Conservatives Know What Censorship Is, And It Is People Not Reading Their Tweets
We all have social media posts that we look at and wonder, "Why is this not more popular?" Like just today when I briefly went down the rabbit hole of uroscopy art — uroscopy being the largely medieval practice of psychically determining ailments by looking at someone's urine and uroscopy art being the many, many paintings I found of people looking at glass beakers full of urine. Totally thought that was something people would be into. Turns out, not so much!
Now, if I were a conservative, my first thought might be that Twitter is cruelly censoring me and limiting the number of people who can see my posts on purpose, because they hate me and don't want me to be happy — and not consider the fact that people might just not be all that wowed by artistic renderings of psychic urine analysis. And then I might sit right here, at this time, in the middle of a pandemic, the week before an election, and think to myself "Truly, this is the most important thing happening right now in the whole world."
And that is pretty much exactly what the Right has been on about this whole week.
On Wednesday, Eric Trump told Laura Ingraham that he was sure that his posts were being censored by Twitter because they were not getting as much engagement as he thought they should.
You better believe they also have their fingers on the dial. If I put something out that they disagree with, the numbers are down. I can just see it based on engagements and likes [...] they are censoring us, they don't do it to the other side and it's gross.
But Americans are seeing through it, believe me Americans see through it. And quite frankly, the one you don't want to do to Americans is take away their free speech. This is our First Amendment right for a reason.
Oh yeah. Twitter probably has someone appointed specifically to monitor Eric Trump's Twitter feed, going, "Oh, I don't like that opinion, let's make it so he doesn't get that many likes on it! That will make him sad for sure!"
Also crying about censorship this week was Scott Baio, an actor who hasn't really been particularly relevant since the 1980s, but who believes that his support of Trump has damaged his career.
You see, last week, Baio went on Maria Bartiromo's show on Fox to complain about how the "Happy Days" cast did a table read of an episode as a fundraiser for Joe Biden — with John "Uncle Jesse" Stamos reading the part of Chachi, the character once played by Baio. According to Baio, Stamos is a Marxist who "always wanted to be Chachi instead of playing second fiddle to a 3-year-old."
Uncle Jesse and Chachi in better times.
Later, he went on social media to share the article about his appearance — an article with the actual headline "Scott Baio slams 'Happy Days' reunion supporting Democrats, brands John Stamos a 'Marxist.'" To his horror, he found out that when his followers went to share the article, they got a little warning recommending they ... read the article before sharing. "Headlines don't tell the full story. You can read the article on Twitter before retweeting," the censorious warning read.
Yes. Twitter cruelly censored the article about Scott Baio being mad at the Happy Days cast and also John Stamos by telling people that they should read the article about Scott Baio being mad at the Happy Days cast and also John Stamos. Scott Baio, clearly, is the new Henry Miller.
And it's not just Twitter. Claire Lehmann, of noted phrenology site Quillette, pointed out that several books by people she knew did not get a ton of media attention. Somehow, no one was actually all that interested in what Charles Murray, America's best known scientific racist and the author of the widely discredited and very stupid book The Bell Curve, has to say about "Human Diversity."
Also some other lady who wrote some kind of transphobic book that no one was all that interested in reviewing was sad that major outlets were censoring her book by not reviewing it or publishing reviews of it. Because as we know, every book ever written by anyone gets reviewed in every major outlet. It is the law. She was so saddened by this obvious censorship that she wrote a whole article in the Wall Street Journal about it — an option surely available to everyone who writes a book that no one reads.
Several important books have received similar treatment this year. Cynical Theories by @ConceptualJames/… https://t.co/Qdum4paek4— Claire Lehmann (@Claire Lehmann)1604032726.0
But I digress. The biggest example conservatives gave this week of being censored was the fact that Twitter briefly suspended (acting) Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan just because he tweeted something kind of racist.
The tweet read:
@CBP & @USACEHQ continue to build new wall every day. Every mile helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It's a fact, walls work.
The commissioner was informed through email that his account was locked because the tweet violated their rules. "You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease," the email read.
I would say that accusing people of being "gang members, murderers, sexual predators" and drug dealers is pretty darned offensive and also likely to lead to the harassment of those who Trump supporters merely suspect are not here legally, because of the color of their skin. It's also incorrect. Statistically, undocumented immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than are citizens of the United States.
The tweet went back up and (acting) Commissioner Morgan got his account back, but you know this is going to be a thing for the next year or so.
In reality, where the rest of us live, conservatives are not only not censored on social media, they are promoted. In fact, in an effort to "correct" what conservatives claimed was censorship, Facebook actually went so far as to suppress the reach of liberal sites like Mother Jones, and obviously Wonkette, while boosting the reach of rightwing sites and personalities.
While some of their complaints are related to simply not understanding the rules of social media sites and feeling overly entitled to attention from others, most of these complaints are disingenuous. They know they're not being censored, but they also know that people have a thing about censorship. We don't like it and it's usually in our instinct to want to be fair and to see people treated fairly — they're playing on that.
Conservatives are banking on people not examining their claims — like they did when they claimed that the New York Post was censored by Twitter for publishing unflattering information about Hunter Biden when in fact the article was censored only because it contained private information, which violates their rules against doxxing. Heck, even Gab has rules against doxxing, which is how former congressional candidate/white nationalist Paul Nehlen got kicked off of the site.
They want sympathy and they want people to believe that there are things they are not hearing and a whole conspiracy to keep them from hearing those things. Ahead of the election, they want people to not be so sure they know what's going on, because that might be their best shot at winning.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse