisfaction from dominating pale, glowing web pages, engaging in online shenanigans, getting users banned, and asserting one’s own view.

And what of a John McAdams? The slovenly professor, stubbornly resistant to political correctness, but happy to engage in similarly disreputable conduct against others – also represents an interest. Long haunting JFK assassination forums and even showing up at JFK research conventions, the professor is someone who proves that history is a tragedy and comedy at the same time. Though the assassination of Kennedy was not so much an assassination of a political official as the murder of a human being; and though that assassination reverberated down the decades through Vietnam, the Nixon shock, and the rise of a superimperialist police state now gunning down average citizens also in broad daylight – McAdams is happy to deny the historic crime because it gives him a certain personal satisfaction. That McAdams begins with the premise that the media narrative built around the Warren Report is true, and then cobbles his “factoids” around that premise – is self-evident. Just like a Gamaliel with an endlessly shifting set of reasons why must be banned from Wikipedia, the professor offers the most gullible among the public a reasonable-sounding premise, then shifts in an endlessly circular fashion around his factoids as each is refuted.

Does McAdams offer his peculiar gospel out of some invincible desire that America be the greatest country in the world? To protect an Eisenhower vision of an America of nuclear family values (including the death penalty) where human nature had finally been conquered and political officials did not engage in cold-blooded murder? It doesn’t seem quite that – there is after all a difference between smugness and self-righteous denial.

In footnote [5] below, an episode with McAdams is discussed in which, when a rather ethically dubious tie with Wal-Mart was exposed by The New York Times, McAdams responded – not by exonerating himself – but with an argument that the Times was worse for supposedly exposing national security secrets. In another incident as reported on by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McAdams was “chastised” by university officials for “hurling profane insults across the Internet – including accusations of drug use and pedophilia”. [10] According to the article, McAdams defended himself by “saying he was responding in kind” This now-nearly elderly professor thus defended himself in both episodes by shifting the blame to others – they were “worse,” they “did it first”. A more primitive level of argumentation and self-appraisal can hardly be found. Yet McAdams stubbornly, righteously asserts in the article: “If I called somebody a bimbo, it’s in reaction to something. I refuse to be bound by any notion of political correctness”.

The professor seems hardly an adult. Indeed, he is less a principled iconoclast than contrary child. For all of his decrying political correctness, he is not against orthodoxy.  He is perfectly happy with orthodoxy when it affords him the same satisfaction that a Wikipedia editor derives from it: a way of looking smart, a way to be considered an authority and to dispense opinions on the folly of others. If he were truly against orthodoxy, he would be an opponent of the American state religion and its dogma that holds that Kennedy was miraculously (in the strict sense of religious miracle) shot from the front by a bullet from behind, which also came from other directions, and passed through multiple bones and bodies before developing “reverse trajectory momentum,” crawling out of a wound and falling out on the wrong stretcher where it could be discovered with only a slight deformation at the back as if someone had bit on it for a few minutes, thinking hard. He might doubt the Christ-like ability of Oswald to appear in different forms in multiple places at once – on the grassy knoll as a non-existent Secret Service agent; near the body of J.D. Tippit looking like one or two men with dissimilar appearance; in Mexico City months earlier where he could be photographed as a man totally different in appearance. Of course, since McAdams does find safe haven in a Catholic university, it is possible that he is comfortable with these miracles.

And what of Prouty? It is, after all, his Wikipedia entry that is the occasion for this article – and ten years of shameless, stomach-turning, and laughable shenanigans that put the lie to the assertion that people have any strong and enduring relationship to truth. Prouty was a long-time military man who was actually in and around the Pentagon during the historical events he later wrote about. Later, when he candidly and at some personal risk offered a vision of covert activies and high power that was totally unknown to most Americans,  he came under a certain amount of attack and a very national species of human stupidity was turned against him. The stupidity continues today on Wikipedia. For ten years, Prouty’s entry has been dominated by a single editor with the occasional help of an eccentric professor. The editor has no connection to Prouty at all, but simply has a commonly-held view when it comes to the Kennedy assassination. The professor has no special credibility on Prouty or the Kennedy assassination other than that he has opinions on both topics and is a professor. He also wrote a book – like countless others. But their view together dominates the Prouty entry and other entries on Wikipedia – an editor whose real interest was comics, and a professor in a related field who never published anything peer-reviewed on the subject(s).

