Thunderf00t does one good thing

He’s blundering about, wailing and whining, because he used a clip from another YouTuber without attribution, and she wrote him asking for a link or a mention, as she deserves, and he had a temper tantrum. Instead of just adding an acknowledgment for her contribution, he made a whole ‘nother video which is entirely about belittling and abusing her. No surprise there, I guess.

So what was the good thing? He made me aware of this YouTube channel, Draw Curiosity, which is mostly science stuff, and it’s excellent! I’ve subscribed, and maybe if more of us do, ol’ Phil may have accomplished one worthwhile thing with his ranty, petty noise machine.

Thunderf00t keeps proving me wrong

I was so, so, so wrong to invite him to blog here. His latest escapade: a woman wrote a letter to his employer complaining about his assholishness, trying to get him fired*, and so he doxxed her and sent his legions of haters to ruin her business with bad reviews. And of course the scum at 8chan are excited and see blood in the water and are cheering on attempts to drive her to suicide.

These are truly terrible, awful, vile people. I’ll never forgive myself for inviting him to join us at a network that’s the antithesis of everything he stands for.

The people who have been targeted by 8chan and Thunderf00t are struggling to keep their business afloat, and have created a fundanything page to raise money, and so far they haven’t even come close to what the thundering asshole gets for every video he makes. Yeah, people suck.

*This was a bad move for a number of reasons. 1) it was going to have no effect (I speak from experience) and should have no effect, 2) his employers certainly already know that he’s an asshole, and have no problem with it, and 3) it gave him an excuse to be openly vindictive.

Thunderf00t makes a good point

And I’d link to it if he didn’t throw it away at the end, and if it weren’t made to invent a false conflict with Anita Sarkeesian’s major points. His latest video attempts to mock Sarkeesian by using clips from movies and video games to show that there is a huge amount of objectification of men — as targets and victims, rather than sexual objectification — using a similar style to her videos. The thing is, though, that he’s actually confirming what she says: that media is problematic in how it presents human beings. Sarkeesian shows in her work how women are trivialized and reduced to stereotypes; Thunderf00t’s video shows how huge numbers of people, especially men, are reduced to sword and gun targets.

We’ve all seen it. There’s a guard, a minion, a redshirt in a scene, and along comes the hero or villain…there’s a short gasp, a gurgle, maybe a Wilhelm scream, and then…next scene. A human being has just been extinguished and it’s given no moral weight at all, he was simply an obstacle that needed to be removed. And it is also true that it’s almost always a man who is dismissively executed — if the security guard who got garrotted were a woman, it would have greater shock value to the audience. Or look at this list of dead red shirts in Star Trekoverwhelmingly male. Most of the few women killed had brief speaking parts in which we get to know them as people, before their tragic deaths. The men? Just statistics. Bit parts that got killed to add generic weight to a threat, but their stories were completely unimportant.

I’ve made a similar point about the glut of superhero movies. They are festivals of CGI in which mass destruction occurs, cities are reduced to rubble (by the good guys!), and nothing matters at all. Actions lack consequences. But in real life, the death of one person close to you is a traumatic event, a huge concern that can tear at you for years. Signs of a little wood rot in your house can send you into a panic and be a big drain on your finances. But in the movies, death is casual, and houses can be flattened, and we move on to our deep concerns about the hero’s love life. Or in the case of Michael Bay’s ouevre, we move on to the next giant robot and the next explosion.

It’s a real issue. I’d almost be willing to applaud Thunderf00t for bringing it up, because cheap mayhem has become a staple of movies and games. And it’s not as if media can’t be humanizing. The best movie I saw last year wasn’t The Avengers, but Nebraska; the best video game I played (although my consumption of the genre isn’t exactly thorough) was Gone Home. In both, nobody dies, nothing explodes, but I still left the experience thoughtful and impressed. This is not to say there isn’t a place for light entertainment, but why does so much of our light entertainment involve mass murder? (I know, it sells, and the population wants it.)

