Joel Watts: Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?

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by Tim Widowfield

I have to thank Manoj Joseph for pointing out some date/time oddities in Joel’s testimony concerning exactly when he emailed Neil about the DMCA takedown. With all the work I had to do to bring Vridar back to life, I barely had time to skim a handful of the relevant posts around the web.

But now with the passage of couple of relatively peaceful days, I think it’s time to reflect on what happened. In particular, we should look more carefully at those screenshots that Joel so graciously provided. I just checked his site, and they’re still there, but just in case he catches on to his mistake, you will still be able to find them in various web caches.

Watts the story?

Joel says he warned Neil on the 26th. Explaining his actions, he begins by showing a screen capture of a comment by Neil. He writes: “I then sent an email to him, shortly there after [sic] . . .  Note the time difference. I know he’s in Australia.

Comment by Neil
Comment posted at 12:43 AM local to Joel’s blog.

That’s a curious little side note from Mr. Watts. The WordPress administrator tool in the screen capture shows a local time (EDT) of 12:43 AM. WordPress doesn’t show you the local time of the sender; that would be insane. No, this is Joel’s local time: Eastern Daylight Saving Time.

Joel's Sent Mail
Comparing the system time to the sent time

So what’s this business about a “time difference“? Joel wants to prepare us for a little con job that he’s about to foist on us. It reminds me of short-change artists who confuse you with their nonsensical patter just before they coax you to give them an extra 20-dollar bill.

Nothin’ up my sleeve

Next, Joel kindly shows us an image capture of his desktop. Looking at his Sent Items folder, we’re led to believe that he sent an email to Neil at 12:56 PM on the 26th. So, Neil posted shortly after midnight (EDT) on the 26th. Joel allegedly sent his mail “shortly there after [sic]” — I guess 12 hours is a “short time” in Joel’s mind. No matter.  It is, after all, the same calendar day.

But hang on.  Compare the wall clock time on Joel’s Macintosh to the time on the email. Remember: These are all local times of the sender. Outlook doesn’t show the local time of the recipient; that would be crazy.

Fast fingers

Imagine how difficult it would be to send an email, then open your Sent Items folder and take a screen capture all in the same minute. Ah, but there’s more. He’s dropped off his Wi-Fi, too. So, he must have sent the email, then switched to his sent folder, then turned off his Wi-Fi, and then snapped the image.

If you look at the full size image over at his site, you can see that he’s also disconnected from Gmail. So that’s one fast dude. I would be all thumbs. Then again, I’m still somewhat of an OS X novice, and I can never remember the key combination for snapping an image. Always have to look it up.

So, kudos to Joel for quickly . . .  Hey, wait a second! How did he know he needed to capture his screen right after he sent his mail to Neil? He must be very wise to know that he would need that for future reference.

Except . . . (or in Joel-ese, “Egg-cept”) Now that’s strange.  How are we able to see email messages that Joel sent in the future? There it is, June 26th, and yet we can see mail from 4:32 PM the next day. That’s 28 hours in the future. How is that possible?

“Look what I can do!”

System Prefs engaged!
System Prefs engaged!

Let’s take a close look at that desktop image again. It appears that he’s in the middle of a Microsoft Outlook session.  And he is, but he’s also been fiddling around with his system settings. Now there are lots of reasons why one might be messing around with System Preferences on a Macintosh. But it wouldn’t be to turn off his Wi-Fi.  No, you can do that right from the menu bar icon.

It’s clear what happened. Joel wrote that he “wanted to post a few things, to help my defenders along.” So he changed the time on his Mac, manufactured an email (with the highly unlikely Subject line of “Joel”), and took a screen cap. Only he forgot to crop the image to hide three incriminating pieces of evidence:

  1. The system time matches the sent time exactly, which is highly unlikely.
  2. The system time is 28 hours behind the most recent visible sent email.
  3. Joel has clearly been editing his System Preferences just before taking the screen capture.

How are we to explain this evidence? But more importantly, how do we judge Mr. Watts’ unbelievable claims?

Option 1: Lunatic

Joel doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s been so busy writing silly trash for his blog and for the HuffPo, along with all the work for his doctoral dissertation, that he’s sleep-deprived. Joel’s claims are the product of an unbalanced mind.

Option 2: Liar

Joel is just a plain old, garden-variety liar. He didn’t follow the instructions for the DMCA complaint, and when it blew up in his face, he invented a story. See how easy it is to create history? Maybe the early Christians would die for a lie.

Option 3: Lord

Joel is a Time Lord! At last we know the truth. This is why he’s such good friends with James McGrath. Joel Watts got in his TARDIS and went back to last Wednesday. After a really big lunch (time traveling is hard work), he dropped off an email to Neil, and then popped back to the present.

What an interesting week this has turned out to be.  First, Vridar rose from the dead. (We’re now prepared to bless you with post-Easter instruction.) And now Joel has blown his secret identity on the web for all to see.

Joel Watts . . . Time Lord!

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Tim Widowfield

Tim is a retired vagabond who lives with his wife and multiple cats in a 20-year-old motor home. To read more about Tim, see our About page.