For topics that are non-controversial – entries on trigonometric functions or geographical entries – Wikipedia can be a useful tool. For any entries where parties may have an interest, Wikipedia is essentially useless. For all its claims to universality, Wikipedia is an enterprise driven by a sub-culture of computer geeks, and “objective” is whatever appeals to their deep-seated biases and assumptions. Just as the Anonymous hacking group has a special abhorrence of Scientology, Wikipedia has separate guidelines for anything written on Scientology. So “consensus” is whatever reflects the particular worldview of a mostly Anglo-American male set of computer users. There is no text on Wikipedia on any topic where parties might have an interest that is not slanted in some direction, sometimes in crudely cunning ways. The idea that the public should find information on Wikipedia reliable has been widely shown to be untenable, and they idea that individuals should spend their valuable time creating and editing of Wikipedia entries is now laughable.



[2] Despite the groupthink to the contrary, there has never been a single “official” story on the assassination. We learn today, for example, that Jackie Kennedy thought Lyndon Johnson was responsible. Johnson himself, in at least one phone call, said he didn’t believe the lone gunman story. Robert Kennedy, through his son, is now said to have disbelieved the Warren Commission’s findings. Thus, despite what we were told, among those who “knew better,” America’s so-called leaders, belief in a conspiracy was there, whatever their public statements. On the Warren Commission itself, there were at least three skeptics who absented themselves from proceedings once the “fix was in,” including Senator Richard Russell. The “Report” issued by the Commission itself does not agree with the other twenty-six volumes of evidence presented by the Commission, often directly contradicting details in those volumes. Indeed, the Warren Commission theory of the assassination broke with the FBI theory of the crime in May 1964 (with the Commission devising a magic bullet theory independent of the FBI’s own reconstruction). A decade later, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations issued its findings, it found that there had “probably” been a conspiracy – contradicting the Warren Report. Despite all this, it is still said there is one “official” version of events; and so, the Kennedy assassination still remains under a taboo, and publicly doubting the official story is an invitation to ridicule.

[3] Popular culture in the US, the UK, and elsewhere aligns itself today with “science,” in the very broadest sense. But far from this being a triumph over past dark ages of superstition and magical thinking – the story science tells to itself – today’s popular scientific worldview is not scientific in the sense of the scientific method. Rather, it simply reflects the cultural prejudices of a particular group of today’s scientists for whom, in truth, absence of evidence means evidence of absence. Members of the public, including would-be intellectuals like Wikipedia editors, look to scientists for what to believe, and in turn are guided to state-sponsored dogmas like Kennedy denialism because to scientists buried away in their laboratories or academics protected in their tiny, neat offices, political assassinations for being outside their experience are simply too improbable to be real. Then imitators and aspirants like contributors to a Wikipedia or RationalWiki follow suit, absolutely sure in their convictions that political conspiracies are as impossible as unicorns and flying dragons – essentially because smarter people tell them so. Of course, this simply reflects the cultural prejudices of that worldview. People with a more complete education, one that resembles the classical education that in generations past people received even in America, are – on the other hand – more acquainted with the idea of human folly. Those educated in the classics and the traditions that come to us from antiquity know that there is no limit to human folly – that human folly is itself a “natural law” – and for that reason realize there is no limit to the mischief and evil possible in the hearts of men. Conspiracies – far from being exceptions – are the rule: conspiracies of silence in the family when it comes to a father’s alcoholism or a mother’s mental illness; conspiracies of silence when a black man is lynched in a town and the whole town knows who did it without any arrests; conspiracies of silence among countless thousands of people who knew Jews, gypsies, and others were being murdered factory-style in Germany during the Holocaust; conspiracies of silence when it comes to open knowledge of corruption by elites in Washington, D.C., on Wall Street, and in other power-centers among the elites themselves – and so on. Conspiracies are the norm because human beings are weak, and as history shows, are nowhere near as principled as they like to present themselves. Most people go along – they are followers – who know how to keep their mouths shut. Scientists who trumpet the view that “somebody would have talked” or that “somebody would have sold all this to the National Enquirer” expose their own arrogance with a view of common people consistent with the idea members of the public are merely little children unable to control themselves – unlike exalted scientists, etc.


