The Internet War Against Amway is not a traditional war with General’s directing units to attack our weaknesses (at least I don’t think so!). The war is more like the kind of “war” some religious or political fundamentalists wage. There is a relatively small number of people who believe they know “the truth” and they are obsessed with spreading this “truth” and “saving” people – and they don’t care about any innocent folk who might be hurt in the process, or the possibility that they themselves may be wrong.
Governments and their agencies such as the FTC, judges, sporting superstars, actors. and their managers, top companies and their leaders and lawyers, the UN, UNICEF, historians, business academics etc etc … thousands of these professionals have invested time and money investigating Amway – and decided to support the company. The anti-Amway obsessives however believe that these people have also somehow been duped. They believe that both Republican and Democrat adminstrations in the United States, as well as governments of a multitude of political hues around the world, have either been “bought” or duped for nearly 50 years. It’s ironic that these anti-Amway … dare I say it … “cultists” believe that they alone have “the truth” and they are “saving” people from “evil” by “spreading the word” – yet one of their charges is that Amway is a cult!
A good example of the activities of one of these anti-amway cultists has occurred in the last few days on probably the most visited web page about Amway after Amway.com – Wikipedia’s Amway article. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, an open Wiki (a similar open Wiki dedicated to Amway is at www.amwaywiki.com). Not ony is Wikipedia the second most visited site for Amway searches, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 55% of young American’s consider it “very credible” or “extremely credible”. This is well over double the trust put in corporate advertising and nearly 20% higher than the trust put in company websites. Only business magazines are trusted more.
The Amway wikipedia article is in my opinion quite heavily biased against the Amway business. At least 3/4 of the article refers to criticism of the business. There is no mention of the number of people it has helped around the world go into business for themselves. There is no mention of the Amway One by One program for children. No mention of sporting sponsorships. No mention of the UNESCO TransPolar model, or support for the Genoa World Expo. There’s no mention of the many awards it’s products have won and only one line referring to Amway’s well known environmental activism and UN award. There’s not even any mention of Alticor’s 2005 award for Corporate Citizenship.
Why so little positive? Well, one reason is Wikipedia’s “Conflict of Interest “, which recommends against anyone with any connection with a company from directly editing articles related to that company. Due to Amway’s business model, this means that not only should Amway employees avoid editing the article, but that by far the majority of people who support Amway, it’s affiliated business owners around the world, are not “allowed” to directly edit the article. Members of the anti-Amway cult are however free to edit as much as they please, and in my opinion they get much greater latitude when they do so. I experienced this last year when I spent several months trying to get some semblance of balance to the Quixtar article. Virtually every one of my edits was challenged, I was threatened with “banning” because I was an IBO, and thus had a financial interest in the company. Eventually I ended up in “mediation” with another editor, a Wikipedia admin no less, who continuously challenged my edits and yet let most criticisms through, usually without question. I argued, and continue to argue, that my “conflict of interest” edits on Wikipedia are covered under Wikipedia’s “Ignore All Rules ” rule, which states –
The whole process was absolutely exhausting, both in the time it took and the emotional toll of having to battle against even the most innocuous and well supported edits. A number of well-known critics from QuixtarBlog jumped into the fray to attack me, making it even more difficult. The english language Wikipedia articles on Amway and Quixtar typically get well over a thousand visits a day each – why isn’t Amway in there addressing it? Why aren’t IBO leaders? Even without the “ignore all rules” rule, even Amway corporate staff and consultants may recommend changes and back them up on the “Talk” pages, and, if necessary, take issues into mediation and arbitration to get fixed – but it’s not happening! At least 30,000 people are month are getting their education about Amway from Wikipedia, and research indicates most of them may believe it.
But what of the members of the anti-amway cult? Well, for much of this week, the article was even more negative than usual. An editor going by the name of “Eric Arthur B” has been making wholesale additions to the article (they continue as I’m writing this), including personal attacks against me. The changes have violated numerous Wikipedia guidelines such as “No Original Research“, and to write in a manner of “Neutral Point Of View ” – ie, no blatantly biased editing promoting one perspective. To give you and idea of what “Eric Arthur B” has been saying, here’s one example –
On examination of the published evidence recovered by the 197s FTC investigation, it is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion other than ‘Amway’ was an unviable, centrally-controlled system of economic exchange without a consistent source of external revenue where the overwhelming majority of contributing participants were not receiving an overall material benefit. However, the 1979 FTC ruling failed to identify this situation in accurate deconstructed terms. ‘Amway’s’ owners were, thus, caught running a mathematically impossible scheme designed to be beyond the understanding of both victims and regulators. The company was given a derisory financial penalty and allowed to remain registered in the USA when its owners promised to stop fixing prices and to enforce their own rule whereby each commission agent would have to sell at least 70% value of products on to genuine retail customers or retain at least 1 genuine retail customers.
