Bronze-level articleThunderf00t

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Thunderf00t (real name Phil Mason)[1] is a YouTube atheist, antitheist and anti-feminist vlogger, well-known for his Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?[note 1] 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."

While Mason's channel remains one of the most popular atheism channels on YouTube, he has become an increasingly polarizing figure due to his outspoken attitude towards Islam and Muslims (joining the ranks of those who oppose Park51),[2] his short tenure and public falling out with Freethought Blogs, and his new-found fondness for attacks on feminism and feminists.

Mason epitomizes the "STEMlord"[note 2] atheist: a self-congratulatory, "right-thinking" individual who is a complete fuckwad in every other department.[3]


[edit] On YouTube

[edit] "Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?"

Mason's longest running series of 43 videos have, between them, garnered several million views. Each episode usually takes one creationist talking point and refutes it. These videos are released "copyright free for educational purposes."

[edit] VenomFangX

A vlogger named VenomFangX has a long-running feud with Mason. VenomFangX appeared several times in the Why Do People Laugh At Creationists? series. One of his videos proclaims that a global flood could have caused the Grand Canyon to form "in about five minutes"; Mason refuted this, demonstrating that, for such a scenario to be possible, the granite around the area would have to be more soluble than caster (superfine) sugar, and pointing out 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.

Mason has also repeatedly called out VenomFangX regarding his misuse of donations.

The feud had two major peaks after VenomFangX made 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, the videos were quickly mirrored and replaced, leaving VenomFangX open to prosecution. The first incident happened in October 2008 when VenomFangX was forced to apologise for the false claims made against Mason. In late 2009, similar claims were made against a YouTube user named dprjones, who, given VenomFangX's previous record, would not accept a simple apology. The incident climaxed with dprjones, Mason, and a few others intervening with VenomFangX and his parents to get him psychological help. A line was drawn under the incident in January 2010, and VenomFangX was not heard from again until December 2010, when he announced his return to YouTube. He has since been uploading new videos in rapid succession.

Touched by his beardiness.

[edit] HowTheWorldWorks

Mason's spat with a vlogger named HowTheWorldWorks is his second most prominent YouTube-based argument. It was mostly a boring affair, but it did result in Mason calling out HowTheWorldWorks for being deceitful about the identity and number of his subscribers, most of whom appeared to be sock puppets.

[edit] Ray Comfort

A meeting of minds, one a little mushier than the other.
See the main article on this topic: Thunderf00t debates Ray Comfort

Mason branched out from bashing creationism to discussing religion, atheism, philosophy and politics. In early 2009, he challenged creationist and evangelist Ray Comfort to a discussion. The invitation was prompted by Comfort's stated desire to challenge prominent atheists, avoiding the question of Mason's "prominence" (though his webpage has more subscribers than Comfort's Way of the Master channel). Mason invited Comfort privately via email asking for a civil discourse on their views; after the e-mail bounced back, he then extended an invitation on Comfort's blog. Comfort declined at first, but eventually accepted, on the condition that Mason pay $100,000 to Richard Dawkins. This condition was eventually dropped, and the fight discussion was on.[4]

Most viewers thought they'd see a debate where Comfort was systematically destroyed, but were disappointed as Mason remained calm and reasoned. He did unsettle Comfort by asking him to defend his argument that morality is rooted in the Bible against the hypothetical possibility that the Bible could have advocated pedophilia.

In July 2011, he came back for seconds. Mason did better in this debate, arguing against Comfort's willingness to leap to eternal moral conclusions. [5]

[edit] Richard Dawkins

Towards the end of 2009, Mason managed to get an interview/discussion with Richard Dawkins. Their conversation included a discussion of evolutionary and memetic explanations for the origin of religion. Towards the end of the series, discussed his rationale for criticizing creationism.[6] [7]

[edit] Westboro Baptist Church

On July 10, 2011, Mason posted an interview with two members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, "Megan" and "Margie." While Mason tried patiently to talk and reason with the WBC members, they talked over him and often insulted him, calling him "silly," "donkey's ass," "little girl," "little boy," "pervert," and other names. The interview began with a discussion of the Iraq War and the WBC's best-known claim, that God kills American and British soldiers because of the "sinful" policies of both countries.

[edit] Of Muslims and South Park

Following the censorship of South Park for depicting the prophet Muhammad, Mason made several videos critical of Islam. 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.

[edit] Dawah's 'Doc-Drop'

Mason made a video (featuring HealthyAddict and PZ Myers) publicly revealing his name and lambasting DawahFilms for making their feud cross over into real life after accusing the latter of 'doc dropping' him[8] No such doc drop was ever proven to have occurred however, only that DawahFilms had called Mason's employers to inform them about Mason's "bigotry and constant harassment" (in fact the Bay Area Skeptics had actually accidentally doc dropped Mason in July, several months before.[9]). Mason himself had claimed earlier of the so-called 'doc drop' that his employers already knew about his videos and that he was in no way under any threat of being reprimanded for his behavior.[10][11]

[edit] Eric Hovind OFFICIALLY accepts that atheism is true and accurate

Thunderf00t debated Eric Hovind at the Reason Rally.[12]

[edit] Branching off into general skepticism

Lately,When? it would seem his attention is focused on debunking nonsense. He started with nuclear energy, specifically items related to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown. Topics covered include background radiation and acceptable risks as well as the thorium powered car. He has also covered the "solar roadways" proposal that went viral in 2014 by claiming the costs in manufacturing would be insane, power consumption would be through the roof and the whole system just wouldn't work.

[edit] Libertarians

Even Thunderf00t thinks Stefan Molyneux is comprehensively full of it.[13]

[edit] At Freethought Blogs

Mason joined Freethought Blogs as a regular blogger in June 2012, along with several other notable vloggers such as Cristina Rad and AronRa.

When Mason joined FtB, a month-long controversy about sexual harassment, harassment policies, and other feminist issues had been raging in the skepticism/atheism blogosphere.[14] The issue seemed to be dying down... until Mason decided to jump in. His posts, together with the comment threads, have been preserved by the Wayback Machine:

After the obligatory introductory post, his first substantial post was a bombastic comment about sexual harassment at atheist and skeptic conferences (the MYSOGYNIST!!! post). Mason's point seemed to be that the problem was overstated, and that harassment policies at conferences prevented "consensual fun". Several commenters pointed out factual errors in the entry, none of which were acknowledged. PZ Myers disagreed with him publicly and at length.[15]

Mason responded to Myers with a video[16] in which he urged the skeptical community to concentrate their efforts into important issues, and to avoid trivialities such as sexual harassment at conferences. He spent the rest of the video and the rest of his FtB career discussing this "trivial" topic; all of his posts on FTB except for his introductory video were focused on the idea that sexual harassment wasn't such a big deal.[17]

After the first exchange of posts, Mason went into CAPSLOCK MODE in order to prove how correct he was. He polled his vlog's subscribers as to whether he was right or not; perhaps unsurprisingly, they agreed with him. Several other FtB bloggers expressed skepticism at his methodology[18] and his views on sexual harassment policies.[19] This is certainly evidence of the evil "hive mind."

Finally, he decided to actually read a real harassment policy, written by real conference organizers.[note 3] 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 care about the issues involved.

By this time, his blog had attracted a number of MRA and/or anti-FTB commenters, who had trolled everybody else at FTB. Mason did nothing to address this, presumably extending his YouTube commenting policy to FTB. 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. Mason's interaction in his own comments was limited to one reply per post, at maximum, with no further engagement.

[edit] Thrown out...