Where Thunderf00t screws up the message, unfortunately, is in two ways. He cherry-picks his examples to only feature movies where the perpetrator/protagonist is a woman: Kill Bill and The Matrix, for example. But the problem is that movies slaughter men indiscriminately, whether the killer is a man or a woman, and the majority of the R-rated violent thrillers feature manly men as the protagonists. There is a universal trend to treat men as expendable, but they’re generally used as faceless targets for violence; is there any genre equivalent to the slasher movie in which sexuality is the target, and women are the special, select victims of the violence, in which men are murdered? Also, and I’m sure Sarkeesian would point this out, when women are the sword- or gun-wielding hero, they are typically sexualized to the male ideal: they are young (in the case of Kick Ass, way too young), slender, attractive, not your Brienne of Tarth type. Men are also idealized to be muscular, tough, sexually charismatic. It’s all about making the protagonist someone the male audience wants to watch, not necessarily someone a woman would want to identify with.

And then Thunderf00t throws all of his good points away. He ends the video by declaring that it’s all bullshit, and laughing.

That’s what gets me about these MRAs. There are real social problems that affect men — we have expectations about how men must behave that confine their ability to respond appropriately to events. Feminists will talk about ‘toxic masculinity’, and it’s not about claiming that all men are toxic — it’s about how societal stereotypes can lead men to deny the breadth of their identities to fit a particularly obnoxious model. We can see genuine distortions of men’s roles acted out in our media, where they are either brutal butchers, or faceless, unimportant victims who can be destroyed without qualm. I could actually support a Men’s Rights movement that tried to call attention to these sorts of damaging representations, that actually dealt with unfairness fairly — that didn’t make jokes about the prison rape of men, that sincerely tried to see that child custody cases were honestly decided on what was best for the child.

But almost always, these loons destroy their own points. Thunderf00t made it clear that he doesn’t really care about the objectification of men in the media — it’s always about scoring points against the feminists. A good and productive Men’s Rights movement would be working in full partnership with feminists, each working together to end the sexism which harms both men and women. But somehow, the Men’s Rights side is dominated by asshats whose only goal is to put down those uppity women, rather than correcting an injustice.

The recent men’s rights conference confirmed that the driving force behind this incarnation of the movement isn’t men’s rights, but hating feminism. While there were a few talks that sound as if they focused on making life better for men, much of it was about demonizing feminism.

Mike Buchanan, a British men’s activist, warned that feminism was the ideology of “female supremacists, driven by misandry, the hatred of men and boys.” For 30 years, Buchanan said, “feminists have worked through the state to attack many of the pillars of civilized society,” and become “the defining ideology, of the political establishment.”

At the conference, feminism was responsible for turning wives against their husbands, bleeding them dry in divorce proceedings and separating them from their children, levying false accusations of rape and abuse against good men, or creating an ever-present culture of hatred where men are vilified.

Though men’s rights activists who hosted the conference often say sexual assault against men isn’t taken seriously, the audience laughed when speaker Fred Jones mentioned his fears about his son being raped after being arrested in New Orleans. 

“He’s kinda small and kinda cute, good looking, you know what I mean?” Jones said. “You know what they do with –” Jones cut himself off. But the audience laughed.

Why would you respond to a message about how men are victimized, by laughing at a situation where men are victimized? Perhaps MRAs would be more respectable if they actually took prison rape seriously. It’s not a joke.

Barbara Kay, a columnist for Canada’s National Post, argued that Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger couldn’t have been driven by hatred of women because “he hated women because they rejected him sexually, but he also hated men because they had access to women.”

Not getting the point: how dare a slot machine reject his penis, while other penises were allowed to use the slot machine? Rodger regarded women as objects, and that was what drove his hatred — that they insisted on acting as human beings.

Rape on college campuses, she added, was a myth perpetrated by man-haters, and the concept of rape culture, how society can tacitly approve of or rationalize sexual assault, was “baseless moral panic.”

“The vast majority of female students allegedly raped on campus are actually voicing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled promiscuous behavior involving murky lines of consent on both sides,” she said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.” The chuckles turned to guffaws.

I’m on a college campus. I know women who were victims of sexual assault. That accusation is never delivered casually, it’s not used as an excuse, and again, it’s not a joke — these students are harmed by the event, and doubly harmed by the kind of dismissal jerks like Kay perpetuate.

And that’s why I can’t support these MRAs. They really aren’t about fighting injustices done to the rights of men, but about opposing the rights of women.

More formulaic bullshit from Thunderf00t

Thunderf00t has a new video, and it’s the usual nonsense of bad metaphors and vague recommendations and a complete lack of empathy and reason — more mountain lions and wasps, and new comparisons that don’t work.

