Round 3, or is it 4

Huh. The Global Secular Council’s contact person told me in her first replies (before the ones where she refused to tweet an apology)

I have instructed the Social Media team for future to take less liberties in this regard, and to run similar challenges by me before “tweeting” in defensiveness, rather than diplomacy.

I guess her standard isn’t exactly what mine is.


Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

Seriously? You’re calling me “Ofie” now?

Michael DeDora @mdedora

. There is absolutely no excuse for this. I urge the to retract and apologize.

Bames Jillingham @FuperSuck

Why is everyone suddenly going crazy because Ofie has been called “Ofie” ?!?

Secular Council @SecularCouncil

Thank you for your support.

So much for instructing the Social Media team for future to take less liberties in this regard. And as for tweeting an apology – !


  1. Corvus Whiteneck says

    One point the communication with the contact person buttresses is that the problem is not merely some poorly instructed social media volunteer. The inappropriate behaviors and priorities are systemic. Thanks for the confirmation, Global Secular Council staff!

  2. Lofty says

    Should rename themselves the heads of the Parochial & irrelevant Secular Society (PISSheads)

  3. Anthony K says

    They’re super awesome at intending to be global someday, though. Whatever happens, they’ll always have their amazing successes with regards to intent and belief, as far as anybody can demonstrate.

  4. lochaber says

    huh. I thought they were a group of middle-aged white guys.

    Apparently, they seem to be a bunch of gradeschool white boys.

  5. Al Dente says

    The mighty leaders of materialistic thought gathered to sup and to converse on the state of secularism upon the Earth. They did take counsel from each other to greater or lesser degrees, depending on their wisdom and their possession of a phallus or lack thereof. After much discourse they felt it meet and just that there shall be a Global Secular Council. Spake the delegate of the Global Secular Council to the proletarian masses: “Let it be announced throughout the world, particularly that part in which the language of Britannia is the primary form of lingual communication, that we, the secular patricians of the globe, have decided to give unto you, the baseborn and humble secular commonality, the fruits of our preeminent, self-anointed authority. Yea verily, it is good for you to be gently led out of the slough of your ignorance and intellectual deprivation. Your acceptance of our authority, while quasi-mandatory, is appreciated. But a word of caution to those strident scoundrels who might question our primacy, it is an abomination in the sight of us, the self-selected secular sophisticates, that ye shall do so. Fear our righteous wrath!”

  6. says

    No, they’re pre-school. “Ofie” is definitely a two-year old’s terminology.

    If anything, this crud may even get me to re-activate my twitter account just to join Ophelia’s minions…

  7. Al Dente says

    Lofty @4

    Should rename themselves the heads of the Parochial & irrelevant Secular Society (PISSheads)

    Possibly the Secular Heads of Inept Triviality.

  8. clamboy says

    Lofty, Al Dente, Improbable Joe, may I play?

    Perhaps they are the American Secular Society, Heedlessly Advancing Twitter Sexism?

  9. says

    There is a Professional Way for a corporate body to respond to critics, including critics whose critique one rejects, even critics you think are being complete asshats (assuming for the sake of discussion that the GSC, or some individuals working for it, might be feeling that way about Ophelia). I sometimes get a ringside seat — occasionally even asked for advice — on that sort of stuff, so I have some idea how it works.

    And this ain’t it.

  10. says

    They are seriously thanking some douchebag named FuperSuck for their sub-childish support? These are the same bone-dry asshats who got all bent over Ophelia’s non-pseudo-obfuscated use of the word ‘fuck’ in a tweet? OK then.

    I guess now we know that it isn’t just a pointless do-nothing mutual admiration society, and quite possibly a fund-sucking sinecure plan, but also a group of assholes. How nice for them.

  11. tuibguy says

    Is it just me, or are there some New Atheists out there who toiled in relative obscurity for a while who finally made it Big when their books hit the New York Times bestsellers list who were unable to handle the sudden fame and mistook it for license to just kind of go wild? It seems almost like a Justin Bieberish implosion of obliviousness and they made this Council to gather more adulation, and when it didn’t turn out the way that they expected, that tha Secular World didn’t bow down to them and say “Thank you for creating this wonderful organization, oh great Atheist Leaders,” they didn’t know how to take it as adults.

    Here they are, folks, chasing their cars drunkenly through the streets of Miami.

  12. Hj Hornbeck says

    Hypothesis: The person in charge of the GSA’s twitter feed is a SlymePitter.

    Evidence, strongest to weakest:

    1) They’ve thanked about a half-dozen small-time SlymePit members for supporting them, and that’s it. PZ Myers, who followed the GSA a while ago and hasn’t been attacking them, has not been acknowledged.

    2) Most of us code-switch so effortlessly we don’t even realize we’re doing it. I’d only say “guys, don’t do that” on a atheist/skeptic community blog, because nobody else would understand the phrase. SlymePitters are notoriously bad at code-switching, freely dropping slang in contexts where it wouldn’t be understood by most of the people reading it. Whoever was behind that account recognized “Ofie”, then repeated it without realizing only a SlymePitter would understand the ref.

    3) The SCA’s screening process seems to consist of asking “are you a warm body?” Remember l’affaire Vacula from nearly two years ago, where we learned they didn’t do any sort of screening? They haven’t learned from that, it appears, leaving the door wide open for harassers to join up.

    4) Speaking of the prior incident, the SCA was headed by a Republican strategist and did most of their work via lobbying the US government. The combination of a right-wing ideological bent plus an access to power was irresistible to at least one SlymePitter, and I wager the rest of them would be little different.

  13. palmettobug says

    The GSC is a great example of the perils of groupthink. Build an organization entirely out of libertarian white guys, privileged white guys, and a few yes-women and conservative women, and this is what you get. Ineptitude. Lack of social media savvy. It’s funny that members of their org and some of their fellow travelers accuse the FTB bloggers of having a hive mind, especially given the genuinely diverse backgrounds and points of view represented here. It’s also interesting that they accuse the FTB bloggers of engaging in divisive tactics when it appears that they are crafting new organizations with the apparent purpose of excluding certain members of the community and silencing other points of view, while trying to cover up for their misdeeds by calling the organization “global”.

  14. Hj Hornbeck says

    Whoops, I mixed “SCA” with “GSC” to get “GSA” back there. Acronyms are a tough juggle. 😛

  15. says

    @ Hj Hornbeck
    Don’t let me dissuade you from looking for corruption connections with pitters where there may be some, but it’s always possible that they have been watching FTB criticize the GSC and so some pitters are going out of their way to try to support them through twitter so they may genuinely be grateful to anyone giving them support. Though I agree that the “Ofie” is familiar and that makes me a bit more suspicious as well.

    You are right about the code-switching too (I need to remember that term). I’m seeing the same thing in the Alternet article by Chris Hall. Damn but these are some of the most petty, group-think oriented, deceptive people I have encountered in a while. They feel like creationists when I try to get down to anything of substance with them.

  16. ekwhite says

    I don’t understand the “Ofie” reference. It seems to be overly familiar, and something a childhood friend would use, not a supposedly professional organization. Is there something I’m missing?

  17. says


    I don’t understand the “Ofie” reference. It seems to be overly familiar, and something a childhood friend would use, not a supposedly professional organization. Is there something I’m missing?

    The Slymepitters call Ophelia “Ophie” for some reason. (They also call her “The Prune”, and “Cobweb Cunt”.) It’s presumably some kind of childish refusal to use her real name. If you see anyone use the name, it’s either a Slymepitter, or someone who fully approves of what they do.

  18. deepak shetty says

    One thing that stuff like this council makes clear is that we are never ever going to be a political force. The so called leaders are such a bunch of incompetents – Im not particularly into PR – I would suck – but even I can think of better ways to respond (while actually doing nothing).

