Many of you will know about the YouTube channel drcraigvideos, which contained over 800 videos of debates and speeches by Christian philosopher, theologian and apologist Dr William Lane Craig, and had accumulated over 4 million views. Well, last week, YouTube shut it down for alleged violation of community guidelines and copyright infringement (apparently all it takes is a few seconds of disputed footage to disqualify an entire channel).
Oddly enough, precisely the same thing happened to another major apologetics channel PPsimmons (which had over 20 million views) on what appears to be the very same day as this incident. [UPDATE 17-5-2012: PPsimmons recently came back online! They managed to make enough noise to get the attention of google! click here to find out Youtube's stated reason for taking down the PPsimmons channel.]
It looks to me that a particular gathering of online atheists have given up on conversation, and simply desire to attack online apologetics resources instead (I know people who have been stalked and threatened with exposure of personal information or even death)! William Lane Craig, in particular, really seems to have gotten under their skin, with ring-leaders and YouTube atheist gurus resorting to personal attacks, ad populum fallacies and now, apparently, this.
It has to be said, however, that if this emotive, anti-intellectual branch of online atheism is a big angry crocodile, drcraigvideos' previous owner probably poked it with the stick a little too much (sarcastic comments and quite a bit of blocking)! Specifically, things got sticky when a "DMCA war" became waged, with both sides of the conflict convinced they were legally in the right and the other not. The climate seems to have been raised for trigger-happy "flagging" whenever you don't like somebody's views.
Which brings us back to our current predicament. This previous owner could not sustain looking after the channel, so handed it over to Reasonable Faith as an official channel. This was great news, but entailed a lot of tidying up and management! The decision was made to switch off YouTube comments - leveling the playing field so that no abusive messages could be posted. Not long after, however, the channel went down (though not before a number of atheist channels had mirrored some videos in the name of "free speech")!
So, what's happening now? Well, Reasonable Faith are appealing the decision, and apparently will know whether or not they've been successful within 14 days. It's irritating, indeed! Many links in many blogs and on many websites, which use these videos, are now severed. But we will have to see how open (if at all) YouTube are to revising their decision.
However, we apologists don't just lie down! Already, efforts are being made to re-upload all the video resources (I've been in contact with one person who backed up the entire channel - he's popular right now)! Reasonable Faith themselves are also starting with a fresh new channel, and are uploading carefully-checked content (the good thing being that they have unlimited video length, so many debates which were heretofore broken into 10-minute parts can now be seen in their entirety). Essentially, if past incidents are any indicator, this could result in a flood of all the videos back on YouTube, x 10! Indeed, it may even be one of those situations God uses for good - a chance to make a whole new stamp on Reasonable Faith's use of media? An important lesson to learn? A sign of worry amidst dissenters on Youtube? A way to mobilize fellow Christians? Possibly!
So, at the moment, we can be confident that the videos will all be back, though perhaps less optimistic for the drcraigvideos channel itself, with its substantial list of subscribers and web links. However, even if it is the case that we need to bid farewell to the channel as we knew it, it's already served a tremendous purpose in bringing Dr Craig to Youtube, and circulating the material itself (it was watching Craig vs Lewis Wolpert, several years ago, when I realized there may be a genuine need to re-examine my atheism)!
As annoying a situation as it is, I think good can come from this, as well as new creativity. One wonders what ripples it makes on the atheist community too. Some have been dancing for joy, (as if drcraigvideos were an oppressive Black Hawk helicopter taken down by an RPG) but I've also read comments from a surprising number of atheists who almost seem a little upset or even taken aback (perhaps for some it's the Christopher Hitchens syndrome of wanting someone to argue with)? This is an important time to remember those atheists out there who exercise far more integrity than the culprits behind these sorts of attacks.
I will leave you, for the moment, with two pieces of good news:
1. Lots of Dr Craig-related material is still intact. For example, here's perhaps the definitive William Lane Craig moment:
2. Fresh, new Craig videos continue to come in! For example, a delicious recent debate in Denmark:
... and two never-before-seen debates from Craig's 2007 UK Tour:
When an entire channel is knocked down, it can seem a time for outrage, bewilderment and defeatism. However, let's try to see the good that could come from this (such as a fresh break from the past, new resources, ruffled opposition, and amplified proactivity on the part of fellow Christian YouTubers). Things are uncertain right now, but there's clearly enough going on in terms of uploading and rescuing, that we can soon expect to have the material back, in one channel or another (or multiple channels!) and hopefully to stay.
I will keep important updates coming in. In the mean time, keep your eyes open for explosions of drcraigvideos material springing up around Youtube (and some other kinds of explosions I'm sure)! Those of you who are able to download and backup the backups of this content, I'd encourage also! Please feel free to post questions in the comments section, requests to fix broken links to videos, or even news and discoveries on this issue.
And, finally, I have a short video of my own to share with you. Strike us down, we will become more powerful:
[UPDATE: drcraigvideos was restored on May 18th! There has been much rejoicing and, as a result of this episode, it would appear that most of these debate videos now exist in triplicate on youtube! Result!]