Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet


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.”

Related: “Glenn Reynolds is old enough to remember Reginald Denny. (Look it up, kids.)”


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.

7 thoughts on “Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet

  1. I can usually find common ground with John K Wilson. He’s far less annoying than most academics and has a good grasp of ethics in academia. But, even the most reasonable activist can’t resist jumping on a good bandwagon. He does disagree with forced apologies in academia, but maybe not so much in social media.

  2. This is one of the reasons I try my very hardest never to use my Twitter to make someone’s day worse. It’s not that I haven’t had arguments on there every now and again, but as far as I know, I have very seldom been blocked for it. That’s because I try to keep it all elevated to a certain level or respect that we should all have when talking to strangers. (I did once get blocked for a Rickroll…)

    I agree that him saying that is basically acceptable hyperbole and did nothing to further endanger the protesters (that they weren’t already facing by being on the highway. I say, if you block the highway for a protest, you’re a total jerk. I’d rather you make it home safely after doing something so stupid, but if you don’t, it will be entirely your own fault.)

    Twitter as a format leads to snap thinking and quick condemnations like this, on both sides. It’s honestly a terrible format to try to say anything constructive. Even the “delete your account” tweets from Hillary that some people praise strike me as just saying “shut up” in a different way. How unproductive. The sublime tweets are vastly outweighed by the bad ones, to the point where I call Twitter The False Equivalency Machine.

    If Twitter wants to make itself a place where nobody says things like this, I don’t think it is possible. Even if they drummed every conservative voice off the format, I do not believe the atmosphere would change significantly. The nastiness about other stuff would just become more apparent.

    The shortness of the format, when responses will be at their hottest and tweeted out at the peak of emotional response, will always mean that it will be a hot bed of cruel behavior. Nothing will change that, until we as individuals take a moment’s pause, let things go, and be the best versions of ourselves we can be on the Internet.

    See, you can’t fit this in a tweet. But you can fit, “fuck you, go die, hope your children are sold into slavery.”

    But so can “have a wonderful day, here’s an apple pie.”

  3. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”

    Yes it should. To write “Run them down” was stupid and wrong.

    Even Jove nods. If my own errors are only of this magnitude, I’d consider myself to be doing well.

  4. I’m with zb. I think the tweet was just dumb. I think the tweet was the intellectual equivalent of “leading with your chin.”

    1. Why tweet? Brief thoughts off the top of your head? Great for the school yard or the water cooler or over beers after work. But a thoughtful, well respected, CONSERVATIVE commentator and law professor? No. Wrong medium.

    2. Why read other people’s tweets? Beats the heck out of me.

    3. Why make such a belligerent statement when something better would not have provoked so much controversy?

    4. Why say something so dumb that drags you into the apology Kabuki theater house of horrors.

    5. Is it unfair that I’m holding the professor to a higher standard because he’s a conservative leaning and bright and thoughtful? Yes. Life’s not fair. Reasonable people can’t lower themselves to the standards of the Paul Begalas of the world.

    If you’re at all conservative, you have to be extra, extra careful in expressing your thoughts if you want to be heard by any non-conservative who might even be considered a moderate or a liberal, never mind a full blown progressive. We’re all walking around in a progressive designed intellectual and social minefield laid by social justice warriors and radical academics (but I repeat myself). Why tromp around in snow shoes?

    I was stunned and disappointed when I read about this. I think the tweet was just inexcusable. I’m afraid it shows the professor may not be as bright as we’ve otherwise been led to believe and that’s unfortunate.

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