I thought, Mr. Dorsey, that we had an understanding. I would not ever concede that telling you or anyone else they ought to die of boils was unjustifiable after their own rhetoric lapsed into abject slander, dishonesty or dishonor, and you — pretending that I had somehow threatened the actual well-being of another human, or that my words were measurably more cruel than telling someone to, say, take a long walk off a short pier or grow like an onion with his head in the ground — would continue to bar me from the demagogue-encrusted, Nazi-profiteering national agora that you call a social-media platform.
I was more than content with this bargain.
For one thing, leaving intact on Twitter my threaded suggestion that boils are your deserved fate for your civic performance in this moment would make clear why I departed months ago. No one had actually been threatened or harassed, and the rhetoric itself was purposed as a precise critique of your incompetent attempts at algorithmic censorship, which routinely ban people for the most casual sarcasm while leaving intact organized slander and disinformation. This seemed to me fair payment for my exile. For another, I was able to use the time I had previously spent on Twitter jabbering with Russian bots and assorted meme-spewing deplorati to much greater accomplishment, such as deworming my neighbor’s dog and rearranging the books on my shelves by color.
At that point, we were good, and our ways, well parted.
Imagine my renewed contempt for you and all your public works when I find out from a third party that even though I declined to delete the tweet in question — which was number 10 on an 18-tweet thread explaining exactly why Twitter has managed to embrace censorship on matters of mere decorum, without having the slightest effect on any of the grave and actual offenses perpetrated on your site — your shitsquib, basement-dwelling minions simply went behind my back and unilaterally removed item #10 from the string. And get this — they did so while continuing to present me with the insistent demand that I delete the item myself in order to be reinstated.
That’s right, you took it down yourself, quietly, secretly — and all the while kept pretending that until I did so you couldn’t possibly return me to your platform. You gutless, cheese-eating, back-dooring fuckbonnet.
And what was this offending tweet? The one that so convulsed you into a conniption of self-regarding censorship? Well, here we go:
10) So, die of boils, @jack. Yup. There it is. The sum total of my crime against Twitter. I’ve told you to drop dead, as I told libelers and liars to drop dead. You can say that constitutes a threat, but that would be empty and embarrassing. I hold no dominion over life & death.
That was the winner. Imagine my amusement to revisit my rusting hulk of thread on the old Twitter battleground and see that I have been studiously denying every one of your entreaties for me to remove this savage affront to the personhood of Jack Dorsey, only to discover that no, Twitter and Mr. Dorsey could bear it no longer. The waspish knob-polishers of marginal internet decorum have already scrubbed the record clean. That thread, on your site, now goes from #9 to #11.
Die of boils, Mr. Dorsey. Seriously.
* * *
And here’s the thing, you are not a fascist. You are not conspiring to use your platform as a petri dish of political derangement and organized disinformation. You would prefer to be thought responsible and dignified and worthy of our trust. I watched your Congressional testimony. I get that you think you are trying to get a handle on the problem. I can easily concede your goodwill.
But by the hand of God, you and the people running your shop are the most ahistorical, smegmatically incompetent and fuckstumbling stewards of an essential informational resource since, well, since Wall Street analysts and their slobbering chain-newspaper fetch-monkeys drove mainstream journalism into a ditch. My god, you tech boys suck at just about anything but tech. It is remarkable, really, and fascinating to me that you can be so good at the hardware and so deadbrained lethal with morality and ethos.
Here’s the truth, Jack:
What you witnessed on my Twitter account for a time was not someone losing their temper or equipoise. It wasn’t me with foam at the mouth corners, resorting at last to simple name-calling of some wounded, humanistic Other with their own worthy hearts and minds and opinions. It was entirely purposed and, dare I say it, the tactics of someone who had given a lot of thought to this new, dystopic culture of social media.
I know there are rules of logic and rhetoric and that ad hominem is, of course, a cul de sac for any serious discourse. The key question, though, for all of us is this: What is deserving of serious discourse? You come at me correct, with an argument and devoid of your own indulgent affronts, you get an argument. You get angry and talk shit, then the same comes back. You make a dick joke, your mama is fair play. You talk about my mama, I’m all about your straying sister. You can’t pull up from the rhetorical tailspin, you get blocked. I’ll play any game worth playing. Much of what arrives on my feed is decidedly not that.
Which brings us to the white supremacists, the anti-Semites, the Nazis, the professional ideological trolls and the bot army:
Every fucking day, Jack, sentient and otherwise commited people interested in participating in the national agora that now rests in social media wake themselves up, sign on to their screens, and begin mowing their digital lawn of abuse, bigotry and organized lying. It’s quotidian and you can’t stop it. I know you can’t. You admit as much when you quickly abdicate your role as a gatekeeper of information by declaring — as you did — that it isn’t up to Twitter to decide if something is true or false, slander or agitprop. No, you assert, that is the job of trained journalists, of the mainstream media, of reporters who arbitrate and investigate fact. Let them sort wheat from chaff. You, sir, are merely an impartial bulletin board for the world.
I hear you.
Your model creates profit from a neutral platform which can be used or misused by each according to their purposes and needs. And for us to ask you to create any standard for objectivity, for fact-checking, for any legal failsafe against even the worst internet sociopaths is to endanger you and Twitter legally. That’s what the lawyers are telling you, right, Jack? If you intervene once anywhere with any qualitative judgment as to the basic accuracy of any claim made on Twitter, then you become liable for all claims. If you prevent one slander, then you become responsible for them all.
