Whenever I think of the Deepakity, I’m immediately reminded of Maru the Cat, who, explaining his obsession with jumping into boxes of all sizes, said, “When I see a box, I cannot help but enter.”
And so it is with Chopra. This is a metaphor of course, but think of Chopra as Maru and the New Atheists as boxes of varying sizes. Chopra cannot stand the fact that, as a group, we consider him an unrepentant quack, and a polluter of genuine science with his quantum obfuscation. He’s obsessed with being taken seriously as a scientist, and with the rest of us paying attention to his ridiculous lucubrations. I hope that one of these days he’ll just give up. In the meantime, he directs his Twi**er comments obsessively toward Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, Michael Shermer, and me (the smallest box), not realizing that, with the rare exception of Shermer, nobody ever answers him. I never even see his tw**ts, for I use Twi**er only to announce the posts here. And why on earth should I pay the slightest attention to someone who says stuff like this?:
I was reminded of all this because skeptic and tech expert Tim Farley has a new post about it over at Skeptical Software Tools, a piece called “Misleading posts in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter Feed verge on trolling.”
Inspired by a note from Susan Gerbic, head of the admirable outfit Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, Farley used his skills to dig into the history of Chopra’s tw**ts. And his findings were at once funny (for us) and sad (for Deepak):
It used to be that digging around in old tweets was very difficult, because Twitter’s search function only went back a few weeks. But last year Twitter enhanced search to include years of old tweets. Using Twitter’s advanced search function (which has also been recently enhanced), I dug deeper into Chopra’s Twitter feed to see how often he does things like this.
What emerges is a sad pattern of a man who has almost 2 million followers (and a verified account!) acting as if it is vitally important his followers see that he is debating with certain key atheists on Twitter. He also seems bizarrely obsessed with getting certain people to read his blog. In the process I believe he’s skirting the Twitter rules on spam, and encouraging bad behavior in some of his co-authors as well.
The results of Farley’s analysis aren’t surprising:
You don’t have to go far down Deepak Chopra’s twitter feed most days to find him mentioning one or another of the so-called “New Atheists” in a tweet. A casual observer might believe that Chopra is constantly having conversations on Twitter with them, debating and exchanging ideas.
But a click or two quickly shows that these tweets are very rarely part of conversations. They are one-sided affairs instigated by Chopra and rarely if ever reciprocated. The one exception is PZ Myers who has tweeted at Chopra about the same number of times Chopra has to him.
I used Twitter’s advanced search to run up the totals for seven accounts I’ve seen Chopra tweeting: Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, PZ Myers and Michael Shermer. I found that the actual conversations are the exception, not the rule.
In fact, dating back to 2010 there are well over 1,000 separate mentions (in over 850 tweets – he often mentions multiple people per tweet) from Deepak Chopra to the seven. He’s only ever gotten just over 50 mentions in return. That’s a ratio of something like 18 or 20 to one, depending on how you count. I’m not Twitter’s enforcement department, but in my humble opinion that looks like spam or abuse to me. Although some of these tweets date back to 2010, the frequency has markedly increased since January 2013 and continues to this day.
Three of the people involved have never @-mentioned Chopra on Twitter, even once (Coyne, Dawkins and Dennett), as far as I can find. Indeed, it only takes a quick look at their feeds to notice that neither Daniel Dennett nor Jerry Coyne ever reply to anyone – they merely use their Twitter to post announcements. (Coyne has clearly stated this on his blog). [JAC: It is not a blog!]
Here’s one of hundreds of examples where he desperately wants someone (Dawkins in this case) to READ CHOPRA’S STUFF:
Farley notes re the above (and then below):
Used sparingly, this is a valid technique on Twitter. It can even be considered a courtesy if that person is mentioned in the post. I’ve done it myself. But in my opinion Chopra takes it to an extreme, even doing such things as retweeting himself.
Another way Chopra abuses this is by retweeting the same link to multiple people over and over. Notice here how he repeatedly tweets the same video to Jerry Coyne (along with some others) back in November:
Chopra also has minions who follow his lead, and one of them in particular is a nasty piece of work:
If you recall from the previous post about Chopra’s Wikipedia conflict-of-interest problem, last November Chopra wrote a four-part article titled the “Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism”, which various people including Steven Novella and Jerry Coyne savagely critiqued.
Chopra’s co-author on that series was Jordan Flesher, a young psychology student who apparently has learned his Twitter habits from Chopra. What’s immediately striking about Flesher’s timeline is how Chopra-focused it is. He retweets Chopra constantly, and very often tweets pleas to major atheists to read some article or another, very similar to Chopra’s:
I believe Deepak Chopra is being disingenuous by constantly posting to these people. While it is true that he has debated some of them face-to-face, for instance Dawkins and Shermer, surely he has noticed by now that they never reply to him on Twitter. Thus the posts serve only the purpose of “show” for his own followers. The mean spiritedness of some of the posts seems to be part of that.
Meanwhile, he is pushing the limits of what Twitter clearly defines as spam, in his ongoing efforts to get these people to engage with his writing. He repeatedly tweet the same links over and over in violation of Twitter’s clearly stated rules.
It’s really kind of sad. The rest of Chopra’s Twitter feed (the part where he’s not selling something) is littered with exhortations to be at one with the universe and to be calm and peaceful. Too bad he doesn’t listen to his own advice, and realize that it really doesn’t matter to the universe if Richard Dawkins reads his latest blog post.
These are my favorite tw**ts Chopra has directed at me, though I didn’t see them till someone called them to my attention. The first was elicited by the estimable Sharon Hill, creator and editor of Doubtful News:
Homo Erectus! If Chopra knew his science, he’d know that “erectus” isn’t capitalized.
And then there are these nasty bits:
Actually, I adore this stuff. I don’t care about the attention from others, as I don’t hear about it anyway, but I love it that Chopra, despite his pretense of calmness and oneness with the Quantum Consciousness of the Universe, simply can’t stay out of the New Atheist Box. He’s one of those thin-skinned people, who, like Peter Hitchens and Ross Douthat, hasn’t yet learned the first lesson of internet journalism: try not to respond when someone goes after you. It rarely improves your situation. Now sometimes I do respond, but only when I think there’s a point to be made.
And if Chopra reads this, as he undoubtedly will, let me tell him once again, letting slip a bit of invective in response to his: “Deepak, I do not read Twi**er. I pay no attention to your posts, so please stop tw**ting at me. And, for the record, I think you’re not only a quack, but a mean-spirited man whose behavior violates the very principles you try to sell. Oh, and you’re about as far from being a real scientist as is Rupert Sheldrake: that is, in the scientific solar system, you’re well out beyond Pluto.”