Some Perspective on Thunderf00t versus Freethoughtblogs

by idebunkforme

It was unfortunate, within two weeks of getting a blog at freethroughtblogs.com, that Thunderf00t did a dramatic nosedive into terminating his relationship with the site. And, really, it, and the animosity between one of FtB’s founding members PZ Myers and Thunderf00t, could have been easily avoided.

Thunderf00t is mostly a YouTube celebrity for atheism and science videos. Outside of those realms, his name likely will be unknown to folks who visit the site. These are also the strengths he has in forming worthwhile arguments. His video about the psychology of another YouTuber, or his debates with Ray Comfort, or his constant 4chan-inspired rants against Islam, were obvious hints of areas where Thunderf00t was not at his prime.

So, it was with a great deal of curiosity why Thunderf00t would have set out, on his second post (after the one introducing himself), attacking the very network’s top brass who asked him to join their network. In a video on YouTube where Thunderf00t explains his new blog, he says that people in the skeptic community should stop wasting time on trivialities like sexual harassment at conferences. Or, as he says, people spend a disproportionate amount of their time haggling over trivialities, really should get a grip.

Then spent the next five blog posts talking about sexual harassment at conferences and the feedback from others disagreeing with him. That would be 83% of his total output on Freethoughtblogs dedicated to something he said was a trivial matter that people spend a disproportionate amount of time haggling over.

From June 25 to July 1, the time span of when Thunderf00t wrote these five blog entries, PZ Myers’ output was over 40 blog postings (not including the “Why I am an atheist” guest posts), and only three were about Thunderf00t (one of which was asking Thunderf00t to stop ignoring official emails from Freethoughtblogs) and four were about conference policies and sexism. That would invert the proportion of blog posts about those topics from Thunderf00t’s total output (~17% of the topic that Thunderf00t said was a triviality).

Three of those wouldn’t have happened at all had Thunderf00t not dedicated his life on Freethoughtblogs to talking about that topic.

The topic, though, was an opinion that did not seem too thoroughly constructed in reason or logic. To go in, guns blazing, tackling something that he felt was taking up a disproportionate amount of time in the community and dismiss it all not only as trivial, but a non-issue at conferences, was bound to upset people on the very network where he had just started.

When someone first starts out in a new place or with a new job, the first thing that person doesn’t want to do is piss on the carpet.

Part of the agreement Thunderf00t says he was promised was no editorial control. But that does not mean that one can do and say whatever he or she wants without restraint. It means that the editors will not dictate what you should be talking about or should be publishing. However, if a political cartoon advocates overthrowing the government, or an opinion article libels its chief publisher, it’s the duty of the people in charge to stop that content from being published under that publication’s banner.

Thunderf00t wasn’t writing for Thunderf00t the blog. He was writing as the Freethoughtsblog of Thunderf00t. He was now part of a community, even though it is a loose-knit one. There are some considerations and responsibilities, even with no editorial control.

What Thunderf00t unfortunately did was use the community’s reach and audience to say that many in that community were wrong and causing issues with him. He came into the neighborhood with a chip on his shoulder, and was going to torch the place to make sure that he wouldn’t have to think twice about how he acts at conferences with women in bars.

That was the gist of his complaints. It wasn’t something he experienced, it wasn’t something his female friends experienced, and it would be a killjoy, so people were wrong to discuss it.

He upset several of the other bloggers on the network with his tone and arguments. They argued back. Thunderf00t then dedicated his blog to being a juvenile who couldn’t imagine how he was wrong due to his personal experience.

At some point, the runaway train had to be stopped before casualties happened. Before bloggers left Freethoughtblogs because of the types of commenters that Thunderf00t’s sexist posts were inviting. Before they saw a child being an utter prick constantly at them for daring to say that his perspective was off.

PZ Myers said that official emails from Freethoughtblogs were sent during the time that Thunderf00t was still posting even worse articles that were becoming more irrational. He apparently ignored them.

Sometimes, when the runaway train can’t be stopped, it has to be taken off the rails.

Some argued that FtB didn’t give Thunderf00t enough time to show whether he would have been a good fit. Some, including Thunderf00t, argued that it was censorship for disagreeing.

I saw it as people who had to clean up a piss stain on a carpet from the guest they just invited to their home.

Freethoughtblogs did what they had to do with someone who didn’t care for community or presenting freethought blogging to the community. They saw someone who couldn’t handle the notion that he might have been wrong and ignorant of someone else’s issues.

Perhaps he worried that he might be labeled a harasser of women the way he acted and sought to reassure himself that he treated women fairly.

Perhaps he wanted to find some bones in the tuna.

No matter what, Thunderf00t is now gone. His postings have been removed from Freethoughtblogs. Hopefully, after his incident and the one with Greg Laden, Freethoughtblogs will ensure that those who join in the future have a clear message: They’re a network, a community, that share one common goal of promoting freethought.

And, hopefully, they can get the carpet cleaned.

[Edited for some minor word changes]

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