Did Richard Carrier have to remind me…

…that I was responsible for the Thunderf00t fiasco here? I don’t pay any attention to his videos any more, but Richard carried out an amazingly thorough dissection of one of his recent videos that, as seems to be common nowadays, rants and raves about Freethoughtblogs, feminism, me, and of all things, minorities in atheism. I spot-checked some of Richard’s claims about the video — he references timestamps throughout — and was astounded to hear Thunderf00t actually sneer with contempt at the idea of broadening atheism’s appeal to a wider audience.

You know, all these deranged angry anti-social justice atheists are always complaining that FtB is trying to kick them out of atheism, but we aren’t — we don’t have that power or any authority at all (do they even realize that this is just a blog network with no jurisdiction over anything other than our local traffic?) The real situation is that people like Thunderf00t are doing an awesome job of marginalizing themselves.

Comments

  1. says

    If any good can come out of this, it’s that we’ve recognized a distinctly hateful, misogynist, racist, and sociopathic subculture within atheism, and by exposing their dishonesty, projection (Tf00t’s acolytes unironically refer to Atheism+ — which few of us even bring up anymore — as a “cult,” when their own behavior can be adequately described as “Thunderf00t says Jump, I say how high”), and general meanness, we won’t have to expel them from the community at large. They will simply do it to themselves.

  2. says

    I find it hilarious that Dr. Phil thinks feminists are professional victims while he makes a good deal of money on YouTube making videos about how the feminists are mean to him, you won’t let him blog where he wants, creationists are trying to get his videos taken down and Muslims are threatening to kill him (supported by heavily quote-mined clips).

  3. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I think RC deserves some kind of medal for sitting through the whole thing – some of it probably multiple times – to give it that thorough a fisking. I think I’d rather watch Pentecostals handle snakes than endure a Tf00t video.

  4. Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters says

    That is just disturbing, and in a way reminiscent of that New York Times article a few months ago profiling an early intervention program for children with callous-unemotional personality traits.

  5. says

    I confess that I’ve never once watched a thunderf99t video. I tried to a couple times before the shit hit the fan, but I couldn’t get past this tagline of his:

    The true beauty of a self-inquiring sentient universe is lost on those who elect to walk the intellectually vacuous path of comfortable paranoid fantasies.

    I mean, I can’t even begin to untangle the mixed metaphor, internal contradiction, and self-aggrandizing pompous condescension there. And this is someone renowned for being a communicator? I scoff.

    In fact, compare and contrast with Thomas Henry Huxley’s:

    Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.

    Essentially the same message — as far as I can unentangle Mason’s trainwrck of a tagline to interpret it — but Huxley’s is far clearer. It’s far more consistent in conveying the message that to see the truth one must be humble, which Mason attempts to do condescendingly. (!) And Huxley’s economical: his aphorism turns out to be exactly as long, syllable for syllable, as Mason’s — but it’s far more memorable and resonant.

    There’s nothing particularly shameful about being as inarticulate as Mas0n appears to be, but it’s probably best that you not style yourself a verbal communicator if you are.

  6. digitalmonk says

    Hot tamales! Carrier tore the video to shreds. That was very nice to read. I know I should watch the video myself, but I don’t feel the need to after reading that.

  7. Muz says

    It gets to the point with these arguments I wonder what people are allowed to talk about in atheism (according to them). Just debunk creationism ad nauseum?

  8. kosk11348 says

    There’s nothing particularly shameful about being as inarticulate as Mas0n appears to be, but it’s probably best that you not style yourself a verbal communicator if you are.

    Well, he’s a polemicist. I suppose that’s a kind of verbal communicator. :)

    But your point is well taken. TF may be an atheist, but he lacks the capacity for self-examination, which I think disqualifies from being considered a skeptic or critical thinker.

  9. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Muz wrote:

    It gets to the point with these arguments I wonder what people are allowed to talk about in atheism (according to them). Just debunk creationism ad nauseum?

    Oh, no – you’ve got it wrong. You’re perfectly entitled to talk about misogyny, racism and other kinds of bigotry, it’s just that you’re only allowed to talk about it when it’s done by the religious.

    Because the most important thing to TF00t and his audience is knowing their totes smarter and betterer* than those dumb ‘ol religious folks; reminding them of the unfortunate reality that there are many, many thing atheists could be doing to make the world a better place than just pointing that out, though, is verboten.

    *Yes, that’s intentional

  10. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    The ‘betterer’ may have been intentional; the ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’, on the other hand, wasn’t.

  11. changerofbits says

    It’s almost like TF has never heard of or is just ignoring the vail of ignorance (almost akin to how a creationist debater pretends that they haven’t heard about any of the evidence of evolution and just keeps stabbing the same strawman over and over and over). He’s been shooting down those creationist arguments like fish in a barrel and that somehow means people should just blindly follow what he thinks about society and the direction of the atheist movement?!?!

  12. says

    Chris Clarke @6:

    There’s nothing particularly shameful about being as inarticulate as Mas0n appears to be, but it’s probably best that you not style yourself a verbal communicator if you are.

    His videos are surely communicating something, but I suspect what they are communicating is not what he thinks is being communicated.

    Also, with regard to mixing metaphors, I reckon if one is going to, the result should make its audience smile rather than hurting their heads. (My personal favorite: “I’ve buttered my bread, and now I have to lie in it.”)

  13. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    You’re perfectly entitled to talk about misogyny, racism and other kinds of bigotry, it’s just that you’re only allowed to talk about it when it’s done by the religious.

