Our turn

During the past few weeks, we’ve been covering the brief but crowded and fascinating history of Twitter bans. We’ve noted that while Twitter, when asked to explain a user ban, cites its impartial-sounding “Twitter Rules” and “Terms of Service,” the rules seem to work, politically speaking, in only one direction.

As we’ve seen, a flamboyant, wisecracking opponent of identity politics got kicked off Twitter – while the terrorist group that fomented violence to prevent him speaking at Berkeley has kept its Twitter account.

Similarly, a virulently anti-Semitic freshman Senator has retained her coveted “blue check” – while a Twitter user who pointed out her anti-Semitism got the boot.

Now, as we’ve already reported, it’s our turn. In mid February, one of us opened up our Twitter account to find a big red banner informing us of our suspension.

All our tweets had been removed. Nearly four years’ worth. It was not possible to post new ones.

We wrote to Twitter Service, appealing our suspension. The reply read, in part, as follows: “We typically suspend accounts for violations of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules) or Terms of Service (https://twitter.com/tos).”

We then wrote back, asking to know the specific reason for our suspension. Twitter Support’s answer? “Your account has been suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules.”

Not banned: Antifa protesters, Berkeley, 2017

We responded with an e-mail stating that our suspension “seems unfair, given that there was no warning or mention what the violation was.” We then received an e-mail chiding us for trying “to update a case that has been closed” and telling us to “submit a new case.”

We did so. Once again, we were informed that “Your account has been suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter Rules: https://twitter.com/rules.”

What do you call it when a social-media platform bans you without telling you? As we’ve previously discussed, it’s called a shadow ban. But Twitter doesn’t shadow ban! It must be true, because it says so on Twitter’s own company blog.

Let’s make one thing clear. Here at Useful Stooges, we’re believers in democratic capitalism. We understand the argument that Twitter, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is a private company and has a right to permanently suspend whichever users it wants to.

Then again, Con Edison, which provides energy to residents of New York City and environs, is also a private company. It’s also traded on the NYSE. Does it have a right to deny electricity to users whose opinions it disapproves of?

What about your local phone company? Does it have a right to turn off your phone service if it doesn’t approve of your voting record?

These aren’t idle questions or ridiculous comparisons. The fact is that over the last few years Twitter, like Facebook and YouTube, has become a major site of public debate on the issues of the day. Once these platforms have attained a certain level of importance, they can no longer be considered private in the same way they once were. They’re part of the public square. They’re more important than even the largest newspapers and network news operations.

The tweeter-in-chief

The President of United States famously uses Twitter to react to news developments in real time. Is it fair to deny Twitter access to U.S. citizens who want to know what their President has to say?

Some observers have argued that Twitter and other social-media platforms qualify under US law as public accommodations – which would mean that in at least some jurisdictions it would be illegal for them to ban users because of their political views.

What now? Well, we’re not giving in. Because it’s not just about us. And it’s not just about Twitter. It’s about this whole social-media landscape which, for good or ill, is where we have a great many of our important conversations nowadays. For the gatekeepers of this territory to close that space off to people whose politics they don’t like is scary stuff. It’s anti-democratic. It’s anti-American. It doesn’t bode well for our future, and our children’s future.

We here at Useful Stooges have done a lot of writing in recent years in the cause of freedom. It’s time, apparently, for us to do more than write. It’s time for us to act.

Meet Georges Ugeux, Wall Street’s fan of tyrants

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Georges Ugeux

At one time he was the NYSE’s senior managing director for international relations – “the face of the New York Stock Exchange outside of the United States.” But he left the Big Board, along with a couple of other higher-ups, in the wake of a controversy over compensation packages. Today, after decades at places like Morgan Stanley and Kidder Peabody, the Belgian-American investment banker Georges Ugeux runs his own store, Galileo Global Advisors, in New York.

He also contributes regularly to both Le Monde and The Huffington Post – and the first thing that needs to be said about his contributions to the latter organ (his Le Monde pieces are presumably run past an editor before they see print) is that the prose is downright execrable. It’s riddled with grammatical errors and, even when he’s apparently making a simple point, can be hard to make total sense out of.