    @16 tubiguy
    I believe what you say is partly true – Dawkins/Harris pre superstardom and star struck fanboys were different. The other alternative is we never noticed things we overlooked their failing because of common enemies. And the charge of tribalism that accomodationists used to level at us, had atleast some truth in it.

  19. says

    Deepak/#26, the question re ‘always kinda appalling and we gave them a pass’ vs. ‘worse now it’s gone to their heads’…

    I’m now kinda curious what I’d get if I reread their earlier stuff… But I guess it’s more ‘read their earlier stuff, not reread’, in most cases. Though I guess it’s kinda confessing to a certain illiteracy*, I’m not sure I’ve read that much of most of them. I’m pretty much a pre-God Delusion atheist. I did eventually get to that thing, but it was a bit of a skim, bit of a doing-my-duty and keeping up with the kids these days, by the time I did. Did read some Dennett, but, ummmm.. I’m not sure I ever got to Breaking the Spell

    (Here’s the thing about not actually knowing: kinda been in this thing so long, a lot of stuff like that kinda feels pretty boilerplate to me, with no insult intended to that author, though I guess it’s pretty hard to say something like that to a writer without their taking offense–but so much of the genre for me feels like ‘oh, good, someone else thinkng that, too’, that it’s not like it ever comes in like some kind of particularly memorable revelation. Or, maybe, I just have a generally shitty memory, and read too much, who knows…)

    … that said, I did read a lot of earlier Dawkins, and generally remember liking it. Might be worth a second pass, now, see what happens.

    I _do_ still think it’s a good thing, the general making being publicly non-believing a thing, being unashamed about it. But it’s not like that was really a new thing, either. Just maybe a bit fresh in the context… Hello Ingersoll, hello Russell, people I read long before I heard of the horsemen, and still look to, now and then…

    (*/And listen, before anyone beats me up over this illiteracy, it really does get to be a bit old hat after a while. The fact that these books are even interesting to anyone, to my mind, is an artifact of the sheer inertia of the larger culture on this stuff. Seriously, would you read a book by someone wants to talk about how, listen, turns out it’s the Earth going ’round the sun and not t’other way around? That’s a bit what it feels like to me, after a while. Fine, there’s still people catching up, but some of us would really like to be able to move along to some more interesting questions. Fine, fine, do your duty, keep sticking an oar in for those still catching up, but dammit, yeah, meanwhile, turns out we’re now counting three figures worth of exoplanets and climbing, artificial life is becoming practical, and so on… We do need the world to get its head out of its ass and the iron age, too, yes, and so long as idiots are squeezing children’s minds in the vise this stuff makes, okay, I care, but there’s only so many minutes in my life, too.)

  20. Karen Owens says

    I’m glad I ran across this controversy. I would not otherwise have been aware that Ophelia hates the nickname ‘Ofie’. If I saw someone using ‘Ofie’ for Ophelia on Twitter, I would think that’s a cute, short Twitter nickname for her & I’d repeat it, simply because Twitter is so limited at 140 characters. The difference is that, even if my intentions were pure, I’d apologize to her if she found the name offensive.

  21. funknjunk says

    @ 26 Deepak — I don’t think it’s so much that anybody ‘overlooked’ their deficiencies… i think that they were not yet shown to exist. “Dear Muslima”?? I mean, come on. Seriously, the ability of a so-called great thinker to not be able to frikkin OBSERVE and LISTEN with compassion and empathy is stunning to me. I’m actually thankful for the clarity that comes about with every one of these tweets.

  22. says

    Karen Owens – really? If you saw one person doing that, you’d repeat it? You wouldn’t think it might be a nickname ok with friends but not for a stranger? Or that it just plain might be deliberately demeaning, like calling a woman “honey” when having a heated argument with her?

  23. yazikus says

    I have to say I feel really strongly about name usage. I very much dislike be called something other than what I have introduced myself with. And if I haven’t introduced myself? Don’t use my first name without asking to use it. Calling someone a diminutive of their name without their permission is the height of rudeness. Especially a professional person, like Ophelia.