Ed Brayton, curator of FtB, defused the toxic atmosphere by kicking Mason 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."[20] From then on, things began to get increasingly he-said-she-said as the exchanges metastasized across the blogosphere. At his removal from Freethought Blogs, the link to Mason's blog was removed from the front page, but the blog remained accessible (though "frozen") at its previous URL, leading to the accusation that FtB was profiting from Mason'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 Mason, arguing that Mason appeared to have only joined FTB to troll it.[21] Mason also made a video on the affair in short order[22] and started discussing the issue on his Wordpress blog.[23]

[edit] ...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.
—PZ Myers, following revelations that Thunderf00t had been abusing Freethought Blog's private email list.[24]

It eventually came to light that after being removed from the network, Mason had re-subscribed to the backchannel mailing list and released e-mails posted after his firing.[25] Jason Thibeault explained how TF did it,[26] which is either hacking or just exploiting a ridiculous loophole, depending on who you ask.

[edit] Ongoing crusade against feminism

Rather than move on gracefully, Mason has continued to make ill-informed comments on feminism within the skeptic community, to air his grudges, and to display the same immature attitude to criticism, churning out of a series of bitter and increasingly unhinged videos attacking feminists within the atheist community, typically full of strawman stereotypes and anally literal misinterpretations of their comments.

At the end of 2012, he posted a video entitled "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism."[27] This was followed a few days later by a follow-up video, which responded to one vlogger's reply. [28] In both videos, Mason attacked feminists (namely 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 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 Mason and his pals larking around in silly costumes, drinking and hugging. Victory! Capitalizing on this victory is a third "'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism" video.[29] Then, as if perhaps he thought his audience hadn't got the message yet, he put out a video in November 2013 entitled "Why 'feminism' poisons EVERYTHING",[30] yet another cranky tirade against the likes of Anita Sarkeesian and Rebecca Watson.

While he has released another video in the series,[31] the videos are somewhat scattershot. He tends to go off on a tangent, repeat points previously made in other videos about other people and quote mine them, taking things out of context. The primary point he keeps going back to is that of sexual dimorphism causing most phenomena we see today about what is different between the sexes. He means to say that if we try to break out of traditional roles for men and women, then all we are doing is going against our own physiological trends. A second point implied by that is supposedly that different trends in physiological suitedness have naturally resulted in men and women being treated differently and thus we shouldn't call that sexism. Aside from committing appeal to nature, Thunderf00t is generalising too much here, implying that appropriate distribution of work in terms of military comes down to the same principles as the distribution of, say, corporate management positions.

Thunderf00t's pursuit of feminists has also led him to forsake basic scientific principles and commit exactly the same kind of fallacies that creationists have been criticized for. Case in point, in October 2015, the social scientist Kristi Winters released a video on her YouTube channel where she stated her case, with cited sources in the description for her video, for the existence of the patriarchy in society. [32]. Rather than actually engage with the calm and measured arguments that Dr. Winters provided, Thunderf00t instead decided to misrepresent her arguments, invoking a strawman Appeal to Biology of intra-sex competition for medals at the Olympics (which has nothing to do with men wielding power, especially since Dr. Winters was clearly talking about the patriarchy in social economics and politics); engaging in science denialism by dismissing the entire field of social science; accusing Dr. Winters of ignoring sexual dimorphism when she never actually denied that such a thing exists; and engaging in a variety of personal insults, as well as of course directing his followers to mass-downvote the video and bombard the comments section with abuse.

Dr. Winters effectively won the exchange with Thunderf00t when she issued him a very simple challenge for a scientist like himself that he instead completely failed to answer:

If your assertion is "differences in gender representations – are – clearly to do with biology" then please explain the biological causal mechanism that impacts on political representation by sex (and I mean sex, not gender) and present your evidence. I look forward to evaluating your theory, hypotheses, and data for myself. Obviously you’ll need inferential statistics to demonstrate causality so please include the relevant coefficients and their standard errors and your N.
—Kristi Winters showing what real scientific discourse is.[33]

Ultimately, Thunderf00t shares the same problem that the overwhelming majority of the signatories in A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism shared: his credentials in his own branch of science do not qualify him to claim supreme scientific expertise in a different field of science of which he is clearly woefully misinformed.