Here’s the problem I have: he keeps saying that women can do things to reduce their chances of getting raped…and then he trots out a fake equation, like this:

Probability of rape = AxBxCxDxExFxGxH

Where cyan are the factors women control, and red are the factors the rapists control. And therefore he’s only advocating that there are steps you can take to acceptably reduce your risk of rape, not that the rapist is excused.

Can I just say that I really, really despise fake equations? It’s a way to put up a pretense of scientific objectivity, without having to do any actual work in trying to understand the relationship of the variables. Why would you give all of these variables equal weight? Why would you think these are probabilities that are appropriately multiplied together? And most importantly, what the hell are the variables? I would think that one of the major objections here is that he leaves his variables unspecified, and if we think it through, it turns out that those parameters are what many of us are objecting to.

Later in his video, he mentions “body language” as a factor in rape (let’s call that his factor A) — apparently, women just have to learn the right body language to discourage rapists…like being waspish or lionish. I think. Looking fearful is apparently a bad thing — so ladies, if you get raped, perhaps it’s because you weren’t presenting yourself forcefully enough. But on the other hand, what I’ve seen is that if women are aggressively outgoing and bold, they get more hatred and accusations of being unladylike and death and rape threats. How’s that working out for Rebecca Watson?

So apparently A doesn’t scale in a simple linear way, and it isn’t even interpretable as a numeric value…and it’s going to have different context-dependent values, depending on the personality of your wanna-be rapist. So what exactly are women supposed to do?

I asked this question on the chat to the Magic Sandwich show, in which Thunderf00t tried to defend himself (which was awful, by the way: who thought it was a good idea to bring on four men to discuss how women should behave to avoid rape? Lilandra was the token woman, and they gave her very little time to speak). The answer: watch what they choose to wear (we’ll call that Factor B).

Again, we’re missing specifics. So women aren’t supposed to dress attractively? The whole world is sending women signals that they’re supposed to care about their appearance, and dress beautifully and apply makeup, and when men get together to mansplain how to avoid rape, their answer is…be less attractive. Right. So we’d expect that the male scale of feminine attractiveness is now equivalent to the scale of rapeability? What a damning relationship, if true…and of course it isn’t.

We’re still guessing at what factor C might be. Thunderf00t makes one of his typical clueless metaphors: that there’s something about women’s behavior that is like wearing a hardhat in a construction area. We have signs in such areas that warn people and tell them they must wear a hardhat, and we don’t get upset that it’s limiting people’s freedom to follow common sense rules.

So, I wonder, what is the hardhat equivalent for women’s behavior? What are they supposed to wear or do to protect themselves? Be specific. A construction site has specific risks — heavy falling objects — and a straightforward defensive measure — wearing a hardhat — to address the risks. Every woman in the world would love to know what simple defensive measure they can take to prevent all forms of rape.

Thunderf00t doesn’t have an answer to that. It’s all handwaving and invalid metaphors that break instantly upon inspection.

What he doesn’t address at all is the fundamental unfairness. Everyone, men, women, bosses, workers, wears a hardhat at a construction site. We don’t single out some group and say their heads are especially fragile so they need special protection. But we blithely assume that it is entirely reasonable to demand that women live with heightened risk.

My wife mentioned a simple example to me: she’d never walk into a parking garage alone late at night. And that’s a reasonable precaution she takes all the time. But think about it: if men had special reason to fear the security at a particular parking area, we’d be demanding more police patrols, greater video surveillance, that steps be taken to reduce the danger. But women? Heck, that’s just a consequence of their being the “weaker sex”, they need to adapt to deal with it.

Can you even image the reaction if people at a workplace were told that the company parking garage was risky, so you men need to partner up when you walk out to your car? Outrage and demands that the company fix the problem right now.

So Thunderf00t has invented an utterly useless pseudo-scientific formula to justify his views, and even the most casual analysis of possible factors to fit into it reveals that it simply cannot work, that it fits reality remarkably poorly, and that it is so sloppily defined that it is meaningless. I reject Thunderf00t’s ideas because they are appallingly bad science.


Coming off of SomeGreyBloke’s brutal savaging of Thunderf00t’s logic, now Rebecca Watson shanks him in the kidneys and mocks him cruelly. Trigger warning for sad ex-paragon of anti-creationism being publicly exposed as a moral cretin.

Ouch. I am almost feeling pity for the guy (or is that acute schadenfreude? I always have trouble telling those apart), so I thought I’d follow his lead and dispense some advice: How to avoid having feminists rip you a new one.

  • Drop the patronizing tone. I know you’d like to believe you’re smarter than all women, but trust me on this: you aren’t.

  • Avoid far-fetched and inappropriate metaphors, like metaphors that rely on characterizing your critics as mindless beasts. They’ll bite.

  • Especially avoid metaphors that you use to claim that you understand exactly what a victim went through, and that you know better than they do how to avoid the problem. Especially camping metaphors. You don’t tell the burn victim, “Once, when I was toasting marshmallows around the campfire, it caught fire. I blew it out and it was OK. Did you try blowing yourself out?”

  • Don’t get in a battle of wits with people who have a better sense of humor than you do. I hate to break this news to you, but getting a Ph.D. in chemistry means you know more about chemistry than either of your two critics, but they did not confer a degree in comedy on you. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid.

  • Your video may have 5,240 upvotes, but it’s about as competently done as some piece of trash by VenomFangX. Do you know what all those upvotes mean? It doesn’t mean you win, or that you must be right. It means you have a lot of assholes following you. That should instill in you a sense of humility.

  • This is going to be the hard one to follow: don’t say such stupid stuff that everyone finds it irresistible to pile on.

Basically, follow your own advice to women. Shut up, cower at home, don’t drink, don’t interact with people who might criticize you, look at everyone else in the world as if they are mountain lions or wasps out to get you.

Summary of Thunderf00t/Phil Mason’s disgrace

The story so far: Thunderf00t/Phil Mason was invited to join our blog network last month. All he wrote during the short week he was here was incoherent, unprofessional rages against feminism and the whole network he was on; we could not understand why he even accepted the offer to join us if he hated us so much, and his inane rants certainly weren’t going to persuade us that we were wrong, so we kicked him off. And ever since he has been obsessed with howling about our perfidy.

The latest development is that it turns out that almost as soon as he’d been evicted, he snuck back onto our mailing list and has been reading all the confidential discussions we’ve been having. He has leaked these to third parties as well. When we shut down the security hole last week, he then tried to hack back in, to no avail. We have logs of all of this computer activity on his part.

He doesn’t have anything of actionable substance — we really haven’t been planning the overthrow of the government or any bank heists or anything nefarious — but he does have personal information about some of the contributors to FtB who want their privacy respected. That is his threat, and it’s not something we can trust him on, given that he’s already sent some emails to other people. And there was no legitimate reason for him to even need to be browsing our private email.

I’ll be compiling the responses to Thunderf00t’s lack of basic decency and ethics here, but first I have to highlight this, from Ed Brayton:

I really do find this outraged declaration that he does not “doc drop” to be almost laughably deluded. It’s like someone who breaks into your house because you forgot to latch a window. He comes into your house and steals your china and jewelry, then reacts in mock outrage when you suggest that he might steal your TV too. In fact, he screams “I do not steal TVs!” at the top of his lungs to the neighbors while he’s handing your other possessions out the door to someone else. And then he expects that declaration to be credible and to provide some assurance of his character.

Phil Mason also doesn’t seem to realize that his declaration that he broke in is in fact a confession. It’s not just that he’s violated our confidence, but that he’s so goddamn stupid that he’s announced it to the world.

Here’s the current list of blog posts protesting Thunderf00t’s inexcusable behavior. I’ll add to it as more come in, but I’m also going to be traveling a bit today, so my access may be spotty.

Thunderf00t/Phil Mason, treacherous hack

Fuck Thunderf00t/Phil Mason. The accounts that Zinnia and Natalie and Ashley have revealed are true: for the past month, Thunderf00t took advantage of a security exploit to hack into our private mail server; when the hole was closed, he tried multiple time to use the same exploit to get back in. He knowingly and willfully violated a confidential email list. And worse, what he has since been doing (and this is how we discovered the security flaw in the first place) is disseminating some of this email to third parties.

Yeah, this is the guy who expressed such outrage at people ‘dropping docs’ on him, but he has absolutely no qualms about breaking legally binding confidentiality of an LLC, and thinks it’s just fine to hold hostage personal information on pseudonymous posters who, under the promise of privacy, had discussed personal matters and job-related issues. He is a colossal hypocrite.

Just to make matters even worse, I woke up this morning to find some reassuring email from some friends of his, who had basically staged an intervention, trying to get him to back off from his unethical behavior. I was told that he had listened and agreed, and piously assured everyone that he thought the goals of the freethought movement were most important, and that we should all step away from the petty divisiveness and concentrate on education, science, secularism, and politics. His friends wrote to me and they sounded quite convinced that he was sincere and high minded.