    Because the most important thing to TF00t and his audience is knowing their totes smarter and betterer* than those dumb ‘ol religious folks [...]

    Exactly right. They don’t want to deal with the discomfort of confronting their own privilege. Much easier to deride others *for the very shit they themselves do!*

  14. says

    Looking back at the preceding 14 comments, I wonder what snippet will be taken out of context to make it seem like “our side is just as bad as theirs” or “one side made mistakes, just like the other side did.”

    I also wonder how long before someone asks PZ to make up with Thunderf00t.

    Oh, and will there be some _precious_ darling that comes along to criticize PZ for talking about TF so much (we all know the type. they never bother to look at the past several months, otherwise the stupidity of their comment would shine for even them to see)?

    Has the Thunderf00l become more of a tool because people are being so critical of him? Is he trying-and failing-to stay relevant? Prior to him joining FtB, he primarily focused on making videos dealing with religion. I don’t read or watch him at all, but I wonder what his output has been since his privileged, sexist views came to light. Does he still produce videos that attack theism or is he more focused on attacking A+, FtB, and the tentacled demon that is PZ Meyers?

    PS: PZ, of course Richard had to mention you. After all, FtB is a group hivemind under *your* control. And if you had not banned the Thundering fool, some people would not be so mad at you**.

    **(in case any TF lackey comes along to read this I AM JOKING. PZ did not-and as far as I know, CANNOT-ban TF from FtB; the entitled, arrogant, obnoxious, privileged, assclam is freely able to post at any of the various blogs here ((assuming he hasn’t been banned by individual bloggers on their blogs)))

  15. says

    Does he still produce videos that attack theism or is he more focused on attacking A+, FtB, and the tentacled demon that is PZ Meyers?

    To save you and everyone else here a few minutes of painful facepalming, I actually decided to check this. I used to be a big fan of TF, but stopped after he made a complete ass of himself and showed who he really was last summer. Starting from the first video after he was given the boot, he’s made 36 more videos, 9 of which are attacks on PZ or feminism. That’s 25% of his content focused on opposing social justice. Not exactly a sole focus, but it does reveal a lot about how he thinks about women; especially the “Do hot girls have all the advantages?” video (in which he appears to think that women get taken more seriously because of their appearance, rather than less; I’m sure every woman here could tell me that isn’t the case).

  16. says

    shockna:

    (in which he appears to think that women get taken more seriously because of their appearance, rather than less; I’m sure every woman here could tell me that isn’t the case).

    I don’t bake, but I’d be willing to buy you 2 cookies for going through the process of tallying up TF’s vids.

    Oh, and I think not only could every woman tell you that isn’t the case, but many enlightened men could do the same.

  17. nyarlathotep says

    I was one of those that used to count themselves as a fan of Thunderf00t before his disastrous stint blogging here. A lurker at the time, I was dismissive of the earliest questions asked of Thunderf00t. These questions, for those who don’t remember, were raised in the comments of his introductory post. It was pointed out that his position in the video titled “A House Divided Against Itself” was less than conducive to progressing movement atheism in regards to sexism, racism, etc. Essentially, Thunderf00t, as early as 2011, was against criticism that might significantly divide the atheist movement. I was appalled at his later postings and, when the feud spilled onto his Youtube channel, did what I should have done when his intellectual dishonesty became obvious to me (less than coincidentally at the same time his Islamophobia was rearing its head) unsubscribed.

    As I and friends of mine who would have also been counted as fans noticed, he tended to do poorly when thinking on his feet (see his discussions with Ray Comfort et al.) and really should have just stuck to science. Yes, even before Thunderf00t posted at FtB, it was known by anyone paying attention that outside of his area of expertise he was…poor, to put it as mildly and kindly as possible. When atheism needed people to debate various forms of creationism, Thunderf00t was suitable (thouch I do admit to not having watched his other videos recently and am willing to concede that my opinion of his anti-creationist work is colored by nostalgia). However, while creationists still need debunking, atheism needs much more than this now. Atheism does not need Thunderf00t and his ilk, and if he’s not willing to adapt to what atheism needs it is best that he step aside.

  18. great1american1satan says

    Hey. One Q about Carrier’s post, which I am otherwise in agreement with:

    Is “sociopath” ableist?

    If it’s off the table, and I tend to think it should be (yes, I’ve used it in the past, but the times are changing), what’s a good replacement? I’m looking for a non-clinical noun form of “cruel, cold-hearted person”…

    Further thoughts – This whole fracas with the slymebags and their kin puts me in mind of all the times in history – up through recent and current events – when humans otherwise deemed “sane” acted in ways that seem wholly lacking in empathy. It makes me think empathy deficits aren’t as alien to mainstream thought as we’d like them to be. Maybe the norm is to be able to shut off your empathy at will. Then who are we to say someone is pathological just because they weren’t able to turn empathy on in the first place?

  19. great1american1satan says

    Apropos of nothing, an old friend of mine just got mobilized to do some work at Guantanamo Bay.
    Good grief.

  20. microraptor says

    And this is why INT and WIS are separate stats.

    And he seems to have chosen both WIS and CHA as dump stats.

    I watch Thunderfoot a while back on YouTube, but I noticed after a while that his videos were getting pretty repetitive and also seemed rather shallow when I compared them to some of the other channels I followed, like AronRa and Cristina Rad (back when she was using her Zomg channel). Then came the big kerfuffle over that NY Islamic cultural center, and I saw Thunderfool using a lot of really personal attacks against some other commentators- ugly stuff, and the videos he was producing at that point were full of logical fallacies- ones that he ought to have known better than to use because he’d frequently criticized creationists for using the same fallacies.