Not only is this blatantly not NPOV editing, it’s also outright false. For a start, the author isn’t even remotely accurate about the FTC findings and the “70% rule”. I recommend you read MYTH: 70% Retail Sales Rule for an explanation of this piece of dishonesty, a common one spread by members of the anti-amway cult.
Eric Arthur B did make one error not in his favour during these edits – and that was at one stage to forget to “login” to Wikipedia to make his edits. When you do that, Wikipedia instead logs your edits under the IP address of the connection you are using. A quick check of that IP’s location (Paris), confirmed what I already suspected – Eric Arthur B is almost certainly a well known member of the anti-amway cult (wikipedia guidelines prevent me naming him) who has spent more than a decade attacking Amway on the Internet, as well as heavily lobbying organisations such as the DTI/BERR in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Perhaps of more concern than the biased editing, and the several thousand readers who have read it and probably believed it, is the almost complete lack of anyone challenging them. One user, Knervma (a critic), did write a note on Eric Arthur B’s talk page recommending he read the “No Original Research” rule, but the edits remained. Indeed a few other editors did some clean up of the text, leaving them essentially intact. By contrast, back in April I added the following text to the article, in order to provide some “balance” to the cult claims of Rick Ross and Steven Hassan –
Author and behavioural scientist Shad Helmstetter spent five years in the 199s researching Amway. In his book ”American Victory: The Real Story of Today’s Amway”, Helmstetter stated ”Working in the field of human behavior, I’ve studied the cults for many years. The Amway business is the opposite of cult psychology.”” With regard to other allegations of Amway being a cult, he replied in an interview “The old myth that Amway is a cult is supported only by people who are either misinformed or uninformed. I would like to examine their research.”
This edit was challenged by numerous editors, including a wikipedia administrator. It was claimed Helmstetter is paid by Amway (he’s not). His PhD qualifications were challenged, with editors claiming the University he claimed to attend did not exist or was a degree mill (I researched it and confirmed he had a legitimate PhD). Finally, the edit was challenged because Helmstetter wasn’t an expert on “cults” but Hassan and Ross are considered to be. Pointing out that neither Ross nor Hassan has done any direct research into Amway, and as such were by no means experts on Amway was dismissed. The only way that text was going to be allowed was if I again went to mediation. Hassan and Ross’s claims Amway is a cult remain in Wikipedia, unchallenged. I haven’t had the energy to pursue it further.
Why is there this bias against Amway, even amongst wikipedia administrators? In my opinion it’s been a self-reinforcing cycle. Wikipedia admins are by their very nature very internet savvy. Where do they get their education? The internet. What does the Internet say about Amway? Well .. you already know the answer to that. This “cycle” has also been evidenced in other areas. DMOZ, a large internet directory owned by AOL and used by Google, Yahoo and others in helping evaluate the importance of websites, refuses, apart from a handful of corporate sites, to list any websites supportive of Amway, including Amway Wiki , Amway Watch , and this site, The Truth About Amway. In contrast, they have an entire section devoted to “opposing views”. Several months ago, major blog host WordPress deleted a blog started by a UK ABO to discuss the developments in BERR vs Amway UK. Their reason? They don’t allow blogs that are supportive of MLM. Of course blogs like “Quixtar is a cult”, complete with posts and images aligning Quixtar with the Nazi’s, are perfectly acceptable.
Where did the DMOZ editors and WordPress administrators get their education about Amway and MLM? The internet.
Wikipedia is a highly popular resource, considered a credible source of information by most people. In the 2 or 3 years I’ve been monitoring the Amway related articles (an easy thing to do), I’ve never seen a single thing challenged or a change recommended by a representative of either Amway or IBO leaders and organisations. Indeed I’ve seen almost no effort by rank-and-file IBOs either. I left Eric Arthur B.’s edits on Wikipedia for several days to see what would happen. No response from Amway or anyone else defending Amway. There is nothing in Wikipedia rules stopping this, though there may be some hoops to jump through (such as submitting all changes via “talk”) but surely the investment needed to fund someone to do this would be a fraction of the cost of even one part of the current “reputation” initiatives, with potentially greater return?
A few thousand people, every day, read wikipedia articles on Amway and Quixtar, and they believe them. In the last month perhaps millions of people have been exposed to the “Now You Know” campaign. Some of them were intrigued and would have done a perfectly sensible thing in the 21st century – hopped on the internet to research further. With a somewhat skeptical view of the corporate ad, they would have googled and visited the company website – again with skepticism. Then tens of thousands of them, perhaps hundreds of thousands, visited Wikipedia, a source they probably trust far more than the company website and company ads. Then amquix, and alticor/amway/quixtar sucks etc etc etc ….
For them, the millions spent on “Now You Know” didn’t improve Amway’s reputation – it damaged it further. The anti-amway cultists won another skirmish, and little effort was made to stop them. How many honest, professional, hardworking Amway Business Owner’s were hurt?
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