The Death Knell of boingboing - Temple of Me

Temple of Me

Welcome. All web sites are temples to their creators. Temple of Me will reflect what interests me, Temple of Me. I am a husband, father (twice), American, and liberal. I live in a "Red state" in the South. I am nearsighted, ambidextrous and over 30. Actually, I'm 153.33% of thirty.

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The Death Knell of boingboing

/2009/03/boinged.jpgI'm not naive enough to believe boingboing will actually cease to publish. People find it interesting, and more importantly, they're making cash.

I have a history with Cory Doctorow. But, in this latest problem, he is only a cog in the boingboing leadership. Someone who I usually enjoy reading has crossed the my line this time.

Xeni Jardin doesn't like having boingboing listed as a nudity site by some piece of trash blocking software company.

(Aside: In my previous employment I have plenty of experience with those types of software. They. do. not. work. Ever. Yes, they block 70 year old neophytes and 10 year old boys. By 12 all net savvy boys and their friends can route around the software. The 25 year-old pervs that worry parents? They aren't even fazed.)

So, Xeni has been on a campaign to have boingboing delisted from Smartfilter. The company didn't cave to mighty power of boing boing. I'm not on either side for this one folks. Companies like Smartfilter screw a few hard earned dollars out of adults with little sense. They're giving harried librarians piece of mind when lawmakers claim no tax dollars until the "Children are Protected!" You want to protect your kids? Teach them to think for themselves. But that's too hard for elected officials.

But Xeni needs a clue. So boingboing is blocked? Will that cut into your ad revenue? You can't think this is a first amendment issue. This isn't the US government officially blocking boingboing. (Sure, it's a few other governments, but how many Suicide Girls subscriptions are sold through boingboing to the citizens of "totalitarian" countries?)

Xeni couldn't believe one or two cheesecake photos had boingboing listed as a nudity site. The company wouldn't delist the site so she is leading a campaign to help everyone get around Smartfilter.

I applaud that. She published all sorts of tips on how to get around "censorware." Great job, Xeni. Fight fire with fire. Smartfilter responded in their own way. The marketing wonks set up an interview to get their word spread. One of their "directors of filtering data" dropped a few talking points and tried to respond to the public outcry.

Then Xeni released the nerve gas in our crowded little consumer train. Wait, she didn't release it. Some one else dropped the beaker. Xeni just opened the metro doors so as many folks as possible could take a breath.

Xeni performed the act of logic known as Ad Hominem. She reported "bloggers" "found" evidence the president of Smartfilter posted on an adult diaper newsgroup.

See that! He's a perv! Stopping others from seeing US. He has no right!

I don't care if the man voted for Nixon. What he does in his personal life has no baring on this fight. Did Xeni call the man and ask if those were his posts? No. Did she refuse to publish the rumors unless there was proof they has something to do with his argument for keeping boingboing blocked? No.

No, she ran that dirty laundry up the tallest pole she could find.

What was the "research" used to find the dirty laundry? Sean Bonner (of Suicide Girls) Googled the guys' name. (1) Yes, he Googled the guys name. Period. Did he call the guy and ask if it was the person making the posts? Evidently not. But Sean did contact sex writer Violet Blue for her opinion. I can't seem to find any mention of Ms. Blue's education, certifications, or clinical experience. But she is concerned!

That was enough for Sean to go public. Xeni did the same. And Joi Ito doesn't like outing people unless he is noting "someone's motivation to "protect children" is possibly driven by a fetish." I'll note that Joi didn't call the filtering guy. He just spread the rumor.

And it is still a rumor folks. I mean, Cyrus Farivar gives the impression he thinks there was research involved:

A couple of bloggers, Joi Ito, (who found the link from Sean Bonner) and Kathryn Cramer, and sex blogger Violet Blue have found that Mr. Foote-Lennox isn't quite the “protector of kids” that he'd like to make himself out to be. All those bloggers (and probably others) have found that Mr. Foote-Lennox turns up on Google's Usenet Archives (aka “Google Groups”) under the group, (for adult baby fetishists) in entries from 1996.

