We tend to assume that information found online will be reliable. That Google provides unbiased search results, that Wikipedia is a decent alternative to Brittanica. My experience with the abusive and totalitarian Sai Baba follower Gerald "Joe" Moreno has shown me one example of how Google and other resources like Wordpress and Pipl can be manipulated.
For those who want background on the Moreno story, and my changing position regarding Sai Baba and his supporters and critics, I have provided a comprehensive account here. The following screenshots show search results for three Sai Baba ex-devotees who have been the object of Joe's obsessional attentions, Sanjay Dadlani, Robert Priddy, and myself. For the sake of convenience I have only included the first page of Google search results in each case; further pages give additional evidence. For a complete listing of links regarding Moreno's activities, see Gerald Joe Moreno: The Methodology of an Internet Propagandist by Brian Steel. So extensive is the disinformation and biasing of the original search results that the term "infovandalism" may appropriately be applied. All three screenshots were made on the 2nd April 2008. Doubtless results will change with time. Note that although Google has a complaints form, they don't seem to have acted on this matter
I have used a colour scheme to mark the relevant pages.
Short annoitations are given in the margin to the right.
Blogger Sanjay seems to be among the worst affected. A whopping eight out of ten hits on the first page are the result of Moreno's machinations, either directly or (for the last three) more indirectly
The only totally favourable hit (in fourth place) is to Sanjay's page which I posted here on Kheper. The other page (the Observer), with Sanjay's complaint, includes an equally long response by Moreno (or as he calls himself "the Equalizer", stifle a few guffaws here). Sanjay's blog home page is not anywhere to be seen.
Barry Pittard, who I have mentioned in my account of my investigation into Sai Baba ex-devotees and antagonistic devotees, and who is one of the most high principles human beings I have met, maintains an important blog on Sai Baba. This only appears at third place, being crowded above and below by Joe's contributions:
Robert's google page is a little better, thanks to his presence on Wikipedia (hit number two, the first is to a Wikipedia disambiguation page). Wikipedia can trump Moreno because its prefered rankings in Google are higher than any benefits Joe gets from the Sai Baba organisation links and his own multiple site cross-links. As would be expected, the Wikipedia pages are followed by a couple of Moreno attack pages. Robert's own website only appears at ranking no.5, when it should ideally be in first place (or even if one allows for Wikipedia's google rankings, third place). 6, 7, and 8 show more Morenian activity, and the last two hits refer to other Robert Priddys.
Finally, my own search results (yes, like most people I engage in a little vanity by googling my name :-) are somewhat better, as the first three hits are to authentic pages. My Wikipedia user page is in first place (again due to the Wikipedia preferred rankings), and my Kheper bio and index page in 2nd and 3rd place.
There then follows four typically obsessional Morenian (if you'll excuse the neologism) pages, the first of which he rather optimistically titles the "official home page for M. Alan Kazlev". The next page (no.8 in the ranking) refers to an online essay I wrote on Integral Philosophy two years ago, and 9 and 10 are my bio pages on the Palaeos website and the Gaia (formerly Zaadz) Community
Joe has more pages on me, but they are buried in later pages of the search results (page 3 onwards).
A couple of days later I decided to check the search results for several other ex-devotees and non-ex-devotee critics. Once again, the same pattern is in evidence.
Andries Kruger Dagneaux is a cult critic and wikipedia editor, regarding whom Moreno has made exagerated claims that I found were unfounded even very early one (when I was still sympathetic to Sai Baba and to Moreno). We see his own authentic results again crowded out by a smokescreen of slande.r
Reinier van der Sandt is a Dutch Jazz musician who is also a Sai Baba critic. He was never a devotee. Here again we see how Moreno's disinformation tactics have skewered the search results. Anyone searching the English-language Google for "Reinier van der Sandt" will encounter two slander websites before arriving at Reinier's own pages
Kevin Shepherd is the author of Citizen Initiative, a British website and project that investigates a number of topics, including educational priorities versus commercial gains, “new spirituality” (including Findhorn, and Transpersonal author Stan Grof), drugs and alternative therapy; these latter froma sceptical point of view. He gained Joe's ire through criticism of Sai Baba on Wikipedia, where he first came across obstruction by Moreno and De Witt (this was before the former of the duo was banned).
Note that in Moreno dishonestly titles one his pages (incidentally the one that appears first in the Google rankings), "Citizen Initiative Publishing". This is similar to the way he entitles his webpage on me "the Official Home Page for M. Alan Kazlev".
The astute reader, in glancing over the content of the above seven screen shots, will notice a tedious degree of repetition, a forcing of such diverse individuals as those mentioned on this page (and many more besides; this list could easily be tripled or quadruplied in length) into a procrustean mould of anti-Sai Baba critic. Words like "biased", "extremist", "deception", "anti-Sai", and of course Moreno's favourite, "exposed" (might this be a Freudian slip?) reveal a narcissistic mindset, in which the only thing in the universe that is of relevance is whether or not an individual criticises Sai Baba, or, for that matter, Moreno himself.
But psychologically, this is only to be expected from an authoritarian and obsessional individual; their obsession lies precisely in the fact that such a person is unable to extricate themselves from their self-imposed mental and emotional trench.
What is of much greater concern is the ease with which a single individual, with a little knowledge of Google ranking system, can sabotage Google Search ratings in quite a big way. Despite his importance in that corner of the infosphere concerned with either investigating ior defending Sai Baba, Moreno is still ultimately nothing but a puny fish in a tiny puddle. The frightening thing is who knows how often Government, propaganda, religious, cultic, and/or terrorist organisations manipulate Google, Wikipedia, and other sources of public knowledge, and hence influence public opinion, according to their own hidden or perhaps not so hidden agenda?
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