Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

I thought it was simple plagiarism, but it turned out to be so much worse. Commenter A. Noyd discovered that anti-creationist arguments posted here were being regularly parroted elsewhere, on a site called debate.org, without attribution. Jon Milne was in a debate with a creationist named Iredia, and he was getting handy rebuttals straight from me and various other regular commenters here, including Nerd of Redhead, Amphiox, a_ray_in_dilbert_space, and David Marjanović, which he’d simply copy and paste straight from here into comments there, under his name.

That’s disgraceful. I was shocked to hear of it: we often accuse creationists of this game, of simply pasting together quotes without understanding them, and here was someone acting as a debater for evolution doing the same thing. It was patent plagiarism, and ethically wrong.

But then it turned into something else altogether, something even more contemptible. From his confession, it turns out that he’d been doing something truly dishonest. He had a second account here. When a creationist gave him an argument on another site, he would copy it, word for word, come over to Pharyngula, pose as a creationist (“biasevolution”), and paste it into a comment, to trigger a response from us.

He was plagiarizing creationists.

He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

He was simply shuttling arguments from one site to another, providing no creative input of his own other than to carefully remove any evidence of the origin of arguments. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to look really clever. But all I know is that his every argument on debate.org is now tainted, and he’s managed to discredit a lot of people with seriously damaging behavior that reflects poorly on the science side of these arguments.

He has been banned, along with his “biasevolution” creationist sockpuppet. And I’m really pissed off.

Aaargh. Stephanie tells me he’s been doing this for a good long while.

He’s been plagiarizing for a couple of years, too. His email address brings up a short-lived LJ account where he bragged about bringing the “epic smackdown” on a creationist.

His material? Lifted from Rational Wiki.

And the Iron Chariots Wiki.

And Rational Wiki again.

Yeah? This is my angry Viking face.


Around FtB

I’ve been sluggishly recovering, so let’s see what other people are doing around here, OK?

  • Deacon Duncan examines the Christian persecution complex.

  • Stephanie Zvan reveals that her harasser, Sara Mayhew, traces. Oooh, burn.

  • Avicenna points out that there other ways of doing great harm to people than shooting them.

  • Aron Ra has been engaging in interfaith dialogue.

  • Ashley Miller…WHAT? I don’t even…seriously, people are that racist? Some rocks cover some really ugly slimy stuff, but you’ve got to flip them over anyway.

  • The Atheist Experience explains that miracles aren’t.

  • Brianne Bilyeu is raising money for a pro-choice cause.

  • Sikivu Hutchinson is supporting a pastor — one who is facing a tribunal for being an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

  • Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner gingerly deals with the fraught situation of having friends with different political views. Are you a bad person if some of your friends are assholes?

  • Ophelia Benson is also mystified by American Atheists’ recent tactics.

  • Richard Carrier dismantles a defense of the historicity of Jesus.

  • The Digital Cuttlefish thinks poorly of an educator who wants to bring in more religion to cover his shortcomings.

  • Dana Hunter talks about how gender stereotypes harm boys, too. Be sure to watch the excellent video at the end!

  • Alex Gabriel grows and shrinks.

  • Greta Christina is bustin’ out all over.

  • Kate Donovan talks about adoption. It’s complicated!

  • Ally Fogg looks at the people behind legislation to regulate sex work. “a bunch of homophobic bigots” is perhaps the kindest phrase used.

  • Tauriq Moosa is quite right that if we’re going to support marriage equality, we have to recognize that even Scientologists can get married as they choose.

  • Jason Thibeault gets an email explaining why we keep fighting for equality.

  • Kaveh Mousavi talks about a minority so tiny I didn’t know anything about them. Do you think they’re tolerated, since they stress tolerance? Hah.

  • Maryam Namazie has been protesting in Paris

  • Nirmukta talks about the movement to equate Indian nationalism with Hinduism. From my perspective as a citizen of a country that considers patriotism and Christianity synonymous, I can concur — it’s always a bad idea.

  • Comrade Physioproffe is having dinner. I’ve seen the guy, he’s not fat at all, and I don’t know how he does it.

  • Mano Singham highlights the peculiarity of all these “first” women in various positions. Isn’t announcing a “first” woman mean you’ve been a sexist douche for many years?

  • Taslima Nasrin thinks Women’s Day ought to be superfluous.

