I guess not everyone liked my post about women in philosophy…

After Brian Leiter shared my post about women in philosophy, which resulted in a lot of traffic, my blog was hacked and made inaccessible by some asshole. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but I find it hard to believe that, a few hours after the most widely read philosophy blog shared that post, some random person just decided to hack my blog for a totally unrelated reason. I knew that what I say in that post would be controversial, but I honestly never imagined that someone would do something like that. Fortunately, I made sure that a backup was made every day, so I didn’t lose any content. (As Joseph Heller famously said, just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.) But it made the blog inaccessible for several hours and, had I not taken precautions, I would have lost 6 months of work. If I’m right about what happened, this is really deplorable. I can’t even begin to understand how anyone can think that it’s legitimate to destroy someone’s work just because he wrote something they disagree with. It’s also remarkable that, even though I wrote about many controversial topics in the past, nobody ever hacked my blog until I wrote about women in philosophy. Again, it could be a coincidence, but it seems extremely unlikely. If you don’t like what I write, you can always criticize it, but I would appreciate if we could maintain some basic standard of decency in that debate.

EDIT: A friend pointed out to me that, while it seems unlikely that some random person would have decided to hack my relatively confidential website just after my post on women in philosophy was shared to a wide audience, it’s also unlikely that someone who actually cares about this would know how to hack a website. I agree that both hypotheses seem extremely unlikely and it’s difficult to determine which is more unlikely, so I figured that I should add a note to acknowledge that, since I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I’m pretty upset that someone did that, so it’s hard to think with a clear head.

ANOTHER EDIT: As I said on Facebook, it could also be the Russians, since according to the media they are responsible for everything bad in the world.

YET ANOTHER EDIT: This website is now using SSL, which should make it more secure, although I have no idea whether it would have prevented the attack. Because of the way in which Facebook’s API works, which is pretty dumb, I have lost the share count on my posts but I guess it’s not a big deal.

14 thoughts

  1. Haha. I actually suspected this when I tried accessing the site a couple times earlier today. I figured it was that or someone threatened you.

    1. The fact that you thought I might have taken down my website because somebody had threatened me, which to be clear nobody has, speaks volumes about how toxic academia has become.

  2. I’ve tried to access your site a few of hours earlier and saw that it was down, so it immediately came to my mind that someone has managed to take it down (though my first guess was not that someone has actually hacked into it). I was expecting something like a shitload of critical, angry comments on your posts, but nothing like hacking. Here in Brazil many Facebook pages have been repeatedly taken down by mass report after they have posted some critical or satirical content about feminism or other kinds of left-wing activism, and given what I have already seen regarding the behavior of virtual activists from the US (which is very similar to our own activists’ aggressive behavior), I think you’re on safe ground by thinking that some of these people hacked into your site. I’m happy that you’ve managed to recover it. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by these moronic bullies and keep up the good wor. I’m confident that you speak for many others when you openly criticize these people’s irrational claims.

    1. When I say that it was hacked, I don’t necessarily mean that someone was able to get access to the admin page. Since I still haven’t figured out how the website was hacked, I can’t rule it out, but I don’t know that it’s what happened. What I know is that it wasn’t a DoS attack, since my WordPress install was completely messed up and I had to reinstall it from scratch, which isn’t what a DoS attack would do. The server on which my website is hosted sometimes goes down for a few minutes, but the symptoms were different so I knew right away that wasn’t it, which indeed I confirmed by checking with Bluehost, the company that owns the server. I also know that it couldn’t have been an automated update that went wrong, since I checked and no update were scheduled for yesterday. I’m going to try to figure out how they did it, but I lack both the time and the expertise to investigate this in depth, although I gave the log to a friend of mine who knows more than me about this and he will look into it. I could hire a professional to diagnose my website, but it’s pretty expensive, so I won’t. I also made a mistake by restoring everything right away, which probably destroyed some clues. I was just kind of panicked, as I didn’t know if the backup would work, so I wanted to find out as soon as possible and didn’t think about that. I did backed up everything that was left on the website by FTP before I restored the website though, in the hope that it might help me figure out what had happened later. I just hope it won’t happen again, but now I know that, if it does, the backup system I set up works just as it’s supposed to.

  3. Well, of course you’d appreciate that, since maintaining a standard of decency is in your interest. But what about those whose interests are served by not maintaining such a standard, and who are unable to effectively criticize what you write? What about their needs and desires?

