I did a quick check, and it’s been four months since L’ffair Benson, and nearly three months since my last post on the subject. As I predicted in that post and another, it was in Benson’s best interest to continue fan the flames of outrage. This would shift the focus from what she’s said and done to the behaviour of the people calling that out. Any bigotry on her part, potential or actual, would get a free pass.
For my part, I wrote myself into a corner with that last post. “Ophelia Benson is transphobic” became a “dog bites man” story, there wasn’t anything new or notable about it. The best evidence was on the table, people had entrenched in their opinions, and there seemed little point in flogging that horse further. So I hate-read Benson for a few weeks or so, then got bored and stopped caring. Maybe twice in that time she’s been mentioned in my circles, I checked back in, asked myself and others “does this qualify as noteworthy?,” then after some deliberation decided it wasn’t.
But what I predicted came to pass. A narrative had to be constructed, about me and others.
Chris Clarke: [Note to H.J. Hornbeck: I suggest you alphabetize this one under “G” for “goldfish” rather than D for “Do”. HTH.]
Lady Montegreen: 😀
Patrick G: Partner now wants to know why I almost knocked over my desk laughing so hard. But on a more serious note, does HJ Hornbeck (Hjornbeck?) still “monitor” you? Really?
BarbsWire: I’m pretty sure that HJH, and others (mainly the blockbot crew), now monitor us all. I know for a fact they are/were monitiring facebook groups. Most of us have done some major fb blocking… but I’m sure that there are some who are still storifying, whatever they consider to be “terfy” comments, like crazy.
Ophelia Benson: Hmm, I’ve been assuming they’ve all moved on…as reasonable people do. I see the problem with my arithmetic there.
Chris Clarke: I suspect that stalking a cis male like myself doesn’t provide HJ the frisson that stalking women might. But I suppose keeping track of ideologically errant men might be an amusing sideline.
Her latest entry in this narrative-building is why I’m writing the post. As is her pattern, she’s been inserting herself into posts by her former colleagues at FreethoughtBlogs. In this case, Greta Christina wrote a generic rant about social media usage. Benson had to add this:
Christina: People make assumptions about shifting alliances, secretly-held opinions, behind-the-scenes machinations — based entirely on this friending and unfriending, this blocking and un-blocking, these likes and dislikes. I’ve started calling it “reading the Facebook tea leaves.”
Benson: Like, for instance, the way they did that about me, just three short months ago – the way they went trawling through a large busy Facebook group to record the few comments I had made there, and even what I had Liked there, and used that as items in long wordy prosecutorial venomous accusations against me. Why, even some of Greta Christina’s very own friends and colleagues at Freethought Blogs did that. Greta herself blocked me on Facebook at that time, presumably partly because of that very trawling through my Facebook activity. Greta was vocally and explicitly happy to see the way our colleagues were trashing me on their blogs, partly on the basis of that creepy intrusive secret-police-like trawling through my Facebook. So this post strikes me as very funny – and, of course, disgusting.
But what turned this into man-bites-dog is that after Benson repeated another narrative about what happened on the FtB back-channel, Alex Gabriel hit his limit.
It’s one thing to leak private information from the list, another to leak misinformation. For those of us who take the rules and our own privacy seriously, this isn’t just one security breach — it’s a set of claims we can’t counter without publishing what we did say, and eroding our privacy further. I’d tell Ophelia to stay classy and get on with my life, but I believe she’s had too long to monopolise the story of what went on here, so that’s what I’m going to do.
And so Gabriel gathered up permission from multiple people on the back-channel to share their actual words, and then did so. Compare…
Ophelia Benson: On the back channel. I think I blogged about it shortly before I left the network. Lilandra had the bright idea of starting a thread with my name in the subject line suggesting we all discuss me, so several people jumped at the opportunity to rip me to shreds. Ed said let’s not do this this is a really bad idea, but they ignored him.
… and contrast:
Alex Gabriel: If Ophelia wants to talk about that on-list, I’m happy to do that (and if a thread like that is unavoidable, which, I don’t know, maybe it is by now, I hope it can be collegial), but since this argument is already all over people’s blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds . . . I think you can probably find out what people think about this by checking what they’ve said online.
Miri: Just chiming in to agree with Ed and Alex.
Zinnia: Agree, I don’t see this going anywhere productive in this venue.
Greta: Agreed. If individuals want to discuss this in private email rather than in public, go ahead. That might be a good idea, actually. But I think it’s a bad, bad idea for this conversation to happen on the FtB backchannel. It drags everyone into it, including people who may not want to be dragged.
Aoife: Yup. This is not the place.
Lux Pickel: I’m actually interested in hearing what Ophelia has to say about it without worrying about the public audience. Would you please explain what your actual opinions are on the subject and what led you to writing, for example, the post asking why ‘trans’ as a modifier is needed if trans women are just women?
Now of course, Alex Gabriel is a very bad person according to Benson’s narrative, part of a cabal of white males hoping to ostracise her. Gabriel might have manufactured those quotes, with permission, in the hope of further ostracising her from [UNKNOWN]. Benson’s named me as part of that cabal, so I’d be obliged to share his construction far and wide.