Thunderf00t admits to sending my private emails to Michael Payton of CFI Canada

For those who rightfully wanted further confirmation of Thunderf00t’s intrusion into the FTB private mailing list (details here), Thunderf00t himself has now helpfully provided that:

So a week or so ago a guy called Michael Payton who works for CFI Canada (Center for Inquiry) put up a tweet about finding FTB unreadable. Now it turns out ironically Michael is on FTBs side on the issue of harassment policies at conferences (well mostly), however that didn’t matter if he was going to speak ill of freethoughtblogs and this precipitated an angry torrent of twitters from at least one FTBer and another to write an entire blog post about it (promoted by PZ Myers of course), and as with all such posts on FTB he (Payton) was repeatedly branded in the comments section with pejorative terms such as misogynist and MRA (the irony being that he posted an article on skepchick ‘speaking out against hate against women‘ FACEPALM). Indeed it turned out that merely hours after this tweet, CFI Canada had been contacted with calls for his dismissal. Yes his real life job was being threatened because of one tweet about FTBs!

That was a pretty disturbing turn of events having someones job targeted so quickly after a single tweet about FTBs, and after a brief chat with Michael, and knowing that FTB were going ballistic about this on their secret backchannel with some THIRTY messages being circulated on the backchannel about his single tweet, let him know what they were saying about him (naturally no personal details were passed on). Michael did not want to know, he did not need to know that personal info.

This is some of the chatter I passed on to Michael.

Nowhere does he even attempt to justify breaking into the mailing list immediately after he was officially removed – something he did a whole month before any of us said anything about Michael Payton. At the time he did that, there were no remarks about Michael Payton for him to take umbrage at. It was just something he did for whatever inscrutable reasons he needed to convince himself that this was acceptable behavior.

Also, that “chatter” on the mailing list was my email:

Just an early warning, I’m strongly leaning towards publicly making a minor deal of this – not focusing on Payton exclusively, but just as an example of the general attitude of dismissing all of FTB despite not being familiar with hardly any of us – *unless* there’s either an actual apology to us or some kind of sufficient reason for why it would be a bad idea to draw attention to his remarks at this time, such as a relevant illness. I’m usually not one to get involved in internal disputes in the movement, but if a national leader of the SCA or American Atheists had been so openly dismissive of FTB as a whole, I imagine we wouldn’t just let that pass unnoticed. So I’d just like to know if there’s any good reason why I shouldn’t do this, even if I can’t necessarily be privy to the details of it.

Yes, I said that. And so what? I’d say it again – I did say it again – and nothing about it excuses Thunderf00t’s actions. The fact that I said such a thing is not grounds for breaching the privacy of the mailing list or forwarding this email to outside parties, because what I said was not of such a nature that the act of saying it meant immediately abandoning any expectation of privacy. Michael Payton, national executive director of CFI Canada, was making absurd overgeneralizations about Freethought Blogs on Twitter. I drew attention to this and commented on it. And before I did, I asked others if there might be more to the situation that I wasn’t aware of, in case there was any reason why posting about this would be inadvisable.

Nothing about this is even remotely out of line. But for the crime of publicly disagreeing with someone’s public statements, and talking about this with others, Thunderf00t decided that I deserved to have my private email passed along to Michael Payton himself.

So, Thunderf00t, just how far does this line of reasoning extend? Do you plan to break into everyone’s private email, just in case they might eventually plan on writing something critical about someone and you need to show this to the world? Will this then retroactively justify your unauthorized access of their information, too? Is everyone else entitled to intrude upon your privacy for the same reasons, or are you the only one who’s entitled to decide whether other people are allowed to discuss things in confidence?

At the end of the day, you committed an unambiguous and inexcusable ethical violation, and the sole defense you’ve managed to muster is that Zinnia Jones was going to say something critical of Michael Payton’s remarks. Heaven forbid. Do you know what that tells me?

It tells me you’re a pathetic, petty, flailing little whiner.


    • says

      I never said anything about trying to get him or anyone fired. I disagreed with him and criticized his statements. Even Thunderf00t knows that, what with having our emails and all.

