|Someone is wrong on|
Thunderf00t (real name Phil Mason) is a YouTube vlogger, well-known for his Why Do People Laugh At Creationists? series and his various exchanges with other vloggers. He has also made many purely scientific videos on topics such as potassium exploding in water as well as his biochemistry series called "Some Amazing Facts About Life".
More recently (2012+), Thunderf00t has received significant negative press due to his rather outspoken attitude towards Islam and its practitioners (joining the ranks of those against Park51), and his falling out with Freethought Blogs over his behaviour there (see below for the gory details - in short, he behaved like an ass, stepping into a controversy over harassment policies and feminism like a bull in a china shop, and then topped it off by exploiting a security vulnerability to re-gain access to FtB's backchannel mailing list and publish confidential emails).
 On the Youtubez
 "Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?"
Thunderf00t's longest running series of 38 videos have, between them, gathered several million views. Each episode usually takes one creationist point proposed by one of their cranks, either well-known or not, and refutes it fully. These are released "copyright free for educational purposes".
VenomFangX, dubbed "Poster-boy for Creationist Stupidity" or "PCS", had a long-running feud with Thunderf00t. PCS has appeared several times in the Why Do People Laugh At Creationists? series. For example, one of PCS's videos proclaims that a global flood could have caused the Grand Canyon to form "in about five minutes"; Thunderf00t then spends time refuting this, demonstrating that the granite around the area would have to be more soluble than caster (superfine) sugar, and claiming that the water would have to travel at five times the speed of sound in order to travel the length of the Grand Canyon in five minutes. Thunderf00t has also repeatedly called out PCS regarding his misuse of donations.
The feud had two major peaks following VenomFangX making false DMCA claims against videos by his detractors, causing them to be removed by YouTube. Because the allegations against the videos and their creators were false, they were quickly mirrored and replaced, leaving VFX open to prosecution. The first major incident happened in October 2008 when VFX was forced to apologise to the internet for the false claims made against Thunderf00t. In late 2009, similar claims were made against a YouTube user named dprjones, who, given VFX's previous record, would not accept a simple apology. The incident climaxed with dprjones, Thunderf00t, and a few others being involved with VFX (now dropping the handle and going under his IRL name Shaun) and his parents to get him actual psychological help. A line was drawn under the incident in mid-late January 2010, and VFX was not heard from again until late December 2010, when he announced his return to YouTube. He has since been uploading new videos in rapid succession.
His spat with HowTheWorldWorks is his second most prominent YouTube-based argument (though not even close to the VenomFangX saga). It was, for the most part, one of the more boring exchanges, but did result in Thunderf00t calling out HowTheWorldWorks for being actively deceitful with the identity and number of his subscribers -- namely, that many of HTWW's subscribers appear to be clear sock puppets:
- HTWW hides his subscribers list, but one of the other channels the socks subscribe to didn't until it was brought up by other vloggers. (It was while these lists were public that further information and evidence of sockpuppetry was acquired.)
- The "subscribers" have names like Sock55, pseudonym2, and so on.
- They all subscribe to nothing but the same 5 channels.
- These subscriptions all came from otherwise dormant channels.
- The subscriptions all occurred within the same time-frame.
- When the "sockpuppets" spoke out to defend themselves as real, they all had exactly the same mannerisms as HTWW, such as excessive use of the word "genius" and the general use of educated terms as pejoratives.
 Ray Comfort
Subsequently, Thunderf00t started branching out of mere YouTube-based creationist bashing and into religion in general, atheism, philosophy and politics. In early 2009, he challenged known creationist and evangelist Ray Comfort (yes, Bananaman himself) to "a discussion" on their views. This was prompted by the knowledge that Comfort has often said he'd like to challenge prominent atheists; while Thunderf00t is no Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, he does have several times more subscribers than Comfort's Way of the Master channel. Thunderf00t first made the invitation to Comfort privately via email asking for a civil discourse on their views, but it was bounced back as the contact address wasn't for Comfort himself. The invitation then was made publicly on Comfort's blog where it was initially declined, leading to the "pointless speculation about motives" that Thunderf00t was trying to avoid by sending the first invitation privately. Following this, Ray finally accepted, on the condition that Thunderf00t pay $100,000 to Richard Dawkins. However, this condition was eventually dropped, and the
fight discussion was on.
Most viewers thought they'd see a debate where Comfort was systematically destroyed and wanted to "see some blood". They were disappointed when it turned out that Thunderf00t was actually quite calm (bar the stuttering due to being very new on the live debate circuit compared to Comfort) and reasoned in the debate. Notably, he managed to make Comfort very uncomfortable with his "all morality comes from the Bible" stance by asking "what if the Bible said pedophilia is good?". Although, to shamelessly quote mine the interview, Comfort did state that "pedophilia makes a lot of people very happy", which is fun.
In July 2011, he came back for seconds. It should be noted that Thunderf00t did better in this debate.. Thunderf00t argued conclusively against Comfort's willingness to leap to eternal moral conclusions.
 Richard Dawkins
Towards the end of 2009, Thunderf00t managed to get an interview/discussion with Richard Dawkins. The four-part discussion, in Dawkins' own house it appears, was plagued by some bad sound, but generally audible to anyone who just turns their volume up. The themes throughout are evolutionary and memetic explanations for the origin of religion. Towards the end of the series, Thunderf00t goes into his reasons for taking on creationism in many of his videos.
Thunderf00t later uploaded a version with better audio with the help of "some audio guys."
 Westboro Baptist Church
On July 10, 2011, Thunderf00t posted a video sharing a 19-minute interview he had with two members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, "Megan" and "Margie". The debate did not get far, as while Thunderf00t tried patiently to talk and reason with the WBC members, they proceeded to talk over him and often insult him (calling him "silly", "donkey's ass", "little girl", "little boy", "pervert", and other names). The talk began with discussing the Iraq War and God killing American and British soldiers because of the "sinful" policies both countries allow and establish.
When Thunderf00t tried to reason with them, Megan replied that the only reason why TF was struggling to understand this was because he is a "rebel" against God. Megan bashed the British, claiming they used to have a vast empire, and now they are "nothing but losers" for the world to laugh at. Thunderf00t tried to explain history properly, but Margie stated that he was ordaining history and every other field that would allow him to rebel against God. To Megan and Margie, history is nothing but human lies, whereas the Bible is the only reality. Everything that Thunderf00t brought up, from science to history, that answered the questions of life was responded with claims along the lines of "that is a lie you can tell to God's face right before he kicks your rebellious ass straight to Hell". Megan and Margie made the statement that everyone, even Thunderf00t, knows there is a God, but Megan later on said: "We do not have to prove God to you, you have a duty to obey God". Thunderf00t stated that they were only asserting that there is a God, to which Megan (in a rather immature manner) replied that TF was only asserting that God does not exist and "all you've got is words, you don't have any belief in your heart, you do not have any hope, you do not have any happiness, you do not have any contentment, you do not have any explanation, all you have is a lot of pseudo-psychobabble nonsense". When Thunderf00t responded by trying to explain the scientific method, Megan responded with "you know we are not really interested in listening to you, do you have any other questions for us?... You can gives us questions and we can answer, or we are done."
Whenever Thunderf00t tried to ask Margie to clarify what she meant, Megan kept hushing him and telling him to "shut up" to allow her to finish everything she had to say. Whenever Thunderf00t tried to read from the Bible and come up with a response (remember, it was Megan who said if TF had a question they would provide an answer), all Megan said was to keep reading. When TF asked about what Jesus was saying in Matthew regarding two men sharing the same bed during the end times, if Jesus possibly meant two men getting it on under the sheets, Megan replied rather harshly that it could mean nothing, just two dudes sharing a bed, told TF to shut up, and reached over and closed the Bible while continuing to yell at him calling him a pervert and get out. End of story.
 Of Muslims and South Park
Following the censorship of South Park for depicting the prophet Muhammad Thunderf00t made several videos critical of Islam. This is nothing new, as he's often gone after Muslims just as much as evangelical Christians. His initial video, since widely mirrored, was pulled down by a DMCA claim by Viacom, for its brief use of a South Park image to demonstrate the point. A video response to Thunderf00t's initial video was controversially interpreted as a death threat. It was later shown by the poster to be a quote mine, taking out the context of his interpretation of Thunderf00t's video (which he took as calling for genocide, thus making the comment about sending Thunderf00t to "the God you wish you knew" to be a declaration of self-defense).