Cyrus somehow thinks Joi and Kathryn found evidence. Remember, all Sean did was Google for a name. He has no proof. (As though it matters. Remember "ad hominum.") Cyrus simply spreads the rumor, but readers of his blog don't get the full story.

Now, Kathryn Cramer did a little more "research." In addition to googling the man's name she found an Amazon wish list! Based on the list she decided the man was probably a masochist. So she posted about it!

Did she write the guy? She had for other reasons. Did she call him and ask what was up? No. She told the world what books were on a wishlist.

Remember how upset liberals such as myself are when someone wants the government to know what we check out at the library. We believe that private citizens deserve a certain amount of privacy. Evidently, some in our camp believe others deserve privacy only if they agree with us or do what we ask.

The truly sad thing is none of this has to do with the central issue of censorware. The personal life of a "director of filtering" has nothing to do with the piece of crap software. The man does not go to elementary schools and teach 3rd graders how to install his software. He doesn't hang out in the Young Adult section of the school library and lecture the children on the evils of nudity. No, he probably just adds URLs to a file of sites to block.

Xeni, Sean, Joi, Kathryn, and Violet: you blew it. You were on the side or right and good. Stop Censorship! is my fight too. But you didn't fight the good fight. How are you any better than any other rumor monger?

And before you google my fetishes let me help you. I like sex. It's all wonderful. Since 18 I've had a motto: "If an adult wants to do it and another adult (or adults) wants to join, watch, film, or write about it then it's ok with me." I personally don't enjoy the vast majority of fetishes, but hope yours gets you the thrill you need.

If that isn't strong enough, or if you are voyeuristic, call me personally. We'll talk.

(1) Update: Mar. 11 at 8:07 a.m. -- In the comments to this post Bonner posted that he was not the first to Google the man's name. However, he did post the information. It was still his link that Farivar (and others) mentioned. Please read the comments for more on this.

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I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog. However, while you accuse me of making ad hominem attacks, you sir, are as guilty as anyone of making the attacks.

You say the following: "Cyrus somehow thinks Joi and Kathryn found evidence."

Nowhere in that sentence does it refer to the word "evidence."

What I said was:

"A couple of bloggers, Joi Ito, (who found the link from Sean Bonner) and Kathryn Cramer, and sex blogger Violet Blue have found that Mr. Foote-Lennox isn’t quite the “protector of kids” that he’d like to make himself out to be."

Firstly, Tomo Foote-Lennox isn't the most common of names, so when it turns up on the Internet, it's probably the same guy. I have a semi-unique name and when people google it, they'll find my website.

Secondly and more importantly, if you looked more closely at Sean Bonner's post, he actually *does* make the connection. He links to this page, which establishes one Tomo Foote-Lennox as living in Minnesota (where the Usenet posts were inviting people to) and as working for Secure Computing. I'd bet that the combination of those three facts computes to exactly one person.

# Posted by: Cyrus Farivar at March 10, 2009 05:49 PM

Cyrus, it's always good when bloggers take the time to respond. Thank you.

Let's clear up some things:

I quoted your blog entry correctly. When you state that Ito, Cramer and Blue "have found that Mr. Foote-Lennox isn't quite the 'protector of kids' that he'd like to make himself out to be" you meant they found what then? Evidence is defined as "something that furnishes proof." If you did not believe they were furnishing proof, then what did you believe?

I am Temple of Me, not Domini. Is Temple of Me the most common of names? Am I a town? A hearty, but plain table wine? No, I am a person. But I could post under any name on Usenet. I could call myself Cyrus Farivar and it would be there for all to see. Does it prove that it is you who made the posts?

It is obvious I read Sean's post. I see where he found that Hope College graduate Tomo Foote-Lennox (formerly Tom Lennox) lives in Minnesota. He also found that the person calling himself Tomo in that newsgroup lived in Minnesota.

But he did not call the man to question him. And frankly, if bloggers want to play at being journalists, they need to a damn better job of doing the detail work.

While you were touched by association of Jardin's ad hominem misstep I did not accuse you directly. I thought my mention of your site was clear. I saw you as reading Bonner's site and posting Sean had evidence of some pertinent item in the Jardin/Smartfilter argument. In my mind you were part of the crowd listening, not one of those in the battle.

