Our Twitter ban: some background

Jack on the Joe Rogan podcast

Ah, Jack Dorsey. “Jack”! Everybody’s chum. A regular dude, who in a couple of recent appearances on the Joe Rogan podcast sported a scraggly beard, had lousy posture, and answered questions in a slow, rambling way that made him seem like someone who’d never been in front of a microphone before.

He’s striven, more than any of the other top-rank social-media billionaires, to make himself available for interviews and to come off as an ordinary guy whose heart is in the right place and who, faced with the daunting challenge of curating a social-media site, is sincerely struggling to get it right.

Banned: Anthony Cumia

Watch him here, for example, in the first of his two interviews with Rogan. Judging by the comments by YouTube viewers, we weren’t the only ones who were baffled by Rogan’s tame treatment of the Twitter king. Even though friends and acquaintances of Rogan’s had been banned from Twitter without anything remotely resembling a good explanation, Rogan tossed only softballs at Dorsey. The pushback from furious viewers was so overwhelming that both Rogan and Dorsey – apparently going into panic mode – promised to do a more revealing follow-up chat.

The reason for that pushback was that more than a few of those viewers had been kicked off of Twitter. Even more of them had seen people they admire kicked off the platform. And none of it for any reason, it seemed, other than sheer politics.

So we’re far from the first people to be unceremoniously removed from Twitter. Here are the names of a few of those who have preceded us in our instant infamy.

Banned: Milo

In 2016, the often irreverent libertarian commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter after tweeting some insults about the remake of Ghostbusters and about actress/comedienne Leslie Jones, who starred in that film.

Admittedly, Yiannopoulos made some edgy jokes, but nothing that remotely merited a ban. In fact, Twitter’s official position was that it had banned Yiannopoulos not for his own tweets but – get this – for “racist and sexist remarks” directed at Jones by hundreds of Yiannopoulos’s followers.

Banned: Carl Benjamin

In short, Twitter was holding Yiannopoulos responsible for the behavior of people who followed his account. The New York Times bought into this crazy logic, maintaining that Yiannopoulos had “rallied and directed” the abuse. Of course, if every popular Twitter user were responsible for all the tweets by his or her users, they’d all be deplatformed in a New York minute.

Yiannopoulos was just one of the first to go. In June 2017, one of America’s foremost humorists, politically incorrect radio and podcast personality Anthony Cumia, author of the recent (and appropriately named) memoir Permanently Suspended, was permanently banned from Twitter. He has since opened several new accounts in various names that have also eventually been closed. In each case, the reason was that Twitter decided that it disapproved of Cumia’s politically incorrect humor.

Banned: Roger Stone

In October 2017, political consultant Roger Stone, an intimate of President Trump and former advisor of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, was permanently banned from Twitter after challenging the honesty and intelligence of CNN anchor Don Lemon.

Then, in March of last year, Islam critic Tommy Robinson, one of the most admired men in Britain, was permanently banned from Twitter for violating its “hateful conduct policy.” No specifics were adduced. And this year, in April, when Robinson and popular YouTuber Carl Benjamin were running for the European Parliament, the former as an independent and the latter as a member of UKIP, both their campaign’s Twitter accounts were taken down – an outrageous intrusion by a U.S. firm into a British election.

Indeed, none of the people we’ve mentioned here has engaged in “hateful conduct.” Yes, they’ve engaged in insult humor. They’re mocked their enemies. They’ve participated in what used to be known as vigorous exchanges. In many cases, their opponents on the left have been at least as rough as they’ve been. None of them is racist, antigay, or anything of the kind. In fact Yiannopoulos is gay and married to a black man. But simply by expressing their honestly held views in strong and often witty language, they’ve incurred the wrath of the Twitter gods.

The gatekeeper: Vijaya Gadde

Of course, that wasn’t the line that Jack took on March 5, when he turned up for a second time on Rogan’s podcast, this time bringing along a flunky, Vijaya Gadde, who ended up doing most of Twitter’s talking. Also on the show was independent journalist Tim Pool, who demanded explanations for the permanent bans of Yiannopoulos and others. Every single explanation was lame. Some were downright dishonest. Gadde’s mantra was that Twitter seeks to keep users from being “driven away” from it by “harassment.” But she seemed to think of harassment as something only the left experiences; she seemed oblivious to the left’s endless badgering of conservatives, libertarians, and centrists.

One banned user whose name came up was radical feminist Meghan Murphy, removed for telling an M-F transsexual, in the course of a vigorous discussion, that “men aren’t women.” At Twitter, this counts as “misgendering” and is considered “abuse and harassment.” Rogan’s observation that Murphy was just stating a biological fact didn’t faze Gadde, who came off as an unsettling combination of an oily corporate shill and an icy ideological robot – the kind of ideologue, moreover, who doesn’t even realize she’s an ideologue.

More next week.

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