Thunderf00t, or Phil Mason, is a YouTube personality and former (?) member of the atheist/skeptical community. Years ago he made great science videos and responded to creationists with hard facts and copious snark. He took a hard right turn around 2012 when feminism and progressive ideas began being incorporated into the atheist/skeptical movement. Now that snark is aimed at causes I hold dear, so I see it for what it is.
I don’t know how I drop in on one of Thunderf00t’s videos so often. I argue with people a lot, so links to his content and channel are on my periphery occasionally. Maybe he shows up in recommended videos while I watch other YouTube videos. I know I sometimes venture on to his page to remember what disappointment and anger feel like.
Nowadays Thunderf00t has a Patreon page where he gets support. There’s been discussion among his supporters and himself as to whether his videos railing against feminism should be getting him paid or not, and it looks like as long as the videos took significant effort, they’re happy to pay him for them. What swell guys.
Thunderf00t was a character that was quite influential for me when I was coming to atheism and skepticism. His “Why do people laugh at creationists?” series, alongside AronRa’s “Foundational Falsehood of Creationism“, incited a passion in me for ensuring anti-science (and often religiously-motivated) views weren’t brought into schools or government. They only enhanced my excitement about science and critical thinking.
So it’s a frustrating loss to see him acting as this loose cannon. One of my last Blogger posts (which may eventually be taken down and incorporated here) was breaking down one of his anti-feminist rants point-by-point. His claims and conclusions aren’t focused and fair. He mischaracterizes arguments and is quite rude to people he’s discussing with. He’s sensationalist. These are not the traits of the kind of community atheists and skeptics should want to build, regardless of his particular views.
I was perusing one of Thunderf00t’s YouTube comment sections against my own good judgment and came across an exchange that I found emblematic of the new space Mason has created for himself online. This is what made me want to write a kind of eulogy for the lost advocate.
This is from a video titled, “Anita Sarkeesian fan threatens PHYSICAL VIOLENCE on critic“. I should be clear that I didn’t watch very much of its 34-minute running time.
Two comments are important here. First is from Protoman, “thumbed up” a net total of 255 times, who says:
Hahaha! Hannibal you beta fuck. I pray that one day you do come up to me so you can get beat up by a real man. look at you fatso. You should be going to the gym. No wonder you hate men. You can’t compete with the rest of us.
Hannibal is the Sarkeesian fan in the title of the video that is criticizing violent threats that he made against Thunderf00t. This commenter openly advocates for hurting Hannibal, throwing on disgusting Red Pill (alpha/beta-male, fitness fixation) terminology, shaming him for what he looks like, and baselessly insinuating his motivations.
Hell, maybe Thunderf00t is fine with violent threats, since he’s desperate to prove some point about how Sarkeesian or other feminists are overreacting to the harassment and abuse they get. Because this one instance allows him to accurately extrapolate to a woman pissing off thousands of gamers and receiving that volume of hate.
This comment got support, and lots of it. Lots of Thunderf00t supporters are praising Protoman for flexing and bullying. They like his assumption of why Hannibal is a feminist… which is based on nothing but insulting conjecture.
Hypocritical? Extremely disrespectful? Grossly naive? Whichever you pick, this is what the audience Thunderf00t has kept is now like. The second comment is a reply to the first, with 13 net likes from “Barack O Fuckin Bama”:
Back in the monkey days he was the monkey that got no bananas to bring home to his wife and kids, lmao.
This comes as a kind of gut punch to me and my lingering memories of past appreciation for Thunderf00t’s work. After dozens of videos exposing the baseless justifications and flawed reasonings of creationism and teaching an audience of thousands about the scientific fact of evolution, the usage of it I see in his audience, right here, is nothing more than a cheap, pathetic jab at an ideological opponent. All of that work, that dedication to science, has just been reduced to a weak insult.
Thunderf00t’s output is now roughly between one-half to two-thirds anti-feminist rants, with the rest being science, free speech, or religion discussions or demonstrations. It’s sad to see a man who had a positive impact on you turn so completely the other way, to the point where he’s starting to harm his past work. I believe Mason had this streak in him since the beginning, this dominating sensationalist, corner-cutting methodology. It was for years, however, deployed for the forces of “good”, namely science, critical thinking, and secularism. Again, and so tragically, do I only now see the flaws as he’s so heavily fixated upon this red, red herring.