And after all that you completely missed the point.

Ad Hominem attacks are two-pronged. You attack the character of a person and then claim a person of such character could not be correct in his argument. This is exactly what was done to Foote-Lennox.

The sad thing is I mostly agreed with Jardin. But I can not agree with such tactics.

Had she stuck with her argument against the company she would have cleanly won the debate. Instead she got personal with mudslinging worthy of a Republican candidate.

I welcome you to point out any ad hominem attacks you found in my post. I trust you will find that I didn't attack nor give a whit about the personal life of Jardin, Bonner, Blue, Foote-Lennox, or yourself.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 10, 2009 06:44 PM

I just want to clear something up here, as you have a bit of the timing backwards. I didn't google this guy to find this out - I saw that both Violet and Kathryn had googled him and made posts, and I posted referencing them. Violet had stated her opinion long before I pointed it out.

# Posted by: sean bonner at March 11, 2009 04:02 AM

Thanks for pointing that out.

Based on links from boingboing and Mr. Farivar I got the impression you were first. Reading your post also gave me that impression:

Now, let's do a little research on this man who is so concerned with children, shall we? Googling his name turns up some rather . . . interesting . . . results. There are several messages on the newsgroup (a group for Adult Baby fetishists) that come from someone named Tomo Foote-Lennox.

I didn't see any mention you were following in Blue's or Cramer's footsteps.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 11, 2009 08:02 AM

Well my entire post is basically pointing to them so I didn't feel that I needed shove that down people's throats - in fact a major part of my post was a quote from Violet which was already online (and I linked to), so how could I have possibly have gotten to this first? Even if you were confused by the wording, timestamps are telling and Kathryn's post went up almost 24 hours before mine.

# Posted by: Sean Bonner at March 11, 2009 01:36 PM

In the entries I referenced I did not compare your datestamp to Cramer's. Looking at them now:

Posted by Kathryn on Thursday, March 09, 2009 at 01:25 PM


What was the datestamp of the entry where Cramer referenced Googling Foote-Lennox and finding the Usenet posts?

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 11, 2009 04:56 PM

Posted by Kathryn on Tuesday, March 07, 2009 at 09:11 PM

# Posted by: sean bonner at March 11, 2009 05:03 PM

Follow Bonner's link and you see an earlier post than the one I discussed where Cramer wrote about an Amazon wishlist.

In the Tuesday post Cramer linked to a Google search for the Usenet posts. Here is the relevant paragraph:

"What I think we have here is censorship practiced as a kind of fetishism: Secure Computing employees read the Internet with a dirty mind and then have their way with it based on what they read into what they see."

Maybe it is that I grew up with a different style of reporting than you use. If you were simply using someone else's "detective" work why not give a strong and obvious attribute? For example, "Cramer Googled the name ____ and found _____." Your paragraph sure looks as though you were doing the leg work yourself.

But, you know what? I'll say it again. It doesn't really matter which one of you first leaked the information. Each one of you used it as an effort to discredit the man. Simply because he didn't agree with your point of view. You didn't rely on your superior argument against censorware. You had to make it personal.

That is the tactic I found repugnant. I guess I expected better from those who I felt are on the same side I stand.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 11, 2009 10:13 PM

I'm not sure why you keep making that leap - that any of this was because of a disagreement in point of view. I don't know why you think you are an expert on my motives. Everyone involved has said that's not the case and yet you keep banging that drum. The situation, plain and simple, is that that noted a noted sex expert went on record saying that people with this particular fetish have a skewed view of reality, especially when it comes to children. When that person is in a situation to decide what entire countries are allowed to see and what they aren't, especially when as BB has noted the blocks are anything but consistant, that is something that should be pointed out. It's not an argument about any one of these details, and the fact that when they are all together in the same situation it's a problem that needs to be looked at. I honestly don't care if you agree with me on that or not, but please stop making assumptions about my actions.

