On Wednesday, yet another conservative voice was silenced on Twitter — PJ Media’s own Glenn Reynolds, also a University of Tennessee law professor, known as Instapundit. His account was suspended for a tweet suggesting that drivers endangered by the riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, should force their way to safety. Perhaps regrettably, he used the words “run them down.” Even so, liberal voices don’t seem to get suspended when they advocate violence.
“Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars and surrounding them is a threat,” Reynolds wrote on his blog Wednesday morning. “Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.” Burn!
If you doubt Reynolds’ argument that these “protesters” are dangerous, just watch this brief video from the Associated Press, showing the rioters looting trucks and burning their contents.
This happened on Tuesday night, but the riots continued Wednesday night as well. During that second night, at least four police officers were injured, and one civilian was shot and put on life support.
Reynolds is the kind of conservative who would support Black Lives Matter if the cases they championed were actual situations of police abuse (like that of Terence Crutcher seems to be). “I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. I fully support people protesting police actions, and I’ve been writing in support of greater accountability for police for years,” Instapundit wrote.
But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.
Reynolds admitted that “Run them down” didn’t capture the nuances of his argument, “but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance.”
Responding to criticism from Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, Instapundit admitted that “Keep driving” would have captured his idea, and would have been a better formulation of what he meant. “It would have been, and in only two words instead of three. But I’ve had over 580,000 tweets, and they can’t all be perfect.”
Next Page: The Twitter response — #FreeInstapundit!
Perhaps ironically, #FreeInstapundit started trending on Twitter. Many users stood up to defend Reynolds, calling Twitter out for a double standard.
@Instapundit banned? You've got to be kidding me. PPL on here openly calling for the killing of cops, republicans and whites are good to go
— 🇺🇸Tami (@Brytani_Fla) September 22, 2016
Popular libertarian video blogger Julie Borowski not only defended Reynolds, but adopted #RunThemDown as a rallying cry.
— Julie Borowski (@JulieBorowski) September 22, 2016
Nick Gillespie at Reason.com also supported Reynolds, contrasting Twitter’s official policy with the way it censored Instapundit. “Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible.”
Here is one of the reasons Twitter lists for suspending accounts: “In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.”
Twitter lists specific activities, two of which might be relevant here:
Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism….
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.
Instapundit was not advocating violence, only drivers’ ability to free themselves from a dangerous situation.
Reporters spoke with a truck driver on the road blocked by “protesters.”
Just got off the phone with the truck driver. She is still inside her truck as people loot her cargo and burn it. She fears for her life
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) September 21, 2016
This was an absolutely horrifying interview. She kept asking me where police are. She's trapped inside as people destroy her truck and cargo
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) September 21, 2016
This family was victimized.
— Mark Barber (@_MarkBarber_) September 21, 2016
Thankfully, Twitter eventually relented, and allowed Instapundit to return, on condition that he delete the offending tweet, which he did.
Check out Instapundit’s return tweet on the next page.
Reynolds said he is more than happy to oblige Twitter and leave the site, but as a conservative who appreciates his social media presence, I secretly hope he remains. Perhaps the censorious social media platform could bribe him to return — and do penance among angry conservatives — by promoting his account.