Twitter’s banning of the Babylon Bee over its tweet naming transgender Biden administration official Rachel Levine its “man of the year” is an outrage.
Not because the Babylon Bee’s joke was appropriate, or even funny. But because efforts by a de facto monopoly company to squelch ideas with which it disagrees cut across the soul of America’s founding ideals. Congress must act. Here’s why.
I want to state that I personally am of the opinion that it’s generally better to be kind to everyone, and call people by whatever name and pronouns they prefer. While I don’t find misgendering to be the “assault” that its most hysterical opponents claim, I also, like Hannibal Lecter, find discourtesy unspeakably ugly.
But where are the classical liberal values? What the hell has happened to the left that they no longer understand their obligation to defend speech with which they disagree? Why do they no longer realize that the instant you normalize blocking distasteful speech you have paved the way for your own speech to be blocked. The same people applauding Twitter’s decision to ban Babylon Bee are denouncing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It’s the same thing.
But the banning of Babylon Bee—and the Stalinist public apology that’s being demanded of them before Twitter will allow them back—is particularly insidious.
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My birthday is October 23. Growing up in Chicago, I used to love how the Tribune said I was a Scorpio while the Sun-Times called me a Libra. Suppose that I identify as a Scorpio and some smart aleck tweeted that I actually exhibited the characteristics of a Libra. The notion that he could have a valuable platform—and a media company’s ability to reach many thousands of people via the only real mass-market short form social network is very valuable—unilaterally taken from him is outrageous.
Obviously, gender identification and sex assignment are far more nuanced than astrology. But that’s the point. The fact that I don’t take astrology seriously doesn’t diminish the validity of others who swear by it.
Consider a more poignant example. Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who presented herself as African American and became a chapter president at the NAACP, was subject to nearly unanimous condemnation for claiming an identity to which many feel she was not entitled.
I have no way of assessing how authentically Ms. Dolezal believed that she was Black. But by Twitter’s rules for Babylon Bee, any publication that criticized Dolezal for claiming that identity should have been banned. After all, she presented herself as Black and wanted to be considered Black — how dare Twitter users question her authenticity. We all must honor her request or else forfeit our own ability to speak in the public square. Of course that’s absurd. But only because we understand the math here. It’s the liberal position that is always right.
Those who question the identity of a trans person are banned. Those who question the identity of a white woman cynically appropriating another culture are heroes. See the problem? It’s not about logical consistency. It’s about adopting an approved progressive position.
Again, I am not expressing any opinion about the authenticity of a trans person’s journey. Levine ought to be judged by her performance at the US Department of Health and Human Services, not by a charged cultural conversation she doesn’t seem to want or enjoy. I’m simply saying that banning totally legitimate takes, including humor, about this topic is not the way a society advances its need for open and honest debate.
What’s more, Twitter has shown itself consistently wrong when it comes to choosing sides in these right think debates.
When Twitter banished the New York Post because of its publication of Hunter Biden’s emails, and prevented anyone else from sharing the story, it was obvious that that decision was undertaken in service of electing a particular presidential candidate. While it may be their right to endorse candidates, they ought not also be able to enjoy the elaborate protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which holds that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
In the case of Hunter Biden’s laptop, the scoop was unearthed by America’s oldest newspaper. Although then-CEO Jack Dorsey eventually conceded that the ban was a ‘total mistake,’ it wasn’t until a year later, when the sainted New York Times agreed that the Hunter Biden laptop was legitimate that the rest of the mainstream media accepted that reality. To my knowledge, not a single journalist, including those who uncritically printed the Biden campaign’s propaganda that the laptop was Russian disinformation—Politico’s Natasha Bertrand, now at CNN, was the poster child for this falsehood, but there was an army of fellow travelers—has apologized for their error or retracted their story.
Early in the pandemic, Twitter disallowed suggestions that the coronavirus might be man-made. Months later, following a Wall Street Journal scoop about US intelligence sources finding evidence to warrant further investigation of the “lab leak” theory, both Twitter and Facebook decided “we will no longer remove the claim that Covid-19 is man-made from our apps.”
Once again, I have no idea about the origins of coronavirus. But I do know that a democracy is not well served by state media.
Twitter has declared its allegiance to liberal causes and the politicians who espouse them. Virtually every well-known canceling that doesn’t involve a terrorist threat or doxing has been of a conservative. A woefully incomplete list includes Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, Roger Stone, Tommy Robinson, Alex Jones, James Woods, Laura Loomer, David Horowitz, Zero Hedge, Pete Hegseth, The Federalist, Candace Owens 2x, Katie Hopkins, Bill Mitchell, Charlie Kirk, Steve Bannon, Dan Bongino, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Lindell, Jim Hoft, Wayne Allyn Root, Project Veritas and James O’Keefe. Or at least someone who rejects the orthodox liberal position (Meghan Murphy, Naomi Wolf, and Alex Berenson).
That’s fine. Twitter is entitled to its point of view. But the company ought not be able to both adopt the strong point of view of a traditional publisher while also enjoying the government protection of a neutral platform. As the midterm elections look increasingly favorable for Republicans, conservative voters ought to be grilling candidates for Congress and demanding their commitment to abolish Section 230.