The Sciences

Setting the Record Straight on Ophelia Benson

The IntersectionBy The IntersectionJul 12, 2010 10:53 PM


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We haven't said anything about Ophelia Benson on this blog in a long time. We stopped allowing Benson to comment here back in mid 2009, for very good reasons--among other things, she was sending us emails demanding to have other posters' comments deleted. We had a better solution. Lately, Benson has been clamoring to have her commenting status restored, based on the "Tom Johnson" flap. This doesn't make any sense, as the thread that led to her banning happened long before that affair. Still, we decided to look at what Benson was saying in favor of her restoration:

He or he and Sheril Kirshenbaum banned me from commenting at The Intersection soon after I began trying to get them to do a better job of justifying their claims and to criticize their energetic and often inaccurate bashing of new atheists. Commenters who agreed with them were not banned or even moderated, no matter how abusive their comments were. One “bilbo” repeatedly called me a liar after I posted a list of questions for M and K.

Benson's banning had nothing to do with her positions. Moreover, how does she know who was or wasn't banned or moderated? We can't tell you how heavily we have had to moderate John Kwok, for instance, and he often agrees with us--albeit usually unhelpfully. (Kwok was recently banned.) In any case, the core of her claim for restoration seems to be something about "bilbo" attacking her here. Here are two unpublished comments that Benson left on the blog recently:

How about an apology for allowing “bilbo” (same guy as “Tom Johnson”) to call me a liar here but banning me? How about unbanning me?


So “bilbo” who repeatedly said here that I was lying in my questions to you two was not moderated, but I who repeatedly asked you two to do a better job of justifying your claims – I was banned. Do you think you should have second thoughts about that now, Sheril? Now that you know “bilbo” was William? A sock puppet? Who has made something of a career of saying I’m lying when I say something he dislikes?

I think you should lift the ban on me, and I think you should apologize.

There will be no lifting of the ban. These claims are meritless. Benson was banned in July of 2009. There was no "bilbo" on the thread

that led to her banning. Look for yourself

. Indeed, we have checked our logs, and the first appearance of the "bilbo" who also turned out to be "Tom Johnson," "Milton C," etc, was in September of 2009. Long after Benson had been banned. Neither did "bilbo" ever attack Benson on our blog, that we can see. We only found this one "bilbo" comment

that even mentions her, when listing several people, and it is pretty harmless. The actions of "bilbo" and Benson's banning have nothing to do with one another, then. Except in the sense that both are now banned--and will remain so. More generally, we may as well reiterate that nobody has a "right" to comment on our blog. If you come by and don't behave--aren't civil, aren't substantive, aren't accurate, engage in attacks, become a nuisance, etcetera--then you're gone. It is our intention to foster a forum for reasonable, thoughtful, civil discussion of the topics that interest us. And we will take strong and immediate steps to preserve this forum.

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