  • Yemisi Ilesanmi celebrates International Women’s Day.

  • Stephen ‘Darksyde’ Andrew has been reading anti-vaccination crankery.

  • Heather McNamara addresses the “don’t tell Grandpa” trope that LGBTQ people often encounter.

Cynthia Gockley is a strong, confident woman

And that frightens pick-up artists. Just ask them. You all remember Matt Forney, right? He’s the slimy character whose post about liking women who are insecure and intimidated made the rounds a while back, and his blog is full of repellent bigotry, like his post that says fat girls are vermin and are also stupid, just like black people. So we know direct from the ass’s mouth how these guys react to any woman who does not know her submissive place.

Whenever a girl I’m talking to brags about how she’s “confident” and “strong,” I can feel my dick deflating like a punctured tire.

Or take a look at RooshV, the racist, sexist, homophobic scumbag who travels the world, writing books about all the women he “bangs” in one-night stands. He turns into a whiny-ass-titty-baby when he finds women who don’t fall for his “charms”.

Times are bad for Forney and Roosh, in part because a lot of women are waking up to the game and aren’t falling for it, because there are also a lot of women who are speaking up on blogs and social media to expose these sleazy con artists, and just generally the PUAs are becoming fodder for the mockery mill everywhere on the internet — I’m sure they have a hard time getting it up when everyone is laughing at them.

But really, Matt Forney, “punctured tire” is such a poor metaphor. I’m thinking it’s more like worms on the sidewalk during a rain. PUA dicks are not only limp and squishy, but all the traffic is coming by and stepping on them.

So they’re fighting back, in a way that just makes them look even worse. The Matt Forney’s of the world are cruising around, looking for feminist women they can “neg” and intimidate, and the worst insult they can throw around is that they are feminists.

Case in point: A woman using the pseudonym Cinzia La Strega has been an active commenter on feminist blogs, and has her own blog in which she mocks the absurdity and repulsiveness of PUAs on the web and twitter. She’s annoying to Matt Forney because she laughs at him — she actually reads the nonsense he posts publicly and, rather than becoming aroused, she ridicules him. She must be punished for making him impotent.

So he dug into public records, social media, all that sort of thing, tracked down her identity (it wasn’t hard; she admits to not being a technical person and made no major efforts to hide, other than by using a pseudonym), and exposed her in detail. I won’t be linking to that post. I’ll just tell you that he published her name, her place of employment, her RateMyProfessor page (she’s a community college teacher), her address, her phone number, her weight, photos, her sexual history, accounts about her unpleasant pedophile uncle, her relationship with a transexual “woman” (the scare quotes are Forney’s), and engages in a lot of bizarre remote psychoanalysis. And most damning of all, he accuses her of being a FEMINIST right in the title.

Then he attempts to document her psychopathic stalking of PUAs, oblivious to the fact that she has never done anything as stalkerish as Matt Forney’s own post. But to be fair, I took a look at his accusations. For instance, he claims that she tracked down one of [Forney’s] high school classmates solely so she could write a post about [his] teenage years. It turns out this wasn’t true; she replied to a comment on Jezebel by someone who volunteered that she knew Forney in high school, and then she wrote a post in which expressed sympathy for people who’d suffered social rejection in their high school years.

I’m sure that was the most galling thing for an arrogant creep like Forney: a woman expressing a bit of empathy, even pity, for poor warped individuals like himself. So he rages ineffectually, trying to hurt Cinzia La Strega by publishing her personal data with patently false color added by a disgruntled misogynist.

The laugh is on him, though. He decided to try this feeble tactic on a woman who then turned around and asked me to publicize the story, and who wasn’t intimidated in the slightest.

Cinzia La Strega is Cynthia Gockley. Go say hello. She isn’t afraid, and Matt Forney’s dick is very sad.

You want a dose of irony? One of Forney’s recent posts is titled How to destroy a person’s reputation with Google, it contains a list of recommendations, and it promises to destroy feminism with these techniques. His Cynthia Gockley post is practically a literal exercise in implementing his own suggestions. He got some brief success — his attack on her is currently the top Google result when searching for “Cynthia Gockley” — but it only worked because that name was practically unknown on the internet before this, since she was writing under a pseudonym.

This post is climbing fast in the google rankings for the name. If you have a blog, mention Cynthia Gockley in the title of a post — I think Forney’s priority is pretty easy to topple.