    So I said enough was enough and took his channel off my subscribed list. I was nervous when I saw that he was coming to FtB, but I didn’t want to say anything because I hadn’t paid any attention to him in years, so I had no idea what he was like at what was then present.

  21. =8)-DX says

    I don’t read or watch him at all, but I wonder what his output has been since his privileged, sexist views came to light.

    His privileged, sexist views are just a outflowing of his general privileged, arrogant bigotry also seen in many of his Islamophobic videos before the FTB fiasco. He’s gotten progressively worse, but it was there beforehand as well (it did take an effort however, to realize this, I was quite a fan of his back in the days of his creationist videos).

  22. great1american1satan says

    I always had a hard time getting past his voice when I tried to watch his videos. My first clue of his glaring blind spots was a video where he tried to turn the “Ivory Tower” from an epithet into a positive thing. Problematic all over the place. A better answer to charges of elitism in science is to show how anyone can engage in it, to show how it improves everyone’s lives – when done right. I think Ivory Tower and all I see is a pile of dead elephant and rhinoceros parts.

  23. says

    Ahh, and on with the thunderf00t bashing again, how refreshingly different.

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    Nice bait and switch there, heh, just continue, I’m sure your reader count will be fine, won’t piss anyone off at all. Certainly people won’t look elsewhere.

    Islamophobia? do me a favour, this stinks of the same attitude I get when criticising Israeli war crimes in the Gaza strip, must be an antisemite. Bollocks. Islam is deserving of as much respect as any other abusive old religion, IE: None at all.

    ~voting with feet, enjoyed much of what you’ve posted since I started reading during crackergate but the shift in focus away from atheism and your repeated targeting one person (usually, not forgotten the despicable attacks on abbie either) who you invited here and subsequently hounded out is too much, I’m done.~

  24. John Morales says

    adamcolley:

    Ahh, and on with the thunderf00t bashing again, how refreshingly different.

    Indeed.

    (Out of the (say) last one hundred posts here, how many have been about the Thunderpod?)

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    This blog has been “Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal.” for many years now.

    (It’s what PZ wants it to be, not what you imagine it’s supposed to be)

    Nice bait and switch there, heh, just continue, I’m sure your reader count will be fine, won’t piss anyone off at all. Certainly people won’t look elsewhere.

    Got you to comment, didn’t it? :)

    Islamophobia? do me a favour, this stinks of the same attitude I get when criticising Israeli war crimes in the Gaza strip, must be an antisemite. Bollocks. Islam is deserving of as much respect as any other abusive old religion, IE: None at all.

    You imagine Islamophobia is about Islam and not about Muslims?

    (If so, there’s your problem right there)

    Ahh, and on with the thunderf00t bashing again, how refreshingly different.

    ~voting with feet, enjoyed much of what you’ve posted since I started reading during crackergate but the shift in focus away from atheism and your repeated targeting one person (usually, not forgotten the despicable attacks on abbie either) who you invited here and subsequently hounded out is too much, I’m done.~

    Done like a dinner, alright.

    <snicker>

  25. says

    His privileged, sexist views are just a outflowing of his general privileged, arrogant bigotry also seen in many of his Islamophobic videos before the FTB fiasco. He’s gotten progressively worse, but it was there beforehand as well (it did take an effort however, to realize this, I was quite a fan of his back in the days of his creationist videos).

    This.
    I unsubscribed the day he made a “Hitler wasn’t all bad” remark in a blogTV show. But that’s probably my fault because I’m looking dogmatically at this whole fascism thingy without rationally looking at the Autobahnen only.

    Adamcolley

    Ahh, and on with the thunderf00t bashing again, how refreshingly different.

    Do us a favour, if you don’t have any self-awareness, please try to follow the facts at least. Everybody left TF well alone because actually, we’re sick and tired of him. Then he made a horribly dishonest video about Richard Carrier with some really, really bad points. I suggest you go over and read Richard’s very thorough reply.
    So, how come that TF making such a bullshit video is apparently OK but people targeted by it replying and their friends giving a shoutout is bashing?

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    Entitlement my ass.
    How about you accepting that people change their focus and write on their blogs about what they like? Why do you think they have to cater to your likes specifically?
    Oh, and just to clarify “changing their focus”
    The recent post list for Pharyngula is:
    Botanical Wednesday: One, two, three…ha ha ha…four, five, six, SEVEN. Seven purple tentacles, ha ha ha!
    Did Richard Carrier have to remind me…
    Well, when you put it that way…
    Joe Barton has data!
    Jesus, the biologist
    #HumanistSolidarity with Bangladesh
    I had a vision last night. A vision of a world without gods.
    Learn a little developmental biology
    A vivid demonstration of white privilege
    Why?

    Biology: 2
    Racism: 1
    Feminism: 2-3 (if I generously include this thread)
    Atheism: 4
    So much for “turning it into something”

    Nice bait and switch there, heh, just continue, I’m sure your reader count will be fine, won’t piss anyone off at all. Certainly people won’t look elsewhere.