      • says

        If I’m reading Thunderf00t correctly, he’s using juxtaposition to imply a connection. Basically, he says people called CFI Canada to get Payton fired and he says people were complaining about Payton on your back channel. People take this to mean that the FTBullies were organizing to have Payton fired. He does nothing to correct this impression in his comments. If, in the future, someone criticizes him for claiming you tried to have Payton fired when you actually just complained about something he said and brainstormed about how to respond, he can point out he never actually said that and complain that you are strawmanning him. This seems to be how he typically rolls.

        • Midnight Rambler says

          Sounds a lot like how Bush and Cheney would say in 2003that Saddam Hussein supports terrorism and needs to be removed, reminding everyone that al Qaeda blew up the WTC, implying that Saddam was behind 9/11 without explicitly saying so.

      • says

        Of course, it comes as no surprise that this distinction is lost on thunderf00t’s fans, who have quickly turned it into “FTB bloggers tried to get someone fired over a tweet.”

    • says

      It wasn’t even a supposition. It was a simple juxtaposition, presumably meant to reflect guilt on FtB. Of course, the calls happened within “mere hours” (if we can trust anything Thunderf00t says), while Zinnia didn’t even ask for advice within that time frame and didn’t put up her post until two days after the tweet. The information we’re given tells us everything we need to sort out that this wasn’t some kind of concerted effort by FtB.

      Also, of course, if there were anything like that on the backchannel, Thunderf00t would have posted it instead of just insinuating.

    • Tanya2 says

      Zinna, your whining is the joke.

      And its especially funny to listen to Moral Relativists carp about their “rights”.

      People thought they were talking smack about Payton and in a position to screw him but they got caught.

      Tough cookies.

        • quog says

          Not that it matters, but Tanya2 appears to be posting one-off gibes about moral relativism on many of the FtB posts about Thunderfoot, under a couple names. It’s difficult to understand why xe thinks xe has a point, as none of their comments are remotely relevant to the thread they’re on.

          But then, it’s also difficult to understand why anyone would defend Thunderfoot or his actions; he’s shown himself to be a perfectly vile person. Count me amongst the legions hoping against hope that he doesn’t use any of that information he shouldn’t possess to harm you or others, Zinnia.

      • says

        “And its especially funny to listen to Moral Relativists carp about their “rights”.”

        Good point – maybe I could have made a more persuasive case, like “HE’S WRONG BECAUSE GOD.”

      • BCat70 says

        @ Zinnia Jones-

        Tanya2 just took a Ban Hammer to the face over on JT’s Blog- excessive trolling he says. Maybe she needs another hit?

    • Drew Hoppe says

      I personally find the term “heaven forbid” ironic used in the context of a atheismbased site, by an atatheist… if there is no god nor heaven and hell how exactly will ” heaven” forbid anything? Just my two cents for the sake of argument

      • says

        If the reason you see this is not because these are simply very common phrases used in English, I’ll be hornswaggled.

        And I can say that with no fear either way of actually being hornswaggled, whatever that is. Neat, huh?

        Language is fun.

  1. sivivolk says

    I like that he’s huffy about Payton being called an MRA or misogynist, as though it’s some sort of personal attack rather than a description of views and actions.

    Also, wasn’t Payton’s thing on Skepchick posted the day after your post, not before? One could easily see that as an attempt at damage control, especially given how he danced around the issue in his statement.

    And your original point, that it’s unprofessional for the leader of a national organization to shoot juvenile trash talk at a blogging network in the community, stands regardless.

    • says

      It was posted on skepchick after the posts here though I’m not sure if the initial request on twitter to write one was before or after the post here.

      • says

        Interesting. I’m not sure what the implications of that are. It really does look to me like Payton’s Skepchick post was evading the problem of sexism, misogyny, and hate in the atheist/sceptic community since he spends most of it talking about GSAs in Ontario schools. I know, ostensibly he was using it as an exemplar or what have you, but it allows him to have said nothing really unequivocal or substantial on the issue at hand.

        All this would seem a natural response if he really hates feminism, was being called out on that via Zinnia, and wrote that as a way of looking like he was walking the walk and being a good progressive, while at the same time not really giving a shit.*

        The fact that he wrote that *before* his tweet…well that makes him seem even more the hypocrite. As to other implications, I must mull it over.