[5] There are a great many people (at least in the U.S.) in favor of the death penalty. Influenced by the Old Testament God of vengeance, and thinking that putting a criminal death amounts to an absolute communication to the criminal of society’s displeasure – like the final say in an argument – common people around the world hold the view that it is right and proper for the State in certain cases to put people to death. The point here is not to say whether the death penalty is “right”. Rather, it is to point out the anomaly of an academic writing academic articles in favor of strapping a human being into a medieval wooden chair and running 1,000 volts through his body until it cooks, his eyes exploding and him defecating along the way. Or perhaps strapping him to a gurney and injecting him with an exotic cocktail of chemicals until his heart stops. Not only does such a view demonstrate a remarkable faith in the justice system to never make a mistake (McAdams demonstrates a similar wondrous faith in the Warren Commission), it also leaves aside the issue of all the botched executions in which people don’t immediately die during electrocution and are put to death through prolonged torture; or when the right chemicals improperly injected, or the wrong chemicals are given to begin with, result in convulsions, pain, etc. An academic arguing for such things is truly unique, and the dubious moral character of the argument makes one draw parallels with, say, academics who argue in favor of eugenics. (Perhaps it is no coincidence that McAdams writes his tender missives in favor of murder from his home at that eminent “Christian” institution – the Catholic Jesuit Marquette University.)

[6] McAdams is a unique case in other respects. While one can respect his staunch stance against political correctness, even that seems to stem from his overall disposition to be a perverse contrarian. In 2006, The New York Times reported that McAdam’s “Marquette Warrior” blog was one of a network of blogs on a Wal-Mart PR mailing list used by Wal-Mart to seed the Internet with reporting and commentary favorable to Wal-Mart. As Marqutte Warrior bills itself as an “independent, rather skeptical view of events at Marquette University,” it is not clear why an in-house campus blog would be on Wal-Mart’s list of blog outlets other than that perhaps there were very few for Wal-Mart to choose from. Nevertheless, as with being pro-death penalty – a position which even if held, to actively campaign for is in bad taste – McAdams seems in this case to have a moral compass one-hundred-eighty degrees away from standard notions of decency and common sense. Wal-Mart is, by all accounts, a ruthless and intimidating corporation that gives its workers the least it possibly can. Moreover, the vast majority of its goods are not made in America at all. That does not trouble a “conservative” like McAdams, however, who is happy to advocate for a company that offers jobs well below a respectable middle-class standard of living and sells mostly Chinese goods. Indeed, upon being exposed by The New York Times, McAdams took to his Marquette Warrior blog. Without denying the Times story’s accuracy in any way, McAdams nonetheless argued that whatever the dubious ethics of secretly (if half-heartedly) whoring himself out for Wal-Mart, for printing “leaked material that is arguably damaging to national security,” the Times was worse.



[8] Though the character “X” was based mainly on Prouty, the dramatic encounter was based partly on a separate meeting Garrison had in New York with Richard Case Nagell, in which both sat on a park bench as Garrison and X did in the film. Nagell had his own view of the assassination, claiming foreknowledge – a claim seemingly backed up by the fact that Nagell walked into a bank before the assassination, fired a gun into the ceiling, and sat down waiting to be arrested – this, Nagell claimed, because he wanted an airtight alibi and nothing to do with the killing.

[9] See’s entry on Wikipedia for a detailed analysis of the online atrocity over a ten-year period:





3 thoughts on “Anatomy of an Online Atrocity: Wikipedia, Gamaliel, and the Fletcher Prouty entry

  1. Hollywood Mark says:

    Good piece. I don’t know it you realize but it became public a couple of years ago that CIA has a whole group of folks just editing Wikipedia entries. I’m sure they farm some of it out. The fact that this guy might be a South Florida Cuban and the subject involves JFK – well, you can draw your own conclusions. Keep up the good fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pete Orr says:

    Wow – awesome article – read it at CTKA web-site. Truly frightening to see how much power persons like Gamaliel and Macadams can wield over the dissemination of “knowledge”.

    Liked by 1 person

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