Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB

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Skep tickle
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Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

I'm starting this thread as a place to copy & link evidence, reports, & comments relevant to the blocking of comments with reasonable questions & comments at FtB.

Upon request of someone who hasn't been involved in it all, I looked for evidence I could present that Ophelia Benson does not let reasonable posts through moderation. The only repository I know for information like this is the Slyme Pit. Therefore, I performed an Advanced Search at (posts from July 2012 through June 4, 2013) for "+comment +moderation +Oph*" (without the quotes), search all terms: search results are listed here

Some people included the text of their post that they expected would not get through, others just refer to having submitted a comment that went to moderation and AFAIK did not subsequently mention that their post went through; others they say they've had that same experience. Please note that capturing a screenshot of copy/pasting the text of one's comment requires a bit of planning ahead, suspecting that the response will go to moderation. (Once it's submitted, all that the poster sees is something like "Your comment is awaiting moderation".

The search turned up 124 posts return but a few were not directly pertinent, and many are responses & quotes of reported experiences like this (so they're not unique entries).

In a couple of places I'll link a response post that quoted the one of interest, either because the comment below it in the linked post added relevant commentary on another person's experience, or because that's the one I clicked on first and it seemed pertinent.

As I start this thread, I have ~24 posts to link & quote; I'll try to group them a bit, by topic.

Please note that in most cases I have not (at the time of posting this OP) gone to FtB Butterflies & Wheels to double check whether or not the posts that people below mention got through moderation, though my own experience is that if it's not approved with in a day or two it's almost never approved. I'll try to do that double-check where possible as I put reports up, to see whether I can turn up evidence that a post did actually get through moderation.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

I should correct above to say that Ms Benson keeps some reasonable posts through moderation (I didn't mean to imply she doesn't let any reasonable posts through moderation). The distinction seems to be whether or not you're someone she has put in moderation, in which case there seems to be this filtering done.

The first, chronologically, of the examples returned on my search:
Link/author/date: Justin Vacula posting on July 23, 2012

Did it end up getting posted at Butterflies & Wheels? No evidence; a search of the text turns up this, which has further explanation of the back story and other communications with Ophelia (by twitter) about the topic: ... myers.html

Quote of the post (note that it says "comment on moderation" but apparently meant "comment in moderation"):
Justin Vacula on July 23, 2012, wrote:So, I go on Ophelia's thread offering to stand in solidarity with any atheist who is the recipient of a real threat...and I get ridiculed by none other than PZ Myers who asserts that I am not a leader in the atheist movement.

[Image of a post by PZ - see either link in this post to see the image)

My comment, on moderation, is
Let me get this straight…

I come forth, willing to rebuke threats made against fellow atheists and I get ridiculed by none other than PZ Myers who questions my role of leadership in the atheist movement.

Do you forget, PZ, about writing blog posts concerning my church/state activism and receiving legal threats by a local chiropractor?

Apparently my position of leadership in my local community secular group, my speaking engagements at conventions, appearances on TV shows, newspaper interviews I have participated in, my podcast appearances and hosting a podcast, my church/state activism, my being named in lawsuits by national organizations, my protesting, my attempts to start SSA groups, and finally the real-honest-to-God threats I have received for being an out atheist while being a student at a Catholic college mean nothing to you?

All hail great leader PZ, I am not worthy of being considered a leader in the atheist movement!

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

2) Al Stefanelli and Ophelia Benson disagreed in October 2012 in a couple of places; here's a post from someone who felt his comment was not let through moderation because of his suggestion to her about control of conversation, plus a couple of comment-replies from others about his experiences, reflecting their understanding.

I have (a) removed one comment from the quote here (it added nothing helpful or relevant), (b) added the bolding below, and (c) not bolded the snarky part that presumably the poster wouldn't have expected to get through moderation:
Steve Schuler, commenting on Al's experience
Steve Schuler on October 13, 2012, wrote:
CommanderTuvok wrote:
mutleyeng wrote:Too funny,
You know how you lot were talking about how Ophelia would be having a hissy fit because she couldnt moderate replies to her comments on Als blog?
shes got it covered - she just replies with pingbacks to her blog now.
Yep, the Baboons hate it when they can't control the narrative.
How True!

Yesterday when Ophelia did her smear-job on Al using the tragedy of a young girls suicide as the entry point to a post I actually had a few comments of mine that were published. I have my suspicions that she published them as a result of something I'd written on Al's blog, but who knows? At any rate I apparently regained my 'moderated into silence' status when I suggested that the reason she didn't continue the conversation on Al's blog was not that it had been overrun by her 'harrassers' as she claimed, but rather that it wasn't an environment she could control the dialog via silencing the opposition.

Ophelia's going at it again today with another go at Al, "Note to Al" I think is the title. Anyhow, I submitted a comment that as a self-confessed drama junkie that I am, that I would like to thank her for being the drama queen that she is. It didn't stay in moderation for very long and publication wasn't it's destiny.

Yeah, it's not fair or reasonable to paint all of the FtB bloggers with the same brush, FCers is much more target specific moniker for those deserving ridicule, I think.
The first post he's talking about is this: Not Simple (at FtB Butterflies and Wheels), in which the 1st third of the OP is about a young woman killing herself in response to online bullying, and the latter 2/3 is this (with the segue):
Ophelia Benson's blog post titled Not Simple wrote:And it went on from there. Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-cutting. Bullying. More and more and more bullying. So she killed herself.

The weird thing about this (weird to me) is that I saw it via a tweet by Al Stefanelli, a tweet which was (kind of) aimed at me, in the sense that it quoted something I’d said on his (new-old) blog. I said it as a comment on his post Free Speech, Being Offended and the Role the Internet Plays in the Exchange of Ideas, which (I think) makes the whole thing much too simple.
For fuck’s sake, if something is being said about you or about a subject that you are sensitive to on the Internet in a way that is going to cause you extreme duress, stress you out, or trigger a reaction that will cause you to have a psychological breakdown, the stay the hell away from those spaces. Really, it’s that simple.
No, really, it isn’t. So I commented to that effect. (It wasn’t meant as a hostile gesture. On the contrary, it was meant as a conciliatory one – a maybe we can still keep the conversation going despite your sudden departure gesture.)
But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory? Suppose it could do you real-world damage? Then just staying the hell away isn’t really a solution, is it.

So you’re over-simplifying, Al. Quite drastically. It’s just not the case that the only harm ever done by any kind of speech including written speech is that it “offends” someone.
Al’s tweet a couple of hours later said
THIS is what ‘real-world damage’ from digital bullying looks like: Teen leaves behind chilling YouTube video
Quoting me, see. But it’s odd, because that’s what I was saying. Just staying the hell away isn’t always really a solution.

Anyway…the gesture didn’t work, to say the least. Al is angrier than I’d realized. I frankly don’t know why. But the point remains – no, it’s not that simple. This subject isn’t simple.
Did Steve Schuler's comments eventually get posted at Butterflies & Wheels?
(a) Re Ophelia not wanting to continue conversation where she couldn't control conversation: No, not as far as I see. The last comment visible from Steve Schuler is one apologizing to Ophelia for a misunderstanding, and apparently the "control conversation" was after that but memory-holed
(b) Re "drama junkie/drama queen" - not as far as I see, though Ophelia reported Steve's last attempt reported here, quite likely rephrasing it including shortening it (taking out his comment about himself being a drama junkie, for what that's worth): ... ent-305995
Ophelia Benson in a comment at her blog in the Not Simple thread on October 13, 2012 wrote:Steve Schuler came back to say “hahaha drama queen hahahahaha.”

Dude. I didn’t ask for this. You think I like this? You think I chose it? You think I want it?

You could go back to first B&W, before July 2011 when it all started, and look through the archive – you wouldn’t find me talking about myself, or talking about people talking about me.

You callous giggling shit.
Steve Schuler mentioned "A Note to Al" so I went to look: ... ote-to-al/; I don't know whether or not Al Stefanelli made any attempt to comment in the thread called "A Note to Al" but the topic was about how Al didn't appreciate that Ophelia had let the cat out of the bag that he was leaving FtB; she says she didn't know, didn't intend to cause him more work, but then after quoting him saying there were individuals at FtB who were really starting to piss him off, she says:
Got it. We can look forward to another ragey podcast, with extra added fucking bitches and stupid cunts. Noted.
The comments are similar to the thread mentioned above: dissing Al, this time in a post addressed to Al, without Al present in the conversation, and apparently after a while also not letting comments through by Steve Schuler.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

3) Next is Al Stefanelli, forgot to specifically mention that he’s a former FtB blog host:
Al Stefanelli on October 14, 2012

Bolding added by me below.

Did Al's comment get posted at Butterflies & Wheels: No, this is easy to tell because Al links to the thread.

Ophelia did copy/paste most of his quote below into one of her posts (leaving out his link to her site), but there are no posts BY Al in the thread, though the discussion is largely ABOUT Al, including attribution of position/belief to him (including that "misogynist" only means "religious-misogynist", not "atheist-misogynist", to him).
Al Stefanelli, on October 14, 2012, wrote:So, I co-host this other radio program called "American Heathen Radio," which airs on Saturday nights. It's pretty much the Slymepit in the form of a professionally produced Internet Radio show and with some pretty prominent guests. No sacred cows, etc., etc.,

Anyhow, I also have a special segment that is pre-recorded. It's called "A Voice of Reason," and it is 'aired' every two weeks. It is a scripted segment, so I post the transcript on the American Heathen Blog the next day. This past Saturday's segment was on censorship, and included my thoughts on using words. I included the reference to George Carlin that you see in my signature.

