10 August 2012

Thunderf00t Sinks to a New Low

This morning, I got to wake up to this post over at Pharyngula.

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.

Thunderf00t's actions are deplorable and childish.  As Ms. Reed points out in her blog post, the consequences of outing somebody are very real.  It can result in the loss of family, friends, and in some extreme cases compromise the very safety of the blogger involved.  I myself blog pseudonymously.  I don't have to worry about my job or my safety, mind you; no laws are broken in posting here, nor is operational security (OPSEC) violated.  I maintain (relative) anonymity for two major reasons.  One, I prefer to keep my private and professional lives as separate as possible.  Even though I don't insult family, friends, colleagues, and superiors here, I would rather my interactions with them be on as much of a face-to-face level as possible.  Two, I go to great pains to ensure that my own views, religious or otherwise, are not mistaken for those of the Department of the Army or the United States Government as a whole. Though I doubt somebody would confuse my views from the Army's by knowing who I am, I would rather that I be more cautious than necessary.

In short, I don't consent for my identity to be revealed.  Its also a right everyone should be able to claim without fear of some irate blogger taking it away in the middle of a tempter-tantrum.  The fact that Thunderf00t gained the ability to take away that choice though illegal activity only makes it worse.  Even IF his complaints were valid (they weren't), he's now ceded whatever moral high-ground he may have had.  He's proven himself to be a thug, only interested in his own advancement.

And yet, we shouldn't be shocked by this.  The entire Thunderf00t scandal in June highlighted how petty and childish Thunderf00t could be.  Natalie Reed lays out just how childish and narcissistic Thunderf00t can be:

I don’t know how many of you know or are invested in the story of how and why Thunderf00t was expelled from Freethought Blogs. I certainly never really wanted to be all that involved in that conflict myself, as by the time it happened I was already feeling worn out and exasperated by the ongoing petty warring in the wider community over issues that I was appalled weren’t already accepted as fundamental basics of creating inclusive, safe, progressive, non-horrible activist communities, like sexual harassment policies for conferences (Seriously, how was that controversial? What in the actual fuck is wrong with people that they would see it as such?). But I was asked by someone what my opinion on Thunderf00t’s expulsions was, and I replied with my assessment that the issue wasn’t so much the content of his posts (as ugly and inflammatory as they may have been), but his extremely unprofessional conduct behind the scenes, which was creating a situation that was severely inhibiting our ability to operate as a cohesive, functional network. There was just really no real option. 
Thunderf00t saw the tweet, and responded with accusations that I was a liar. Which still doesn’t really make much sense to me, because unless he believed I was deliberately misrepresenting my own perceptions and opinion, there’s no way my subjective interpretation of his behaviour as unprofessional, and my perceptions of what PZ and Ed’s motives were, could be a lie. He could disagree with me, sure. He could hold a different opinion. He could think my interpretation was grossly inaccurate. All of that is fine, and to be honest, what I’d expect (people rarely believe of themselves that they’re acting like assholes). But the accusation that I was lying was just weird. 
This led to something really creepy and scary when Thunderf00t began threatening to publish the confidential contents of FTB’s private listserv, to “prove” that I’d been “lying” about his behaviour. When I reminded him of the ethical problems with this, and hinted at the real danger it poses to me, he laughed and suggested that his treatment by PZ and FTB as a whole justified any actions he wanted to take. Soon after, several of the group who’ve sided themselves against FTB in the growing, petty, awful little “rift” of the atheist blogosphere began accusing me of attempting to bury evidence and hide the truth.

It's this response that captures the problem with Thunderf00t.  It's not enough to say that somebody is wrong;  any disagreement has to transcend seeing something differently, it has to be a concerted effort to target and destroy him.  It shows just how highly he thinks of himself.  Any kind of injustice is well worth the cost, because it's just his getting his considerable due.  The fact he's willing to do this, despite having gone through it himself, is incredible.  It shows that his opposition to being "outed" wasn't about the act itself, but rather that it was happening to him.

The community circled the wagons for Thunderf00t when he was threatened with being outed by religious opponents.  This is something we should all be proud off.  If Thunderf00t was worried that he was the target of some massive conspiracy to isolate him from the atheist community, his actions to prove just how justified that end-state would be.  I think its time that we as atheists and free-thinkers recognized Thunderf00t for who he is and chose not to associate with him.  I'm pretty sure most already have before this point, but if you needed any better reason I think you've got it.

Now, one common refrain I'm seeing from people within the atheist community is that this fight is viewed as petty and distracting away from atheism as a whole.  If our goal is to be recognized as equal members of our communities and fight discrimination, we won't be doing ourselves any favors by throwing all common decency out on the way.  We might find ourselves down the line becoming the very monsters we're so opposed to.

Bottom line?  For shame, Thunderf00t.

Apologies if my post seems a little disjointed at points.  I've been a little under the weather since I got my smallpox inoculation.  It's really quite the unpleasant experience.


Alec Rezz said...

Yep. Thunderf00t is a detestable, underhanded cad for “hacking” into an email server he didn’t have permission to access, but PZ is a hero for “hacking” into a phone conference with a code he didn’t have permission to use. Makes perfect sense.

YankeeCynic said...

I like the part where you think that somehow excuses Thunderf00t. Brilliant.