Incidentally, this exchange in the comments on Dr. Winters's video also featured since-deleted comments by Laughing Witch where she presumably took the side of Dr. Winters, and this appears to be the thing that motivated Thunderf00t to proceed to doc-drop the YouTube feminist LaughingWitch in a series of videos as well as directing his followers to mass downvote her business on Yelp, a whole ten months after she had sent an email to his employers asking them if they were okay with the kinds of behavior he was engaging in online.

[edit] Bizarre and creepy obsession with Anita Sarkeesian

For a point-by-point breakdown of his response to Anita Sarkeesian, see Criticism of Anita Sarkeesian.

As part of this tiring pursuit, in March 2013, he released a video creatively entitled "Feminism versus FACTS", focusing on Anita Sarkeesian's "Women vs Tropes in Video Games" series.[34] This was followed by a second and third "Feminism versus FACTS" video,[35]. Since then his videos have been focused almost exclusively on Sarkeesian even when the subject isn't even about her[36] (where he seriously tries to argue that because Sarkeesian never followed up on her hypothetical game idea, this somehow means that the new Ghostbusters movie will be terrible... yeah we don't get it either) and displays a pure lack of understanding arguments enough do debunk them.

[edit] Conspiracy theorist

On October 16th, 2014 Mason posted a video which purported to show that Sarkeesian's latest threat was actually perpetrated by either Sarkeesian herself or one of her army of minions to discredit GamerGate. His reasons include an unsourced audio clip from a university spokesperson (who had terrible communication skills), the fact that she joked about an army of supporters and the fact that somebody from the same university has done the same sort of threat against herself. In addition, Mason goes into plenty of victim blaming and nonsense claims about slut shaming. So much for logic or "seeing through delusion", then.[37]

[edit] Further criticism

Mason is often criticised for overstepping boundaries. Some comments below his videos suggest he should stay out of politics—he ventured into a lot of Sarah Palin bashing during the 2008 US election—and stick with criticizing 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 criticized Islam alluded to a "sleeping giant"—clearly a reference to Isoroku Yamamoto.[38] Some have interpreted this as condoning genocide of Muslims, particularly Dawahfilms, who was responsible for making an alleged "death threat" against Mason, as claimed by the latter. Dawahfilms insisted that no death threat was ever made and that it was a statement of self-defense.[39] However, Mason saw fit to characterize his statement as an "attack on free speech".[40] Dawahfilms later apologized for letting his temper get the better of him after being pressured by the YouTube community,[41] and also asked that Mason make a clarification video condemning genocide, later challenging Mason to another debate.[42] Mason responded to it by saying Dawahfilms needs therapy and continued to use DawahFilms words out of context for the sake of his anti-Islam campaign.

Mason did a six-hour stint on BlogTV answering critics following the Dawah episode, with what was claimed to be 1000 people in attendance – including "shredderisalive" and "Coughlan616," both critics of Mason's. The attacks on Coughlan616 that followed this reached levels of hot-headed, tl;dw drama that even Encyclopaedia Dramatica might have had trouble keeping up with.[43]

After Mason mouthed off about the so-called "Ground Zero mosque", a number of critics called him out on his Islamophobia.[44][45][46][47]

He also seems to have fallen into transphobia[48] and fat shaming.[49]

[edit] Suspension from Twitter

Sometime during the week of September 7th 2014, the @thunderf00t Twitter account was suspended. For some reason, Mason decided it was due to fraudulent complaints from Anita Sarkeesian,[50] while others suggest it was related to the barrage of tweets against her.

[edit] PEARL

PEARL is Mason'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,[51] although it does frequently get brought up on websites and forums discussing atheism or rationalism.