Well, lo and behold, I get an email advising me of a pingback. Guess to where? Yes, Ophelia has chosen to write yet another blog post about me. Funny thing is that this segment was written a couple weeks ago, and pre-recorded earlier in the week. So, it's not about her, or anyone else there, at all. It reflected a trend.

Basically, she is trying to state that the word "bitch" is on par with racial and ethnic slurs. I left a comment on her blog, letting her know that if she couldn't understand the difference, there was no point in even discussing it. At last check, it was still in moderation. So, I commented on the transcript.

Here's a link to the transcript: ... mment-5906

Here's my comment:
Al Stefanelli Says:
October 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm e

Ophelia Benson, on her blog “Butterflies & Wheels” over at Freethought Blogs, has written an entire post in response to this post. Fine, we appreciate the hits.

However, (and I stated this in a comment that at this time is in ‘moderation’), her insistence that the word ‘bitch’ is on par with racial or ethnic slurs is ridiculous.

She proceeds to list a litany of racial and ethnic slurs, but seems to fail to understand that these words are used as pejoratives toward someone who is born that way.

Nobody is born a bitch, unless you’re referring to a female dog. By the way, I find it amusing that she is more than willing to use those words.

Oh, wait. That would be ‘context.’ Nevermind.

You can read her blog here: ... the-issue/
Oh, by the way, the American Heathen Radio "Word of the Week" is 'Thundercunt.', and we took a poll of all the women involved in the show (including the owner of the radio station), and some female callers. None of them had an issue using the word 'cunt,' so the "phrase of the evening" was 'Motherfucking Cunt," which was heartily repeated by the women by about 2:1

The podcast of the whole show will be up by next Friday, in all of it's heathen glory...
So, Ophelia links to Al, discusses Al, but doesn't let Al's comment "letting her know that if she couldn't understand the difference, there was no point in even discussing it" through moderation.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

Bolding and color added by me below.

4) ReneeHendricks on on December 11, 2012 reported that she had posted something that went to moderation:
ReneeHendricks on December 11, 2012 wrote:My comment is in moderation at Ophelia Benson's blog but here is what I had to say about her post on "One Individual Has Already Been Identified":
Here's my take. If you are going to participate in a PUBLIC gathering that is protesting and are very aware that you are being recorded, realize you will be "outed". I don't have a problem with this - either on their end or my end. I have a 13 year old son who is being bombarded with feminist propaganda that is telling him he's a potential rapist, that he's a misogynist, and that he is somehow worth less than his sisters. These people (both men and women) are the ones perpetuating that crap.

I had my son watch that "protest" (and I use quotes because most of that gathering was nothing but a hate rally) and he was distressed. The woman spitting "you're fucking scum" amongst other lovely bits of bile actually scared him. This is the face of today's feminism. And because of this idiocy, I'm no longer aligning myself with feminists. I'm teaching my son *and* my daughters about being human. How humans are equal. And about how one should be SKEPTICAL and actually research people like Warren Farrell. I would be comfortable in saying a great number of the people at that "protest" had never even read Dr. Farrell or even listened in on one of his talks.

It really is sad. I admire my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother for what they've contributed to the feminist movement. What is going on today has nothing to do with those original ideals and desires.
Did ReneeHendricks' comment get posted at Butterflies & Wheels? Yes, and resulted in Ophelia chastising her for using #Ophie on twitter. But in that same thread, another person says his post(s) have been held in moderation.

Interestingly, before ReneeHendricks joins the conversation, mykemyers has ~24 posts in which he expresses disagreement, seems IMO quite reasonable, holds his own, advises people not to insult others (like him) if they want to convince people of their position. His first post:
Both sides are pretty far in the wrong on this one. While I bristle at the idea of public outings and harassment of protesters for their views – at the same time there’s a fine line between harassment and protest. Seeing what some of the people did in the name of “protest” in Toronto simply isn’t right. Protest is one thing, following someone around and calling them scum and accusing them of being a rapist, simply because they want to hear someone speak – is just juvenile. It doesn’t really do anyone any good, or do anything to further any kind of cause. It’s simply destructive behavior.
Ophelia tells him to "shut up", then ~1 more post of his appears, then he disappears without saying he's leaving the conversation.