        *That would also appear to be the tack taken by the harassment policy at Eschaton–which basically says “we’ll hand you a phone if something happens that is actionable by the police, oh and don’t lie (i.e. say nothing that’s unprovable in a court of law) about being harassed, bitches, cos we’ll toss you out” while on a surface reading might appear to say “we’ve got your back”.

        • says

          Hi Ibis3,

          I’m one of the organizers of the upcoming Eschaton Conference and we’re delighted to be welcoming several FTB speakers to Ottawa this November as we ‘celebrate reason at the end of the world.’

          Please rest assured that we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure this event is safe for all. The harassment policy for our conference was not drafted by Michael Payton, but by CFI-Ottawa volunteers. Please do not hesitate to write to us directly at with any specific concerns or suggestions so that we can make sure our policy has teeth and conveys the message that all are welcome, while hate and harassment will not be tolerated.


  2. chrisstaab says

    What exactly did this Payton fella do wrong? I am sorry I just don’t feel like reading another left-wing hack job or a blog.

    • One Thousand Needles says

      If you lack the information to make an educated comment on a blog post, and you also refuse to find out the information for yourself, then the only reasonable course of action is to not comment.

      Lazy troll is lazy.

      • Kyle says

        I am actually curious for a better account of what Michael payton did as well. I have tried searching and all that I get are his posts on skepchick about speaking out against hate directed at women (which seems like a good thing to me), and vague 3rd or fourth hand accounts (nothing more substantial than can be found in Zinnia’s post above) about how he said freethoughtblogs were unreadable. To me that is not a problem by itself. What was the context of that statement? Was it directed at an individual? Was it directed to the discussion of a topic that he would rather not see discussed? Specifically in his words. If people are “interpreting” his comments to mean something, than I do not care. What was his actual statement (and was it just the one?) and the temporal context of that statement?

          • Kyle says

            Oh thanks! I never got a follow up email to your reply.

            Ya that seemed like an odd fight for him to have picked. Every comment that I have seen seems like they responded appropriately and in proportion to his action.

            Also, I have since unsubscribed to Thunderf00t. There is enough talent on youtube that I do not have to accommodate all the baggage on that channel.

  3. says

    ZJ, just an observation: you come perilously close to burying your lede by raising the issue with the tweet again. The central issue is that Thunderf00t cracked the mailing list and then sent its contents out (including at least one of your e-mails), not who he sent them to.

    • says

      Meh. Though the accusation that you were trying to get him fired is also bullshit. Meh. Never mind. *gnaws on his keyboard*

      Woe to whoever introduced Thunderf00t to the Internet.

      • Nick H says

        You know, a big part of why he’s doing this is that he’s a disgruntled attention whore, right? If you just ignore him for a while, it will probably die down.

        • says

          Actually – it’s more plausible that ignoring him is what caused him to seek attention again.

          And yeah, I’m trying to read his mind here. I really don’t know if this is what is going on in his head, so I’m conjecturing based on what we know.

          PZ wrote on August 1:

          Now we’re done. We have been done for a long time. Thunderf00t is not and will not be a part of this network, and it’s quite clear he doesn’t want to be part of it, except to destroy it. I’ve addressed the complaints of his ignorant and indignant followers, so I’m putting it to rest — I’ve blocked him on twitter, I’m not reading his blog or watching his videos, so if you want to complain further, do your posturing for Thunderf00t, not me, because I don’t give a damn.

          TF hacking them is not something you just ignore. That’s not just whining and complaining – that’s real. It’s also legally actionable.

          Same thing happened to Feminist Frequency – when she blocked someone who she didn’t want commenting on her videos, he wrote a video game where you got to beat the shit out of her, because (according to his tweets on the subject) she wouldn’t listen.

          It’s a trend that when some people are ignored, they get MAD. Apparently he had already hacked into the system before PZ said he was going to not blog about him anymore, but I suspect it was starting to look like (even behind the scenes) that he wasn’t going to be getting the attention he wanted anymore.

          So – when you WANT attention – what do you do? Some people DO give up, others don’t.

          • Pteryxx says

            That’s also what defines obsessive, entitled, stalker-type behavior. THEY will decide whether to allow the other person to break off engaging with them – the other person has no right to say ‘no’ and cannot be allowed to simply leave and go about their lives, however much they may wish to.