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32 thoughts on “Joel Watts: Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?”

  1. At this point I’m just waiting for Joel to drop another “surprise” and insist that he did post on the blog as well, but it was destroyed by glitch ninjas.

    1. Joel has explained that there is a glitch on Outlook running on Microsoft Exchange servers.

      Of course, he is connected to Gmail…. (when he hasn’t turned off his wifi).

      That’s one hell of a Microsoft glitch – messing up Gmail.

      1. Outlook can, it would appear, cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

        Well, you know how it goes. You gotta tell the second lie to cover the first, then another one to cover the second. And on it goes. I wonder who will come to his defense and tell us to leave the poor, unfortunate boy alone? Maybe Tom Verenna will lecture us again. I always treasure his insights.

        Listen! The spirit moves me to prophesy! None of it will make any difference. It will all blow over by the end of the month. Joel will eventually get his PhD. And his future students will sit in miserable silence, wondering: “How did this buffoon get so far?”

        1. Tom Verenna? I remember him. I used to link to his blog and drop comments there from time to time. But then he banned any comment from me in which I attempted to respond to a criticism of his against me or something I wrote.

          I did lose patience, had a drink or two and posted a swear word or something nasty in a silly reaction to his refusal to allow me to defend myself against his criticisms; and also for his refusal to let me point out that he viciously attacked Rene Salm’s book while at the same time admitting to me he had never read Salm’s book. That was the first post of mine he did see fit to publish — my self-incriminating vile reaction to his censorship.

          Last I heard of my good friend Tom was when he sent me some very nice, friendly emails, expressing very nice thoughts about me and saying how pleased he was to see I was reviewing his book, “Is This Not the Carpenter?” But after I reviewed his own chapter he stopped emailing me those nice, flattering messages.

          He really does think very highly of me and Vridar. If anyone can persuade him to allow me to publish his private emails to me I would gladly do so to prove it.

  2. Regarding the next screenshot Joel posted in the same post, he says “When he didn’t reply, I sent in the request later that evening. You will note that it included ONLY the link to the content and specified the content:”, yet that particular post has the date in the system tray clock set as Friday 28th.

  3. Let’s look at what Joel’s “warning” of a breach of copyright consisted of, and let’s pretend he did send it before all of this kerfuffle. How would I have responded? Hindsight is always a bit too easy, but let’s try to give it a fair shot. (Keep in mind that the DMCA directive was for the complainant to contact the “offender’ by leaving a comment on the blog post, not send an email. The reason stated for this is to ensure the most direct and clear contact possible.)

    Here is what Joel wrote in his time-warp:


    While your latest post is as expected, context free, it is not, however, free of copying wholesale my post. I am asking you to remove my content from your post. You can summarize or simply provide a link to, or quote in a small part, but you are not allowed to post the entirety of the post.

    I would urge you to look at wordpress (sic) has to say about this.

    Joel L. Watts

    Seeing an email from Joel Watts with a subject header “Joel” would confuse me but certainly catch my attention. If I was awake when it arrived — close to 2:30 am my time (ACST – UTC + 9:30 hrs) — I might think it some sort of joke and leave it till I was properly awake after a few more hours sleep.

    On the other hand, if I was unable to sleep I would soon see that it was a genuine Watts email — the befuddled opening clause of the first sentence (how was my post “context free”?) would be a dead give-away. Maybe what I was reading was an attempt at some sort of clever word-game since his ensuing principle clause spoke of not being “free of (sic) copying wholesale my post.”

    But the next sentence would have baffled me. I have never once, never ever, had Joel verbally communicate with me in a civil manner. Not a single sentence. Every time he chooses to address me it is invariably in the form of sarcasm or insult. Joel NEVER “asks” me to do anything for him.

    Now how would I have responded to his request to remove his content from my post?

    I would have been tempted to send him some form of idiomatic sign language to indicate that he could go jump. His post only consisted of about half a dozen lines of the usual mythicist bashing and insult and 25 URLs. I had copied it to demonstrate certain serious shortcomings with the hope, as I expressed in that post, that he might be embarrassed enough to mend some of his ways in future.

    Then when he goes on to tell me I can only quote a small portion of his very small post (it was only a few lines to begin with — and one of those was Joel’s quotation of a complete tweet by another party) I would have thought: This guy doesn’t have any idea about copyright law. I would very likely simply ignore his email because he was telling me I was not allowed to do something I knew I quite within my rights doing.

    His urging me to look at what WordPress had to say would only convince me . . . no, it would only confirm my view that he is one of those types of folks who struggling painfully against their all-too-obvious limitations. (Actually I can admire people like that when they are also nice and not when they are abusive, bullying, lying jerks.)

    Then when I read the final salutation, I would have wondered if I were reading some sort of prank. Joel simply does not ask me to do something and then sign off with a “thanks”. That’s NOT Joel! Joel has never once uttered/typed a civil word to me.

    I would close the email wondering what sort of ignorant jerk sent it. Was he playing games with me? With someone else? Was it really Joel? — evidence pointed both ways.

    Perhaps Joel really did write it but he was writing it not to or for me, but for his many supporters who would like to see him do a mythicist for dinner.