Then markneil joins the conversation and picks up mykemyers' baton (saying he agrees w/ mykemyers, not saying he IS mykemyers), has ~4 long IMO quite reasonable posts, then he disappears and ReneeHendricks' posts appear, then some back & forth, then there's this:
sc_b777f4cf35a7e07b24be50625f21aa52 wrote:December 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

“I look forward to Mark Neil explaining how what he said in this interview isn’t a support for incest.”

As my last response (what should have been post 129) got lost in moderation. I have no desire to participate further on a board that selectively censers comments. Seems Ophelia would rather dog-piling one person at a time, and it’s Renee’s turn now.
Followed by:
JTO wrote:December 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

Ophelia Benson is a liar and should be raped.
Thsoe 2 are followed by 14 comments in 12 hrs before the thread goes silent; interestingly, NONE of those 14 comments refer to JTO's horrid comment OR to markneil's comment as to this pair of cynical eyes (mine) it looks like those 2 became visible after the thread had died down, meaning they were held in moderation then later approved.

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

5) This one refers to several posts by Pitters that condemned a tweet about acid to the face; I haven't yet looked to see if people gave more detail on their attempts to submit posts.

This one points to someone (hyperdeath, admin at A+ forum, here commenting on Ophelia's blog) pointing out that no-one from the Slyme pit has appeared to condemn the acid-throwing statement made (or the person who made it):

Bolding and color added by me below.

Gumby on January 19, 2013 - follow link here or below for image of comment by hyperdeath, which I've included as a quote here
Gumby on January 19, 2013 wrote:
hyperdeath wrote: January 19, 2013 at 3:59 am (UTC -7) Link to this comment

I notice that those who condemned you for your (admittedly silly) comparison of online harassment with acid throwing haven’t bothered to condemn the person who threatened to… err… throw acid in your face. ... ent-424054

Well, hyperdeath, when Ophelia won't take Pitter comments out of moderation (at least not yet), you're only going to see what she wants you to see. I know of at least two comments there from us that condemn the tweet. And Pitters have also used Twitter to voice their disgust as well.

If you want to know how we truly feel about this tweet, just come here and read. But I know, jumping to the conclusion that most vilifies your perceived enemies is the easiest route to take.

At least you told Ophie that her likening of "people are mean to me on the internet" with throwing acid in ones face is silly. Props for that.

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

5 down, ~19 to go. Have to break to complete some work now.

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

6) Then there's the whole Jerry Conlon thing. Someone using that name tweeted an unfortunate message in conversation with Ophelia: "Maybe a vial of acid would do you some good. You already look like you were set on fire and put out with a wet rake."

His tweet was roundly criticized by people in the Pit. Turns out Jerry Conlon had posted a few times in the Pit (as JTC), so therefore was considered a Pitter.

Attempts to point out on Ophelia's blog that quite a few people in the Pit had condemned Conlon's tweet went nowhere (or, more precisely, into the Trash in the moderation area of her blog, without seeing the light of day.

Gumby on January 19, 2013
Gumby wrote:
rocko2466 wrote:
Gumby wrote:
ReneeHendricks wrote:Well, Wowbagger is already jumping on that "approved by the Slymepit" bandwagon:

"I don’t know; for something like that he’s likely to win the Slymepit’s ‘Heroic Freethinking Skeptic of the Year’ award, and be asked to join Skeptic Ink as their newest member. Justicar, Thunderfoot and NoelPlum99 will mention him as a fine fellow in their next 137 YouTube videos (about a week’s worth). Russell Blackford will buy him a drink and Jeremy Stangroom will ask him to be his wingman for his next big night on the town."

(from OB's latest post on her acid tweet)
I'm on record here multiple times as stating posting on FtB is a waste of time, but I had to respond to Wowbagger. I basically told him to please leave us out of this because we're all currently over at the Pit saying what a horrible thing Jerry Conlon tweeted. If it makes it past moderation, I'm sure the usual suspects will jump all over it with their usual impeccable anti-logic. But I felt it needed to be said.
I did too. I posted as Danger Mouse using my real email address and signing off as Rocko2466 (just to get past the filter!)

Hi Ophelia

As you know, because you visit, the Slymepit has been roundly condemning this guy's stupid idea of a joke. I should also point out that he isn't a slymepitter (not that it would matter, because the Slymepit doesn't ban, which is why oolon is still around from time to time!)

I think you should also point out that the tweet is obviously a response to your article where you claimed that your getting criticised on the internet was akin to the plight of acid victims (which you conveniently have omitted from this article). The guy was poorly parodying your unjustified claim.

It is clearly not a threat.

I wish you wouldn't be so disingenuous. And I wish your commenters weren't such sheep.

Thanks Ophelia. I look forward to reading about your skeptic / philosophy material when you one day decide to return to it.

- Rocko2466
Well, as of 7 AM EST, neither of us has made it through moderation. The commenters are doing their damndest to portray Conlon's garbage as "typical Slymepitter behavior", and have not mentioned our unanimous condemnation of his tweet. The dishonest propaganda continues.

