Bullshit Blue Monday a downer on Wikipedia

Image by stock.xchng user soopahtoe: Click for sourceIs this the most incompetent Wikipedia edit ever? Green Communications, the PR company who promotes the Blue Monday ‘worst day of the year’ bullshit festival, recently tried to ‘anonymously’ delete criticism from the Blue Monday Wikipedia page without realising their IP address was a complete giveaway.

This obviously failed, and they just tried to paste on a whole block of text onto the bottom of the article that started with (and I kid you not):

THE FOLLOWING CONTENT IS ALL FACTUALLY CORRECT. IF YOU DISPUTE IT PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHOR.

Spank me nanny! Spank me!

Actually, they originally tried to do this from an anonymous IP address that didn’t track back to Green Communications, but then blew their cover by using a registered account to reinsert the text – time under the name ‘Honest Green’ and with the added power caps.

Now, I’m going to assume that the information is ALL FACTUALLY CORRECT so I want to address the last line of their bolt-on Wikipedia press release:

The on-going campaign is run by Wakefield-based public relations company GREEN Communications, on a non-commercial basis as part of its own corporate social responsibility activities.

Let’s make this clear. Green Communications – I applaud your efforts for running non-commercial PR campaigns aimed at promoting mental health. It’s a vastly neglected area that gets scant attention in the press.

However, the reason that the ‘Blue Monday’ / worst day of the year formulae rubbish gets the back up of medical doctors, psychologists and researchers is not just that it’s ridiculous.

It’s that promoting the misunderstanding of science and psychology actually harms people’s ability to make informed choices about their mental health.

It devalues genuine evidence-based work in the area and misleads people as to what they need to consider when trying to manage their own emotions, or, if the need arises, decide on what sort of help or treatment they want when things get too difficult to manage their own.

So, I’d like nothing more than next year, you run a non-commercial PR campaign aimed at empowering and informing people about depression that wasn’t based on misinformation.

You’re an award winning PR company, so I’m sure you can find an equally catchy way of grabbing people’s attention that doesn’t involve obvious drivel.

UPDATE: Just a reminder that you can still enter our Bullshit Blue Monday make up your own nonsense formula competition where you could win a prize!

Link to Bullshit Blue Monday antidote from Ben Goldacre.
Link to Bullshit Blue Monday antidote from Petra Boyton.

6 thoughts on “Bullshit Blue Monday a downer on Wikipedia”

  1. Hi Vaughan,
    Ian from GREEN Communications here – yes we did edit the Wikipedia entry. However, the original content was not edited or deleted or interfered with in any way.
    We simply added additional content to state the facts about the current Blue Monday Campaign which GREEN manages each year on a non-commercial basis. Meanwhile, the amends we made were not consciously done anonymously but was rather a reflection of a colleague’s poor technical skills. However, we do not wish to enter into a wiki war here.
    Blue Monday is part of our corporate social responsibility programme in support of several charities including Wakefield Hospice, the National Autistic Society (a colleague’s brother is severely debilitated by it), Jumble Aid, World Vision, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Global Action Plan, and Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Foundation for Peace.
    While we accept your hostility to Mr Arnall’s “formula” is genuine – we are rather puzzled that you should be opposed to a day and campaign that seeks to raise the issue of depression at a time of the year when people are under the weather.
    For the record GREEN recognised the kernel of an idea when BBM was first launched by Walls and saw it as an opportunity to promote positive action in support of those suffering mental illness.
    All the work carried out by GREEN is done for free – as some members of our team have been associated with issues surrounding family mental illness.
    The Mental Health Foundation HAVE NOT shelled out hard cash to GREEN – there is no commercial gain for us at all.
    In essence BBM is creative marketing programme aimed at contributing to the conversation regarding depression and how society addresses it.
    However, we will be sure to put our thinking caps on for next year and come up with some further creative.
    Many Thanks
    Ian

  2. Hi Ian,
    Thanks for getting in touch. However, I beg to differ about Green Communications not deleting information from Wikipedia. The following link shows an IP address which is owned by Green Communications deleting virtually all criticism from the Blue Monday page:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blue_Monday_(date)&diff=262282098&oldid=262276041
    The most recent edits have just been additions, as you note, although somewhat clumsy ones that show a rather poor understanding of how Wikipedia works.
    As I outlined above, I am not opposed the promotion of good mental health, only to campaigns that are based on misinformation.
    I commend your excellent work in support of the respected charities you mention, and hope you’ll continue this.
    I also hope you’ll take the hostility that this particular campaign has generated from professionals in the field as useful feedback and evidence that it’s miscued. I suspect that part of the hostility also arises from the reports that Mr Arnall has tried to plead / threaten people into removing criticism from him and his ‘formula’ from the internet which never goes down well.
    By the way, I’ve updated our earlier entry to note that the Mental Health Foundation are not paying for the campaign and that’s its been completed on a non-commercial basis by your company.
    All the best,
    Vaughan

  3. Vaughan,
    Thanks for your comments – which have all been taken on board. And thanks for the reference to MHF. This is what I love about social media.
    Regards
    Ian

  4. Not living in the UK, I had never heard of this campaign before. (If someone had said they wanted to “beat blue monday”, I would have assumed they were trying to write the new best selling 12″ single of all time.)
    I sort of fail to understand what all the anger is about. It should be quite obvious to most people that this is a joke mathematical formula made up for PR purposes. It would be good if the website mentioned this, though, to make sure not to mislead anyone. And of course I don’t approve campaigning on Wikipedia.

  5. After chatting to Petra again over the past few days (we’re united by Clifford experiences) I’ve posted a rambling mess of a blog post over here…
    http://blogger.twindx.co.uk/2009/01/oh-bloody-hell-it-officially-most.html
    My problems revolve around fake science/maths taking attention from real science, its reporting in the media and reception by the populous by not questioning it. If, instead of maths lies, the whole thing was explained in reality – without the pretend science to bolster opinion, but in English – I’d be happier.
    In my world, the fake formula would be shot into the sun. In its place, Philip Glenister would tell you that yes, things probably are a bit tight and the weather’s shitty, but loads of other people are feeling the same and instead of worrying about things on your own, pick up the phone and talk to your friends about nice things. That’s just me though.

  6. Ian from Green Communications:
    wait a second. this is fantastic. you have seriously denied that you deleted content from the wikipedia page, despite the plain evidence that you did.
    free comedy. you people will never cease to delight me.

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