# Posted by: sean bonner at March 11, 2009 11:02 PM

I never called myself an expert on you. All I have to go on is your posts and my experience in debate, logic, and journalism. I did not post because I want you agree or disagree with me. I posted because "silence is the voice of complicity." My family, friends, and strangers read this blog. I've recommended, defended, and chided boingboing in the past. I've also often defended sites such as the one where you made the post. For me not to question these recent posts would be hypocritical.

I firmly believe what a company does and what an individual does on his or her own time are separate issues. I've seen too many conservatives claim the opposite when it comes to gays and single parents. This time there were a group of bloggers with an issue with which I agreed. It doesn't matter who yelled "get 'em" and who rushed in behind. In the debate about the software someone decided to take the ad hominem approach and others followed suit. I call that lousy logic.

You believe Ms Blue's opinion -- which I understand was not based on any actual interview or therapy session with the man. I believe she didn't dig deep enough before she -- and others including yourself -- went public with the information. I call that lousy journalism.

If the software was completely wrong was it any more or less wrong based on your feelings about the personal life of the man in question? What if he was gay? Would that be germane? What if he was celibate? What if he was a pastor? Black? Italian? A baseball fan?

Remember, this is a man who picks sites for censorware. He wasn't teaching Second grade. He sits in an office and picks sites to block.

Smartfilter is an example of a bad type of product. Censorware is a waste of time and money. That's true no matter who picks the sites. I don't care what they do on their own time.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 11, 2009 11:54 PM

"Smartfilter is an example of a bad type of product. Censorware is a waste of time and money."

As Sean decided it was not in his best interest to actually let a decenting voice post a comment to his blog I'll try here. These applications (SmartFilter, Net Nanny, Web Washer, Surf Control... the list goes on) categorize web sites and provide that database of categorized web sites to companies that wish to impliment some level of control over internet useage in thier organizatoin. The companies that make the software dont ban/block/censor websites they look at and say - well that looks like porn so it goes in the porn category. Do mistakes happen, I'm sure. But when a company can get in legal trouble because an employee is looking at a pornographic website at work it is in their best interest to stop access to such sites.

The point in this debat that I think is beeing missed is that if YOU the internet users of the free world want to have unrestricted access to the net go buy a pc and get an ISP - then you can surf to anywhere you want AT HOME - WHERE YOU ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO DO SOME OTHER JOB!!!

# Posted by: Devils Advocate at March 13, 2009 10:47 AM

While I agree a company has the right privledge to restrict access for employees; I don't agree libraries (or governments) should ever filter the Internet for patrons (or citizens).

As someone who has experience with such filters I can tell you they do not work well. They just give administrators a false sense of confidence. As I posted earlier, they are easy to defeat.

I can understand your thoughts about employees surfing the Internet, but as long as people are stuck in uninteresting jobs for little pay you have to live with some goofing off. It is a needed release for the pressure cooker positions.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 13, 2009 11:12 AM

Temple of Me,

I apologize for incorrectly spelling your name.

I don't have anything further to say other than I agree with Sean's comment:

"The situation, plain and simple, is that that noted a noted sex expert went on record saying that people with this particular fetish have a skewed view of reality, especially when it comes to children. When that person is in a situation to decide what entire countries are allowed to see and what they aren't, especially when as BB has noted the blocks are anything but consistant, that is something that should be pointed out. It's not an argument about any one of these details, and the fact that when they are all together in the same situation it's a problem that needs to be looked at."

# Posted by: Cyrus Farivar at March 13, 2009 01:09 PM

I think that Xeni said it best.

This is the point:

These posts have spurred a lot of commentary about Foote-Lennox. Much of the debate focuses on whether having allegedly participated in "diaper-lover" culture, as infant fetishists describe themselves, would disqualify someone from passing judgement over what online content children or adults are allowed to see.

We're skeptical of this here at Boing Boing. We believe the problem isn't that people allegedly into unusual sexual stuff have no business setting standards for others. The real problem: is anyone qualified to tell other adults -- entire nations at a time -- what they can and can't access online?

We believe there's nothing wrong with consenting adults doing what they enjoy with other consenting adults, and writing about it on USENET if they want. If there's any black pot to Foote-Lennox's alleged charcoal grey kettle, it's us. We're all about celebrating the weird, about wooing the muse of the odd. About being in touch with your inner outsider.