Unfortunately, apparently Conlon does have an account here. One of O's commenters did some googling -
Did their posts make it past moderation at Butterflies & Wheels: No, neither's comments appear in the thread. There's no comment relaying what was actually being said in the Pit in the thread.

One comment does something other than vilify Pitters:
jenniferphillips wrote:January 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

One of the pitters has repudiated the comment on twitter. It’s a shame that things have to approach that extremity before anyone thinks to back away, but at least there is a limit.
Jerry Conlon shows up to say he had sent Ophelia an apology via Facebook; then he was supposedly doxxed in a post later in the thread, the contents of which Ophelia replaced:
Informed Citizen wrote:January 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

[This comment was posted by someone who has never commented here before. I'm told people at the mildew pit are ranting about calling the police on me for "threatening" Jerry Conlon because of this comment, which posted some biographical information about him. There was no address or phone number. Since the commenter is otherwise unknown, I suspect this was a trap. How cute. Conlon threatens me with an acid attack, I do not call the police, so the mildew people try to work up a pretext to call the police on me.]
To which CommenderTuvok made this comment, thinking it more likely that the "Informed Consent" post had been approved for posting by Ophelia (however, we do not know that's the case):
CommanderTuvok wrote: Well, Ophelia's response to my comment over at SIN really does reveal her double standards and hypocrisy.

Apparently, that post about Jerry Conlon was a "post by a new user". Now, this means Ophelia can't be held responsible, right? Well, wrong actually! For a start, that excuse doesn't seem to be good enough for them if a post from a new user, or troll, appears on a site critical of them. Then, and this is the crucial bit (I also mentioned it in the comment), Ophelia APPROVED the message because she had pre-moderation on at the time, and it then appeared on her blog. She must have seen the comment and accepted it. I don't believe her later comments suggesting she had "part-moderation" on, or summat. Yeah right!

But what about the issue of doxxing. Well, my comment about that Jerry Conlon dox being harassment and a threat is simply me satirising the usual Baboon response to such incidents. If someone "doxxes" one of them, it is a major crime, and that is why I suggested Ophelia could get a knock at the door from the police! I am using their own bullshit to mock them. The fact that they don't recognise this is illustrative of the denial they are in.

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

Ah, I can see I should have combined (5) and (6), both are about the Conlon affair. Only able to bite off 1 or 2 of these at a time, timewise.

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Wonderist »

This pattern of deleting/limboing reasonable posts has been going on at least since ElevatorGate. It is this kind of censorship of dissent which triggered me to see the incident of ElevatorGate as something much more problematic than a simple blog/flame-war. Indeed it was Ophelia Benson herself that set off that alarm bell in my head. Previously I had been a big fan of hers, and I continue in my thoughts to wish her well as a person, but I cannot support, and will directly oppose, the anti-skeptical filtering of dissent that she and others are advertising as "FreeThought". To me, this is the very definition of dogma: Unquestioned or unquestionable belief.

Here is a recent description (from March) of the first such incident (which, originally occurred right near the end of the ElevatorGate blog discussions) I personally experienced (description reposted from ... ent-197456 ):
Thaumas Themelios wrote:Thaumas Themelios March 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

For the record, this is the initial summary of EG which I attempted to post at Ophelia Benson’s original Butterflies & Wheels/Notes blog, but which she deleted without being able to supply *any* good reason, except that she thought it ‘too long’. When I asked her why she thought it ‘too long’, though others had posted comments of similar length both prior and since, she had no reply.

Instead, I posted it on a (mostly defunct, for reasons irrelevant) little wiki I had been working on at the time:

Can anyone explain why this summary of events was worthy of deletion *except* that it went contrary to the interpretation of events of Ophelia Benson?

Are you *really* surprised that most people think “It’s all because RW said, ‘Guys, don’t do that.’” when *all you are allowed to read* is that interpretation? When contrary opinions are censored? When bridges are burnt (Ophelia has thoroughly burnt her bridges with me, though I’ve done nothing (nothing!) against her personally) over *ideology*?

Are you really surprised that this is an enormous clusterfuck, when you ask *skeptics* to stop being *skeptics*? Seriously. I saw this coming as soon as my post was deleted. I knew something was up. This was *not* good skepticism. The *anti-thesis* of skepticism is what it is: Dogma.
Shortly after I posted that description in reply to another commenter on Michael Nugent's blog (see my repost here: ... ent-202120 ), Ophelia posted this on her own blog (which I've not commented on since the original incident in question). Note that she's careful not to mention my name, but do compare the dates of my repost comment (March 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm (Irish time)) and her blog in response (March 18 also, and whose first comment is timestamped at March 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm (UTC -7)). Archived at:
Ophelia Benson wrote: There’s a funny thing where obsessive people have Rosicrucian-like Ideas about what happened when once long ago a comment they made on my blog ended up on the cutting room floor. They think it’s because Dogmatism or Social Justice Warrior or Skepticism Stabbed in the Back or the Femistasi or The Lindbergh Baby. They obsess; they make wikis; they type and type and type and type; they go on for thousands of words. And all the time it’s much simpler than that.