And of course you won’t pay for the resources to fact-check the substance of what appears on Twitter. Those resources, to be effective, would be human and numerous and costly. You would in effect become a responsible gatekeeper for the content of your website, which is an almost impossible undertaking given the speed and magnitude of the minute-by-minute content. You can’t vet the accuracy, integrity or morality of what is said on Twitter. That would be journalistic, in the most basic sense of the word. At best, you can try to create an algorithmic reply that snares what you think is not-niceness, that separates real threat from sarcasm, that maintains a surface decorum while allowing the brutalities of racism and personal slander and blood libel to gambol freely. You can also fail at this miserably, which is, as we know, the current state of things.
I get all of that. I get what you can’t do. And I get what creates a disastrous legal miasma for your platform if you even try to do it. And so your complete abdication on the greater matters of disinformation and libel are expected and inevitable. You can’t ban Alex Jones because he’s a vicious, lying shitfactory. He can be such for years. You can ban him when he slips and hurts some other Twitterite’s feelings with the sharp edge of some random rhetoric.
But see, I’m not one of those baying for the removal of anyone’s voice on your platform — save perhaps for the electronic army that doesn’t correspond to actual humanity; if you can algorithmically determine that a voice is not actually a voice, but rather manufactured agitprop, then block away. But human beings? No. I’m with Mill and Voltaire and the other absolutists. Would Twitter’s problems be entirely solved if it demanded attribution, if we all had to venture our opinions under our own identities? Of course. If it were so, existing libel law would actually return to its place as a viable bulwark against the worst and most reckless affronts against the truth. But okay, we know there is no profit in something as civil and responsible as a platform in which people are obliged to stand by the legitimacy of their facts and the dignity of their opinions. Shit, that would be as dry as a responsibly published newspaper’s letters column.
So okay, the Nazis and the white supremacists and the libelers — bless their hearts — they get to safely reside on Twitter. But if that is the case, then it is 1935 and this is the Weimar and you are suddenly the Von Papen of the moment. That’s right. Because if you can’t police your platform for the ethical substance of its content — if you can’t demand standards for what actually matters to the health of the republic — then this pretend-game of policing politeness or sarcasm-as-real-threat is not merely abdication, it is instead an effective block of the only intelligent and effective response to that which is so dishonorable and disgusting on Twitter.
You tell us, Jack, that it is imperative that you be permitted to be a neutral bulletin board for any idea no matter how unfactual or revolting and that it is then up to trained journalists to come behind the social-media discussion and parse fact from fiction. No, Jack, just fucking no.
First of all, speed matters. The digital lies are marching into Poland before mainstream-media truths have boots on; shit, it’s that fundamental reality that finally brought me to an experiment with your platform — the sense that American political demeanor was being shaped long before any professional, fact-based response could be mustered. Second of all, even a crude reading of the last, failed century’s history will show you that your premise is, I’m sorry, submoronic.
The correct 1935 reply to Streicher or Goebbels asserting that Jews secretly drink the blood of baptized Christian babies was not, “We have looked into this claim and found that there is no evidence to support the lie that Jews drink Christian baby blood.” For fuck’s sake, Jack, don’t you understand? Whether such a refutation comes on Twitter or from a mainstream news organization, it succeeds only in granting rhetorical equanimity and status to any and every vile assertion that evil sees fit to utter.
Nor is the correct response to simply ignore such filth when it arrives on one’s digital doorstep. To do so simply allows it to stand in public view tacitly as plausible opinion in the marketplace of ideas. Silence is also 1935, Jack.
The correct response to racism, to white supremacy, to anti-Semitism, to slander and libel is to:
- Tell the fucker he’s a piece of shit and should die of throat clap.
- Block him. And in doing 1. and 2. you have marked the spot for the sane and sentient on Twitter, much as any good infantryman who wanders into a minefield marks the Claymores for the rest of the platoon. It’s just good soldiering, Jack.
But you’re down on the correct response here. You won’t and can’t police fact and libel on your own. You won’t impair the profitable anonymity that protects lies and slander. And in order for you to employ even the most pathetic and haphazard standards of politeness, you must then demand that fascism and racism and organized depravity be allowed the same protections against the only sane reply that doesn’t grant these horrors a real measure of instant credibility. You’ve brought those vile forces into the daylight and asked that they be treated as worthy of serious consideration. And now, those forces are threatening the American experiment.
You suck, Jack. Seriously. Having had your platform misused against democratic ideals, you’ve now, amid political pressure, embraced censorship as a means to a quick and simple end. But of course as is always the case with censorship, you’ve done so incompetently and without regard to the ethical cost and inevitable blowback. You’ve butchered it. Badly.
And me? I was ready to walk, brother. I said my piece and signed off. And now the neighbor’s pup has a bright, shiny asshole and my bookshelf looks like a Rothko and I’ve learned to play first-position blues harmonica like Jimmy Reed. Life was good and my hours were my own. But now I find that even my last, little treatise about why Twitter has failed us was too much for your butthurt, sensitive self. You broke the bargain and deleted the centerpiece of my last argument all by your lonesome, quietly, furtively, in the dark.
So, no harm in me now deleting a tweet that isn’t there and posting a link to this little essay on that festering shitpile that you pretend is in service of something more than cash.
Jesus, @jack. You should really be ashamed.