Also, try a Google search for “Matt Forney”. The SEO master has been hoist on his own petard.

Fixes in the works

I am getting many complaints about recent changes. In response to the DDOS attack (Jason has all the details), there have been some new problems caused by the repairs: RSS is down, and there are apparently some slightly annoying javascript additions. We have Top Men working behind the scenes, it looks like we might be getting a security company to tighten us up, and also, coming down the track is a complete redesign of the site. Patience.

Years ago when I was running this place off my own server, one of the reasons I happily leapt aboard the Scienceblogs ship was that they’d take care of all the techy fol-de-rol needed to keep it running. Now that I’m on a different network, I’m constantly grateful that we have people like Ed to handle management, and Jason to futz with the guts, and another person lurking in the black bowels of the machine who I will not name, all juggling all the balls all at once.

Someone was bored tonight

If you’re wondering what happened to FtB, starting at about a quarter to eight tonight, we got hit with a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. Also, at the same time, Skepchick got DDOSed. Also, at the same time, Feminist Frequency got DDOSed.

I can’t imagine what those three sites have in common, or what they would be promoting that would rouse the furious ire of some tedious nerd somewhere.

I’ve been doing it wrong

Xavier Di Petta and Kyle Cameron are 17 and 19 years old, and they’re making very good money out of Twitter. $44,000 a month? On Twitter? Tell me your one weird tip for doing this, please.

They met hustling on YouTube when they were 13 and 15, respectively, and they’ve been doing social media things together (off and on) since. They’ve built YouTube accounts, making money off advertising. They created Facebook pages such as "Long romantic walks to the fridge," which garnered more than 10 million Likes, and sold them off. More recently, Di Petta’s company, Swift Fox Labs, has hired a dozen employees, and can bring in, according to an Australian news story, 50,000 Australian dollars a month (or roughly 43,800 USD at current exchange rates). 

But @HistoryInPics may be the duo’s biggest creation. In the last three months, this account, which tweets photographs of the past with one-line descriptions, has added more than 500,000 followers to bring their total to 890,000 followers. (The account was only established in July of 2013.) If the trend line continues, they’ll hit a million followers next month.

OK, but how? They’ve got several twitter accounts that regularly post popular material, and they build up the stats and then sell them off. I don’t even understand the business of selling twitter accounts — doesn’t it mean that the personal nature of the account is completely missing?

It’s not just @HistoryInPics, either. They’re also behind @EarthPix, which has similarly staggering stats, and several comedy accounts that they’re in the process of selling that I agreed not to disclose. They’ve got at least five accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers and engagement metrics that any media company would kill for right now.

How do they do it? Once they had one account with some followers, they used it to promote other ones that could capitalize on trends they saw in social-media sharing. “We normally identify trends (or create them haha). We then turn them into a Twitter account,” Di Petta said in an IM conversation. “Share them on established pages, and after 50,000 – 100,000 followers they’ve gained enough momentum to become ‘viral’ without further promotion.”

Huh? I have 140,000 followers on twitter right now! Time to take over the world!

Except…as the story goes on, it becomes quite clear that the secret of their success is parasitism. They don’t actually create any content: they just monetize this abstract entity called ‘traffic’, and yes, they do create traffic. But the way they do it is to steal photographs taken by talented photographers and dump them at regular intervals on twitter without attribution, and most importantly, without paying their content creators. If they actually had to make micropayments to the people who provide the material that drives interest and builds the traffic they’re selling, their profits would take a nosedive.

They can’t even be bothered to acknowledge who created the images.

“It would not be practical,” he said. “The majority of the photographers are deceased. Or hard to find who took the images.”

One writer took the time to track down the names of the photographers for a couple of the images they used: it took four minutes. I don’t think their profit margins are so thin that they can’t do that.

I can sort of see the temptation. Use Google’s image search, and it dumps thousands of images on any topic right into your lap, and some of them are so ubiquitous, have so many sources, that it’s hard to trace them back to the one original source. I’ve used ‘generic’ images myself, but I’ve been trying hard to include source information for most of them nowadays — all the Friday Cephalopods, for instance, get a link to the photographer or online source.

I guess I’m going to have to give up my idea of getting rich off my twitter account. All it contains are my words, rather than the art and information at high density produced by swarms of unsourced, talented people around the world. Darn it.