    ???
    What’s that? An argument from popularity and from non-popularity at the same time? Why do you and TF think that quantity is more important than content? Have you never outgrown the popularity contests at highschool?

    voting with feet, enjoyed much of what you’ve posted since I started reading during crackergate but the shift in focus away from atheism and your repeated targeting one person (usually, not forgotten the despicable attacks on abbie either) who you invited here and subsequently hounded out is too much, I’m done.~

    I think I got a bingo. Long time disappointed reader. If all of you would just leave without your little theatralic performances on the way out.
    Repeated targeting of one person? What about TF’s constant attacks on the writers on this network? Oh, and Abbie Smith of all people who hosts and encourages harassment? Who cheered on a conservative sheriff because he went after Elen Beth Wachs?
    You’re not even playing a stupid “both sides”, you’re painting one side as a can do no wrong innocent victim (so much for “professional victims”) without having any clear points about why the other side is so “horrible”
    Good riddance!

  26. says

    adamcolley:

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    *sigh*

    Pharyngula is at most 10% feminism. Thunderf00t’s blog (at least after the introductory post) was 100% about feminism.

    You clowns seem to think about feminism more than most feminists do.

  27. okstop says

    On nyarlathotep’s point (#20), I’m not sure Thunderdip ever HAD an “area of expertise.” He could handle critiques of creationism moderately well, but he brought nothing new to such activities. He was, near as I can tell, just a guy who had done enough reading on the creationism debate to acquit himself adequately in a discussion of the subject. Hell, from subsequent evidence, I’m dubious as to how much he *really* understood in the creationism debates – maybe he was just very, very familiar with the movement of the dialectic on those topics. He’s certainly never displayed any real originality or cleverness, just an ability and willingness to make the same answers to creationists as already devised by better thinkers.

  28. Dunc says

    You clowns seem to think about feminism more than most feminists do.

    Kinda like how homophobes seem to think about butt sex way more often that actual homosexuals do…

  29. gshelley says

    ~voting with feet, enjoyed much of what you’ve posted since I started reading during crackergate but the shift in focus away from atheism and your repeated targeting one person (usually, not forgotten the despicable attacks on abbie either) who you invited here and subsequently hounded out is too much, I’m done.~

    Oh, so PZ’s strawmanning of Thunderfoots idiocy and ignorance when he was posting at FTB was fine with you, but when he links to a thorough deconstruction of a video that Thundefoot himself chose to put out and says he is in agreement, this is somehow going to far?
    I can’t help but feel you are not being totally honest.

  30. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    ~voting with feet, enjoyed much of what you’ve posted since I started reading during crackergate but the shift in focus away from atheism and your repeated targeting one person (usually, not forgotten the despicable attacks on abbie either) who you invited here and subsequently hounded out is too much, I’m done.~

    Oh, so PZ’s strawmanning of Thunderfoots idiocy and ignorance when he was posting at FTB was fine with you, but when he links to a thorough deconstruction of a video that Thundefoot himself chose to put out and says he is in agreement, this is somehow going to far?
    I can’t help but feel you are not being totally honest.

    That was MRA script #3. They are unoriginal.

  31. says

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    Yeah, what’s the point of being an atheist if you have to think about other things too?

    …the day he made a “Hitler wasn’t all bad” remark in a blogTV show.

    He was talking about Volkswagens, right? Please tell me he was…

  32. says

    …the shift in focus away from atheism…

    What’s there to stay focused on? Once a group of people have said they’re atheists, and said why, they’re kinda free to move on to other things. Like, oh, I dunno, talking about things that religious people got wrong that atheists can maybe do better? Remind me again why that’s bad…?

  33. ChasCPeterson says

    No, adamcolley’s right, damn it. PZ has to stop with this relentless vendetta against true atheists like Tf00t and his nonstop despicable attacks against true scientists like Abbie ERV. It’s divisive!!!!11!! and stupid because I don’t care!!

    eh.

    That’s about as far as I could get through Mason’s video too. Man, the sneering sarcasm and self-satisfied condescension in that guy’s voice just push my buttons.

  34. says

    Huh…
    Adamcolley had been reading this blog for some time, yet never realized atheism was not the sole focus. It is almost like xe chose to remain ignorant of everything else PZ has spoken about and also missed all the blog posts that have nothing to do with feminism. Then, for good measure, xe ignores the contributions made by Chris Clarke since he became co-blogger (who of course only writes about atheism and feminism…neeeever any other topics).

    ARE THERE ANY HONEST THUNDERFOOT FANS IN THE HOUSE?
    If there are, please make yourselves known. People like adamcolley are giving you a bad name.

  35. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Tony @15

    Oh, and will there be some _precious_ darling that comes along to criticize PZ for talking about TF so much (we all know the type. they never bother to look at the past several months, otherwise the stupidity of their comment would shine for even them to see)?

    adamcolley @ 26

    Glaring blind spots, how about turning a blog about atheism into a series of feminist rants?

    BINGO!

  36. says

    If we’d had a drinking game going called “Dishonest, Hypocritical Projection from Tf00t Disciples With No Self-Awareness,” Adam Colley’s comment would have killed us all off from alcohol poisoning.

  37. says

    Does anyone else feel that many atheists, Tfoot included, are just berserk over the fact that the movement is expanding beyond the merry circle of high-minded nerds it once was, and thus beyond their natural area of dominance?

    I’m getting serious vibes of those occasions when a joins an RPG group and suddenly one guy starts throwing tantrums because HE was supposed to make that Spot check, dammit! Now everything is ruined, I tell you. Ruined!