  24. yazikus says

    And on that note, Ophelia, may I ask how you pronounce your name? Is it O-feel-ia or O-fel-ia? That way I can say it correctly when I read the byline =)

  25. Hj Hornbeck says

    Brony @20:

    it’s always possible that they have been watching FTB criticize the GSC and so some pitters are going out of their way to try to support them through twitter so they may genuinely be grateful to anyone giving them support. Though I agree that the “Ofie” is familiar and that makes me a bit more suspicious as well.

    I was debating whether to post that hypothesis until I noticed the earlier bits of condescending language. There’s also the part where they apologized for the wrong thing, too, which earned applause from multiple SlymePitters based on the retweets.

    It’s also possible this was some clueless person slipping up and being swayed by a ‘Pit love-bomb, but given the evidence I consider that less likely.

  26. Karen Owens says

    Yes, really, sincerely Ophelia. I would not think twice about repeating a nice-sounding, short, familiar nickname especially for someone in the Freethought movement. Even if I don’t know that person, I feel we are all ‘familiar’, like brothers & sisters united in one goal: the advancement of the movement. I think it’s important for everyone to confront someone who offends them because you never know what their intentions really were. I wouldn’t have hesitated to use the name Ofie for you on Twitter if I hadn’t come across this controversy. Of course it probably would be obvious from my context that the use of the nickname would not be derogatory. To the contrary – it would be almost affectionate. I’m a fan of your writing. Fans of your blog have that sense of knowing you through your writing, so it would not feel strange to use a familiar nickname when referring to you, especially on Twitter where ‘Ofie’ takes up a lot less valuable space than ‘Ophelia’.

  27. yazikus says

    Karen, could I presume then you might refer to Dawkins as Dicky on twitter if you had seen it used elsewhere? It sounds so cute! On the other hand, I don’t think Ofie sounds cute, and I think it is a deliberate attempt to link it to Oafy. They are just too cowardly to spell it that way.

  28. MyaR says

    Karen, I think this is a dangerous way of thinking and behaving, in the sense that you’re going to piss off some people. Names are personal, and many of us have actually made very deliberate decisions on what we want to be called, and nicknames that we do not personally ask you to use should not be used, even if no one is using them to harass. Look at what that handy little line of text at the top of each tweet says and use it (or the actual twitter handle, if it’s different).

    And no, you are not my sister. We may share goals, but you don’t know me at all, much less share the sort of intimacy that being a sister implies.

  29. says

    Karen – even if you’ve seen it only once?

    Again, I find that a little hard to believe. I think it’s pretty generally understood that you don’t call people by diminutives without more permission than is provided by one tweet. It’s a bit like “tu/du/ti/etc” that way – it can be friendly to tutoyer people, or it can be annoyingly familiar, or it can be deliberately insulting. We no longer have the second person familiar, but diminutive nicknames serve the same purpose.

  30. deepak shetty says

    @AJ Milne, funknjunk
    I’m now kinda curious what I’d get if I reread their earlier stuff
    Yeah me too. I’d like to think that the faults are later findings but I dont know – some of the criticisms now echo some of the criticisms made of Dawkins previously.

    But it’s not like that was really a new thing, either. Just maybe a bit fresh in the context… Hello Ingersoll, hello Russell, people I read long before I heard of the horsemen, and still look to, now and then…
    It coincided with the time that information was being easily dispersed via the internet -In India I had never heard of the name Robert Ingersoll(never seen a book in our libraries either) and was new in that sense.

  31. deepak shetty says

    deliberate spelling likeness with oaf is a “nice-sounding, short, familiar nickname ” ?

    I feel we are all ‘familiar’, like brothers & sisters united in one goal: the advancement of the movement.
    The goal of the movement is advancement of the movement?

  32. Karen Owens says

    Yazikus has a good point that didn’t occur to me. I never associated ‘Ofie’ with its phonetic counterpart ‘Oafy’ – a mere difference in perception. But now I see more readily why anyone would find offensive a nickname that I find pleasant. Certainly ‘oafy’ is offensive. (You may laugh, but the first image that came to mind when I heard the name ‘Ofie’ was of Ron Howard who played that adorable little boy ‘Opie’ on the Andy Griffith show.) I would follow suit referring to everyone in the Freethought movement by the shortest name possible on Twitter. I would follow suit referring to anyone of whom I am a fan by a familiar nickname (the way Jennifer Lopez’ fans who don’t know her personally call her JLO). I would never address Ophelia directly by ‘Ofie’ or any other nickname until I had established a personal relationship & knew it was OK. If I saw any Freethought, Secular etc. org referring to Ophelia Benson as ‘Ofie’ I would assume good intentions because an organization should be above using a derogatory nickname for a Freethought entity like her. Yazikus, the Dawkins analogy doesn’t hold because I’ve earned the right to call Richard anything I please. For a few years, many years ago, he called me his “best friend” & “confidante”. But I do know what you mean. I refer to Mr. Myers as ‘PZ’ even though I met him only once. Everyone does. Up until this controversy I would have assumed ‘Ofie’ was proper Twitter shorthand for Ophelia. That’s why I’m glad I ran across the controversy before I used it & got myself blamed for giving offense I would never intend to give. Ophelia, I don’t know why or how you think I could be “playing” the people on this blog. But I have noticed how the Freethought movement has changed since my day. So many individuals are suspicious of, & hostile to, each other. In my day, the only one anyone ever seemed to be upset with was Madalyn. Aside from her it was ‘one for all & all for one’.

  33. says

    @ Hj Hornbeck 33

    The hypothesis is a rational one to present so I guess we will see what happens from here. I can tell that you already had the sorts of null-hypotheses in mind that I did so carry on.

  34. says

    Also, it’s not a matter of people being “suspicious of, & hostile to, each other.” There is no each other here. All I have is your comments, only 2 of them when I posted that comment, only 3 now. They’re comments, they’re not you. Comments can be faked so easily. Someone could be using your name. It’s all so easy. There’s no particular reason I should take your comments at face value. It’s not personal. You (or rather your name & details) are new here; I don’t know who you are; I don’t know that you are who you say you are. That’s all very obvious, isn’t it?

  35. says

    Incidentally that code-switching issue is why I keep bringing up group-think as a major flaw among the pitters and folks of similar ilk. The fact that they are really bad at it is a sign that they are emotionally dependent on these little symbols to maintain their efficiency as a group. Combined with the fact that when you follow the meaning of the code to original sources and discover that the specific code words do not accurately describe reality and it’s pretty obvious that their codes are functionally name-calling. The conclusion that this is literally childhood psychology level political activity is hard to avoid, and fun to take rhetorical and tactical advantage of.

  36. Karen Owens says

    I don’t normally post on blogs & I’m gradually coming out of a long hermitage that began when I left the Dawkins Foundation in Oct 2009. I read the articles but rarely the comments that follow. I’m unaware that it’s so easy to fake a blog comment using someone else’s name. That’s extremely frightening. I guess I thought giving an Email address was adequate verification of identity since I’ve had the same Email name for about 21 years. Anyway, I was referring to people in the larger movement, whose identities are certain, being hostile to one another, not people on this blog being hostile to one another. I assume regulars on a blog respectfully disagree with each other?

  37. says

    Yes, it’s very easy, and yes, that’s frightening. Your email address probably does help overall, it’s just that I don’t happen to know you.

    Yes, there’s a lot of mutual hostility in the larger movement. I’m afraid much of it was triggered by none other than Richard Dawkins, and he’s never lifted a finger to try to undo the damage he did. I find that very unfortunate, and not admirable.