Ironically, Thunderf00t was found to be guilty of the same tactic with the original poster, describing it as a "thinly-veiled death threat". The plot thickened considerably when it emerged that Muslim user DawahFilms may have been attempting to track down Thunderf00t in real life in order to take some kind of action, such as getting him fired from his academic position. Dawah later claimed it was a joke, and Thunderf00t didn't quite see the funny side.
In a twist of events, Thunderf00t responded to his critics with what was to be an examination on the mental health of Coughlan616. Thunderf00t was accused of not dealing with the points raised by his critics, but he largely saw those points as irrelevant to his case.
 Dawah's Doc-Drop and Identity Revealed
After DawahFilms uncovered the identity of Thunderf00t and a member of his family, Thunderf00t made a video (featuring HealthyAddict and PZ Myers) publicly revealing his name to be Phil Mason, and lambasting DawahFilms for making the feud between them cross over into real life (although the Bay Area Skeptics had actually let his name slip in July).
 Eric Hovind OFFICIALLY accepts atheism is true and accurate
 At Freethought Blogs
At the time Thunderf00t joined FtB, a month-long controversy about sexual harassment, harassment policies, and other feminist issues had been raging with varying intensity in the skepticism/atheism blogosphere. The issue seemed to be dying down when Thunderf00t decided to jump in. His posts, together with the comment threads, have been preserved by the Wayback Machine:
- Who the hell is thunderf00t? (introduction post), 21 June
- MISOGYNIST!!!, 25 June
- FFS PZ Myers, enough with the strawmen!, 26 June
- FFS PZ MYERS, PLEASE – LEARN – TO – READ, 27 June
- Is it ‘Freethoughtblogs’ or ‘Group-think-blogs’?, 29 June
- SkepchickCON and the Harassment LOL-icy, 1 July
After the obligatory introductory post, his first substantial post was a highly bombastic comment concerning sexual harassment at atheist and skeptic conferences (the MYSOGYNIST!!! post). Thunderf00t's point seemed to be that he felt the problem was overstated, and that harassment policies at conferences prevented consensual fun. Several commenters immediately pointed out factual errors in the entry, none of which were acknowledged. In particular, PZ Myers disagreed with him publicly and at length.
Part of Thunderf00t's response to Myers was to create a new YouTube video, in which he urged the skeptical community to concentrate their efforts into important issues, and to avoid trivialities such as sexual harassment at conferences. Apparently, he made the mistake of assuming that if something is uninteresting to him, it is not important. He subsequently spent the rest of the video and the rest of his FtB career discussing this "trivial" topic in the same tone. Simply counting blog entries, Thunderf00t devoted over 80% of his output to the topic (all of his posts on FTB except the introductory one). Over the same period, less than 20% of PZ Myers' blog posts were on this subject, including responses to Thunderf00t. So much for allocation of resources.
After the first exchange of posts, Thunderf00t went into CAPSLOCK MODE in order to prove how correct he was (the FFS posts). For some reason, he decided that that polling his followers on YouTube as to whether he was right or not was a good way to do that (the Groupthink post). Perhaps unsurprisingly, they agreed with him. Several other FtB bloggers expressed skepticism at his methodology and his views on sexual harassment policies. This is certainly evidence of the evil "hive mind."
Finally, he decided to actually read a real harassment policy, written by real conference organisers. (Unfortunately, he picked a conference that was part of a bigger conference; the example was therefore unrepresentative of sexual harassment policies in general.) Coming so late in the day, this was an implicit admission that he didn't know what he was talking about in the earlier posts. Extensive criticism in the comments – including by people who had actually written the policy — indicated that he didn't give a fuck about the issues involved.
By this time, his blog had attracted a number of anti-feminist and/or anti-FTB commenters, who had trolled everybody else at FTB. Thunderf00t, presumably continuing his YouTube comment policy, again did nothing to address this. Although such a commitment to "free speech" is admirable, most people regard YouTube comments as being one of the lower points of human achievement, and not as a template to be reused anywhere else at all. Thunderf00t's interaction in his own comments was limited to one reply per post, at maximum, with no further engagement.
 Thrown out...