The comment was fucking boring.

It was long, and detailed, and pedantic, and about a very small thing that couldn’t stand that much length and detail and pedantry, and it was fucking boring.

You know what? Not everybody writes well. It can be surprising how many people don’t write well and never realize it. I get some people like that commenting here. (Not you! Of course not you. But some people.) When people who can’t write well write long detailed pedantic comments about some tiny incident that can’t possibly merit that level of attention and verbiage…

then those comments are boring. Boring. Boring.

I hate boring. I don’t want boring here. I don’t want windbags here, boring everyone into stone.

But I don’t like just coming right out and telling people, that comment was boring and you go on much too long about much too little all the time.

So I just ditch the god damn boring comment and hope they take a hint.

But they don’t. Instead they develop a Key to All Mythologies on the subject, and they Casaubon it to death ever afterwards. But at least they don’t do it on my blog! They do it on other people’s blogs, and on their beautiful new wikis, and on fora, but they don’t do it on my blog.

And that, O Best Beloved, is how the leopard changed its spots.
(reposted here under the Fair Use clause of US copyright law, for the purposes of accurate commentary on an ongoing controversy in the atheist/skeptical online communities.)

Feeling the need to clarify things, so that this interpretation of events was not the only public record, I decided it was necessary to publish the email exchange which had occurred between myself and Ophelia at the time of the original censorship incident. For that reason, I asked Reap Paden to host this on his site (having nowhere else I felt it would be appropriate to host it). Original posting here
Thaumas Themelios wrote: 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: ... mmunities/

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:
proposed comment as Wonderist wrote: @Godless Heathen
Godless Heathen wrote: 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.
As is evident, I had been nothing but polite and respectful to Ophelia, whom I still respect as a person, even if I disagree strongly with her about ideology and her behaviour. She said nothing about 'boredom' at the time, and considering that this controversy (which in my mind was brewing in the background, but which was triggered strongly by the incident between Rebecca Watson and Stef McGraw) is anything but 'boring', in the sense that it has consumed peoples' (including Ophelia's, and my own, I admit) attention for the past *two years*.

I see absolutely no reason for the comment in question (again, here: to have been deleted without warning in the first place. However, that is her choice, on how to run her blog. I consider it dogmatic, though, and will criticize that behaviour on those grounds. Again, I have not commented on her blog since that incident, to the best of my knowledge (if I have, I've forgotten, and it would have only been something very minor and short, if that's the case, but honestly I don't think I have).

More recently, I've had perfectly reasonable (though dissenting) comments held in moderation limbo by Stephanie Zvan, which is documented here: viewtopic.php?p=81001#p81001

I have also refrained from commenting further on Zvan's blog.

All they have accomplished is to censor and silence (from their own blogs) a calm and reasonable dissenter (i.e. I will listen to reason and if I'm shown wrong will change my beliefs to adapt to the evidence). How can you maintain skepticism if you silence differing opinions? Anyone reading their blogs should be aware: You are only reading one side of the story; if they don't agree with it, it will be censored.

Although I too am concerned about the well-being of people such as Ophelia Benson who's expressed that she feels harassed and put upon, and under normal circumstances that would be enough for me to just drop the subject, unfortunately this issue is too big to allow any one person's emotional distress to shut down any and all critique and expression of dissent. Therefore, I consider this project of documenting the censorship (from their own blogs; not in general) of dissenting opinions by people who *claim* to represent freethought and skepticism to be a worthwhile and important project. That is why I've decided it's worth the risk to post this documentation of the history of the *primary* incident which got me involved in active opposition in the first place. We cannot let one or a few people's emotions dictate what facts are taboo from discussion and what facts aren't.

To those who feel that censorship of one's own blog is one's own choice and therefore *harmless*, I disagree. It is harmful; not only to the blogger themself, but to their readers as well. It promotes groupthink and delusion. A quote I've found extremely relevant throughout these past two years: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." ~ Richard Feynman

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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by LMU »

IIRC sometime last year Notung noticed at Pharyngula that polite or reasonable comments would get stopped by moderation while more incendiary comments would go through. I think he made a blog post about it.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

Phil_Giordana_FCD on March 29, 2013

Phil had made a comment in a thread at Nugent's, to Skepsheik; here's the text that's screencapped in Ophelia's blogpost, about the dialogue process that was then about to start.

