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.

Useful Stooges: Banned from Twitter!

What was it, Jack? Was it our criticism of Cuban Communism? Our piece about anti-Semitism in Britain? Our report on the imprisonment on corruption charges of a former Chief Justice of the South Korean Supreme Court?

Was it the fact that we called out would-be spiritual guru Reza Aslan for describing the face of that Covington High School kid, Nick Sandmann, as “punchable”?

Was it our uncomfortable reminder that legendary leftist heroine Angela Davis was, in fact, an accessory to murder and has been a lifelong supporter of totalitarian governments?

Has it been any of our several articles about the devastating impact of socialism on Venezuela?

What was it, Jack Dorsey, that led your company, Twitter, to remove this website’s Twitter feed?

Max Blumenthal

This site, Useful Stooges, has been online since April 2015. As you can read at our “About” page, our focus is largely on “heads of state, from Asia to Africa to Latin America, who practice corruption and oppression on a colossal scale” and on those “who serve them, praise them, and provide them with positive PR even though they know better, or should.”

During our more than four years in operation, we’ve published over 750 posts about such past and current leaders as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Qaddafi, and Vladimir Putin and on a wide range of their bootlicking admirers, including Oliver Stone, Max Blumenthal, Stella McCartney, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, E.L. Doctorow, Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn, Eric Hobsbawm, and dozens of others.

Eric Hobsbawm

We owe no allegiance to any political party. Without fear or favor, we’ve criticized tyrants of both the left and right. We stand only for individual freedom and human rights, and we stand up against those who oppress, who seek to oppress, or who cheer for oppression. And we deal in facts, not rumors or spin or smears.

Oliver Stone

You wouldn’t think there’d be anything controversial about this. Not in the United States, in the second decade of the twenty-first century. But you’d be wrong. Jack Dorsey, like his counterparts at Facebook and YouTube, has taken on the role of censor. In doing so, he has taken the side of what some have called the “regressive left” and taken it upon himself to stifle its critics.

The alarming fact is that, for all too many Silicon Valley bigwigs, tyranny is an awful thing and those who assail it are doing good work – except, maybe, when it comes to tyranny in Cuba. Or China. Or in the Islamic world. Or in certain other countries and regions, perhaps, where those bigwigs may happen to have great business deals going on.

To be sure, Jack stands apart from the heads of some other social-media giants. When confronted with their hypocrisies, they prefer to retreat behind the walls of their mansions. Jack Dorsey, who encourages Twitter users to think of him just as “Jack” – a buddy, a pal – takes another approach. More on that next week.

PewDiePie, Nazi?

pew
Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie

It’s hard to know which is more embarrassing to have to write: the words “YouTube star” or the silly name “PewDiePie.” As it happens, the latter is an example – indeed, the prime example – of the former: PewDiePie, a 27-year-old Swede whose real moniker is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is the biggest of all YouTube stars.

It happened fast. A drop-out from a technology college, he tried unsuccessfully to get an apprenticeship at an ad agency. Then, six years ago, while working at a hot-dog stand, he posted the first of his homemade videos, of which he’s now made several hundred. By August 2013 he was the most subscribed user on all of YouTube. His videos routinely get millions, if not tens of millions, of views. He’s now accumulated a total of over 14 billion views. He makes tens of millions of dollars a year off of this stuff.

pewdiepie-400x240Now, many a discerning adult, if confronted with one of Kjellberg’s videos, might scratch his or her head over the young Swede’s success. It’s not exactly witty or sophisticated fare – and that’s putting it mildly. But his followers (largely teens and tweens) love him. In any case, his immense success led the folks at Disney to sign him in 2014 to a lucrative contract.

For a while there, he seemed to be moving from triumph to triumph.

pewdiepie-e1484319246136But his smooth ride hit a bump – at the very least – on February 14, when Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas, and Ben Fritz published a report in the Wall Street Journal about Kjellberg’s videos. Their investigation had been spurred by a recent incident that had caused a brief and limited flurry of controversy. On January 11, Kjellberg posted a video on which he explained that he had found two young Indian guys online who offered to display a message while dancing in the jungle – all for the price of five dollars. He sent them five dollars, and, doing what he had paid them to do, they danced and laughed on camera while holding up a banner reading “Death to All Jews.”

After showing the footage, Kjellberg told viewers: “I didn’t think they’d actually do it. I feel partially [!] responsible…” He then broke into giggles and said he had to give the guys “five stars” for doing what he’d asked. “Let me know if I should do more of these,” he said. “I don’t feel good….I’m not anti-Semitic…It was a funny meme…I swear I love Jews, I love ’em.” But the contrition, if that’s what it was, lasted two seconds. He did, after all, post the video – which to date has logged more than ten million views.

As the Journal reporters discovered, this was not an isolated case. Several of the videos posted by Kjellberg during the last six months, it turned out, contained “either antisemitic jokes or Nazi imagery.” If he had any real regret about the “Death to All Jews” incident, it had dissipated by January 22, when he posted a video showing “a man dressed as Jesus saying, ‘Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.’” In another video, Kjellberg wears a Nazi uniform while watching a video of Hitler. At least once, he invited viewers to draw swastikas.

pewdiepieAfter the Journal‘s article came out, Disney cancelled its deal with Kjellberg. He didn’t have much to offer by way of a defense. All his “jokes,” he insisted, were offered in a spirit of innocent fun. The “Death to all Jews” thing was an effort to show “how crazy the modern world is.” One chilling revelation was that the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, according to The Guardian, had “run a series of articles about the YouTuber, describing him as ‘our guy’” and praising his work because “it normalizes Nazism, and marginalizes our enemies.”

gustav_v_of_sweden_in_the_1940s
Gustav V of Sweden

Is Kjellberg a Jew-hater? Maybe, maybe not. But the ease and reflexivity with which he resorts to Nazi and anti-Semitic tropes reflects a mindset that has prevailed in his country throughout its modern history. During World War II, Sweden, which was officially neutral, aided the Nazis in a number of ways. Also, while the wartime king of Denmark famously stood up for his Jewish subjects against the Nazi occupiers and his Norwegian counterpart, Haakon VII, went into exile in Britain for the duration, Sweden’s king, Gustav V, happily socialized with Hitler. Today, Swedish Jews are routinely terrorized by anti-Semitic Muslim immigrants, and many of those Jews are fleeing the country to save their skins – a disgraceful state of affairs that very few gentile Swedes bother to speak up about, and that the Swedish media largely ignore.

Which raises the question: does Kjellberg ever “joke” about Islam? We suspect not.