Yesterday, conservative law professor, author and blogger Glenn Reynolds learned that Twitter had suspended his account, and he wrote on his iconic website Instapundit...
Can’t imagine why they’d do that, except that it seems to be happening to a lot of people for no obvious reason. It’s as if, despite assurances to the contrary, Twitter is out to silence voices it disagrees with or something.
Then he learned that his offense was the above tweet. Reynolds wrote…
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.
“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance”
But one of Reynolds’ extra-curricular gigs (he is a University of Tennessee law professor) is monthly columnist for USA Today. After the progressive Furies took to social media and demanded that he be fired from the law school, dropped by the newspaper and forced to wander in the wilderness in sackcloth, Gannett’s paper suspended him for a month.
Reynolds was reinstated by Twitter after purging the offending tweet, and he issued this mea culpa to USA Today:
Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.
I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”
Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. 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.”
I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.
Today, Reynolds wrote on Instapundit:
TWITTER HAS UNBLOCKED MY ACCOUNT ON CONDITION OF DELETING THE OFFENDING TWEET. But lest I be accused of airbrushing, it’s preserved here. Still planning on quitting Twitter, though, after making a few points. Earlier post is here. UPDATE: From Nick Gillespie at Reason: In Defense Of InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds. “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.”
SO MY USA TODAY COLUMN is suspended for a month. My statement is here. I don’t apologize for saying that you shouldn’t stop for angry mobs, even if they’re blocking your way. But I could have said it better
1. Nobody could seriously argue that the Reynolds tweet posed any danger to anyone or was an effort to incite violence. It was an expression of frustration and contempt with the Charlotte riots and rioters (which the news media still dishonestly calls “demonstrators” and “protestors.”) What’s the theory, that stalled drivers being blocked by protestors and fearing that they would be dragged out of their cars are casually perusing Twitter, see Reynolds’ tweet and think, “Hey! Now there’s an idea!”?
2. Both Twitter and Facebook have been increasingly trending toward partisan political censorship on their sites, which the have every right to engage in. However, since both social media organs have become central and essential to political discourse in this nation, for them to engage in it is unethical.
3. Reynolds’ tweet was not racist. The fact that virtually all of the rioters blocking the Charlotte highway were black doesn’t make it racist. The hostility expressed by the tweet was directed at lawbreakers placing motorists at risk. Their race was incidental.
4. Reason’s Nick Guillespie correctly accuses Twitter of chilling free speech with its treatment of Reynolds (and thus threatened treatment of others who are not sensitive enough in their comments), and writes...
The last thing it can afford to do—or should do, given its stated commitment to free speech—is to become one more fainting couch in cyberspace where offense is taken easily and often and then acted upon. Twitter’s blocking functions work well to help users dismiss and ignore trolls and idiots (however we each choose to define those terms). Better to work on constantly upgrading those sorts of mechanisms than to start suspending people such as Instapundit…for tweets that are not particularly offensive or deplorable.
5. To his credit, Reynold links to his USA Today statement. Still, it and his comments to his loyalists don’t seem like they were written by the same person. On Instapundit, Reynolds insists that he could have been clearer, but was making a valid point. In his apology for the paper, he says, “I didn’t live up to my own standards.” To the contrary, the tweet was vintage Reynolds, and is very representative of his mordant humor, which is often sarcastic. For example, his comment to today’s story. “Deadly Viruses and Bacteria Mistakenly Shipped 21 Times: Believing the deadly pathogens had been deactivated, scientists and officials at U.S. labs sent highly contagious viruses and bacteria to unsecure locations at least 21 times,” was “THIS IS COMFORTING.”
Wait–is Glenn Reynolds really happy that the public has been placed in danger? Fire him!
I see this a lot: a pundit apologizes abjectly for one audience, but for his or her more loyal and simpatico followers, remains defiant. Which attitude is the real one? Integrity would require that the message to both audiences be the same.
6. I would have preferred to see Reynolds, who also frequently advocates that those beset by progressive injustice “Punch back twice as hard,” be defiant. I understand that he would like to keep a national platform for his views in USA Today, but his Twitter experience is an example of the increasingly troubling effort by the left to muffle dissenting opinions and voices. When Reynolds’ time came to make the stand that he has urged others to make, he capitulated.
7. Now his University is “investigating” Reynolds, and those doing the investigating may well be thinking like this guy:
“He apparently is unaware of how dangerous it is to the driver who runs over a human being, and he is apparently unaware that vehicular homicide is both illegal and evil,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog…
I’m pretty sure Professor Reynolds is well aware that vehicular homicide is wrong.