  38. Karen Owens says

    The Dawkins I know is different & nicer than his perceived public persona. People consider him rightly a poster boy for skepticism about most everything, especially religion, but in his private life, he’s the poster boy for gullibility. Once a person gains his trust, he can be easily manipulated by that person. Richard allows bad influences into his life. He allows himself to be used as a mouthpiece for harsh words. All he needs to do is sign his name to a statement & the world takes notice of the statement they would never even notice if published under a different name. He defends harsh words & accusations he knows he shouldn’t simply because of his close relationship to the speaker. But it doesn’t absolve him. He is fully responsible once he signs his name to a statement or defends it. This is probably not the place for me to say such things. I’ve publicly defended Josh Timonen, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to extend my sympathy to Rebecca Watson. Nuff said.

  39. A. Noyd says

    Ophelia (#39)

    Karen’s @28 was her first ever comment here by the way. I’m a little suspicious that she’s trying to play us.

    But, but… how can you be suspicious of a sister!?!

    But yeah, a supposed fan of your writing—specifically your blog—who feels “we are all ‘familiar’, like brothers & sisters united in one goal: the advancement of the movement,” yet somehow missed all those times you’ve written about how we’re not united in one goal thanks to things like sexual harassment and the abusive assholery of bigoted “freethinkers” towards feminists and anyone else concerned with social justice?

  40. Karen Owens says

    A. Noyd,
    Aren’t we ALL united in the goal of separation between church & state?

  41. chigau (your display name can be anything you want) says

    Karen Owens #53
    Now, make me a sammitch.

  42. Karen Owens says

    A. Noyd (#55)
    I’ve been reading a few Freethought blogs like Ophelia’s for a long time, but not nearly every entry. I like to read hard news about problems created or exacerbated by religion & the blogger’s perspective on it. I skip over a lot of what looks to be personal stuff. I’ve seen & heard that there are a lot of personal conflicts that there didn’t seem to be years ago (except for Madalyn) when the movement was smaller — 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s — & activists really had to stick together. We were already obeying what came to be known as Reagan’s 11th commandment. Email was the best thing that happened to the movement. But now social media is full of personal attacks. I find it justifiable to use to defend oneself. I use it myself for that purpose. I enjoy certain blogs like Ophelia’s without keeping track of who is fighting with whom. I’d find it hard anyway since in most cases I don’t even know who’s who. I haven’t met face-to-face anyone new who has come into the movement after October 2009, though I’ve had Email & phone correspondence. I haven’t been to a conference since October 2009. The only 2 controversies I followed involved Dawkins. I had to testify in the Timonen cases. If I’d been inclined to get involved, I’d have stood up for Rebecca Watson after Dear Muslima. I became aware of a controversy involving Melody Hensley only when someone with a Twitter account identified by a photo of Taslima & Hensley started following me. I looked closely at the photo & was shocked to find an arrow pointing to “Smellody”. I still don’t know what the fight is about. I don’t see how my being oblivious to some of the issues that Ophelia is interested in precludes me from being a fan of her blog & her perspectives on religion.

  43. A. Noyd says

    @Karen Owens (#56)
    Ophelia has written about the divisions in the atheist/skeptic community a lot in the past few years. About things like sexual harassment and rape of community members by community members, concentrated online harassment campaigns (one target of which is Ophelia) that spill over into meatspace, and belittlement of women’s concerns from prominent atheists/skeptics, etc. Dozens and dozens of posts. What the hell would make you think that’s all “personal” stuff? And even if you’re keeping yourself ignorant about the substance of the conflicts, you obviously noticed there are conflicts. To avoid all related posts, you must have noticed how frequent they were. So where the hell do you get off asking if we aren’t “ALL united in the goal of separation between church & state”? You shouldn’t have had to keep up with who’s doing what to whom to come up with the obvious answer: NO.

    Don’t keep your head in the sand about the bigotry infesting the atheist/skeptic community and then bleat platitudes at the people who’ve been fighting it.

  44. says

    Well, but I gather Karen has withdrawn from much of the atheist movement activity, so it’s not surprising that she would skip what I write about that.

    It was Dear Muslima that set off most of these fights. Isn’t that a sad joke?

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