Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Thunderf00t goes to the Marketplace Of Ideas and buys some magic beans

As you may have heard (if your life is as empty as mine is), the atheist and anti-feminist thought leader known as Thunderf00t recently had his Twitter account suspended. Apparently Twitter found it to be "violating Twitter rules, specifically the rules around targeted abuse." He concludes, in his inevitable video on the subject, that it must be about Anita Sarkeesian.

Twitter's judgement might be heavy handed in this case. I don't know how often he @s Sarkeesian, who presumably has him blocked anyway, so it may be unfair to suspend him on these grounds. There's no doubt that his multiple videos criticising Feminist Frequency encourage others to participate in the hate campaign, but whether Twitter can hold Tf00t accountable for others' behaviour is questionable.

But no biggie, this is not the trial of Charles Manson - it's a temporary suspension until he acknowledges that he understands Twitter's rules. Tick a box and he gets back in.

What interests me are a few points he made in the video I've linked to above.

He says: Sarkeesian is "perfectly happy to tweet out videos like 'Thunderf00t busted', which even with the entire support of Anita Sarkeesian's following, and PZ Myers' following - and no intervention from myself - got an organic rating of about 50%".

The "organic rating" he's talking about is the ratio of likes to dislikes on the YouTube video:

We'll pretend to take the "no intervention from myself" bit as true, and just accept Thunderf00t's implication here: that the ratio of likes to dislikes on a YouTube video are proof of the validity of the arguments made within that video.

Is that what he's actually implying? I wasn't sure at first, but a bit later in the video he says this:

"The Factual Feminist [sic] recently put out this video destroying Anita's arguments. And, just so we're clear on the rough numbers, it's about a third of a million hits at the moment, 4000 comments, and a 96% approval rating."

So that is what he's saying. Further evidence comes via a mention of the autotuned response to Hoff Sommers' video ("a 40% approval rating").

I guess that in 'the marketplace of ideas' (YouTube), a video's popularity ("organic rating") shows how correct it is.

Because masses of people could never be wrong.


(I was sure there must be some Latin name for a rhetorical fallacy related to this, but there can't be because Thunderf00t would never do something so silly.)


Charlotte said...

You know, if it wasn't for your FB posts I'd have no idea who thunderf00t is.

Michael Esau said...

For those wondering: it's called argumentum ad populum

Mike Booth said...

I'm sorry Charlotte.

kuangeleven said...

Spirit Science has over 90% approval rating. Can we conclude that Jews are indeed from space?

Organic rating? There are two obvious problems with relying on these numbers.
Severel 100000s of views are impressive, but certainly not all the people who might be interested in the content of the video. Are these people representative of people in general interested in feminism and/or gaming? I rememeber back in the "golden days" of Youtube Atheism theist videos barely got over 1 or 2 star. While theists where the majority in the general population.

The number of ratings is 10% of the viewers? Do they represent the opininon of the rest? Are the rest neutral? Have no feeling one way or the other? ( )

Also other remarks in the video make it clear that Tfoot knows that any rating or flagging system can be rigged or abused. His Twitter suspension can be a systematic effort of false flagging, ha claims.

That is why he has to come up with the BS term "organic rating".

It is not simply an appeal to popularity. It is an appel to a metric neither representative, nor reliable. And he is a skeptic and a published scientist.