[edit] Scientist

Phil Mason studied at the University of Birmingham, where he gained both his BSc (Upper 2nd Class Honours) and PhD in Chemistry [52]. Between 1998 and 1999 he worked as a research associate at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield before transferring to work at the University of Bristol's Department of Physics[53]. He has had his name attached to some 34 papers, 20 of which he is lead author[54]. Previously, he had worked for Cornell University and now is currently working for a school in the Czech Republic[55] and published a paper there on molecular dynamics.[56] In January 2015, he co-authored a paper on coulombic explosions of alkali metals reacting with water, dispelling previously held beliefs about the reactions. [57] [58] He is still active as of 2016.[59]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. ...Only Creationists Don't Know Why
  2. A portmanteau of STEM[wp] and the Internet slang "shitlord", this refers to the annoyingly-vocal subset of young males found in STEM fields who are quite convinced they're the most rational humans to ever walk the face of the Earth. As Mason aptly demonstrates, they usually consider the "soft sciences" and (eww) humanities to be useless and irrational, hence their hostility to movements like feminism.
  3. Unfortunately, he picked a conference that was part of a bigger conference; the example was therefore unrepresentative of sexual harassment policies in general.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The video where he reveals his identity
  2. 'Tolerance' and the 'Ground Zero Mosque'
  3. Dr. Richard Carrier roasts him for being a "toxic", "atheist supremacist" who is sullying humanist values.
  4. Invitation to Ray Comfort
  5. Thunderf00t - Ray Comfort Discussion, Round 2! (1 of 2)
  6. The Richard Dawkins/Thunderf00t discussion (part 1)
  7. Richard Dawkins and Thunderf00t (improved audio)
  8. My Real Name is...
  9. "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.
  10. - Death Threat Dawahfilms Goes Doc Hunting
  11. making the accusation of 'doc dropping' even more absurd. - Doc Dropping DawahFilms
  14. There is a handy, but incomplete, timeline.
  15. PZ Myers, "Misogynists can think women are tasty, while not recognizing that they are human beings", Pharyngula, June 25 2012.
  17. Some Perspective on Thunderf00t versus Freethoughtblogs, idebunkforme
  18. Gotta disagree with you here, thunderf00t, Zinnia Jones
  19. Greta Christina's series: So Much Wrong: thunderf00t and Sexual Harassment, parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  20. Major Changes at Freethought Blogs, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
  22. PZ Myers and the Art of Shameless Dishonesty, Thunderf00t
  23. Thunderf00t.wordpress - FTB and the conspiracy to defraud/ Drawing a line under this pointless crap
  24. PZ Myers - Thunderf00t/Phil Mason, treacherous hack
  27. "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism"
  28. "Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism (Part 2)"
  29. Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism (Part 3)
  30. Why 'feminism' poisons EVERYTHING
  32. Evidence that patriarchy is a real thing
  33. Kristi Winters vs Thunderf00t
  34. Feminism versus FACTS (RE Damsel in distress)
  35. Feminism versus FACTS (Part 2), Feminism versus FACTS (Part 3)
  36. [ such as the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie,
  39. - Death Threats and the Oh So Scary Muslim
  40. - Death Threats From a Moderate Muslim
  41. - A Letter to YouTube and Thunderf00t
  42. Dawahfilms - I'm Calling You Out, Thunderf00t (Debate)
  43. Coughlan616 and other critics
  44. "Why I Am Unsubscribing": Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3.
  45. Tolerance and the Ground Zero Mosque: A Reply to Thunderf00t, D. Landon Cole
  46. Thunderf00t and Criticizing Islam, Anekantevad
  47. Islam vs. Science - A Response to Thunderf00t, Skeptical Engineer
  48. sure... no your right 'women' who have never done science should tell us how to do it right!
  49. Anita Sarkeesians dirty little secret! which hardly deals with Anita at all or presents facts. But there's a several minute tirade into a "fat" woman.
  50. Video here. Ironically, he proves that the suspension is justified.
  51. Thunderf00t - The Problem With Religion
  52. [1]
  53. [2]
  54. Microsoft Academic
  60. IS A SCAM
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