Wayne Allyn Root — the popular conservative radio host — was suspended from Twitter on Monday for the crime of… what, exactly?
Root had been temporarily banned for claiming that “lockdowns don’t work,” despite ample evidence from Florida and New York. Florida is back open and New York is locked down, but Florida has fewer overall and per capita COVID-19-related deaths than New York does.
Far fewer, in fact, so you’d think the efficacy of lockdowns would be a subject fit for public discussion.
Twitter told the New York Post on Monday that Root was suspended for “repeated violations of our civic integrity policy.” But Twitter’s “civic integrity” rules are opaque at best and capriciously applied.
Root told Fox News that he is “in shock” over the suspension. “It appears to be a permanent ban,” he told the network. “Although I don’t know. Twitter never warned me…And never sent any communication saying I’ve been suspended or banned. I simply tried to tweet yesterday afternoon and could not.”
His follower count has apparently been reduced to zero.
Twitter’s latest move against Root came mere hours after the social media platform permanently banned Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft.
While I’ve never met Root, I know and like Hoft, even if Gateway Pundit (I’ll be gentle here) isn’t exactly my go-to destination for solid news.
Before getting to the main point, allow me a brief I-Told-You-So from 2017, when Facebook and Apple banned InfoWars and its founder, Alex Jones:
In my experience Jones is a thug, or at least pretends to be one when the cameras are rolling. Whatever the case, that kind of behavior isn’t cause to take him or his site seriously.
This is indeed a culture war, and the other side is powerful enough that we no longer have the luxury of picking and choosing our allies. The Progressive Left has chosen them for us.
Worse though than the social media shunting of individuals out of the electronic town square is the silencing of entire groups or even topics of discussion.
Not just publicly, but privately.
To you and me, the QAnon conspiracy might sound nuts.
Q believes that a secret cabal of child-sex trafficking Satanist pedophiles cannibals launched a conspiracy against Donald Trump.
That would still sound nuts to me, even if you took out four of the five unlikeliest elements.
Facebook and Twitter — so long as Section 230 of the CDA remains unaltered — have the legal right to ban or suspend anyone they want. But with QAnon, Facebook has gone even further by banning private groups dedicated to QAnon conspiracy discussions.
That’s akin to the phone company eavesdropping on your calls and closing your account for discussing things of which they don’t approve.
Last week’s biggest scandal du jour involved Georgia Republican congresscritter Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene has said some unpleasant things and dallied with QAnon beliefs — all perfectly legal. While she seems at best unpleasant to me, the voters of her district get the final (and only important) say.
Except that’s she been effectively de-platformed from Congress, with the Democrat majority taking the unprecedented (IIRC) step of relieving a minority member of her committee assignments for having committed wrongthink.
All of which is my rather longwinded way of setting up the point of this column: Virtually everybody believes in something crazy or nonsensical, and that’s our God-given, constitutionally protected right.
Since it’s just you VIPs in here, I’ll even tell you two of mine.
I believe that since quitting smoking 15 years ago, I’m basically invulnerable to cancer. I also believe that believing that makes me more likely to get cancer.
Not only are both beliefs irrational or at least superstitious, but they’re also in complete contradiction of one another. Nevertheless, they both fit in my brain at the same time, even when I haven’t been drinking.
All of which is my all-too-personal way of setting up the even broader point of this column: There’s no “nutty” exemption to the First Amendment. More on point, we’ve seen Democrats in Congress and tech titans in Silicon Valley act in concert to silence ideas and people they find unpleasant.
There’s a problem with that as Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld noted last month in the Wall Street Journal:
It is “axiomatic,” the Supreme Court held in Norwood v. Harrison (1973), that the government “may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” That’s what Congress did by enacting Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which not only permits tech companies to censor constitutionally protected speech but immunizes them from liability if they do so.
Is it a crazy conspiracy theory to believe that leftists in positions of power both in government and the tech sector seem to be acting in concert to stifle dissent in ways that SCOTUS ruled against in 1973?
I feel kind of crazy just writing those words, but we’ll know for sure if I’m crazy or not if and when the opinion expressed in Norwood v. Harrison becomes the next topic ruled impermissible for discussion, public or private.