Thunderfoot’s Unethical Obsession

Thunderfoot’s Unethical Obsession August 10, 2012

I was hoping to not have to do this for another day or two, but the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. As everyone who reads this network is no doubt aware, on July 1 we made the decision to remove Thunderfoot from the Freethought Blogs network, only a short time after he had joined. There is no need to rehash again why that was done because it is not relevant to what has subsequently come to light about his reaction to that decision.

Like any community, we have a private listserv for the FTB bloggers. We use that listserv to communicate about a great many things — asking mundane technical questions, sharing information, asking for feedback and advice or for help in promoting a cause or a post that we think is important, and sometimes sharing personal and confidential information. Like any such list, the members expect confidentiality and everyone who joins the list is made aware of that fact. On the bottom of each and every email to and from the list is affixed this message:

“All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.”

On August 2, a close friend informed me that a mutual acquaintance of ours had been forwarded messages from that private mailing list by Thunderfoot. A few hours later, I received an email from a longtime commenter on the site telling me that “your email distribution list is not secure. Take the time to verify that only the people who are supposed to be on the list are actually members, as messages have been leaked.” Prompted by those messages, I went into the admin panel of our mailing list software, did some checking and discovered that Thunderfoot had somehow managed to get back on the mailing list after he was removed from it on July 1, when the decision was made to close his blog and remove him from the network. I double checked to make sure that he had been removed from the list at that time and he was (I have email confirmation from the system at the time). I then had our site tech do some digging into the database and he discovered that Thunderfoot had used a security loophole (now fixed) to regain admission to the list only a few minutes after he was removed from it on July 1 and had been receiving all of the email traffic between everyone else from that moment forward, without our knowledge. When that fact was discovered, he was, of course, removed from the list a second time and the settings were changed to close the loophole in our security that allowed him that access; over the next half hour he tried multiple times to get back on the list again but failed.

There is much that is said in those private and confidential emails that, if released, could cause serious damage. Like any community, private communications often include highly sensitive and emotional subjects that could cause serious problems if they were to get into the wrong hands. On that list, some of us write about highly personal and highly stigmatized issues, like gender transition, sexuality, rape, addiction and other subjects that they wouldn’t be able to talk about if they felt our privacy wasn’t protected by pseudonyms. Jobs could be lost, relationships could be damaged and lives could, quite literally, be put in danger. This isn’t a game, folks.

This appalling violation of privacy is beneath contempt. There is no possible rationalization for it, no way to make it justified or ethical. No matter how scorned Thunderfoot may be, or how legitimate anyone thinks his anger at FTB might be, what he did here is extraordinarily abusive and cannot be tolerated.

Ironically, Thunderfoot himself was quite upset last year at an invasion of his own privacy after someone discovered and made public his real name. He even made a Youtube video about it, blasting the person who did it for “doc dropping” and saying:

All you’ve done is shown that Islam, your religion, makes you act like a complete douche. But if I were you, I would hope that nothing happens to me.

Now I’m obviously not going to claim that Thunderfoot’s atheism has made him act like a complete douche. I don’t know what has made him act that way, and I don’t much care. I only care that what he has done here is unethical and unjustified by any possible reasoning.

He has already posted about this, where he reveals publicly what he had already revealed privately to others. And even while violating the privacy and confidentiality of everyone on this network, he simultaneously declares that we have nothing to fear because he “does not doc drop.” As if that is supposed to make anyone here feel any better. He used a loophole in our security to gain access to private communications that he knew he was not authorized to see, copied some of those conversations to other people and now does so publicly as well — but he wants us and everyone else to believe that he would never do anything bad with it. He’s really the good guy, you see, because he is revealing our dark, conspiratorial plotting against himself and others.

I really do find this outraged declaration that he does not “doc drop” to be almost laughably deluded. It’s like someone who breaks into your house because you forgot to latch a window. He comes into your house and steals your china and jewelry, then reacts in mock outrage when you suggest that he might steal your TV too. In fact, he screams “I do not steal TVs!” at the top of his lungs to the neighbors while he’s handing your other possessions out the door to someone else. And then he expects that declaration to be credible and to provide some assurance of his character.

He also makes a big deal out of the following quote from me, which he is leaking from that list. After I found out he had found a way to get back on our list and had leaked emails to others, I wrote this to the group:

“I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that he is essentially drummed out of this movement, never invited to speak anywhere again and is forever a pariah.”

Hell, that was the mild stuff he was quoting. I said worse than that. And I meant every word of it. I think what he has done here should result in him losing every little shred of credibility he ever had. I think it should make every single person in this movement distrust him, now and forever. I think it should make him a pariah and destroy any place he could possibly have in the atheist movement. I think it reveals, as starkly as possible, just how deranged and unethical the man is. And I think you should think so too.

His behavior since being removed from this network has only proven all the more that the right decision was made. And it should be a warning to anyone else who might work with him in the future that he simply cannot be trusted. He appears to have no ethical boundaries at all; if he thinks he was wronged by you, he thinks he can do anything he wants to you with impugnity, including violate your privacy and leak your confidential communications. And quite frankly, he has become obsessive to the point of derangement.

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