The ideology-spotter

I’ve been getting a barrage of hostile tweets and comments today about four fatal words in the post I did when I first learned of the Sydney siege, soon after it started. The one or ones I got that day – Sunday here – were reasonable and accepted my explanation and apology for clumsy wording. The ones today not so much.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
Ugh. Tells you everything you need to know about the worldview there: “privileged rich coffee drinkers” … #sydneysiege

Shane Walsh ‏@mountainsRhigh 7h
@DJGrothe so bitter about everything. It must be miserable to be her.

D.J. Grothe @DJGrothe
@mountainsRhigh When I knew her she seemed pleasant enough. People change with age, I guess.

Geddit? I’m old and rotting.


K. R. Marlo ‏@KRMarlo 8h
@DJGrothe I see she backpedalled after being called out, but …. gross.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
@KRMarlo Yeah. I imagine she feels proud of the display of compassion for the “apron wearing” proletariat victims.

That’s such an ugly thing to say. No, I don’t feel “proud” and it wasn’t a “display” – it was a feeling put into words, obviously not well enough but all the same that’s what it was.

This isn’t weird, or peculiar to me. After 9/11 I remember a lot of commentary about the “proletariat victims” who were in the towers along with the bankers and stockbrokers – that is, about the restaurant workers and maintenance staff and cleaners and security guards and all the unglamorous not very highly paid people who were doing support work that morning.

After 7/7 I was particularly upset about Gladys Wundowa. She was a cleaner on the night shift at UCL, on the bus on her way to school, the number 30 bus that blew up in Tavistock Square.

Mrs Wundowa, 51, finished her early morning shift at 9am on Thursday before heading for a college course at Shoreditch, east London.

I don’t apologize for being particularly upset about her. That doesn’t mean I think everyone else deserved to be blown up, it just means I find it particularly poignant when underlings get it. I’m not “proud” of it; it’s not particularly rational; it’s just a feeling. I get that sometimes.

And it’s not “ideology,” either.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Nah, something far less sensational. How about just blinded by messy ideology? Or is it just being anti-coffee.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 6h
.@DJGrothe Well, as I explained, it was a combination of sarcasm abt likely motives of the perp and gut-level pang for the guy in the apron.

.@DJGrothe Not really “ideology” at all, just an emo reaction.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Right. For the wage earning apron wearer but not for the “privileged coffee sippers.” I think that’s an ideological bias.

I’d seen the photo of the “apron wearer” in the window. The photo got to me. I hadn’t seen photos of the other people. Those photos got to me too when I saw them yesterday, after the siege had ended. I’m human; I react to pictures.

So that’s been today. I did apologize for wording it badly, and I still do. But for having a not completely rational reaction to that picture? No.


  1. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    Hey, give DJ a break. Sure, he’s misrepresenting you–but after all he’s got lots of time on his hands and he’s got to fill it somehow.

  2. says

    Speaking as a somewhat privileged coffee drinker (let’s leave my age out of this), I’m pretty over it.

    (I blinked, at most. Figured maybe it was some oblique reference to the Islamist ‘doing it for the downtrodden’ pose, and moved on, honestly. Coffee to drink, y’know. But then, yeah, apparently, there’s not enough time on my hands. Got back to it, you’d already explained/apologized.

    Sudoku? Puzzles? Crosswords, maybe? I hear feminism and SJWs have overrun/got their cooties on video games or something, thing is.)

  3. says

    … Oh, also:

    It was sometime in the 90s, I think, that the term ‘politically correct’ became a really quite useful marker. Insofar as you could pretty much assume anyone actually using the term was a rhetorically challenged right winger who figured it was just an all purpose label they could apply to any progressive idea whatsoever, thereby dismissing it as, apparently, eeevil…

    ‘Ideology’ has lately become every bit as useful, I find.

  4. says

    Since when did reconsidering something become “backpedalling?” I’ve said/written plenty of things that I later reconsidered and reworded. I would like to think that’s a habit of those who try to be thoughtful and serious people, not an improper or bad trait.

  5. says

    No, apparently it’s a whole other crime. There’s the first crime, and then if you apologize and add a note explaining what you meant, that’s another crime. 2 crimes. Not 1 crime mitigated by apology & explanation, but a new crime, for a total of 2 (two).

    Then what the hell, double it, for 4 (four).

  6. karmacat says

    I’m just amazed about how much outrage is generated. You apologized for the wording and gave us information about the 2 victims. Of course, if it was just about your wording, there wouldn’t be so much outrage. It is just an excuse to bring a person down.

  7. Paul Hatchman says

    But the correct response of a “true skeptic” is to double down and publish a long screed defending your innocence! I thought you knew this by now 🙂

  8. Al Dente says

    D.J. Grothe is not the person to be complaining about someone else’s perception of privilege. I remember how he protected the privilege of the rich, white, male, libertarian skeptics who kept coming to TAM back when Grothe was someone people listened to.

