Monday, 13 August 2012

Drawing a line under hypocrisy, dishonesty and incredibly poor writing.

It has been a rather surreal experience watching Thunderf00t since he had his soapbox taken away over at Freethought Blogs. He wasn't banned, by the way. He claims he was, but the fact is that he still had the ability to post comments just like every other user. Whether or not that will still be the case after this debacle remains to be seen. If you have trouble understanding how losing your blogging privileges does not constitute being banned, consider the following: if someone gave a talk at an event for the last few years, but is not invited to give one next year, were they banned from the event? Of course not, they are still free to come and go as they please, just like everyone else. They just won't be getting any special privileges above and beyond that of the average attendee. Let's move on.

The reason I'm taking issue with Thunderf00t now is because his behaviour has progressed from being adolescent and arrogant, to being creepy and possibly criminal. I've decided to go through one of his latest tantrums piece-by-piece to showcase each and every aspect of the ass-hattery he is currently engaged in. Now, as well as countering the arguments in his post, I will also be proof-reading it for grammatical errors, typos, et cetera. Corrections of this nature will appear like so.

This is not to be petty. One of the reasons given for his removal by Freethought Blogs was his lack of writing skills. Many of his staunch supporters simply refuse to acknowledge, or are incapable of recognising, this obvious deficiency. I hope that my corrections will enlighten them because I do not think it is unreasonable to demand that when you're being paid to write for an adult audience, you should be capable of producing professional material. Specifically, material written at an adult level and which has been proof-read at least once prior to being published. Let's begin.

So, Ed Brayton, that's the leader, or owner, or something of Freethought Blogs, is now referring to me in these terms:

“I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that he is essentially drummed out of this movement, never invited to speak anywhere again and is forever a pariah.”

Awwww, what did I do to be referred to in these terms you may ask?

It turns out that Freethought Blogs has a secret mailing list which they use, among other things, to conspire against people.

Private and secret are not synonymous. Stop pretending otherwise. Such mailing lists are common practice on networks such as Freethought Blogs. For example, I believe National Geographic has a similar system in place on their Science Blogs site. Against whom do you think NatGeo are conspiring?

(Indeed, I laughed when they cooked up what they thought was the least damaging story to FTB for my expulsion. Boy, did the truth take a backseat in that thread!) (These sentences work perfectly well on their own, so the use of parentheses here makes no sense. Also, don't use ' ' like that, they are not air-quotes and even if they were, air-quotes are bloody annoying).

Now, as with many top secret mailing lists, of course FTB has some a footer saying how that 'everything on this mailing list is ultra-confidential' (kinda of a contradiction of in terms in my books, sending out secret information to an entire mailing list). (run-on sentence)

Would you really have people believe that you are that dense? That you don't understand that confidentiality can pertain to a group, even a large one? Businesses routinely send memos to hundreds of employees with the expectation that any information such communications contain is to be treated as confidential. Was this not the case within the academic institutions at which you have been employed?

But, that doesn't stop FTB OPENLY openly disclosing/ leaking whatever they want on that list when it suits their purpose. For instance, they were quite happy to openly (repetitious) talk about Greg Laden's ‘threats of violence’ on the mailing list

You might want to start reading your sources before linking to them. Here is an excerpt from the very first paragraph of the e-mail in question:

"What I said in a public comment (that you should grow up) is the ultra mild version. What I said on the mailing list is still the mild version." (emphasis mine)

Note the manner in which Greg refers to the mailing list. It is absolutely clear that this conversation was taking place elsewhere.

and PZ was quite happy to discuss the happenings of this ultra confidential list in his video. (Sorry, too late to delete the evidence boys, I’ve got it all!)

Evidence of what? That P.Z. Myers revealed the shocking information that opinions already expressed by these individuals publicly were also previously discussed on the mailing list? The dastardly cad!

Let's be serious, he said nothing that was not already public knowledge and if that is all you've got, then you're grasping at straws. Do you really think that that was equivalent to your sneaking back onto the mailing list, eaves-dropping on everyone there and then releasing their private exchanges to third parties?

Oddly enough, Freethought Blogs did nothing to admonish this sickening and evil violation of trust, or write blog posts about how this could result in the exposing of people's real identities, people losing jobs, getting turned into newts and burned at the stake or some shit (People could be burned at some shit? You see, this is why grammar is important). Nor do they seem to realize that their main beef, that I 'stole their personal details', is clearly stupid.

There was clearly no violation of trust in that instance and the video didn't contain any private information (unlike the e-mails you snooped on). Also, you seem to be having great difficulty understanding how quoting or paraphrasing something works. Let me use that last blog you linked to as an example:

"Thunderf00t has hacked, repeatedly, into the FtB private emails, stolen them, and forwarded private, confidential information to other people."

