An apology to Thunderf00t or sometimes I’m that Greater Internet Fuckwad
It’s come to my attention that my previous post about Thunderf00t didn’t go over well. On review, it’s clear this is my fault. Full apology below the fold.
I read something that made me angry, went straight to Facebook about it on the assumption I was on very solid ground. After I got questioned, I tried to dig up the evidence and realized that I was not on so solid ground as I thought. Instead of doing the sensible thing and backing off and thinking through whether the charges were really fair and if so, whether I could substantiate them, I just started out throwing whatever I could find. I asked people to take my word for it on the more serious allegations, namely that he said he didn’t mind white supremacists using Draw Mohammed Day to advance their cause and that he had made a death threat against Ali first. Others were based on things that I more read between the lines rather than things he actually said. The more trouble I had finding the videos I thought I remembered, the angrier I got. I attempted to rope other people into the argument as if having support of other people would somehow make up for not having the support of facts. I generally failed to recognize that I was angry at myself and taking it out on Thunderf00t.
The root of this is that he said some things that rubbed me the wrong way a couple of years ago and I unsubscribed. Ever since, I’ve been inclined to interpret things he says in a very uncharitable fashion. I didn’t even realize I was doing this and thought that my inferences were objectively present in what he said. I suspect this is the root of his disputes with a lot of his critics, going both ways actually. See the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. When you are dealing with people as a voice or face or string of text on the Internet, it’s very easy to ignore that the person on the other end isn’t just a font of things that piss you off and does in fact have feeling and reasons for what they do.
He would say things I disagree with and thanks to the prejudices I had formed, I would assume he was being disingenuous or bigoted rather than wrong for any number of other reasons. I also held him responsible for the behavior and beliefs of people he agreed with on some particular point. This is especially bad and somewhat ironic, because other people reacting to what they think people are saying and throwing out accusations instead of dissections is one of my biggest pet peeves and was in fact the cornerstone of some of my criticisms of him, as was the idea of guilt by association. As they say, Hitler ate sugar. Using arguments also used by racists is not evidence of support or indifference to racism. Everyone has idiot fanboys who do embarrassing things and we all think there are people out there who make really good arguments on one topic and are way off-base on another. Failure to disown someone hardly constitutes endorsement.
I think at this point it would be useful to take another look at one of these disputes I was holding against him. This is the one I doubled down on, in fact.
This issue started with this video:
And here is Thunderf00t’s response to that reply:
After going through this again with an attempt to be objective rather than find points to use against Thunderf00t, here’s what I come up with: Some of HappieCabbie’s criticism is correct, some of Thunderf00t’s response is correct. Thunderf00t is right that most lay Christians know nothing of scholarship, so it’s pointless to bring it up for a critique that’s addressed at them. However, HappieCabbie is right that Thunderf00t’s understanding of what a shepherd does is completely out of line with what lay Christians believe. The verses he cited work their way into sermons and Sunday School all the time and those, not the modern factory farm industry, form Christian ideas about shepherds, so factory farming is just as irrelevant as what gets taught in theological seminaries. However, the second part of HappyCabbie’s critique is off-base. Christians try to have it both ways when it comes to having Jesus take care of them instead of solving their own problems. The idea that it isn’t officially doctrine isn’t entirely irrelevant, but it lay Christians often talk and believe that way and you can walk into any Christian book store and find a bunch of posters and other kitsch that implicitly endorse this idea.
So he really only knocked down one point, which weakened the overall video, but it still mostly stands. What upset me about the video is I took his claim about the needle between rationality and religion and how his critics were pushing it toward religion. I took this as a claim that atheists shouldn’t criticize other atheists in general, but in the context of what he was responding to, he is talking about some specific criticisms he saw as pedantic. I disagree with him on this point, but it’s a far cry from how I interpreted it.
In summary, yes Thunderf00t sometimes makes bad arguments and sometimes doesn’t address criticism very well. I diagree with quote a bit of what he has to say. However, in that way he’s no different from anyone else in the former, me included and no different from half the bloggers on FTB in the latter. I spend a lot of time on FTB addressing MRA arguments and the like while being careful to never interpret in anything they didn’t say. I thought I was above this sort of petty conclusion-jumping, but apparently not. I apologize to Thunderf00t and the people I drug in to the situation. I admit that I was not making a very good argument. If he says anything particularly ill-supported or ill-considered, I’ll call him on it, but will not attack him based on my opinion of him, which was mostly unfair anyway. Thank you to everyone who called me out on my own serious blunder who took the time to talk to me about it in private instead of making a public blog post about what an awful person I was.