  9. latsot says

    It seems a pitiful thing for Grothe and others to get upset about under the circumstances. It’s perfectly reasonable to point out the wording but why so gleefully and nastily? Why with such a presumptive backstory? (Both questions are rhetorical.)

  10. phill says

    As a lifelong atheist (I’m 62 – he says, sounding like Catherine Tate’s character, Nana) I’ve often thought that religion itself isn’t the problem; tribalism and ideology are the problem. Humans have a tendency to follow charismatic leaders who can develop an ideology for their followers to rally around. Religions and regimes like Communism, National Socialism, the Khymer Rouge and even economic ideologies like Neoliberalism all have a lot in common. My response when religious people tell me that atheism is responsible for more genocides than religions (as if we’re in a competition) is to say that religions and those ‘atheist’ ideologies share many characteristics, but religions are just the most egregious examples of murderous ideologies in the world today, with the added problem of being based on figureheads that don’t exist. So in some ways, it’s not a surprise to see the modern, on line ‘atheist movement’ splitting into factions like Sunni and Shia, Catholic and Protestant, Trotskyists and Marxist-Leninists, as this is the common form of developing ideological movements; but is is depressing.

    I have followed Ms Benson’s writings for several years and I think she is one of the most thoughtful, considered and eloquent writers on free thought. In this particular instance she wrote a clumsy phrase, apologised for it and that should have been the end of the matter. But others could not resist the temptation to seize upon that slip, ignore the apology and make hay with it. Doing that is emotive, not rational, unless you define ‘rational’ to mean ‘doing whatever it takes to further your own position’. I expect more from the ‘atheist movement’.

  11. Ariel says

    karmacat #9

    if it was just about your wording, there wouldn’t be so much outrage. It is just an excuse to bring a person down


    Not a long time ago I had a conversation with someone who was saying that to apologize is the simplest thing in the world. You just do it, people accept your apologies, then you move on and it’s over.

    I protested that it’s often not like that – that in too many cases even your apology will be used ruthlessly against you, that only too often all of this degenerates into a spectacle of humiliation and that’s a significant part of what makes apologizing so damned difficult in real life.

    But the woman I was talking to seemed nice and noble and I felt dirty giving her such an answer.

  12. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    Uh huh… see, what you should’ve done is doubled down and called everyone who called you on it a nazi, coming for your freeze peach. That‘s how you show how rational you are.
    All this “thinking about what you said” and “correcting and clarifying” nonsense is just SJW nonsense. How dare you be willing to adjust your position? Rational people stand their ground no matter how wrong they are! Rational people will ride their train to the bottom of the ocean if that’s what’s necessary, because rational people are never, ever wrong about ANYTHING. How dare you step back from a poorly considered statement? I am utterly disgusted! You are a monster.

  13. John Morales says

    D.J. Grothe @DJGrothe
    @mountainsRhigh When I knew her she seemed pleasant enough. People change with age, I guess.

    A pleasant-enough person’s opinion, presumably. Perhaps it will change with age.

    (Some say age brings maturity)

  14. Crimson Clupeidae says

    This is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We know that, he knows that, all (well, most?) of his sycophants know that.

    As noted above, it’s more about tribalism. You, Ophelia, did the right thing, by owning your mistake and apologizing. Those of us with more maturity and, dare I say, both rational and empathetic approach, appreciate that.

  15. says

    For the wage earning apron wearer but not for the “privileged coffee sippers.” I think that’s an ideological bias.


    I’m surprised the term “reverse classism” wasn’t used. Maybe even they realize how fucking stupid that sounds, even though it’s the actual appropriate term for the “ideological bias” he’s talking about.

  16. says

    Well, to be fair, if that had been what I meant that would have been a terrible time to say it. But it wasn’t what I meant. I was ventriloquizing what I imagined to be the view of the hostage-taker – grab some posh people, for maximum attention and noise – rather than stating my own.

    On the other hand Grothe’s interpretation of my explanation…yes that was a ridiculous stretch.

  17. sff9 says

    — Not really “ideology” at all, just an emo reaction.
    — Right. For the wage earning apron wearer but not for the “privileged coffee sippers.” I think that’s an ideological bias.

    So basically they’re criticizing your emotions? And I believed it was FTBers who are a thought police! (Granted, I don’t know whether Grothe himself ever made this accusation, but that’s interesting.)

  18. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    Athywren; Kitty Wrangler #16:

    Uh huh… see, what you should’ve done is doubled down and called everyone who called you on it a nazi, coming for your freeze peach. That‘s how you show how rational you are.


  19. says

    Well, this is just pay-back for how you wouldn’t accept Comet Guy’s apology for The Shirt and went on for days about how he was an irredeemably horrible person who should be hung, drawn and quartered and…oh wait, that didn’t happen, did it?

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