See how that works? As is plainly obvious, the accusation was that you gained unauthorised access to their e-mails (which you did), stole them (which you did), that said e-mails contain private data (which they do) and that you sent these e-mails or portions of their contents to other people (which you did).

I, and everyone else on that mailing list, would have had all of those details (whatever they actually are, I still have no idea) anyways from when they originally signed me up. to the mailing list. (repetitive)

Yes, they put you in a position of trust, that is not in question. They had no reason, at that point, to worry about what you might do with such access. Now, you have given them a reason not to trust you.

So what exactly are these personal details they think I’ve ‘stolen’ here?

I find your pretense of confusion incredibly dishonest given that the blogs you've linked to and quoted from actually provide that exact information.

Secondly, (when was there a Firstly?) I DON'T FUCKING DOC DROP. (Silly rabbit, all caps are for kids.)

And they're supposed to accept this based on what? Your word? You expect them to believe the assurances of someone who sneaked onto their confidential listserv, rifled through their correspondence and then began secretly disseminating the contents to others? Given your claimed obliviousness, it seems very unlikely that you took steps to protect private data (such as e-mail addresses containing pseudonymous bloggers' real names) prior to passing out the material. So the possibility that you doc-dropped is a very real concern. Did you copy and paste excerpts into new messages or did you forward them in their totality? If it was the latter, then you have probably also forwarded the e-mail addresses of the original recipients.

Even if I actually knew what this personal information was (I seriously have no idea who most of these people are), I wouldn’t care, because:

I DON’T DOC DROP (Unleash the fury of the ALL CAPS! RAWR!). Never have done, never will.

I'm sure that before this situation was uncovered, most people would never have thought you'd be a creepy online stalker that reads other people's mail. We now know better.

Honestly, if I were in FTBs' shoes, I would worry about the other guy they expelled, Greg Laden, who also has access to all their personal data. He has a history of threatening people on FTB

Given that said incident is what got him fired from blogging there, I don't see how including it is supposed to help your case.

and stalking people elsewhere. Like tracking people down in real life and trying to get them fired (Abbie Smith of the blog ERV) etc etc. Notably this was all done while Greg was at FTBs.

Again, are you hoping that people won't click the links? All that goes to is ERV's homepage. Did you have trouble finding evidence for the accusations you're making? I'm not claiming that it never happened, just that the material you've linked to gives the reader no reason to believe that it did.

Now, I always found the behavior of the folks on Freethought Blogs' on this secret list to be kinda cliquish, where Chinese whispers morph from rumors to facts within one or two emails. For instance, when I first joined I was accused of being an 'rape culture apologist', guilty of ablism, devaluing addicts, and not being careful between challenging islam and outright racism,

I'll deal with the first and last as I am unfamiliar with the other accusations you say have been leveled against you. You treated concerns of harassment as unworthy of attention. You made it clear that any woman had only themselves to blame if they dared to assume that they were free to go to the hotel bar without being hassled. Also, you told those involved to stop talking about it because it wasn't a concern of the majority. You've checked every box, whether or not you accept the label, it doesn't alter the fact that it fits you so well.

Your portrayal of Islam as a single monolithic entity, your ignorance of political and historical issues in the Middle-East, your use of incredibly shabby statistical analysis, your doing nothing to distance yourself from the racists who latched onto and lauded over your videos and your inclusion of an image that wrongfully accused multiple Palestinian men of being paedophiles have all earned you this criticism. I find it grossly hypocritical that when someone photoshops your head onto gay porn, it's defamation, but your dissemination of material that calls a dozen innocent men child molesters is lulzy.

all based on no evidence whatsoever!

See above.

ya Yeah! Freethought at work!

Many emails on this list were on points on which everyone on FTBs agreed, simply for the applause of everyone who responded. (That may, in fact, be the most random use of " " I have ever seen. Also, you should use either ' or ", pick one and stick with it) There was a LOT of self-congratulation and self-re-enforcement reinforcement (herding) behavior there.

If you can find any online group of people, centred around a particular ethos, that wouldn't match this description, please show it to me. I mean if you want to see a circle-jerk why not check out the comments sections on your own videos? In fact, check out any large user's comments section. People on the internet tend to congregate around those with whom they agree more often than not. There is nothing sinister or untoward about it.

Conversely, even modest disagreement was greeted with snide derision. The sad thing is that Freethought Blogs refer to themselves in humor jest as ‘the hive mind’ and as ‘free thought bullies’, when in reality both are actually fairly accurate descriptions. So why is any of that important?