And then he turned around, no doubt chortling to himself, and posted another slimy, sneering, lying article about freethoughtblogs. It’s appalling. Not only has he stabbed FtB in the back, but he has no qualms about lying to and betraying the people he still regards as friends.

Yes, we want to make Thunderf00t/Phil Mason a pariah in the atheist movement, and for good reason: he’s a dishonest scumbag. The nice thing for us is that he’s making it easy: Phil Mason is destroying his own reputation with his sleazy behavior. Who in their right mind would ever trust that guy with any confidence at all?

Hey, Thunderf00t fans: stuff it!

Ah, it’s another bright crisp summer morning, and I wake up to birds singing, the distant sound of the freight train moving through Morris, and the mad dinging of my email software, alerting me that there’s another flood of new hate mail on twitter, on youtube, and in my mail. Yes, it is August, and Thunderf00t has created a new video denouncing feminism. And me. And the accusations flooding in are so stupid and so wrong. I shall address them one more time, and then, please, slip on your nicest toe shoes and tutu and pirouette up your own anuses.

Here are a few of the bloody idiotic complaints I get.

  • “I am so disgusted with you and your war with Thunderf00t.” Aside from this post here, today, I have completely ignored Thunderf00t for the last several weeks. He, on the other hand, is making videos and twitter comments about me. There are certain people who, I think, don’t understand the internet: if I made a post two weeks ago or a month ago or a year ago, it persists. It doesn’t mean I’m sitting here right now, obsessing over something I wrote yesterday, even.

  • “How dare you violate Thunderf00t’s right to free speech!” This one is especially ironic, given that it’s made in response to Thunderf00t blithering away loudly and freely on the internet, again. We’ve done nothing to compromise his ability to express himself. We have said that this organization does not support his views, and will not give him our space or resources to do so.

  • “You and Rebecca Watson banned Thunderf00t!” No, we didn’t. We refused to support Thunderf00t’s dumbass crusade against feminism on our blog network. Also, do you realized that and are completely different entities? Rebecca Watson has no input at all on our management, and vice versa.

  • “You banned Thunderf00t for simply disagreeing with you!” No, we get disagreement all the time, and bloggers here have issues with each other frequently. What Thunderf00t was fired for was joining a network he clearly detested and immediately launching a campaign to tell everyone to stop talking about subjects he didn’t like. He hates freethoughtblogs, in case it wasn’t clear to you by now, so why the hell did he join at all? If it was to undermine it from within, his overt antagonism from day two onward made it clear he wasn’t going to be persuasive in the slightest. Dumbest fifth columnist ever.

  • “You promised you wouldn’t meddle with what he wrote!” Yes, and we didn’t. We didn’t edit or censor one word that he wrote: his blog is still here, completely intact and untouched. What we didn’t promise is that we’d give him space on our network forever and ever. I know he’s fond of complaining in academic terms about this, so digest this: he was never granted tenure here. He doesn’t get to complain that his tenure contract was violated, because didn’t have one. Now maybe if he’d built up some social capital with us, and demonstrated some ability to make an intelligent contribution, we’d have been more reluctant to let him go…but he didn’t, and showed no interest in doing so. He had no friends among the established bloggers here, and didn’t want any. That wasn’t a very collegial attitude.

Let me add one more thing: there’s this unfortunate idea that these attacks have to be personalized and focus on just me. I’m the guy who recruited Thunderf00t to join the network. He immediately raised the hackles of just about everyone here; we had a review committee that looked over his raw contempt for everything here, and the pile of disgusted emails we were getting, and his atrociously childish writing, and said, “Uh-oh, this was a huge mistake, this guy does not belong here.” And I was then the guy who asked everyone to hold off on kicking him out, he’ll settle down and start writing good stuff. And then he didn’t. And he didn’t. And he got worse. And every day I felt guiltier and guiltier, not to Thunderf00t but to this collective here where we’ve otherwise done such a good job in gathering good, intelligent writers…so when the whole group decided they could take no more of his abuse, I volunteered to deliver the axe in expiation. I was Thunderf00t’s sole advocate here (my big mistake). If you have a beef here, it’s not just with me, it’s with the whole damn network of about 40 writers who were unhappy to be saddled with a flaming asshole.

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.