    The Ivory Tower mindset can be very comforting for some people. It makes you one of the few, the special ones, above the simpletons and the rubes. They are not excluding you: you left them behind. But you can’t do that if you suddenly find yourself part of a breathing movement (not merely a club) in which others have interpretations and priorities that differ from yours.

  38. thumper1990 says

    Seconding michaelolson here. fabiojardim, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  39. besomyka says

    @40 Thunderfoot was my gateway drug to the better shit.

    I stopped paying attention to him once he started the islamophobia stuff, but was still hopeful/ignorant when he joined FtB. Boy was a disabused of THAT in a hurry. I doubt I’m alone in that experience.

    One post on his blog, giving him the benefit of doubt, and then gone. Blocked on twitter, unsubscribed youtube, and avoid him like the plague. I find Richards ‘sith’ reference appropriate.

  40. says

    I also agree with fabiojardim. I’d go a little bit further, and say that many of them are hurting from the deep-down realization that they’re not part of the elite. The “pure” skepticism that they promote is basically one where they’re welcomed everywhere, by everyone.

  41. changerofbits says

    @21 great1american1satan

    Misanthropic might be another way to describe some of this behavior without the baggage that comes with labeling someone a sociopath.

    I’m also not so sure TF is as purposefully diabolical as he is just honestly mistaken and a bit too full of himself apply a bit a self criticism. I never like to question anybody’s intellectual ability, but one of the first videos I saw of him was a discussion with Richard Dawkins and it was clear that some of the evolutionary concepts (a rather elementary version of group selection IIRC) that TF had latched onto weren’t exactly supported by science. It all just made me think that TF was well meaning and on our side, but definitely had more homework to do to be considered any kind of authority on the subject.

  42. Chuck says

    Carrier is one of those guys I’d hate to be on the wrong side of. Very keen intellect, firm grasp of argumentative structure and logic, and a clear eye for context and fallacies that keeps surprising me.

    I watched Thunderf00t’s video (I still wince a bit when I see a grown person wanting others to address them as “Thunderf00t”) and the thing that struck me was there was no attempt to evaluate the morality of the harassers, only to level judgment against what he called “professional victims.” Seriously, Phil? Can’t we even agree that following people around the web harassing them is morally wrong?

  43. says

    @10: You basically nailed it. This is the same thing you see with some Christians groups, who get very concerned abotu women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, then complain that women tryign to get contraceptive coverage on their insurance are freeloaders trying to get the public to support their sinful lifestyle.

  44. says

    @10: You basically nailed it. This is the same thing you see with some Christians groups, who get very concerned abotu women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, then complain that women trying to get contraceptive coverage on their insurance are freeloaders trying to get the public to support their sinful lifestyle.

  45. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’ve noticed that a grand majority of the TF-supporters immediately jump to the “well, it has a bunch of upvotes, therefore it’s right” argument. Hey, you know what? Slavery was once popular. Not allowing women to vote was once popular. Fuck, discrimination against GLBT is STILL popular. Does that make any of those things right? Personally, I couldn’t possibly give less of a fuck about popularity. I’d rather, you know, not be an asshole.

    And it’s always about them, innit? “Patriarchy and racism don’t exist, you’re making those up.” Oh yeah, cause some white guys didn’t experience it, clearly that means nobody has. Funny though, I’m a white guy and I’ve figured out some of this basic stuff, why can’t they? Are they *gasp* not as smart as they think they are?

  46. says

    Does anyone else feel that many atheists, Tfoot included, are just berserk over the fact that the movement is expanding beyond the merry circle of high-minded nerds it once was, and thus beyond their natural area of dominance?

    It feels like that, but it also feels like there’s something specifically about feminism that is threatening.

    I know it’s anecdotal, but I’ve been around a *lot* of “libertarian” and “hyperrational” nerds (I’m a software engineer), and it feels like there is a strong correlation between this personality type and difficulties with empathy (in the basic sense of being able to imagine oneself in another’s place or sense where one’s blind spots might be in terms of another person’s experiences). I wouldn’t call it “sociopathy”, but it feels like it’s on that continuum, if there is such a thing.

    The basic traits are:

    1. A tendency toward absolutism in judgements.
    2. A strong desire for certainty.
    3. A tendency to be concrete rather than abstract, or to think in terms of simple rather than complex causality (this one varies a bit).
    4. A need to be knowledgeable, which translates into defensiveness when challenged about knowledge and “correctness”.
    5. A tendency to think that others’ reactions to things should be the same as one’s own.
    6. A tendency to discount evidence that does not correspond directly with one’s own experiences.
    7. A disdain of emotion and emotional motivations.
    8. A predilection for analysis rather than synthesis, which often translates into missing the “big picture” due to focus on specific details.
    9. A relatively high tolerance for depicted violence and a lack of discomfort when others are embarrassed.

    In a way, all of these traits are related to empathy — some directly, and some in a more indirect sense of providing strategies for fulfilling the basic need to feel in control of oneself and one’s environment.

  47. okstop says

    @Asher (#55):

    That’s an interesting observation – one I’d like to see explored further. Point #9 particularly weighs in favor of your empathy-deficit hypothesis; nos. 1-6 & 8 could also indicate some kind of serious neurosis, as I understand it, anyway. Although anecdotal evidence isn’t, I’ve known a number of these “hyperrational” libertarian nerd types who display every evidence of being deeply insecure, and show a need to define themselves and the world in such a way that they turn out to be exceptional.