What is relevant about the and posts attributed to Foote-Lennox is this: If one of us went to observe one of these parties and blogged about the fact that this subculture exists, Smartfilter would block it. No big deal if you're inside a corporate cubicle in the USA, because you can always access blocked sites from home or elsewhere. But netizens in countries that use Secure Computing's censorware to filter traffic nationwide effectively lose their right to access this information, and anything else Secure Computing deems naughty.

Additionally, while Smartfilter "overblocks" non-pornographic sites like BoingBoing as "nudity sites" a quick check of their filtering engine reveals that some of the more popular "Adult Baby" fetish websites do not appear to be blocked as adult content:,,, and, for instance. Some contain erotic fiction, some are indistinguishable from regular kid-ware stores. But they're not Toys-R-Us, they're fetishware sites for adults.

# Posted by: Cyrus Farivar at March 13, 2009 01:18 PM


Apology accepted.

But you did have more to say, or at least more to post. First, Sean's comment and boingboing's comment are at odds.

Sean felt that the situation "plain and simple" had to do with Violet Blue's opinion that an adult diaper fetishist should not filter sites. The boingboing team wrote "We believe the problem isn't that people allegedly into unusual sexual stuff have no business setting standards for others."

I believe, as I have posted above numerous times, that all those who felt a need to rush to print these rumors and innuendos took the debate off track and their tactics only hurt their cause.

I believe the subject of a person's fetish never had anything to do with the question of censorware. It was an attack on a person with the intent to discredit the software. That's a piss-poor way to debate. Plain and simple.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 14, 2009 07:46 AM

It's a harsh call to out the guy, but I think it was the right one - aftr all, in correspondence posted on BoingBoing and elsewhere he has used the first-person, "I", to outline his crusade. It's his personal judgement that comes into play when deciding what to filter or otherwise, and, as Violet and Kathryn have pointed out, his personal proclivities cause him to see the world in a hyper-sexualised way.

This entire issue is turned on its head by these Usenet posts - it's not just muck-spreading for the sake of it, as you seem to infer. BoingBoing and the other blogs involved haven't posted these things maliciously to score some cheap points - the questions the hypocrisy and double-standards raise are directly relevant to the very issue of censorware, for the reasons already explained.

I can understand your distaste at the airing of dirty laundry for its own sake, cheap "outing" in the tabloid style for revenge and ridicule. But that's certainly not what's been going on in this issue at all, no matter what you might think.

# Posted by: Matt Volatile at March 15, 2009 07:36 AM

Thanks for your comment Matt, but I don't believe this issue was turned on its head by the Usenet posts. I believe the true debate was lost when many lost track of the true issue -- "censorware is shoddy software and is poorly implemented."

In a true debate the issue is the key. Not the speaker -- even when they occasionally use the word "I." What happened is that this debate did become muckraking. How would the community have responded if Smartfilter had dug up dirt on Xeni, Violet, or one of the other posters? It isn't just wrong when the other side does it.

You mention double-standards. What if Smartfilter had argued that boingboing and the others were against the software only because they are "porn" sites run by "porn purveyors." Now, I personally don't think "porn" is a negative term, but many readers of the New York Times will believe it is.

What would have happened? We would have claimed foul. We would have say this is a freedom of speech issue. We would have claimed the Smartfilter people were trying to taint the public's perception of our arguments. We would have been correct.

(By the way, I say "we" because I do not believe censorware is a viable or efficient option for companies, parents, and repressive governments.)

The problem is we have become used to politicians doing this and we believe it's a valid debate tactic. I believe ad hominem arguments are simply the wrong way to debate. Others obviously don't agree with me. I can live with that.

# Posted by: Temple of Me at March 15, 2009 10:00 AM

So, since this appears to be a rather intelligent discussion, I'll just toss out that I think the whole issue of problems with filtering is a huge problem, but above all, it's a old ontological problem; a redux of "where do I file this book/magazine".


# Posted by: dantealiegri` at April 17, 2009 11:54 AM

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