President Trump has been banned from Twitter as a result of the January 6th putsch, and I gotta say something, because what I’m seeing on my twitter timeline here has gotten both absurd and toxic. It isn’t as simple as some are making it. I am not a free speech absolutist, and if there is any time for censoring someone, it is when that person is using a public platform to organize a fascist coup. Moreover, on a personal level, it is hard not to feel a certain glee, both at how frustrated it must make him, and because I will no longer see people I follow quote-tweeting him in order to express pointless (if deserved) obscenities about his tweets.
But there are things we must not forget: He is being censored—this notion that its only censorship if carried out by a government ignores the entire history of censorship. Are any of you old enough to remember when television networks would bleep out anything entertainers said against the Vietnam war? If there is a term for that other than censorship, I’ve never heard it. Maybe censoring Trump is the right thing to do, as I said above, but let’s at least call it by its right name.
Second, he is being censored by a multi-billion dollar corporation, and anyone who thinks such a corporation has the same interests as the oppressed and exploited is being foolish at best.
Censorship, whether by government or corporation, is guaranteed to be used against the most oppressed layers of society—after all, it is those layers who carried out the fight for free speech in the first place. So long as we live in a world controlled by an elite, that elite will use censorship as one of the tools to maintain their privileges. And it is harder to fight for the right of the oppressed to speak when the reactionaries can say, “Hey, you didn’t have a problem with censoring so-and-so just because you don’t agree with him.” Can we please keep that in mind?
Another point is when those who call themselves leftists justify the action by saying, “But Twitter is a private corporation.” There’s a term for this: it is called placing property rights above human rights. Are you really okay with that? It is also answering the question, “Is it wrong?” by saying, “it’s legal.” Are you okay with that?
We are already seeing the worst aspects of this: There are attacks on the ACLU from those calling themselves leftists, there are attacks on the entire concept of free speech. There is mockery—mockery—of what the oppressed fought and died for. This is not healthy.
I want to repeat that: People identifying as leftists have mocked the very concept of free speech, and do not see anything wrong with that.
If you’re certain your speech will not be suppressed, it can only mean that you have no intention of challenging the powerful.
Once again, we are seeing the chronic disease of the political dilettante: the refusal to think things through, to examine consequences, to, as Sturgeon said, “Ask the next question.”
Bottom line: Yes, I think, under these conditions, Trump’s ban was necessary. The right to speak is a human right, but under extraordinary conditions, human rights, even the right to life, must sometimes be set aside, and a fascist coup is an extraordinary condition if anything is. But we need to be very careful about celebrating it, and even more careful about the generalizations we draw in order to justify it, and about when censorship is appropriate, and we need to be aware that these measures some are so pleased with will be used to muffle leftists, and anyone who takes aim at the status quo.