Yesterday, Twitter carried out a fairly extensive purge of Twitter accounts identified with the “alt-right” movement.
Twitter suspended a number of accounts associated with the alt-right movement, the same day the social media service said it would crack down on hate speech.
Among those suspended was Richard Spencer, who runs an alt-right think tank and had a verified account on Twitter.
The alt-right, a loosely organized group that espouses white nationalism, emerged as a counterpoint to mainstream conservatism and has flourished online. Spencer has said he wants blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Jews removed from the U.S.
Twitter on Tuesday removed Spencer’s verified account, @RichardBSpencer, that of his think tank, the National Policy Institute @npiamerica, and his online magazine @radixjournal.
Many conservatives are cheering this. That is profoundly unwise and can only be attributed to some variety of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
The accounts they suspended were not trolls and the people had not engaged in abusive behavior. They were suspended for one reason alone: the far left staff at Twitter disliked their opinions. Period. Finito. End of story. This had absolutely nothing to do with Twitter’s financial problems and its inability to find a buyer because the accounts in question did not violate Twitter’s terms of service. They were banned because Twitter considered their ideas to be hate speech. Think about that for a second. You know what else the left calls hate speech? Supporting traditional marriage. Enforcing immigration laws. Making abortion illegal. Limiting the number of Syrian refugees. Saying “radical Islam.”
What is at stake is not the ability of a very small number of people with distasteful views to express those views. It isn’t even about the ability to ignore those views as Twitter allows you to block and mute messages you don’t like. What is at stake is the ability of a company with worldwide reach to limit the content of messages on Twitter because they do not like a viewpoint.
I hate to resort to Nazi analogies but because the #NeverTrump movement seems to have seamlessly morphed into a bunch of moderately unhinged Nazis-under-my-bed types, there are a couple of things from that era that are directly applicable. Martin Niemöller, a German Protestant theologian who spent seven years in concentration and labor camps during the Third Reich is famous for this quotation:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
The second concept is that of the sonderkommando.
Concentration camps did not run themselves. In order to function they had to have the cooperation of the inmates.
Sonderkommando members did not participate directly in killing; that responsibility was reserved for the guards, while the Sonderkommandos’ primary responsibility was disposing of the corpses. In most cases they were inducted immediately upon arrival at the camp and forced into the position under threat of death. They were not given any advance notice of the tasks they would have to perform. To their horror, sometimes the Sonderkommando inductees would discover members of their own family amid the bodies. They had no way to refuse or resign other than by committing suicide. In some places and environments, the Sonderkommandos might be euphemistically connoted as Arbeitsjuden (Jews for work). Other times, Sonderkommandos were called Hilflinge (helpers). At Birkenau the Sonderkommandos or “special squads” reached up to 400 people by 1943, and when Hungarian Jews were deported there in 1944, their number swelled to over 900 persons to accommodate the increased rounds of murder and extermination.
Because the Germans needed the Sonderkommandos to remain physically able, they were granted much less squalid living conditions than other inmates: they slept in their own barracks and were allowed to keep and use various goods such as food, medicines and cigarettes brought into camp by those who were sent to the gas chambers. Unlike ordinary inmates, they were not normally subject to arbitrary, random killing by guards. Their livelihood and utility was determined by how efficiently they could keep the Nazi death factory running. As a result, Sonderkommando members tended to survive longer than other inmates of the death camps — but few survived the war.
The folks who are doing their happy dance over the demise of these particular Twitter accounts are nothing more than metaphorical sonderkommando surviving by being useful until it is their time to go.
If you are a non-leftist you are an endangered species in the world of Twitter and Facebook. Look at how Facebook chooses news if you doubt it. You don’t have to agree with everything that anyone says, or even agree with any part of it, but you have to realize that if you are a conservative, especially a social conservative, your opinions are indistinguishable from those of the Westboro Baptist Church and the Church of the Creator as far as Twitter is concerned. If they can shut down one viewpoint, then they can just as easily shutdown another. As the saying goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Especially when you can block the person saying it.
You can cheer Twitter on as they eliminate unpopular viewpoints and pat yourself on the back for being right kind of conservative with all the proper views but they are coming for us next.