The Blogfather is off Twitter for the moment, which has most people scratching their heads. Glenn Reynolds responded to news about protesters in Charlotte blocking roads, and in at least one case threatening the drivers by tweeting out, “Run them down.”
Twitter has suspended the account of Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and a contributing columnist for USA TODAY and the News Sentinel, after a tweet that urged motorists to run over demonstrators blocking traffic in Charlotte, N.C.
In response to a tweet from a TV news station in Charlotte that showed protesters on Interstate 277, the @Instapundit account wrote, “Run them down.”
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) September 22, 2016
Here’s further context for Glenn’s response, though. Note that neither scene shows a picket line of protesters standing in one position to make their point, albeit illegally. It shows a mob on the move:
— WBTV News (@WBTV_News) September 22, 2016
Let’s stipulate up front that Twitter is a private-sector company, and that they have the right to decide who can and cannot use their service. It’s not as though Twitter is a bakery or a wedding photographer, after all. They can apply their own standards to discourse. At least for now, and at least on those who offer up slightly less popular speech than, say, this example of speech that’s not terribly difficult to find on Twitter:
Before anyone says it, there’s plenty of this kind of speech on the far right too, and much of it can be found on Twitter as well. Perhaps those users don’t have the high profile that Glenn does, but that’s small comfort to those who get plagued by it.
Do I think Glenn’s response was intemperate? Yes, I do. Do I think he was advocating violence on non-violent protesters? Not for a moment. What these tweets depict is not a protest; it is a riot. When angry rioters block and surround your car, will you wait for them to peacefully disperse, or will you gun your engine and try to get the hell out of there? I wouldn’t say “run them down,” but I would advocate to start driving and give them the choice of getting out of the way. That’s better than ending up like Reginald Denny, or worse.
Glenn makes the same point on his blog at better length, now that he found out what prompted the suspension:
But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And locking 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.
“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance.
Meanwhile, regarding Twitter: I don’t even know that this is why I was suspended, as I’ve heard nothing from Twitter at all. They tell users and investors that they don’t censor, but they seem awfully quick to suspend people on one side of the debate and, as people over at Twitchy note, awfully tolerant of outright threats on the other.
To quote the man himself: Indeed. One would think that Twitter would have reached out to Glenn to clarify this, or at least to ask him to withdraw the tweet it found offense, especially since Glenn is not exactly known for intemperate outbursts. If Twitter wants to expand its reputation for openness and tolerance of all viewpoints, then Glenn Reynolds makes for a very strange target. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that if it weren’t for double standards, Twitter wouldn’t have any at all.
Update: Changed headline for accuracy from “protesters” to “rioters.”
Update: Glenn spoke with Hugh Hewitt this morning about his suspension, and the pressure that may be coming to get him fired from his day job:
HH: Do you expect Twitter to shut off your opportunity to expand, expound and argue, maybe even apologize if people are offended and you believe it’s legit? But they’ve cut you off. That’s what I don’t understand. How can they cut you off?
GR: Well, I guess it’s just a button they push. I don’t really know. They seem to have been doing this to a lot of people lately. And you know, if I were a cynic, I would say that this is sort of an effort to shape the media battlespace between now and the election by silencing voices. And you know, if I were a cynic, that’s certainly what I’d think was going on.
HH: If you had it to do over again, would you post the same tweet?
GR: Oh, I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. Probably not. It’s got me on the radio with you this morning talking about it instead of having my normal morning.
GR: But I have to say I don’t apologize for the sentiment. I think that this tactic of blocking people on the interstate and surrounding cars is itself violent. It is threatening. It is not peaceful protest, and it should not be permitted.
HH: Do you think that the University of Tennessee will yield to the pressure, which is already mounting, to somehow punish you?
GR: I have no idea. I’ve heard nothing from anybody.
HH: And what would you say to those people who are urging that you be silenced and shut down and fired? This is a 1st Amendment that we’re talking about here. What would you say to them, Glenn Reynolds?
GR: That’s a lot for three words, especially considering all the hyperbole we’ve heard in this election already. We’ve heard plenty of people talking about the desirability of the assassination of Donald Trump and other things. It seems to me that that’s kind of a double standard, isn’t it?
There’s plenty more, and full audio, at the link.
Update: Couldn’t Twitter have just reached out to Glenn and asked him to do this initially?
Erik Wemple has questions about this, too.