The plot thickens: The Tennessean, paid wikipedia edits and Mercy Ministries PR agenda

If you are not already familiar with Mercy Ministries’ pattern of censorship nor the recent developments regarding a controversial article in The Tennessean, you may wish to familiarise yourself.  For your assistance, Mercy Ministries’ history of censorship is explored at length here, and the ever-elusive article in question is discussed here.

After emailing The Tennessean querying why they published an article written by a senior staff member of Mercy Ministries promoting their organisation as news, and why they then discreetly obliterated every trace of it from the internet as well as all professional news data sources, it seems they do not wish to be forthcoming.  Instead, they demanded that I “furnish” them my name before entering into any further correspondence with me.  For a moment, I was tempted to furnish them with “Tall Boy”.  However, upon strong advice from two journalists who advised me that their request was highly suspicious and unorthodox, especially given that they are the ones who have behaved in such a suspicious manner, I opted to decline.

Which leaves us to review and speculate upon the evidence available.

Below is a timeline of the events to date: –

2 October 2012

The Tennessean published an Opinion Editorial penned by Christy Singleton, Executive Director of Mercy Ministries of America. It simplified the issue of eating disorders, citing over-sexualisation of children and body image issues as the “root causes”, which served as a preamble to what was effectively a cut-and-paste job from Mercy’s very own website promo material.

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(Further article text can be viewed here).

Within hours, the Mercy Ministries Wikipedia article was severely tampered with, packed full of promotional spin, with the controversy section being reduced to a four line paragraph towards the end.  Furthermore, it now referenced four highly positive articles from The Tennessean, up from just one.  Furthermore, a copy of this version of the Mercy Ministries Wikipedia article appears to have been duplicated on another online encyclopedia website, enc.tfode.com.

3 & 4 October 2012

Promotion of Singleton’s article quickly ensued on Mercy Ministries’ and Nancy Alcorn’s social media feeds.

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4 October 2012

Shut Down Mercy Ministries challenged The Tennessean’s journalistic integrity, drawing attention to their current and historical favourable disposition towards Mercy Ministries.

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21 October 2012

Lisa Kerr of My Cult Life published a piece regarding Mercy Ministries’ and their 2012 PR thrust, drawing particular attention to this timely article.

Of even date, Wikipedia user DownRightMighty who had made the said edits to the Mercy Ministries article and had brazenly accused others of having multiple accounts was outed as a sock puppet and “serial abuser of Wikipedia”, paid by dozens of organisations, to covertly edit Wikipedia articles on their behalf.

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Furthermore, the “mother” sockpuppet of DownRightMighty (Morning277) had previously attempted to censor critical information from this article, in addition to two other IP addresses belonging to Mercy Ministries.

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23 October 2012

It was confirmed by an administrator of Wikipedia who investigates conflicts of interest that DownRightMighty was, in fact, PAID BY MERCY MINISTRIES to edit the Mercy Ministries article on their behalf.

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Furthermore, below is a screenshot of his professional Elance profile.

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8 November 2012

UsedEdgesII then blew in and attempted to accuse another user of sock puppetry, only for it to have backfired and him being exposed as – wait for it – another sock puppet, from the same sock puppet farm as Mike (Morning277) above.

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He did not attempt to edit the Mercy Ministries article, but instead deleted references made on the talk page to DownRightMighty being a Mercy-paid sock puppet.

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20 November 2012

Still, further edits were attempted by IP address 161.119.83.65, however were quickly reversed by the supervising administrator.

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At some point within mid-November and early December 2012

The Tennessean article in question, along with every trace of it, disappeared from The Tennessean’s website, the internet and cached pages, as well as all professional news data sources, such as Factiva, LexusNexus, Newspaper Source, ProQuest and News Bank.  In addition, links to this article previously duplicated across dozens of PR and marketing websites (commonly used by Mercy Ministries to promote their organisation) no longer work.

Since our original letter to The Tennessean, it has come to our attention that the same drastic measures have been employed to remove at least one further article from this publication – “Nancy Alcorn admits problems at Australian Mercy Ministries” by Bob Smietana, published on or about 3 August 2008.  Original link here, duplicated text viewable here.

Articles such as this were also the subject of criticism by Shut Down Mercy Ministries on 4 October 2012, highlighting the The Tennessean’s consistently sympathetic regard toward Mercy Ministries, even through the media storm of 2008 exposing abuse in both Australian and US homes.

Furthermore, this article had been peaking at fourth and fifth place on Mercy Ministries Google searches for a number of months, if not years.

11 December 2012

Mercy Survivors published a screenshot and further text of the recent article, together with a letter emailed to the Editor of The Tennessean seeking information on why this story was removed, and why it was published as news in the first place.

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At present, a search of the term “Mercy Ministries” on The Tennessean website currently yields 73 results, and only The Tennessean, Mercy Ministries and God Himself know how many other articles have been covertly removed, with no advice or explanation provided to the Tennessean community which they claim to serve.

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It seems rather remarkable that during a period of intense PR campaign for Mercy Ministries, The Tennessean published such a questionable, conflict-of-interest article by their Executive Director regurgitating their website material, and within hours, most extreme edits were made to Mercy’s wikipedia page by a Mercy-funded stooge.

What possible reason could The Tennessean have in making such desperate and extreme attempts to remove all traces of these articles?

Was it the clear-as-day conflict of interest posed by the authorship, as highlighted by Shut Down Mercy Ministries and My Cult Life?

Or, perhaps The Tennessean are uneasy about attention being drawn to the nature of their relationship that with Mercy Ministries, as evidenced in their  several years worth of published puffery?

If one considers that the article may have been removed at Mercy Ministries’ direction, what possible obligation would The Tennessean have to remove what they publish as news?  What would this say (or confirm) about their relationship with Mercy Ministries?

And why do The Tennessean demand a name from us which they say is for reasons of “accountability”, when they have not behaved in a transparent and open manner with the public about the content they publish and then discreetly remove?

From the evidence available and The Tennessean’s cagey response and demand for a name, it appears there is a strong case for the case that they are, in fact, in a relationship that exceeds the charter of “reporter/subject”, and that they are colluding with Mercy Ministries and their current PR agenda.

Written By Mercy Survivors

Support for survivors of Mercy Ministries

One Comment on “The plot thickens: The Tennessean, paid wikipedia edits and Mercy Ministries PR agenda

  1. […] the Aussie government in 2008 for misrepresentation. The Mercy Survivors wrote extensively about it here and was able to get a screen shot of the since vanished, very recent, op-ed piece Mercy Ministries […]

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