Monday, March 18, 2013

Ophelia 'boredom' Benson



The following is an email correspondence between Thaumas Themelios and Ophelia Benson regarding a deleted comment on Ophelia’s blog (, which was later re-posted here:

    The purpose of publishing this correspondence is to document Ophelia’s stated reasons for deleting the post, at the time the deletion occurred, to allow for accurate commentary and criticism in relation to ongoing discussions regarding the origins and development of several major controversies related to atheist and skeptical communities, of which this discussion is a recent example:

     The publishing of this information is protected under the Fair Use ( limitation and exception of United States copyright law, which states that: “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

Unnecessary identifying information has been removed to protect individuals’ privacy.

Correspondence follows, in chronological order:


Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 15:16:07 -0400

From: Thaumas Themelios

Subject: Wonderist stop it.

Hi Ophelia,

If you would be more clear on what’s wrong with my posts, I would

attempt to change how I post. Just telling me to ‘stop it’ doesn’t give

me anything to go on. Stop doing what exactly?

Sometimes they’re long. I’ve got a lot to say and feel the need to be

clear so that I’m not misinterpreted (as happens so frequently in this

particular discussion). But it appears that just length isn’t your

concern, since some long stuff goes through and others get deleted

without warning.



Here is a comment I would like to post. I think it addresses important

issues. If you let me know what you object to, I could modify it, or

refrain from posting:

@Godless Heathen

The shitstorm had already started over Rebecca’s comment about the

guy propositioning her in the elevator at 4am. The McGraw stuff

brought that comment to a wider audience. Most of that audience did

NOT listen to the original comment themselves and started going nuts

because they thought they were being told to never hit on women

anywhere, ever or they thought “Oh-My-God-How-Will-I-Ever-Get-Laid

if I can’t ask a woman for “coffee” in an enclosed space at 4

AM????? OHMYGOD, now I’m doomed to be a single, shy, lonely guy


I use ‘shitstorm’ to refer to people making unfounded accusations

against one another, leading to largescale vilification, escalation, and

entrenchment on both sides.

The comments on the video were largely anonymous and usually just

expressed a different opinion. Yes, some were over-the-top misogyny, and

others were examples of the escalation pattern I’ve been describing.

It’s of course worth going after the actual misogyny and sexism that

occurred. But this kind of thing has occurred many times before, and it

never got to the point of people Dawkins getting involved and caught up

in the vilification.

This kind of thing would have run its course on its own, probably with

RW unambiguously coming out way ahead. In fact, it had already been

through the blogosphere once (the AronRa video) and didn’t get

Pharyngulated. What gave it extra juice was the McGraw incident, when

several attendees and others took issue with Watson’s treatment of

McGraw. At this point, we have a clear example of the escalation pattern

against someone who states herself that she was grossly misrepresented

and was not in any way supportive of misogyny, nor was she ‘anti-woman’.

This was again escalated with the Naming Names post, et voila, the

shitstorm ensues.

Why was this the beginning of the shitstorm and not before? Because

people (many feminists among them) who spoke up defending McGraw got

tarred with the same brush as the actual misogynists and sexists. In

fact, that’s the brush that McGraw herself got tarred with. This is when

the assuming of malicious intentions got so out of whack that feminists

were attacking feminists as anti-woman, when really it was a matter of

difference of opinion over a hot topic.

The same pattern of vilification is evident with the treatment of

Richard Dawkins. I’ll note that Rebecca Watson has herself been a victim

of such vilification. That is why I’m attempting to leave out my

personal opinion and only report Watson’s actions, rather than speculate

as to her motives. In the end, the motives don’t make much of a

difference, it’s the behaviour that perpetuates the cycle.

From: Ophelia Benson

Subject: RE: Wonderist stop it.

Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 13:14:40 -0700

Hi Thaumas,

Maybe there wouldn’t be much wrong with them (though they’d still be too long,

but then so are some others, for my taste) taken independently, but after all

those endless detailed ones about McGraw they’re just too much. Some long stuff

goes through because I don’t like to delete, but the basic reason is just too

much too much. Plus you’re repeating yourself – but then we all are.

I think I’ll just close comments soon.


Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 16:27:24 -0400

From: Thaumas Themelios

Subject: Re: Wonderist stop it.


In my defence I’ll just say that I only repeated myself when others

repeated the same misunderstandings. However, I take your point.

Also, I kept posting in response to others responding to me. But again,

I take your point.

I’ll just post that one last reply (because it is to a comment directly

in response to me) and will sign off at the end of it. Sorry for taking

up your time.


From: Ophelia Benson

Subject: RE: Wonderist stop it.

Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 13:56:21 -0700

No problem. Sorry I was snappish. I get antsy when comments spiral out of

control, as they keep doing on this subject. I hope nothing new happens that

prompts me to bring it up again. Arrrrrgh.

Ophelia 'boredom' Benson

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