  4. Andy says

    boohoohoo, nasty person gets their emails revealed, revealing they are a nasty person who has a laughably high opinion of themselves.

    Oh and the rest of FTB are vile. Surprise!

  5. Nothing says

    I don’t know yet whether this incident is the reason why I don’t see Natalie Reed’s blog in the sidebar anymore, but if it is, I hope TF die in a fire!
    Her posts gave me invaluable insight on various LGBTQ issues, and that’s not all. Now I’ll be worried sick about her well-being and anyone elses’s who happen to vanish from FtB. F***!

    • says

      However hard it is at time, it’s best to take the high road. Dying in a fire is not reasonable to wish on anyone really.

      I wish he comes to his damned senses and sincerely apologizes to everyone – FtB, Skepchick, his fans, etc.

  6. H.H. says

    I have gone from respecting and even liking Thunderf00t to now considering him to be an atheist Andrew Breitbart. He’s obsessive, vindictive, and largely living in a grandiose delusion of his own relevance.

    FTB graciously handed him a platform and he promptly made them regret it. After being kindly asked to leave the party, the creepy stalker decided to stick around and spy in through a window. Who does that? Why can’t he just move on? Why is he so obsessed with you guys?

  7. says

    “and after a brief chat with Michael, and knowing that FTB were going ballistic about this on their secret backchannel with some THIRTY messages being circulated on the backchannel about his single tweet, let him know what they were saying about him”

    LITERALLY translates to:

    “They were talking about something and everyone wasn’t invited!”

    but maybe if you say “secret” and “backchannel” enough times or point out the number of messages, it’ll seem scary.

  8. Hazelwood says

    I went to the Tfoot blog to check out what he was on about and was truly stunned to see the quote from your email put up as some sort of grand transgression. Seemed utterly reasonable and sane to me. “I’m thinking of posting a critique of Payton’s comment. Does anyone know of any reason I should hold off on that?”

    I’m just not seeing the issue.

  9. says

    I don’t know who called about Michael Payton. I don’t know what they said, or that they were trying to get him fired.

    But I know that, if I were a member of CFI Canada, and I saw its leader casually diss and dismiss thirty-odd bloggers of various prominence within the same basic movement, I’d draw a few likely, logical conclusions. I’d conclude (based on his statement) that he didn’t think these people had anything worthwhile to say. I’d conclude that (as the leader of a large organization) he didn’t care what bridges he burned with others in the (relatively small) community–including at least three other Canadians. I’d conclude, then, that it was pretty unlikely that any of these thirty-odd people might be invited to speak at events sponsored by CFI Canada–and if invited, might be disinclined to accept speaking engagements from someone who was so casually dismissive, and so cavalier with his position as an organization’s leader.

    Were I the kind of person who might want to see a speech by Ian Cromwell or Matt Dillahunty or Zinnia Jones or Maryam Namazie or (heaven forfend!) PZ Myers, I might conclude that Michael Payton was not the person I’d want running the organization which could make that happen. And I might voice that concern to the organization of which I was a member.

    I’m not Canadian, I’m not a CFI member, I didn’t call about Michael Payton. But I don’t think that’s an unreasonable chain of reasoning and/or events.

    And that’s without even getting into the broader implications of just what he found so disagreeable about the entirety of FreethoughtBlogs.

  10. Marco B says

    People are up in arms about Thunderf00t “hacking” into the mailing list. I wouldn’t call it hacking. He gained access through a legitimate channel he was sent the invite and its not his fault that the software is buggy and the invite could be used more than once.

    It’s not comparable with brute force attacks on someone’s email account – where you try to gain access to an account you don’t own.

    People at FTB are sounding just as whiny to me right now. They need to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

    • says

      Right back at you.

      Just remember what you just said if a judge ever tells you that the person who stole your stereo, and bragged to all his friends about it, isn’t culpable because you left your window open far enough for him to reach in and unlock the car door.

      Oh wait – that never happens!

    • says

      its not his fault that the software is buggy and the invite could be used more than once.

      He made a conscious decision to log back in and then tried repeatedly to log in after being kicked off a second time. In combination with his use of the emails, that’s behaviour that can be described as malicious and unethical. It speaks volumes about the man’s moral compass.