Ed Brayton, curator of FtB, defused the toxic atmosphere by kicking Thunderf00t off the network with this explanation: "This is not a matter of a disagreement or difference of opinion, but of behavior that we cannot condone or support." From then on, things began to get increasingly he-said-she-said as the exchanges left FtB and began to scatter through the various blogs and media people ran elsewhere. At his removal from Freethought Blogs, the link to Thunderf00t's blog was removed from the frontpage, but the blog remained accessible (though "frozen") at its previous URL, leading to the accusation that FtB was profiting from Thunderf00t's blog traffic. Possibly because of this, some time later the blog was removed and attempts to access it now result in an error message.
PZ Myers released a YouTube video outlining the decision to boot Thunderf00t, arguing that Thunderf00t appeared to have only joined FTB to troll it, and the thing to do with trolls was to kick them off. Thunderf00t also made a video on the affair in short order and started taking things up on his own Wordpress blog. He ought to save this; should he make a future video about cognitive dissonance and self-justification, it will serve as excellent source material.
 ...and burned his bridges
“”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, following revelations that Thunderf00t had been abusing Freethought Blog's private email list.|
Finally it came to light that after being removed from the network, Thunderfoot had re-subscribed to the backchannel mailing list and released e-mails posted after his firing. Jason Thibeault explained how TF did it, which is either total 1337 hacking or just exploiting a ridiculous loophole depending on who you ask. Essentially, it allowed Thunderf00t to re-subscribe, which he did less than 10 minutes after he was kicked off, but the exploit has since been fixed.
Rather than move on gracefully, Thunderf00t has continued to make ill-advised comments on the issue of feminism within the skeptic community, to air his grudges, and to display the same immature attitude to criticism. At the end of 2012, he posted a video entitled "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism". Yes, poisoning atheism. This was followed a few days later by a "Part 2" follow-up video, which was largely a response to one YouTuber's reply video. In both videos, Thunderf00t attacks feminists (explicitly Rebecca Watson, Amy Roth, PZ Myers, and the unnamed vlogger he was responding to) who had raised issues over conduct at skeptic conventions and had instigated or supported anti-harassment policies. The videos are heavy on strawmen; they misrepresent feminists' arguments to an extent that is either grossly naive or wilfully disingenuous, and propagate tired old stereotypes of feminists as frigid, joyless "professional victims". To underline this point, the second video contrasts footage of Watson and others talking seriously about their concerns, with a montage of party photos showing Thunderf00t and his pals larking around in silly costumes, drinking and hugging.
 Crusade against feminism
Thunderf00t cannot seem to admit that he's wrong on this particular issue and instead treads further and further outside his area of expertise. In March 2013, he released a video in which he attempted to challenge the first video in Anita Sarkeesian's "Women vs. Tropes in Video Games" series creatively titled "Feminism vs. FACTS." Sarkeesian's video explores the damsel in distress trope in video games from its history to its modern use. Thunderf00t's attempt to refute it relies rather heavily on trying to claim that women aren't portrayed negatively in video games frequently because he can show a few examples where this may not be the case. The video also contains a number of mined quotations and misrepresentations showing just how far Tf00t has ironically plunged.
 Further criticism
Thunderf00t is often criticised for overstepping boundaries. Some comments below his videos suggest he should stay out of politics -- as he ventured into a lot of Sarah Palin bashing around the time of the 2008 US election -- and stick with the creationism. Sometimes the Thunderf00t channel gets a bit... "preachy"... with respect to the beauty and wonder of the universe and how technology is fan-fucking-tastic-at-everything. Although there's nothing wrong with this exactly, it can get a bit much.
His videos in May 2010 that were critical of Islam made a comment regarding a "sleeping giant" -- clearly a reference to the quote credited to Isoroku Yamamoto. Some have interpreted this as condoning genocide of the Muslim world, particularly Dawahfilms, who was responsible for the alleged "death threat." Dawahfilms later apologized for letting his temper get the better of him, and also asked that Thunderf00t make a clarification video in which he condemns genocide, later challenging Thunderf00t to yet another debate. However Thunderf00t responded to it by saying Dawahfilms needs therapy.