  48. says

    A commenter on Carrier’s blog said that Tfoot is sounding more like a narcissist than a sociopath. The two have overlapping symptoms. There’s also research (sorry, don’t have it at hand at the moment) showing that high narcissism is correlated with sexist attitudes. Seems like this also fits the description of the guys Asher was talking about.

  49. says

    Asher Kay @55, I’m in agreement with okstop — if we could mobilize some social scientists, develop the appropriate measurement instrument(s), secure IRB approval, etc., we could maybe build some actually empirical knowledge about people like TF and his fans.

  50. says

    @okstop

    I’ve known a number of these “hyperrational” libertarian nerd types who display every evidence of being deeply insecure

    Yeah. I deleted a bit at the end of my comment that pondered the specifc type of insecurity that an empathy deficit would cause. I have a (hopefully) decent amount of empathy, and much of my knowledge about “how things are in the world” is drawn from my “reads” of people. It’s intuitive knowledge, difficult to articulate in language, but I imagine I’d feel insecure without it. People would be constantly acting in ways that surprised and puzzled me.

    and show a need to define themselves and the world in such a way that they turn out to be exceptional

    That’s a great way of putting it. “Exceptional” has several senses, too. One is being “better” in some way. Another is being “particular” or a “special case”. Pedantry meets this second sense. I once pointed out to a hyperrational/libertarian-type colleague that his sentences very often started out with the phrase, “The problem is…”. He is always looking for the exception, the edge case. His error-handling routines are insane.

    I wonder if there’s a relation between that specific kind of insecurity and the fear that any single crack or flaw will bring one’s whole wordview tubling down. My experience with hyperrational/libertarian types has been that there is often *zero* give and take in arguments, even on minor or peripheral points.

    @docfreeride

    if we could mobilize some social scientists, develop the appropriate measurement instrument(s), secure IRB approval, etc.

    I would devour studies like this. I think one of the big problems is that we don’t have any really firm psychological theories to test against. So my assumption that “control” is central is essentially wild speculation. As is my notion of empathy and its relationship to other things.

    I think Pigliucci recently had a podcast about how personality theories rely on kind of hinky factor analysis in the absence of overarching theory. I remember thinking that a boatload of empirical data might help theories arise.

  51. okstop says

    @Asher (#59):

    I like the way you flesh out “exceptional” there – it rings true of my experience.

    As a young lad, hanging out at the game store, I met a lot of very annoying, very unpleasant people who were clearly quite socially inept. But what struck me was that they were almost universally involved in a weird kind of subcultural discourse aimed at making them feel better about themselves (not that I thought of it in those terms, at that time).

    Most of them were just full of shit. They told the most ridiculous “true stories,” made absurd claims about their capabilities and their histories, and basically told the tallest tales this side of a bunch of drunk cowboys. Only everything they said was presented as “true” and – here’s the interesting bit – no one called them on it. I eventually came to understand that it was the unwritten rule in that little society – you never, ever call someone out on the plausibility of what he was claiming. The other side of this was that no one made claims that were TOO outrageous, because if you got too crazy, you’d put the people who weren’t calling you out in an awkward situation. Of course, standards as to what constituted “too” crazy crept over time, so that eventually there was one guy in that group who was regularly telling stories about his aunts and uncles who were British royalty, and everyone was just nodding along.

    Those guys were clearly trying to create a narrative for themselves that made them feeling superior to other people, but there were others who played the “special case” card, usually with narratives of self-diagnosed and poorly described “mental illnesses” and so forth. In general, it seemed like the ones who could pull it off did the “mysterious/interesting background” thing, while those who couldn’t or who didn’t want to tried to excuse their misanthropic behavior with the “special case” trick. But the unifying element was that these guys generally didn’t have anything else to hang an identity on, much less one that they could be proud of. They had no particular skills, talents, or ambitions, nor any interesting pedigree or heritage to refer to. They felt, I think, small and uninteresting in a complex world, and this was how they coped.

    I honestly believe many of the atheists/skeptics who are anti-A+ are just guys like this who found a different narrative. In a world where so many people are believers, even casually, being a skeptic or an atheist allows them to define themselves as SOMEBODY, though in opposition to a lot of other somebodies. But the problem is, if atheism/skepticism is an OUTREACH movement, it becomes less special. And maybe the objection to social justice in the movement is because it becomes less special if people for whom the person in question has no regard or respect become active in atheism/skepticism, or maybe it’s just that they’ll resist any attempt to redefine the narrative upon which their identity hangs. Either way, although some or all of these people may have some sort of personality disorder that might explain their behavior, it just comes across to me as the actions of sad, small, privileged people, and I can’t help but think of those guys at the game store when I see it.

  52. cfieldb says

    At this point, I have to believe that Thunderf00t is doing this, at least in part, for the pageviews (and thus the money and exposure). Nothing else makes sense.

    I mean, having sort of a bugbear about feminism? Fine- he certainly wouldn’t be the only guy who felt that way. But this goes beyond that- he’s made hating FtB a major component in his online presence. As Carrier says, his dishonest quote-mining has reached the point of outright deception… and there’s no way he doesn’t know it.

    I just don’t think Mason is that stupid.

  53. okstop says

    @cfieldb (#61):

    “I just don’t think Mason is that stupid.”

    Not to be pugnacious, but I’ve heard this sort of thing from several people, and I have to ask: why on earth not? I mean, seriously, I’m not trying to be a dick or to troll anyone, I’m actually asking – why do we think Mason isn’t a complete idiot? Because his performance in debates with creationists doesn’t provide much evidence of his intelligence, just evidence of his ability to memorize responses to certain well-known arguments. I noted this before, and several people have likewise noted that he’s never shown any ability to think on his feet – that is, to go “off script.” What evidence do we have that he’s anything other than average or worse?

