Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Loch Ness Monster and Wikipedia Wars

If you want to control what people think, then you have to control what they read. That's a well enough established fact from history and today I learnt something new about scepticism, especially as it appertains to the Loch Ness Monster. 

You won't be surprised to know that the wikipedia page on the Loch Ness Monster is one of the most visited pages by people wishing to learn more about the monster. Up until a week ago, there were some references to my work on it, which have been there for years.

However, somebody by the name of "Bloodofox" decided they should no longer be there and edited them out. This came a week after I had given a highly critical review of Darren Naish's "Hunting Monsters" on Amazon. Coincidence? Maybe not, but for now I am not discounting it.

Two of the entries deleted were to do with the Hugh Gray photograph and an article I had written on St. Columba's encounter with a monster. The Hugh Gray entry used to read:

On 12 November 1933, Hugh Gray was walking along the loch after church when he reportedly saw a large creature rising from the lake. Gray took several pictures, but only one was successfully developed. The blurry image appeared to show a creature with a long tail and thick body on the surface of the loch.[35] Although critics have claimed that the photograph is of Gray's Labrador Retriever swimming towards the camera (possibly carrying a stick), researcher Roland Watson suggests that there is an eel-like head on the right side of the image.[36] This is the first known photograph of the creature.

Footnote 36 would then link to my Hugh Gray article. That entire paragraph is now deleted and the photo relegated to a small mention at the top:

On 6 December 1933 the first purported photograph of the monster, taken by Hugh Gray, was published in the Daily Express;[16]

The reference to the Columba account used to have this line added:

The oldest manuscript relating to this story was put online in 2012.[21]

Footnote 21 linked to my article on the Columba story. Looking at the revision history for the page,  Bloodofox gave his less than unbiased and unprejudiced reasons for the edit:

Gutted non-academic, cryptozoology/pseudoscience, dead, and amateur monster hunting websites (definitely not reliable sources). Clarity—a tiny portion of people out there are "cryptozoologists", most simply encounter the being in popular culture.

Do I think this guy has an agenda?  You bet. Now I can hear the excuses already. Wikipedia only deals in facts and so all this cryptozoology and pseudoscience should be censored. Actually, the deleted text suggesting an eel like head is visible in the Hugh Gray photo is not pseudo-science. There is an eel-like head visible in the photo. Now whether one wants to put it down to paredolia or a real fish is a matter of opinion. Visitors to the Wikipedia page should be told this and given the opportunity to make up their own minds on this.

Just because a sceptic finds it inconvenient, is no reason for editing it out. You control what they read, you control what they think. The Columba edit actually makes no argument for or against a monster, it just links to my article. But, since that article argues that Columba saw the same species of animal that we today call the Loch Ness Monster clearly rankles with our sceptical editor.

Actually, a look at his Wikipedia profile shows that he is interested in folklore but does not like cryptozoology. Doubtless, he has his own opinion on what Columba encountered and does not want more exotic interpretations to "pollute" people's minds. You control what they read, you control what they think.

Now I wouldn't care if someone edited in arguments that the Hugh Gray photo only shows a dog or a swan. I wouldn't make any censorious attempts to edit them back out. They may be no more than speculations, but in the interest of freedom of speech and disseminating opinion, they should be there. That also applies to opinions which are cryptozoological in nature.

You control what they read, you control what they think. Scepticism just plumbed new depths this week.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com


  1. There are some nasty vindictive people on the net don't let it get you down GB.

    1. Yes, I figured that out years ago when I began to challenge some pet theories.

  2. Wikipedia is great, but this is the rubbish side of it. I agree that you were adding to an encyclopaedia article, and this character doesn't like it. But there's no place in Wikipedia for people like this.

  3. I don't believe your review of the Naish book was highly critical myself, but maybe he did.

  4. A couple of years ago a prominent Radio host was talking about his Wikipedia page he said he found a lot of it was inaccurate.He has had a career in academia and the Military and is a retired Professor.When he tried to correct the inaccuracies Wikipedia would not let him.His new material was deleted and the old information re-instated.

    It seems Wikipedia is not always accurate.

    He deals with alternative and controversial subjects.

  5. For years I taught in a graduate school of library science, and the first thing (well, one of the first things) we taught was proper selection of sources. That is, determining what could be "trusted" and what couldn't be. Tops among the "don't trust" sources was Wikipedia. While acknowledging that we all often start there, for anything beyond finding out about obscure video games or episodes of Dr. Who, it altogether too biased. This is true especially of modern history, current biographies, or controversial subjects (like cryptozoology). And heaven help a student who cited Wikipedia in a paper with a good justification. -OzinOr

    1. Yes, I guess using Wikipedia is now a byword for laziness.

    2. Wiki is a decent enough place to start a search. It provides links which of course lead to more links. It's only lazy if you don't keep digging. Regarding skeptics. Ever notice its only the ignorant who think they know everything.

  6. Ok just to be clear. I've been repeatedly censored when replying to comments politely on this blog. The author Roland Watson frequently boasts of how the blog gets so many hits and appears high on google searches. Roland is controlling information available to the masses by censoring arguments which run counter to his own. He dresses that up as "stopping lies" but he knows he's stifling honest debate.

    Therefore from now on I will do my best to challenge Watson's Nessie nonsense wherever I can on the internet outside this blog. I will also endeavour to keep the Wikipedia entry free of links to this site, until such time that Watson allows open discussion here.

    1. The problem with your comments is not the lack of politeness. It is disinformation.

      You bring up arguments which I have addressed many times on this blog. You can't be bothered digging around to find them, you just regurgitate them. Why can't you go and find out?

      Also, your posts are ill informed or half-truths. I am not "controlling information" as what you post is not "information". Stop having such a high regard for your comments.

      As to your final comment, it looks like the real sceptic has finally surfaced.

  7. If you value your own opinion put your name to it I say, or else why should anyone else value them.

  8. Hello, I have been reading this blog for probably a year and a half but have never commented. I've been up all night (with an exam tomorrow) reading more of this blog and this post really angered me as I had initially discovered the blog by checking the citations of the wiki page and I was quite impressed by your extensive analysis of the Hugh Grey photo. I had never read anything on this sort of subject so carefully researched and so full of fresh information and not simply rehashing the same set of factoids used by basically everyone. I can also attest to your position on the account of St. Columba's time by the Loch as I read it in my Latin class two semesters ago (obviously in the original Latin). I don't necessarily believe in the monster but I do have an interest in it and Hugh Grey's photo definitely shows something very strange and I have you to thank for making that clear to me.

    1. Before an exam on cryptids I hope?

      The wikipedia wars will be resolved in due time.