Phil's comment apparently inspired Ophelia to copy/paste ~9 Peezus & O cartoons into her blogpost. It's a satire on Jesus & Mo, which Ophelia regularly refers to (positively); P & O satirizes the more prominent FtB bloggers and Greg Laden, in some cases using direct quotes).

Here's the quote copied from within Ophelia's blog post:
Phil Giordana March 26, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.


(Love your Peezus and O series, so that’s out of the way).
Here's Phil's comment found on my search of the Pit, linked at the top of this post (bolding added by me):
Phil_Giordana_FCD wrote:Oh, so Ophelia's "Peezus and O" post was because of a comment I made saluting the humorous creatovity of Skepcheik? I tried posting the following on her blog, but of course it didn't make it:
Ophelia, no offense intended, but you really need a sense of humour. Especially as you are the voice of reason in these comics. I don't know, sometimes I think people are looking for offense wherever they can. the "Peezus and O" series is not something to be offended at. Or if you think it is, will you say the same about "Jesus and Mo"?

Again, this is not an aggressive comment, just an observation. I don't know if it will pass moderation, though.
Understandably, she might not have been pleased with Phil's comment, including the "you really need" part, but the tone seems fine and: (1) she did quote Phil in her blogpost then not allow through his comment on that blogpost, and (2) his question as to whether Jesus & Mo might be offensive (if Peezus & O is seen as such) is, IMO, a reasonable question.

(Note that Phil was pretty sure it wouldn't get through moderation, & wasn't surprised when it didn't show up.)

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

Forgot to say in last post, that I did check & Phil's comment indeed does not appear at Ophelia's blog. And I think that was (7) on my list.

8) Aneris on March 18, 2013 (bolding added)
Aneris wrote:I posted at Ophelia's Libel Topic. But it awaits moderation, so probably won't show up. I made some last minute changes there, but it is largely the same as this.
Aneris wrote:On FTB land, severe allegations (misogynist, sexist, racist, MRA...) are thrown around willy-nilly as if there was no problem with it. And this happens with malignant intend as a part of the regular Deliberate Offence Gish Gallop* which became the hallmark of FTB's social topics. Such allegations actually stick to the "defendant" and may come up when future employers, friends, family, dates, contract partners and so on google the name.

Not only haven't I seen a Dear Leader having any issue with it. It looks more like it is even encouraged. Did you speak out when your colleague PZ Myers and his commentariat described Thunderf00t as a sexist¹ who protects misogynists? Sally Strange places him on the opposing side (i.e. sexist, misogynist) of Ana Kasparian that is mentioned in his video² and some names in this very comment section also participated in this post's comments in a similar fashion. Yet Ana's response³ was very affirmative, as if from another reality. This wasn't mentioned anymore because it didn't fit into your (FTB) version of the story. I chose it because it seems to make well documented example case. This happens all the time in the comment sections. Will you speak out against it, Ophelia Benson?

Now onto insults. They are generally understood as momentary opinions used within a heated discussion. They usually have no effect beyond that discussion. You fetishize insults, I know, but your compasses anyway point south. My advice would be, check back with reality every now and then, and you may understand at some point why people laugh at Creationists, and FTBloggers. But you can also keep going because it's fun.

*__ and Gish Gallop
1__ ... ating-tips
Search and manual review of the thread confirm, Aneris' comments don't appear at Ophelia's blog.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

(9) Steersman on May 12, 2013 on his comment "Testing, testing, testing" that WAS let through moderation & appears as the first comment to her "Preferences" blogpost from that date, and his observations about comments getting through moderation (bolding added by me). A few posts after Steersman's "Testing.." post, Ophelia posted this:
Ophelia Benson wrote:May 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment:
“Testing” what, Steersman?
He answered that query of hers at the opening to his next submission, which (I checked) she did not let through moderation
Steersman wrote:FWIW, the following is my comment on Ophelia’s post about skepticism, feminism, and atheism. She had let my previous “Testing, testing, testing” comment out of moderation and into the sunshine of her blogosphere so I had figured that she might actually be open now to something more than the barking of her trained seals. But, alas and alack, ‘twas not to be as this comment seems to have met an untimely death, RIP:
Steersman wrote:Wonders will never cease. “Testing the waters”, Ophelia; why expend any effort if the results are to be rejected without a fair hearing.