So a 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, that Michael is on FTBs' side on the issue of harassment policies at conferences (well mostly). (Run on sentence) However, that didn’t matter if he was going to speak ill of Freethought Blogs and. (Still the same run on sentence) This precipitated an angry torrent of twitters tweets from at least one FTBer and led another to write an entire blog post about it (promoted by PZ Myers of course)

Oh, dear merciful god, no! One whole blogpost? Wow! What kind of an obsessive, bunny-boiling, stalkerish freak would put that much effort into responding to someone that disagreed with them? Out of curiosity, how many blogs, videos and tweets have you posted about feminists and Freethought Blogs now? A dozen? More?

By the way, for anyone who didn't bother clicking the last link that he posted, please do so. It leads to a very well thought out, incredibly respectful and wonderfully worded inquiry to Mr. Payton from the brilliant Zinnia Jones. Now, back to the drudge work.

, and. (still the same run on sentence. Are you going for a record?) As with all such posts on FTB, he (Payton) was repeatedly branded in the comments section with pejorative terms such as misogynist and MRA

I'm not sure you want us to start judging people based on the comments their material attracts. Just check out the comments on your Draw Muhammad Day videos and see how many variations of sand creature/monkey/nigger you can find.

(The irony being that he posted an article on Skepchick ‘speaking out against hate against women‘, FACEPALM). (Still the same run on sentence, more useless parentheses and finally, "FACEPALM", really? You're a PhD-holder writing for an mature audience, not some acne-riddled teen on 9gag). 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!

Remember when you did a video about tamtampamela? Your comments section had multiple people passing out her real name and home address for the express purpose of encouraging others to harass her, which they did. Now while your page wasn't the only location where this was occurring, you didn't do a single thing to discourage such activity. Seriously, this may not be a road you want to go down.

That was a pretty disturbing turn of events, having someone's job targeted so quickly after a single tweet about FTBs, and after (Another run on sentence). After a brief chat with Michael, and knowing that FTB were going ballistic about this on their secret backchannel with some THIRTY thirty messages being circulated on the backchannel (you already said where it was) about his single tweet, I 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:

"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." (You used quotation marks for a passage at the start of this blog. You should be consistent and continue to do so.)

WTF is it with FTBs and Skepchick always wanting people to apologize for stuff?

Firstly, telling someone that you think that something they did or said is unacceptable, and asking them to apologise, is how grown-ups resolve such situations. I cannot believe that an otherwise intelligent adult needs to have this explained to them. Secondly, why this need to constantly drag Skepchick into discussions that are completely unrelated to it? You did the same thing in a previous post, wherein you blamed Rebecca Watson's presence in a ZOMGitsCriss video for its poor ratings. Slight problem, she wasn't in it. Is this where you would write 'FACEPALM'?

Anyways They continue:

"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."

Translation: is it safe to do a knife job on this guy?

Really? You're going to accuse Zinnia Jones of planning a 'knife job' on him? Here is her response to Thunderf00t's desperate and idiotic attempts to use this exchange to rationalize a security breech he initiated weeks before this e-mail was even sent:

"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. [...] 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.”

You see, this is what happens when you assume that tactics which worked on ignorant creationists will also work on intelligent, knowledgeable people with superior writing skills to your own. They take your nonsensical hyperbole and rip it to shreds. Whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, whether you're even capable of recognising it or not, you just took a swing at someone in a much higher weight division than you and she immediately backhanded you and sent your amateurish ass sprawling across the canvas.


“But his statement was so broad, so casually dismissive of some of the smartest people in this movement (me among them, I’d like to think), that he can’t really be surprised that one of them took offense at it and criticized him for it, can he?”

What sort of person actually writes shit like that? (well Ed Brayton as it turns out). I’m guessing you can see at this point why they are so terrified of this stuff becoming public. Personal details my ass!

Firstly, you need to be clear when you are quoting multiple sources in quick succession. The manner in which you presented these excerpts on your blog gave the impression that they all came from a single e-mail by Ed Brayton. Secondly, I do not think that someone who repeatedly refers to themselves with self-aggrandizing terms such as a 'Champion of Free Speech' is in any position to question someone else's ego.

Well, FTB found out that I had given Michael Payton access to this information, and I then became the subject of the secret societies society's wrath. This is just one example of MANY of many examples. This is Ed Brayton (the head/ owner or similar of FTB) talking about what he wants done to me.

“I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that he (thunderf00t) is essentially drummed out of this movement, never invited to speak anywhere again and is forever a pariah.”

Personally, I don't think taking any direct action against thunderf00t to be worth the effort. Like dLandonCole, I believe that this will simply feed into thunderf00t's narrative wherein he is the victim of a conspiracy to drive out brave defenders of free speech such as himself. Better to simply let him continue digging his own hole while standing at a safe distance from the mud he's slinging out in the process.