      • karmakin says

        I could kind of see an argument if he did so once, thinking it might have been a mistake or something, depending if on a person sees removal or not. Maybe. (I doubt it)

        But repeatedly trying to brute force access the second time? No. Entirely unethical.

    • tekanji says

      Clearly you don’t understand what hacking is. Exploiting security loopholes, both in the program code and other areas (such as human security protocols, see Amazon/Apple Security!Fail) is an extremely common tool in the hacking arsenal.

      Just because you want to define hacking as “something worse than what this guy I like/admire did” doesn’t mean that anyone with even a modicum of tech knowledge is going to let your ignorant, incorrect assertion fly. Seriously, the next time you want to rationalize someone else’s bad behavior it would be in your best interests to stay away from subjects where the vast majority of the internet (in other words, anyone who can use Wikipedia) is more knowledgable than you.

  11. cityzenjane says

    “That’s also what defines obsessive, entitled, stalker-type behavior. THEY will decide whether to allow the other person to break off engaging with them – the other person has no right to say ‘no’ and cannot be allowed to simply leave and go about their lives, however much they may wish to.”

    Entitled man is entitled.

  12. William says

    I read the blog for the first just to see if Michael Payton’s opinion of FTB unfairly lumps ZinniaJones in with all ‘unreadable’ posts.

    The very first post I read pretty much proves that Michael Payton is correct. Evidence? This strawman for one:

    “Do you plan to break into everyone’s private email?”

    He did not break into your private email, or anyone’s private email.

    • says

      1) It’s not a “strawman” unless you are misrepresenting someone’s position in order to more easily attack it, within an argument.

      2) Yes, accessing information from a private listserve after you’ve been kicked out is breaking into someone’s private e-mail (in fact MANY people’s private e-mail)

      3) Even if this were a misrepresentation, that doesn’t make it unreadable. However, it seems that it might have been unreadable to you.

    • kosk11348 says

      Whatever phrasing one uses, he covertly spied upon digital correspondence that he was unambiguously forbidden to access. Trying to pretend that 1) this phrasing of the events constitutes a strawman or 2) that this poor phrasing somehow exonerates TF’s behavior is intellectually dishonest.

  13. yallah bee says

    So the FTBullies got caught with their hand(s) in the cookie jar, and thunderf00t took a snapshot of it and published it… Bwahahahah! I really hope this makes you think twice before you spread lies and trashtalk others behind their backs again!

      • yallah bee says

        Sorry, my mistake. What I meant what the plural ‘you’, the FTBullies, not ‘you Zinnia’. The reason I commented here is simply that you(ZJ) are the only one I care about and follow.

        It’s still not too late to jump off the group-thinking witch-hunting train, ZJ!

        • julian says

          Yeah, I’m sure, ZJ is just dying to keep your approval. Never mind you just insulted her and accused her of group think (ironically parroting a lie told by TF00t).

          • yallah bee says

            I like turtles! I’m sure ZJ can think for herself, and make up her own mind about my comment.

  14. says

    Michael Payton, national executive director of CFI Canada, was making absurd overgeneralizations about Freethought Blogs on Twitter. I drew attention to this and commented on it. And before I did, I asked others if there might be more to the situation that I wasn’t aware of, in case there was any reason why posting about this would be inadvisable.

    Nothing about this is even remotely out of line.

    There’s a little school of thought that it’s a terrible crime to blog about things people say on Twitter. (It elicits cries of “Burn the witch!”) I think the people in that school of thought are forgetting Jessica Ahlquist’s experiences of Twitter.

    Seriously, it’s bullshit. Twitter is public. That’s the whole point of it. Why should people not publicly react to things said on Twitter? No reason that I can see.

  15. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Bwahahahah! I really hope this makes you think twice before you spread lies and trashtalk others behind their backs again!

    Refresh my memory here-what lies and trash-talk are you speaking of?
    Is there some information that Thunderf00t is withholding that shows he was wrongly treated by the bloggers at FtB?
    More to the point, even if TF was wrongfully treated, how does that justify his actions in disseminating private emails to third parties-emails that could result in very real harm to anonymous bloggers?

  16. says

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to know where
    u got this from. many thanks


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