If you are someone on the political Right who might quit Twitter because it just banned Jesse Kelly, here’s my plea: Don’t.
After the shocking news spread Sunday night that Twitter had deplatormed the conservative influencer for unknown reasons, some conservatives are threatening to leave the social media site. Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit, a law professor and writer who runs a news aggregate site, deactivated his Twitter account hours after Kelly (no relation) was banned. Other critical voices on the Right, including Salena Zito and Mollie Hemingway, said they might follow suit.
I understand why Salena and Mollie would consider leaving Twitter. They’ve both been subjected to bullying and harassment on the platform—even by people who purport to be on the same political side as they are. Anonymous troll accounts quickly can spread vile and hurtful comments about you and your family. Twitter is not a place for the faint of heart.
There’s no doubt that taking a break from Twitter is good for the soul and disposition: Anyone who uses it regularly is aware of how much it can influence your mood. And one ill-advised tweet can not only ruin your day, but your career.
Post-2016 Twitter is a far more hostile place than it was before Donald Trump was elected. Republican lawmakers have been shadowbanned on Twitter, and the company even indulged a petition drive to banish President Trump from the site. Founder Jack Dorsey faced harsh questioning from congressional Republicans earlier this year about his company’s anti-conservative bias.
But, despite its flaws,the reality is that Twitter is ground zero in our ongoing political war. Having utterly failed to infiltrate the country’s one-sided media behemoth, or hold news organizations responsible in any way for their egregious political bias and dishonesty, the Right has no choice but to fight back on Twitter. And for now, there is no other serious alternative or legitimate replacement in the offing.
It is the only public forum where you can instantly call out a journalist for lousy news coverage or condemn a politician for bad behavior. In just the past week, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) had to walk back his tweet threatening to use nuclear weapons against disobedient gun owners, and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) had to delete a tweet that suggested the use of tear gas at the southern border violated international laws on chemical weapons. Without Twitter, those ridiculous comments would have gone unanswered.
When the Left tries to exploit any tragedy such as a mass shooting or deadly wildfire for political gain, informed people on Twitter can quickly debunk rumors and misinformation. For example, while the media tried to whitewash the attempted breach at our border by illegal immigrants over the weekend, Twitter users were able to share video and first-hand accounts of what was really happening.
Twitter can quickly unite political allies in a way no other space can. Is there any doubt that the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh would have turned out differently but for Twitter? Yes, the site helped fuel vicious lies about the Supreme Court nominee, but it also provided a forum for supporters to rise up against those lies and attacks. Hashtags such as #IbelieveBrett and #confirmKavanaughnow galvanized the judge’s supporters faster than any traditional media outlet could even attempt to do. Twitter can offer immediate virtual courage to wavering politicians when they may not otherwise have it.
Presidential historians will spend years analyzing the crucial role that Twitter played during the Trump era. Even though a majority of voters bemoan the president’s aggressive and occasionally inelegant tweets, there’s no doubt the way that he’s used the platform has shaped news coverage, policy and election outcomes. Trump, for better or for worse, has created a new paradigm for how future presidents will wield this powerful tool.
When Trump unleashes a tweet, it is impossible for the media to ignore it. One tweet can fuel dozens if not hundreds of articles, and hours of discussion on cable news shows. Even if the coverage is mostly negative, Trump’s message still cuts through the media cacophony.
Trump’s Twitter timeline owns the press corps, and they know it. How much attention would the New York Times or CNN give to folks like Glenn Simpson or Bruce Ohr or Peter Strzok but for Trump’s tweets? Would most Americans know how conflicted Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors is, or that his office has yet to find any evidence of collusion 18 months after his investigation began? The answer is no, and that’s what drives the media nuts. He goes over their collective head, thanks to Twitter. And that’s a lesson for all of us.
It appears that things will only get worse for conservatives on Twitter—a new policy announced on Sunday warned it will ban or suspend users who engage in the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals”—but that’s not an invitation to back down or quit. If anything, we need to redouble our efforts to counteract the Left’s toxic cultural crusade.
Every American institution—from government to the judiciary to academia to industry to the press—has shifted to the political Left in an inexorable and alarming way. For the most part, conservatives have allowed it to happen with only feeble attempts at pushback. Republican leaders have been impotent in demanding a fair hearing on our campuses, boardrooms and newsrooms. Too afraid to speak out, or just unwilling to fight, folks on the Right have repeatedly capitulated to the bullies on the Left for the past few decades.
Why should we surrender one more time? Why should we leave the battlefield voluntarily? There will be more casualties ahead: Twitter undoubtedly is gearing up for more high-profile suspensions of influencers on the Right. Yes, it’s not fair and yes, it’s disheartening.
But it’s no time to quit because what we are doing is working. That’s why conservatives are being being targeted and banned. If what Jesse Kelly said on Twitter was inconsequential, there would be no reason to remove him.
If we are all kicked off Twitter in the end, so be it. But don’t go out without a fight. Not again.
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