That’s right, all I did was clued someone in, whose job was being threatened, as to FTBs' little conspiring conspiracy (some THIRTY thirty emails over his single tweet!) against him. and For this heinous crime, FTB now wants me ‘drummed out of the community’ as ‘a pariah’.

No one on FTB was threatening his job and you know it. Phrasing that in the manner you just did is incredibly dishonest. The worst you could find was ZJ asking if anyone knew a reason why she shouldn't respond to him. I have since seen several of your followers on twitter propagating the myth that it was FTB that called for him to be fired. Congratulations, you have now surrounded yourself with a bunch of functionally illiterate sycophants. You deserve each other.

Also, you didn't just pass on the info. The only reason you had that information was because you exploited a security loophole to gain unauthorised access to the system. Your behaviour has been completely unethical. So, please, stop kidding yourself, you are not Wikileaks (yes, fans have actually made that comparison). It is one thing to argue that citizens have the right to know what their government is doing in their name and with their money. That is an issue of public interest.

It is something completely different to say that private individual A has any right to know what private individuals B and C are discussing in confidence, even if it turns out that individual A is the subject of that conversation. The fact that ZJ intended to tell Michael Payton exactly what she thought of him makes this already laughable defense even more ridiculous. No intervention was required. Payton would have found out anyway.

And now this whistle blowing action is being reported on FTBs as:

It is clear now that he is a cruel man out to destroy anyone he thinks he can, either out of spite or out of a total disregard for collateral damage in his hatred for PZ. -Ashley F. Miller

This was is not a surgical strike. It was a firebombing. And it seems to have been done for no reason other than to pursue a personal vendetta.

This is a gross violation of basic human decency. There is no possible spin that can make it into anything else.
-Greta Christina

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? -PZ Myers

He is a vile hypocrite who has lost whatever shred of credibility he may have had left. -Jen McCreight

All of which are completely understandable sentiments considering how unethical and dishonest your behaviour has been. You did not do any of this for anyone but yourself and in your continued flailing you have acted like a petulant, socially inept, ethically bereft man-child who is dealing with his increasing irrelevance by throwing a tantrum. That's exactly what this is by the way. Being the father of a two-year-old, I know just what a hissy-fit looks like. My suggestion to you is that you go take a time-out and think about what you've done before making things worse for yourself.

Now, before anyone starts commenting, please be aware of the following: if, after reading everything that has been presented to you here, you still insist that thunderf00t is in the right or that this is a case where both parties are equally in the wrong, I will have zero respect for you. If you don't care about the facts, I don't care about your opinion. Simple as that. If you think you can demonstrate that I have made specific errors, point them out, but I will not engage in 'he said, she said' nonsense.

P.S. Before anyone asks, yes, I have since read his latest grammatically-challenged twaddle. I find his dodging the subject of the ethics and legality of his actions even more incorrigible than his attempt to distract from it by offering to donate his FtB earnings to MSF. In my opinion, FtB should donate the money and then delete that god-awful gibberish from their site and be done with it. [UPDATE: P.Z. has just informed me in the comments that FtB will, in fact, be donating said money and that, at thunderf00t's request, they will be removing his posts] For those of you who haven't read his latest post yet, let me summarise:

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Quantum Quackery of Deepak Chopra

 “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.”
Richard Feynman

If you were to ask a Quantum Physicist who they would really, really, really like to smack around if they had the chance, they'd probably look at you funny and say "No one". Physicists tend to be nice like that. But, if you were to ask them who has contributed most to the general public's confusion regarding Quantum Physics, the answer you'll most likely hear is “Deepak F**ing Chopra” (being nice does not preclude occasional swearing).

Thursday, 9 February 2012

How wrong can you be in under 500 characters?

You would think that being limited to 500 characters would provide a reasonable limit to how wrong someone is capable of being, but you'd be wrong.  Check out this comment from my "Are Atheists Too Aggressive?" video.

I'm going to have to take this one mistake at a time.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Day The Musing Died.

A recent trip to my local book store turned out to be an incredibly exasperating experience.  It had started off well enough.  I was looking forward to seeing if there were any new additions in the science section and I enjoy stretching my legs while taking in the bustle of the town on my walk through it.

The first thing that caught my eye was a small billboard at the entrance of a supermarket promising redemption through Jesus via free pamphlets and glossy New Testaments (don't want people reading that OLD Testament, that stuffs just embarrassing).  No big deal, the fact that they're having to advertise shows that the complacency of the various denominations has disappeared due to the falling number of adherents.

But then things started to go downhill fast, real fast.