  54. says

    At this point, I have to believe that Thunderf00t is doing this, at least in part, for the pageviews (and thus the money and exposure). Nothing else makes sense.

    I disagree. My guess is he’s just being a butthurt little shit. He’s an arrogant ass who can’t handle people telling him (and demonstrating to him) that he’s wrong.

    I just don’t think Mason is that stupid.

    Seriously, why does everyone think Thunderf00t is such an intelligent guy. I mean, he produced some moderately entertaining anti-creationist videos back in the day, which frankly did not bring anything new to the table. That’s about it. Sure, he knows the standard anti-creationist arguments. Hardly brain surgery. Bashing creationists is pretty easy. However, he doesn’t do well in debate situations, where he has to think on his feet. He becomes a complete cry baby every time he’s been called out about something. He constantly fucks up his metaphores. And, you know, all the ‘hard stuff’, like overcoming his own privilege, he utterly fails at. Honestly, he’s shown that he’s a sexist, islamophobic, pompous ass. He has yet to show he is anything like as intelligent as people make him out to be.

  55. Lars says

    Dunbar’s number. You don’t want your ingroup to outgrow your influence over it, because if it does you’ll have to split it into a new outgroup and a new ingroup (a schism). Which is painful. But you will do it if you have to. To preserve your “special place” in your personal monkey sphere.

  56. says

    @cfieldb

    I just don’t think Mason is that stupid.

    In his “Feminism vs FACTS” video, he argues:

    1. It’s irrelevant to examine mysogynist tropes in video games because video games were “not designed to keep feminists happy” and not specifically designed to subjugate women.

    2. The “damsel in distress” trope is not sexist because people in caring relationships want to help and protect each other.

    3. The idea of objectification is absurd because we would then have to consider institutions like hospitals “objectification centers” because they “act upon” patients.

    4. The idea of objectification is wrong because it implies that we should not want to rescue someone who is abducted.

    This is all within the first couple of minutes.

  57. glodson says

    @Asher Kay

    He said that to debunk the Damsels in Distress video? That is… mind blowingly stupid.

  58. says

    @okstop
    #60

    The game store braggarts would make an excellent short story.

    I hadn’t thought about the “narrative” angle. It’s key to how humans build their world-views. “Poor people as lazy moochers” is a narrative. “Elite club invaded by emotional, illogical aliens” is a narrative.

    It’s a lot like science, in a way. Because the narratives (models) are carefully constructed in science, evidence tends to either support or contradict them. In self- and world- narratives, evidence is more malleable.

  59. says

    @glodson

    He said that to debunk the Damsels in Distress video?

    Yes. I was paraphrasing, but I tried to do so as generously as possible.

  60. okstop says

    @Asher Kay

    (#68): The evidence is extremely malleable in self- and world-narratives, at least if you can carefully control your epistemic reference group. People have a deeply-seated desire to be rational, but since we often decide what is rational and what is not via social proof… well, there you go.

    (#69): THAT was the GENEROUS version? Ouch. This guy is DUMB.

  61. says

    I posted a shorter version of this earlier on a Chris Clarke thread. Here is a lengthier version, posted in a more appropriate thread.

    *

    Given that PZ is such a prolific writer, I just wanted to take a snapshot of his output, in this case his postings over a month or so, and try to categorize them. I have listed his posts and separated them into groups. Now, I admit that I used my own methodology for pigeonholing posts, and I left out Thunderdome and Lounge posts. You may disagree with the filing, and it’s true that some posts probably cross categories.

    SUMMARY
    Since 13 March PZ has made 160 posts. I divided them into the following categories:

    Atheist Infighting: 7 posts, 4.3% (1 of these is about Thunderf00t, 0.6%)
    Social Justice and Politics: 52 posts, 32.5%
    Personal Life, Culture, Jokes and Miscellany: 28 posts, 17.5%
    Science: 29 posts, 18.1%
    Atheism, Creationism, Religion: 44 posts, 27.5%

    I’m aware this is a small sample and further research needs to be done. My methodology is crude and needs to be refined. However, it does suggest that the amount of time PZ spends on the Slymepit, Thunderf00t et al is dwarfed by the effort he expends on other issues.

    The posts polled are as follows:

    Atheist Infighting (7)
    They shall regret feeding my megalomania!
    Did Richard Carrier have to remind me…
    EllenBeth Wachs recounts her experiences
    Have you noticed that we’re always getting offended?
    A reminder!
    Apparently, I need to clarify myself
    I’m not usually a fan of dog-piling…

