Thinking as a value

In thinking about the frenzied monstering of me on Freethought Blogs over the past few weeks, I realized I must have been laboring under a misapprehension all the time I was there. I thought it was a network that was partly about thinking – thinking as such, thinking as a value, thinking as a goal and a pursuit and a method. I knew it was about other things too, of course, especially secularism and atheism and also progressive causes, but I did think it put the “thought” part front and center.

Either I was wrong all along, or it’s changed. I don’t really know which. I don’t know much about Freethought Blogs at all, it turns out, despite having been part of it from almost the beginning.

Why do I say that? A lot of reason, but one in particular is this:


101 anteprepro

5 August 2015 at 9:42 am

squarecircle: Yup. It happened. I suck at facebook so it was difficult to get the link, but here it is:


In addition: Ophelia’s earliest post on the group was from late April. (Here:
Many more posts happened around July 1st.

The current argument (involving the “yes or no” question, oolon’s email, and the joke about Dolezal) started around July 20th.
She has not posted on that group since July 24th (as far as I can tell).

Before this kerfuffle, there was an issue about her post about Caitlyn Jenner, which was in early June.

So just for clarity’s sake, it does NOT appear to be the case that Ophelia has been running into the arms of TERFs to get support, running away from FTB. It still isn’t clear WHY she was a member of that group, or why she said the things she said, agreed with the things she agreed with, and what not, but it wasn’t because we were being mean and she needed a shoulder to cry on. At least not as far as I can see, based on the actual timeline of events. Okay?

What about it? The prurience, the staring, the dedication (grubbing through Facebook looking for my earliest post in a group??), the pettiness, the outrage, the meddling, the slicing and dicing of my possible motivations for doing something perfectly ordinary – etc etc etc.

But also, the nature of the Facebook post that is supposed to be so shocking. The post is a link to the Frontline episode about trans children and teenagers, that I posted about on the blog as well. The horror is at what I said in the post sharing the link:

“Being a woman has nothing to do with anatomy or appearance — it has everything to do with how you identify.”

So I can identify as an African-American born in Brazil and educated at Oxford?

That was a real question. I don’t know what it means to say being a woman has everything to do with how you identify. I don’t “identify” as a woman, yet as far as I know I am one, like it or not.

I’m interested in subjects like this. I’m interested in what different people mean by concepts like identifying as something, and in what people understand others to mean by them, and in what implications all those things have.

In short, I’m interested in thinking about it.

Yet that one question was treated as the final conclusive evidence that I’m a pulsating horror from the swamp of doom and simply had to be shunned off the network.

I wasn’t forcibly expelled, as three people have been. I wasn’t officially told to leave. (I saw a blog comment somewhere saying the executive committee should do its job and tell me to leave. Ok but I was on the executive committee, so that might have been tricky.) PZ asked me not to leave. But in every other way, I was told to leave (and worse). MA Melby (who is nothing to do with FTB) was so outraged she did tell me to leave, very emphatically.


M. A. Melby ‏@MAMelby Aug 5
Just saw this. I apologize for any tone policing I’ve done recently. Just GTFO Benson – now – not later. Christ.

Because I asked what it means to say you “identify as” a woman.

There are very high and spiky fences around trans issues right now. The justification given is that asking questions like the one I asked equals transantagonism if not transphobia, and that transantagonism and transphobia get trans people killed, and so asking questions like the one I asked gets trans people killed.

I say my question was not transantagonistic, and has no chance of getting trans people killed.

My question was skeptical of the whole idea of “identifying as” something, and the jargon that goes with it – but the idea and the jargon are widespread and far from exclusive to trans people.

More to the point – I’ve always talked about that kind of thing on my blog, and when I joined FTB in September 2011 I thought that kind of thing would be right at home there. For four years, it was…and then something changed. Or else for four years it wasn’t, but nobody ever told me that. (But then why did they let me join in the first place?)

The short answer is I think Freethought Blogs the network has taken a hard turn to anti-intellectualism for the sake of absolutist political commitment. I think political commitments need to be accompanied by thinking.

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