Phil Mason, better known online as Thunderf00t, is a scientific researcher and YouTube bloviater who’s turned his hate-crush on video game critic Anita Sarkeesian into a surprisingly lucrative part-time job; his seemingly unending stream of YouTube videos attacking Sarkeesian, many of which have drawn hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, have without a doubt contributed mightily to the harassment directed against her by the online mob known as #Gamergate.
Now Mason is trying to defend himself against charges that he has become the de facto leader of a vast hate mob that harasses Sarkeesian and other women … by encouraging his followers to harass a woman who charged him with exactly this.
And a good number of Mason’s 400,000 YouTube followers have taken him up on this challenge, flooding the Yelp page of the business the woman runs with her husband with fraudulent one-star reviews and besieging her and her family business with angry and harassing phone calls (at least one of which the perpetrator has put online).
The story of this particular debacle began this past January when the YouTuber who calls herself Laughing Witch sent a letter to Mason’s employer, accusing the YouTuber of harassing Sarkeesian and other women and repeatedly suggesting that he and his followers were a bunch of Nazis. Her email was part of a letter-writing campaign by a number of feminist Youtubers who hoped their letters would get Mason fired from his research job.
Mason, who apparently faced no repercussions from the letter-writing campaign, decided last week to retaliate against Laughing Witch — real name Jennifer Keller. He posted a video about Keller’s letter, following up with a second video posting her name as well as screenshots from the web page of Porcelain Tub Restoration, the company she runs with her husband.
While Tunderf00t didn’t explicitly command his army to harass Keller and her husband, he suggested to his supporters that they post their thoughts about her on the business’s Yelp page — and they did, cratering the company’s rating with literally hundreds of fake one-star reviews.
Yelp has been removing the most obviously fake ones, as well as those referencing her letter about Thunderf00t, but many remain up as “not recommended” (in other words, questionable) reviews, including a number of clearly trollish ones accusing Keller of being a Nazi.
These negative reviews, as ludicrous as many of them are, have apparently hit the business hard. Keller and her husband have set up a FundAnything page in an attempt, they say, to make payroll in the wake of the attacks on their and their company’s reputation online. On the FundAnything page Keller’s husband, Paul Burns, writes:
We are getting slanderous lies about our services and people posting deplorable images on review sites, as well desecrating our star ratings and customers calling. No one clicks to a service company with 1 star rating.
According to Burns, the 26-year-old “family based service business with 14 employees” may be forced to close “because of a brutal mob attack on our social review sites.”
Mason’s response to this campaign being waged in his name? Another video, in which he declares that “Karma [is] ONLY A BITCH, if you are one!”
Except that this isn’t “karma,” a supernatural force that Mason, a self-avowed “skeptic,’ presumably doesn’t believe in anyway.
This is an organized harassment campaign, instigated and encouraged by Mason himself.
While I’ve enjoyed Laughing Witch’s videos in the past, I think the letter writing campaign was wrong. Writing employers is a low blow. And despite Mason’s many flaws as a thinker and a human being, he’s no Nazi.
But the wave of harassment he’s brought down on Keller — and which he has not made even the slightest attempt to rein in — is indefensible.
And it’s getting worse by the day: 8chan’s Baphomet forum, a haven for malicious doxers and harassers, has now jumped aboard this harassment train, targeting not only Keller but her supporters as well. They’ve doxed one other YouTuber already, and are working on doxing others.
In a Baphomet thread, one anon happily reports that the attacks on Keller are causing her great distress:
While Mason at first suggested that he would call off the attack if Keller apologized to him, he has since refused to accept her apology, and seems positively gleeful about the pain he’s caused her and her allies.
The internet has officially hit another new low.
I’ll post more on this as it develops.
NOTE: Thanks to Daily Kos blogger idlediletante (Margaret Pless), who provided me with a number of tips on this story. She’s written three posts on the subject so far: