In the last few weeks there has emerged a spat between Sargon of Akkad and Thunderf00t, both popular youtubers in the so-called “skeptic community.” This came to a head when Thunderf00t made a video declaring he was leaving the community (which many agree doesn’t actually exist) and attacking Sargon of Akkad over a livestream he was in. In said livestream several youtubers and comedians were making dark jokes dealing with a recent murder of a woman by her boyfriend – who was a well-known and acerbic male feminist on youtube.
In Thunderfoot’s attack, he splices several pieces of audio together and makes several declarations regarding Sargon of Akkad’s assertions in the livestream that were rebutted by Sargon, and showed that Phil Mason (aka Thunderf00t) had engaged in deceptive editing and use of points out of context to change their meaning and support a narrative that allowed him to “exit” the community while virtue-signalling (and “moralfagging” – a term used on the stream). I made a video recently talking about the consequences of this sophist behavior in regards to his reputation and how it casts shadows on his past work. Phil has continued to respond, but the means that he used he continues to defend as valid, pointing out that he used the exact same techniques on Anita Sarkeesian, and the skeptic community fully supported him back then.
The hard lesson is that Thunderf00t has consistently used sophistic devices to demonize his enemies and undermine their credibility, but the “skeptic community” supported it for a long time because it was directed at people (like Anita Sarkeesian) and ideologies (feminism) which were very reviled by the audience. Now that that acid is turned inward, it becomes clear that the behavior, the means by which Mason makes his points and destroys his enemies, should probably not have been supported for as long as it was. This does not mean Thunderfoot’s past videos are incorrect in their conclusions, but it does mean that we should be (and always should have been) skeptical toward what Thunderfoot does and the way he does it.
Let’s take this opportunity to revise our standards on arguments and improve the consistent application of them, not be impotent because we failed to have proper standards in the past.