Take a March 2014 HuffPo piece about the dust-up in Ukraine. “Does the Parliament votes [sic] to join Russia?” he wrote. “It is illegal. Will Crimea, who [sic] disposes [disposes?] of a special status, vote whether they [sic] want to be reunited with Russia or not?” There’s more: “For all its weaknesses,” he writes, “Europe has to live with borders with Russia and Ukraine. It has to resolve its neighborhoods [sic] problems. There is no need, however, for them to supersede what the Crimea’s people will decide.”

Look at those last two sentences. Presumably both “it” and “them” are meant to refer back to “Europe.” Okay. But “supersede”? What does it mean to say that Europe doesn’t need “to supersede what the Crimea’s people will decide”? None of the accepted meanings of “supersede” makes sense here. You can kind of guess what Georges Ugeux is driving at, but this isn’t a paper for a remedial high-school English class – it’s an opinion on international events delivered by a world-class thinker, a guy with a stellar CV, someone we’re supposed to take seriously as an authoritative voice on these matters. This being the case, wouldn’t you think a dude at this level would give his own prose a careful read-through before sharing it with the world? Or hire somebody competent to do so?

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To be sure, the thrust of his March 2014 piece was clear enough. In the conflict between Putin and Ukraine, Georges Ugeux stands with Putin. No, really. He also sympathizes, as he put it, with “the people of Crimea who do not want to remain under the fascists who dominate Ukraine and prohibit them from speaking Russian.” As if all that weren’t enough, he took the opportunity to smear Russia’s anti-Putin opposition as being “under the influence of extreme right and neo-Nazi groups” and to describe Putin as having been “legitimately elected.”

All of which raises the question: is a guy with this kind of political acumen and moral judgment – to say nothing of his slovenly prose – somebody you’d ever want to trust with your money?

Another example. In September 2013, Georges Ugeux weighed in on Obamacare:

The Republicans do not seem to understand that when Congress votes [sic] a law, it is the law of the land. It is sacred in a number of ways that they like. When they don’t like it, they ignore their obligations.

Yes, tea party blackmailers, the Affordable Health Act is the law. By using budget or debt ceiling to trap the credit of the United States of America, you are being in-civic.

Some writers manage – every now and then, anyway – to hit on le mot juste; Georges Ugeux repeatedly misses it by a mile. “Trap the credit”? (And this is a financial expert?) “In-civic”? And of course the law is called the Affordable Care Act, not the Affordable Health Act. He goes on:

You are guilty of not respecting the United States institutions, and the value of your own votes. This creates in turn a total discredit of congressional votes and the institution of Congress in the eyes of our citizens and the world.

Time and again, reading Georges Ugeux’s prose, you get the impression that it’s gone through at least two incompetent translations, from language A to language B to language C, before it ended up in English – or a rough approximation thereof. Think this is unimportant? Think again. Clear, coherent prose reflects clear, coherent thinking. Prose like his is the mirror of a more than moderately muddled mind.

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Georges Ugeux (center) with fellow investment bankers Yves-André Istel and Jean-François Serval

Which brings us to his financial commentaries. Georges Ugeux has written about a number of topics related to international finance, but of late he’s made a specialty of slamming the so-called “vulture funds” and the U.S. courts that have ruled in their favor in the matter of Argentina’s sovereign debt. “Are Sovereign Ratings a Legacy of Colonialism?” asked the headline of one piece he published in 2011. In another article, deploring the judiciary’s support for the “vulture funds,” he actually compared the U.S. Supreme Court to Pontius Pilate. But he reserves his real venom for Paul Singer of Elliott Management, whom he accuses of having brought grief to the Argentinian people by insisting that their government pay Elliott the entire amount owed to it.

Georges Ugeux, you see, is deeply concerned about the Argentinian people. Yet instead of getting exercised about the wholesale corruption committed by the regimes of the late President Néstor Kirchner and his wife and successor, Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner, as well as by their shameless (and, it sometimes seems, countless) cronies – who have ripped off billions upon billions of dollars from that once-prosperous country’s hapless citizens – Georges Ugeux places the blame for Argentina’s suffering squarely on the shoulders of Singer, whose activities he condemns as “the capitalist system at its worst.” Not only is he quick to join the vile Cristina Kirchner in using the term “vulture funds”; he also calls Singer & co. “scavengers” and accuses them of “heinous behavior” – all this for the supreme offense of purchasing debt fair and square and expecting to have it paid back in full.