Thunderf00t did a mammoth 6-hour stint on BlogTV answering critics following the whole Dawah thing, with what was claimed to be 1000 people in attendance - chief among his critics at the time were shredderisalive and Coughlan616. The video slagging fest about Coughlan616 that followed this reached levels of hot-headed, tl;dw drama that even Encyclopaedia Dramatica might have had trouble keeping up with.
PEARL is Thunderf00t's personal re-branding of atheism. Not impressed with how "atheist" concentrates on the negative aspects, "PEARL" stands for Physical Evidence And Reasoned Logic, which are positive aspects of his personal belief. Essentially, PEARL is synonymous with strong empiricism, indicating that a PEARList doesn't believe in things that can't be observed and tested. It hasn't really caught on outside of a few Thunderf00t fan-circles and his own videos, although it does frequently get brought up on websites and forums discussing atheism or rationalism.
 See also
- Thunderf00t's YouTube channel
- Thunderf00t on Twitter
- thunderf00t.com - was a scam (and a rather cheeky one) and not associated with Thunderf00t at all. Thunderf00t originally took the site with good humour as a fansite, but after at least three attempts at the site begging for donations, he threatened the site's owner (who was stupid enough to send an email with all his relevant contact details) with action and the site disappeared quickly.
- ↑ The video where he reveales his identity
- ↑ ...Only Creationists Don't Know Why
- ↑ Invitation to Ray Comfort
- ↑ Thunderf00t -- Ray Comfort Discussion, Round 2! (1 of 2)
- ↑ The Richard Dawkins/Thunderf00t discussion (part 1)
- ↑ Richard Dawkins and Thunderf00t (improved audio)
- ↑ Does depicting him in a bear suit even count? For instance, look at this abstract and interpretive depiction of the prophet Muhammad: :-D
- ↑ Thunderf00t -- "Death threats" from "moderate Muslims"
- ↑ 'Death-threat Dawahfilms' goes Doc Hunting
- ↑ 'Coughlan616 and other critics
- ↑ Thunderf00t. "My Real Name is........" YouTube. 2011 October 8.
- ↑ "You are invited to Skeptics in the Pub where you will have the opportunity to chat with Phil Mason, aka Thunderf00t" —Bay Area Skepticsimg. July 2011.
- ↑ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9BfsHsVGNg
- ↑ There is a handy, but incomplete, timeline.
- ↑ PZ Myers, "Misogynists can think women are tasty, while not recognizing that they are human beings", Pharyngula, June 25 2012.
- ↑ MISOGYNIST!!!, Thunderf00t, YouTube
- ↑ Some Perspective on Thunderf00t versus Freethoughtblogs, idebunkforme
- ↑ We don't have to understate the irony of railing against "groupthink," then going onto his own stomping ground and doing just that.
- ↑ Gotta disagree with you here, thunderf00t, Zinnia Jones
- ↑ Greta Christina's series: So Much Wrong: thunderf00t and Sexual Harassment, parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
- ↑ Major Changes at Freethought Blogs, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
- ↑ Hey, it's an actual idiom, not some attempt at gender wars, okay?
- ↑ http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/07/10/episode-cccxlvii-the-saga-of-thunderf00t/
- ↑ PZ Myers and the Art of Shameless Dishonesty, Thunderf00t
- ↑ Thunderf00t.wordpress - FTB and the conspiracy to defraud/ Drawing a line under this pointless crap
- ↑ PZ Myers - Thunderf00t/Phil Mason, treacherous hack
- ↑ http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/08/10/thunderfoots-unethical-obsession/
- ↑ http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/08/10/what-thunderf00t-did-and-how
- ↑ "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism"
- ↑ "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism (Part 2)"
- ↑ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJeX6F-Q63I
- ↑ http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/2013/03/20/regressive-crap/
- ↑ Dawahfilms - I'm Calling You Out, Thunderf00t (Debate)
- ↑ Coughlan616 and other critics
- ↑ "Why I Am Unsubscribing": Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3.
- ↑ Tolerance and the Ground Zero Mosque: A Reply to Thunderf00t, D. Landon Cole
- ↑ Thunderf00t and Criticizing Islam, Anekantevad
- ↑ Islam vs. Science - A Response to Thunderf00t, Skeptical Engineer
- ↑ Thunderf00t - The Problem With Religion
- ↑ YouTube - Thunderf00t.com IS A SCAM