    Social Justice and Politics (52)
    But…but…those boys’ lives will be ruined!
    Nightmare fuel: Kermit Gosnell exposed
    Rand Paul edumacates the black folks
    Well, when you put it that way…
    A vivid demonstration of white privilege
    Why?
    Nothing accidental about it
    I can’t imagine living in an abusive relationship
    Virginia is for lovers…of similar skin tone and opposite sex who don’t touch each other’s genitals with anything other than their
    Margaret Thatcher is dead
    The Joe Rogan experience
    Jewish women master retroactive invisibility!
    Free Amina!
    Just when you thought Libertarians couldn’t get any more revolting
    Hey, North Carolina, have you forgotten how it went last time you rejected the US government?
    The oppressive nature of chivalry
    Both wrong, both right
    I just hate their freedom
    Hugo, Cesar, so what…it’s one of them Hispanic fellas
    Run, Ben, run!
    Reddit: working hard to bury their reputation ever deeper in the slime
    They really are all about controlling your life, aren’t they?
    John Logsdon hits the big time
    Let’s put this 17 year old in charge of the American sex ed curriculum
    Scientopia is doomed
    Vagina vagina vagina
    I endorse this message
    Ask an ethicist!
    Poll on gay marriage—not on our supreme court case, but in New Zealand
    “Mad Men” isn’t a documentary, is it?
    Get ‘em young
    Speaking of terribly rude women…
    Ars Technica weighs in on Adria Richards, and flaunts a double-standard
    Science makes you good! (Sometimes.)
    Gosh darn it, it would be the funniest political race ever!
    This should not be a surprise
    Adria Richards did everything exactly right
    I’m making a list of who’s going up against the wall in the revolution
    A good argument for gay marriage
    What about Richard Littlejohn?
    Democracy! Whisky! Sexy!
    Michelle, now *I’m* shocked
    Do you deny that rape culture exists?
    I, for one, welcome the Internet surveillance state
    Steubenville rapists found guilty
    I support the #tooFEW project
    We get some suggestions!
    It’s the right thing to do
    We should feel a sense of shame
    I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what Answers in Genesis thinks of feminism
    10% of you are employed in the restaurant industry?
    Call for an accounting

    Personal Life, Culture, Jokes and Miscellany (28)
    Don’t mind me, I’ll just be curled up in the corner, gibbering
    Status update
    IMPORTANT NERD QUESTION
    This is just disgusting and wrong
    For the gentlemen in the audience only
    A subtle warning
    Another crummy leak
    Goddamn cancer (Roger Ebert)
    Sale on Pharyngula merch!
    Goddamn cancer (Iain Banks)
    No fools here
    The preservation of the planet depends on us!
    John Wilkins sells out
    I survived my meeting with Seattle Atheists
    Mandatory style statement
    OK, who snuck the recorder into our secret meeting?
    Blathering FtBers
    The “used to” isn’t there
    Around FtB
    Skeptech: help me!
    Still alive
    Nightmare fuel
    Oh, it is really St Patrick’s Day today
    Venue change for my Seattle talk
    Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!
    Yikes
    The cold dead hand of Christopher Hitchens will reach beyond the grave and get you
    I’m a-comin’ home to Seattle!

    Science (29)
    Friday Cephalopod: Where’s Michelangelo when you need him?
    Botanical Wednesday: One, two, three…ha ha ha…four, five, six, SEVEN. Seven purple tentacles, ha ha ha!
    Learn a little developmental biology
    Here comes the transhumanist hate mail!
    The dark side of open access journals?
    Mary’s Monday Metazoan: The Too-Common Sludge Duck
    Friday Cephalopod: Reach!
    Uh-oh
    Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Denizens of the icy deeps
    What I taught today: O Cruel Taskmaster!
    Friday Cephalopod: Our cunning plan exposed
    Botanical Wednesday: Take me back to the Pacific coast
    The argument from eyelid development
    Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Washingtonians, represent!
    What I taught today: those oddball critters, the vertebrates
    I am not alone!
    Anti-Caturday post
    We need a sociologist of science…or a philosopher
    Friday Cephalopod: So…many…squid…
    Botanical Wednesday: What is that thing on the banana plant?
    So what else is new?
    Higgs ain’t god, please stop
    How about if we just retire Dollo’s Law altogether?
    Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Buzzed
    How not to read a graph
    Friday Cephalopod: Redheads always have the most fun
    Botanical Wednesday: Sex in space!
    What I taught today: molecular biology of bat wings
    Yay! Another reservoir of sequestered carbon can now be released into the atmosphere!

    Atheism, Creationism, Religion (44)
    Joe Barton has data!
    Jesus, the biologist
    #HumanistSolidarity with Bangladesh
    I had a vision last night. A vision of a world without gods.
    Yet another case of anti-atheist discrimination in Tacoma
    Argumentum ad Batman
    Christian hypocrisy and profiteering at Oklahoma Joe’s
    Head and heart, atheists
    The ark builders
    Happy 9th Paul Nelson Day!
    Good ideas and bad ideas
    Textbooks could always get worse
    SkepTech Reminder!
    Oh, boy, more people will hate me for this one
    Mastropaolo is just plain out of his gourd
    Solidarity with atheists of Bangladesh
    Clenched fist salute for the progressive cause of equality! No compromise!
    Moar regional events!
    You’re letting me down, atheists
    Skepchick is a little late on this one
    “Less religion, more God”
    “Pat” is short for “Patronizing”
    We’ve got a ways to go
    How I spent the last few days
    Y’all going to church today?
    The last intelligent creationist
    No, I will not ever debate Joseph Mastropaolo
    Brown paper wrapper only, please
    Naturalists, the supernaturalists worst nightmare
    Frans de Waal disappoints me
    War on Easter?
    The Creationist State of the Nation
    Why I am a happy atheist
    But I guess he doesn’t love me enough to spell my name correctly
    Prayer poll
    Fair’s fair
    But of course we all know what Satan looks like
    You can all call me Mahout Myers now
    Hamza Tzortzis is playing gotcha with Lawrence Krauss now
    The Genetic Code is not a synonym for the Bible Code
    Goo to you via the zoo
    Squishies and Crunchies
    New pope, same as the old pope
    Strident Catholics hurt my brain