    1. Thanks. In the end, there is no durable harm done, since I had a backup and didn’t lose any content. But I really freaked out for 2 hours, until I was finally able to confirm that the backup worked.

      1. I can imagine it’s frightening. So frightening that I just erased part of my comment because I realized that it made me more vulnerable online.

        What’s more, you’re not even anti-feminist (nor am I). All your posts on women in philosophy are within the range of a discourse that could be accepted as worth exploring by many feminist women, although not all.

  4. Hello, postgrad feminist aspiring philosopher here. I appreciated your post (read it at Leiter). I’d like to think it’s true because I’d like to think the best of my chosen field and colleagues.

    I don’t really have an anything to contribute re statistical analysis, but just wanted to ask: assuming it is true that women prefer psychology to philosophy, why do you think this would be? Feminists don’t deny that men and women express different preferences but I guess the real question is where do these preferences come from? Are they mostly innate or inculcated? How can we tell? If mostly innate, how do we ensure that gender non-conforming women aren’t treated as though their behaviour is disordered and discriminated against on account of their gender? If inculcated, what should we do about it?

    Oh, and one more thing: I don’t think it’s fair to say that people who politically opposed your last post are unlikely to know how to hack. Are you implying that women are not tech savvy?

    1. I don’t suppose he was saying that women are not tech savvy. Probably that philosophers are not tech savvy.

    2. Suppose some subset of a person’s preferences are “inculcated”. Does this mean that they are therefore problematic, and problematic in a way that appropriately attracts other people’s efforts to do something about it? What about the reverse–what about preferences that are “innate”? If a preference is innate, does it follow that it can never be problematic in in a way that appropriately attracts other people’s efforts to do something about it?

      I don’t know the answer. But for now, I’m not convinced that innate/inculcate maps onto unproblematic/problematic neatly. At least not on every way of drawing the line between innate and inculcated. (Incidentally, my hunch is that a preference to study philosophy–or psychology–is almost always at least partly inculcated…)

    3. I don’t really have an anything to contribute re statistical analysis, but just wanted to ask: assuming it is true that women prefer psychology to philosophy, why do you think this would be? Feminists don’t deny that men and women express different preferences but I guess the real question is where do these preferences come from? Are they mostly innate or inculcated? How can we tell? If mostly innate, how do we ensure that gender non-conforming women aren’t treated as though their behaviour is disordered and discriminated against on account of their gender? If inculcated, what should we do about it?

      I don’t really know why women are more interested in psychology than philosophy, so anything I say on that issue would be pure speculation. As I explain in my post, I don’t deny that, to the extent that they are inculcated, differences in preferences may be a problem. But I also point out that, even if they are inculcated, they could be perfectly unproblematic. Moreover, as I also say in my post, even if the fact that women are less interested in philosophy than men result from some injustice, it’s presumably not in departments of philosophy that changes need to happen, so this probably wouldn’t justify efforts to transform the field in order to increase the proportion of women.

      Oh, and one more thing: I don’t think it’s fair to say that people who politically opposed your last post are unlikely to know how to hack. Are you implying that women are not tech savvy?

      I was obviously not implying any such thing and, to be honest, it never even occurred to me that anyone could read this passage in that way… As Manny says below, I just meant that, no matter their stance on the underrepresentation of women in philosophy, there are presumably few philosophers who are tech savvy enough to hack a website. I have a Bachelor in computer science and have been programing since I was 14, so I’m probably more tech savvy than the average philosopher, but I don’t know how to hack a website. I imagine that I could learn, but I never did and that’s not a skill that most people have.

  5. Philemon, I certainly don’t think “innate/inculcated maps onto unproblematic/problematic neatly”. As an example, pedophilic attraction might be innate, but is obviously problematic. In regards to gendered preferences, I do think there is a problem if people are moulded to be a particular way based on their sex. Particularly when these preferences are related to ways of being that tend to systematically advantage one sex over the other, but also just because it might be unfairly and arbitrarily preventing people (to members of both sexes) from discovering and expressing traits and preferences that might bring them more personal satisfaction than those that have been inculcated. Imagine if we inculcated particular preferences into people based on eye colour, and people with brown eyes were implicitly taught to be carers, and people with blue eyes were implicitly taught to be leaders / bosses. Seems unfair, right?

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