    Or was it all just a bizarre dream at 2:30 am?

    Best ignore it and get back to sleep.

    There was nothing in the email to indicate that the sender had the slightest idea that he knew what he was talking about. He did not mention a (c) or “All Rights Reserved” at the bottom of his web page — as he is now saying I should have noticed and “obeyed”. He did not mention the CC notice on the same page. He clearly had no idea what the CC licence was all about — the reason for it, what it is intended to achieve for all parties (creators and re-users) and what it allows.

    His email was just a “please don’t do this since you are not allowed” post — the sort of thing one might expect from a child who knows nothing of the licensing conditions and law or copyright but only knows his/her own petulant will.

    1. Easy as pie. Either write an email, save it to Drafts, and then manually move it to the Sent box, or turn off your wifi, hit send on the email, and then manually move it from your Outgoing mailbox to your Sent box.

  4. Soon, I think, Joel Watts is going to have another “OH MY GOD!” moment and the screenshot will either disappear or be “fixed”. Maybe he’ll make another copyright violation complaint.

    To me, this very immature man reminds me very much of Ignatius J Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces (my apologies to the late John Kennedy Toole). And if Stephen Huller is correct, he’s just as fat as Ignatius, too.

    Who knew that life imitates art?

    1. I would appreciate it if people would abstain from the fat jokes, “Joel Fatts”, etc. His behavior alone is disgusting; we don’t need to bring appearance into this.

  5. I also noticed something on one of the screenshots – I haven’t checked back – which showed a number of dates in a sequence something like “…..28th, 27th, Yesterday, 27th, 26th……..”. This seemed odd when the “27th” was yesterday too. It is as though the “27th” entry had been manually interposed between the “28th” and “Yesterday”.

    But, as I say, I haven’t checked back so cannot remember the actual entries on the screenshot. Anyway, I am sure I must be confused about the matter. Ii must be my over-suspicious mind as I would never accuse a Christian Ph.D. student of any malpractice.

  6. There is no (moral) crime for those who have Christ!

    Anyway, the evidence is pretty damning but I’m not sure one should rule out incompetence as opposed to malice. There was something similar in another area recently and even though the evidence pointed to malice, it turned out to be sheer incompetence (it involved rare glitches too. lol) – so I’m probably being overly cautious. Perhaps he is too tired and fucking up a lot, after all.

    I’m glad you guys are back so fast.

  7. Or as the most recent “Unbelievable!” Conference added: Legend. Maybe Joel is an apotheosis of the Doghead, a mere phantom or apparition. Or perhaps he is a part of the matrix, conceived of by the man behind the curtain, McGrath.

  8. I went to Watt’s own full screenshot displayed on his webpage and found that down at the bottom right of his screenshot the minimised icon of the Date & Time icon could be seen (it’s pretty distinctive even when minimised) sitting on the Dock.

    The icon bar shows that the Systems Preferences utility was active during the screenshot but, without sight of the icon on the Dock, Watts could claim that any of the 20 to 30 other windows available in the utility was open rather than the Date and Time window. The icon on the Dock shows such a claim would be open to dispute.

    This indicates to me that, considering all the other evidence, Watts was indisputably fiddling around with the time and date settings on his MacBook around the time he was busily engaged in capturing the screen.

    Having written the disputed email then to turn off the Wifi, “Send” the email, drag it out of “Drafts” into which the system would have placed it into the “Sent” box and then click on the “Sent” box to display the updated list would have been the work of a few seconds. To turn the Wifi back on, reset the Date and Time, close the System Preferences window and click back on the Mail application would have taken a few seconds more and all would have been restored to a “genuine” state ready for a “genuine” screenshot. Unfortunately for him, perhaps Watts was in a state of panic and acted too hastily thus revealing his deception.

    On the other hand there may be an alternative and perfectly innocent explanation.

    1. “perhaps Watts was in a state of panic and acted too hastily thus revealing his deception”

      Nah, I think he just didn’t know what he was doing. He is after all, not a software engineer who spends all his time with computers.

  9. Note that the “Sent” email in question is also out of date/time order in the listing. It goes:
    11:47 am
    12:56 pm <—
    3:03 pm

    all on the 26th. …Almost as if it had been dragged there, but not resorted by the computer. I don't use outlook, so I don't know if this could be the case.

      1. Tom Verenna is claiming this is all a conspiracy.

        Yes, I secretly conspired with Joel Watts to get him to produce a screenshot showing the icon for the ‘Change System Date/Time’ application….

        I also secretly conspired with Joel Watts to get him to blame this on a glitch with Microsoft Exchange Server – when he normally connects to Gmail.

        It was me all along, the arch-conspirator manipulating Watts into swearing he has not committed perjury and then falsifying emails.

    1. It will take more than a couple of screenshots to convince Tom Verenna that these forged emails are not just a figment of our imagination.

      I notice that Watts’s supporters are not crowing about how Watts’s screenshots support him.

      But it was remarkably decent of Joel to post what was basically a signed confession on his own blog.

      It makes the legal aspect so much clearer.

      Now where is my Wikipedia entry on ‘falsifying instruments’?

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