But I am rather surprised, in more ways than one, at this statement of yours in particular:
In a way I think atheism is more aligned to feminism than skepticism is. Maybe that’s why I answer to the name ”atheist” but not so much to “skeptic.”
Somewhat antithetical to this rather commendable description of you in Wikipedia (1):
[Ophelia’s] books and website defend objectivity and scientific truth against the threats to rational thinking allegedly posed by religious fundamentalism, pseudoscience, wishful thinking, postmodernism, relativism and "the tendency of the political Left to subjugate the rational assessment of truth-claims to the demands of a variety of pre-existing political and moral frameworks".

And, of course, I would argue – have argued, here (3) for example – that the most salient and problematic case of “the political Left subjugating the rational assessment of truth-claims …” has been in the area of some of the many branches of feminist ideology – 17 by Wikipedia’s count (2). And relative to which I wonder whether you might now consider, for one example of several, that some if not all of the “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” who were highlighted in the recent #radfem2013 twitter-war were from one of those branches that one might reasonably describe as “virulent feminism”.

But this other statement of yours seems if not actually problematic then certainly highly questionable:
But skepticism isn’t like that. Plenty of skeptics have been skeptical of equality – you know, equality is for losers, because winners don’t want equality because they are winners. Winning is the opposite of equality, isn’t it.
For starters, one might ask what type of evidence you have to justify what appears to be a bit of feminist dogma if not actually a leap of faith. In addition, one might also ask – as you seem to have elided this important distinction which is, I think, something that a skeptic would be careful to define – just what it is that you mean by equality: is it equality of rights? Or is it equality of ability?

1) “_”;
2) “_”;
3) “_”;
And this follow up comment:
Steersman wrote:
BarnOwl wrote:
Steersman wrote:FWIW, the following is my comment on Ophelia’s post about skepticism, feminism, and atheism. She had let my previous “Testing, testing, testing” comment out of moderation and into the sunshine of her blogosphere so I had figured that she might actually be open now to something more than the barking of her trained seals. But, alas and alack, ‘twas not to be as this comment seems to have met an untimely death, RIP:
I thought it was always under woe-cloud cover and raining rage tears there.
Indeed. Given that she had let that first comment through, I had thought, briefly anyway, that there might have been a break in that cloud cover and inclement weather but I guess not.

Maybe both “sides” have their own “narratives” that tend to colour their interpretations, but the very fact that most of the FfTB side – with the notable exceptions, so far, of Ally Fogg and Yemisi – seek to control those narratives by restricting other perspectives tends to suggest that theirs are the more dogmatic and incongruent with reality.
So Ophelia let Steersman's "testing, testing, testing" post through, and asked what he was testing, but then did NOT let through moderation his comment which, as far as I can see, addresses her blogpost quite substantially. And Steersman comments here that he is basically not surprised at all by this; it's not a new experience at FtB.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

Gah, my soul for an edit button. I hope it's clear in the post above that the long quote from Steersman was from the 'Pit, and within it he quotes the comment he submitted at Butterflies and Wheels.

(10) Steersman on May 30, 2013: viewtopic.php?p=94640#p94640
Steersman in a post in the Slyme Pit wrote:
JAB wrote:
Metalogic42 wrote: ... -skeptixx/

For fuck's she's cracked open the full-on smear campaign.
OB is just mad that Skep Tickle has written more words on B&W than OB has.
:-) A plausible possibility ….

FWIW, I posted the following on that thread which showed up – briefly – as “awaiting moderation”, but even that is gone now:
Steersman in a comment submitted at FtB Butterflies and Wheels wrote:Ophelia said:
Tribalism is it. What does she call the pit, then? Generous liberal internationalist universalism?
Certainly there is some of that “tribalism” in the Pit as well. Something that more than a few of us – including Skeptixx – have spoken out against, not that you would have ever noticed that given your apparent “four legs good, two legs bad” attitude towards it.

But I wonder how much “speaking out against” the rather problematic attitude of “my country, blog, sex, race” happens on FTB/Skepchick/AtheismPlus which look far more like eco-chambers than forums for civilized discourse. While I will readily concede and commend examples of that “speaking out” here – notably, for example, Jadehawk’s recent comment about doxxing, my impression is that there is far less of that here than on the Pit.
Once even the “awaiting moderation” messages were deleted I followed that up with:
Steersman in a follow up comment submitted at FtB Butterflies and Wheels wrote:Thanks for proving my point.
I've checked; neither Steersman's longer comment above, nor his "Thanks for proving my point" comment, appear in the comments at Ophelia's blog.

Skep tickle
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Re: Comments not allowed through moderation at FtB


Post by Skep tickle »

I've gotten behind in putting examples in this thread; just so much else to do.

This is from EllenBeth Wachs' blog just recently; I don't have info on what exactly isn't being let through, or is being removed, but the 3 people whose comments appear below seem to all have had experience with censorship occurring (blocking posts or posters, and/or deleting posts) to mold the message:

From: ... omment-446




Post by SemoKeryVerry9 »