(Read more on this topic at Notes from Off-Center. Thanks Drew!)
Iain Thompson of vnunet.com writes on an unusual Myspace defacing in his article, “Christian Hackers Attack Myspace: What wouldn’t Jesus do?” Counter to the recent press on the Anonymous hacking group attacking Scientology sites, this time it appears that “radical Christian hackers” are behind this attack.
(Apparently, this story is now dated but it’s just making the rounds to Christdot. See the Athiest and Agnostic Group article on Wikipedia.)
I’m far from defending the action. It’s a childish and immature act of vandalism. However, it isn’t much more than that. This is a defaced Myspace group and not burning heretics. Hardly the worst form of religious discrimination. At the same time, it fails standards of Christian charity and anyone’s standards of decency.
Thinking of intolerance, has anyone looked at the Atheists & Agnostics group page? Especially the pictures page? At the time of writing, there are 43 pictures there. About a quarter of them are explicitly bashing Christians: Adam and Eve, Mother Angelica, an image of the Virgin Mary in toast, an Israelite throwing stones, a Baptist Church sign, DaVinci’s Last Supper are all parodied. The rest are self-promotional bits and fan photos.
What other religions are parodied? None. Only a few make generic reference to God or Faith. No one here wants to attack Allah, the Dalai Lama or the goddess Durga. Just a chance to take a cheap punch at Christians with a less than clever graphic of an Icthys fish eaten by a Darwin fish. This behavior is typical of many atheists, from the prominent folks like Dawkins or Hitchens down to one of the ordinary 35,000 members of this Myspace group, they are less interested in declaiming faith as giving kidney punches to Christians.
To me, the story here is that an Atheist group took many cheap shots at Christians. In return, a Christian group is returning cheap shots. About as exciting as man-bites-dog: a usual story but with some reversal.
I will not condone this act of vandalism. Some of my sympathy goes out to the Atheist and Agnostic Group, but only so far as the response to immaturity has been immaturity.
Here’s the report from the group leader’s Myspace page:
Update: 1/30/08, 10:00 p.m. EST.
Thanks sincerely to all who sent emails or forwarded the press release (real big thanks to the Secular Student Alliance and the Humanist Chaplain from Harvard). Myspace hasn’t yet responded, and our group is still deleted.
Short FAQ based on some of the emails I got:
Q1) How do you know the group was deleted for religious reasons?
A1)I have no smoking gun. I cannot produce any internal Myspace memo saying “crush the heathens”.
However, I assert that our group’s history up to its recent deletion (1/1/8) establishes a prima facie case that we were deleted for religious reasons:
Note first that I ran the group for almost 3 years, and was very careful to not violate any TOS.
We were deleted two years ago due to complaints from a group called the “Christian Crusaders.” They would search Myspace for profiles they found offensive, and then mass complain to customer service.
Their strategy was to send so many emails to customer service that someone, somewhere at Myspace would delete the profile or group.
It worked. They were able to get us deleted for a few weeks til myspace restored us (pre-news corp; Tom Anderson, himself posted to our group offering to protect us). The “Christian Crusaders” also got many other groups and profiles deleted, including a large pro choice group.
Three months ago, my account was hacked. The hacker took control of the group and renamed it “Jesus is love”.
It took almost a month of constant emailing to Myspace just to get them to restore the group. I lost my profile (3000 friends; dozens of blogs), and the hacker banned many regular users.
Banning on a Myspace group is oddly permanent / can’t be undone. So, I sent more requests asking Myspace to un-ban my regulars.
I got an email back– finally; after about 3 weeks of requests for help– saying “thank you for the information. We have scheduled the group for deletion.”
Literally 5 minutes later, the group was deleted. I think it’s ironic that Myspace’s response to my persistent and sincere request for help was to delete the group!
I hope that puts our deletion in context. Add to that, the biggest xtian group here was deleted not too long ago (post news corp) and Myspace Tom personally restored it.
Do I think Myspace is an evil atheist hating conspiracy– no. Do I think an agent of Myspace deleted my group because it was an atheist group. Yes.
I realize this is circumstantial evidence; but I think the case outlined above is strong enough to warrant my conclusion, and I am waiting to see if Myspace replies.
Q2) You realize that Myspace is privately owned; you have no right to free speech there; they can delete content at will?
A2) I do; but I think Myspace deleting atheist groups is equivalent to a restaurant refusing to serve minorities. Myspace provides a free service, yet it benefits tremendously ($$$) only because users provide content. As a for-profit, I suspect Myspace has some duty of equal protection to all members of protected classes. If Myspace deleted the largest African American group here, no one would tolerate that. Why should we tolerate it for any minority group?
I’m not trying to be dramatic. My experience is nothing like the typical civil rights violation, but I believe it is nonetheless a violation. I’m not sure where the line is drawn between trivial violations and ones-worth-fighting for. I personally think this one’s worth fighting for.
I feel our group had value; we helped give a misunderstood (and often despised) minority a sense of community. The fact that 35,000 people took the proactive step of joining the group (even if most never posted) suggests that it had value. The emails I got today from regulars and strangers suggests that it had value.
Personally, the three years I invested in maintaining the group (and the blogs on my deleted profile) had value to me. So, I think trying to get the group back is a rational investment of my time.
Further, I’m not asking for a march on the capital. I just want our group back.