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Anorak News | Instapundit v free speech: the censorship run down

Instapundit v free speech: the censorship run down

by | 25th, September 2016

When WBTV News of Charlotte Tweeted “LIVE NOW: Protesters on I-277 stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles. AVOID. Watch live » http://3wb.tv/1TGw8DS #KeithLamontScott”, @Instapundit, aka Glenn Reynolds responded, “Run them down.”

For that Reynolds was banned from free-speech loving twitter for a day. And it got worse. He was then suspended for one month by USA Today, which runs his twice-weekly column.

Reynolds works as a law professor at the University of Tennessee and publishes the Instapundit news aggregator and comment sheet.

The Dean of the University of Tennessee College of Law Melanie D. Wilson says: “Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform…. The university is committed to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and diverse viewpoints, all of which are important for an institution of higher education and the free exchange of ideas. My colleagues and I in the university’s leadership support peaceful disobedience and all forms of free speech, but we do not support violence or language that encourages violence.”

Did he encourage violence? Would anyone sane who follows Instapundit see the tweet and be inspired to run someone down?

Twitter has a pretty low view of its users if it thinks they can be driven to commit violent acts in just 13 characters (including spaces). And does Tennessee College of Law really think Reynolds was advocating violence?

The tweet was snappy, a tad glib and, well, a tweet. The great American tweet has yet to be written. In the meanwhile, millions struggle to make a defining comment in 140 characters or less. The trouble is that in the current climate of ‘You can’t say that’ one tweet can be held up as something that defines you. The twitter mob love a twitter hunt. One tweet can ruin you.

Free speech needs context. Reynolds is no rabble-rouser bent on civil disobedience and violence. But stripped of context, a three-word tweet can be corrupted to reveal something essential about the tweeter and the banner. If you agree with it, then you’re a right-wing loon. Disagree with it and the tweet signals your virtue. You can get a T-shirt bearing the message: “Deliberately killing innocent people with a car is WRONG.” Honk twice is you agree. Don’t bother honking if you don’t (it’ll only warn them that you’re coming).

 

Glenn_Reynolds ban

 

The backdrop to these tweets and their fallout is the death of Keith L. Scott, a 43-year-old black man shot dead by police officer outside an apartment complex.

It’s a highly sensitive subject. Was the victim armed? Are the police institutionally racist?

Do these questions scare twitter, the Press and the universities? If the subject is big enough, do the aforesaid champions of free speech start advocating a need for censorship, slapping a big ‘but’ after ‘I believe in free speech…”? Yes. It sure looks that way.

Reynolds has explained his position: “Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars is a threat. 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.”

He says he removed the offending tweet “so that I can tweet my response to this affair. But once that’s over, I intend to shut it down. I don’t see why I should provide content to a platform that will shut me down without notice.”

The USA Today ban hurts more. That gig pays. Reynolds apologised to the paper’s readers. He explained some more, saying automobiles in a riot should keep driving, in order to ensure driver safety. “What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles,” he said. “I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, ‘Keep driving,’ or ‘Don’t stop.’”

Two words beats three. On twitter, brevity rules. Play it safe and say nothing.

Reynolds explained some more: “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.”

That’s the run down.

Discuss.



Posted: 25th, September 2016 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink