Two tweets about the Milo kerfuffle

One from Dave Rubin:

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.15.29 AM

Indeed it is.

And one from Maajid Nawaz:

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  1. mb
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, you are very particular about what gets posted on your blog, excuse me, website. Why doesn’t Twitter have the same latitude you have?

      • mb
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I subsequently found and read this. It is, imo, special pleading.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          Fine, that is your opinion, which you offer behind a pseudonym so you don’t have to be public.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          You really don’t think there’s a difference between an open-ended public platform run by a billion dollar multinational and a private one-man blog?

          • Scote
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            I think there are differences, and also similarities. The comment section of this small but excellent blog, er, website cannot be used as a way to rally hundreds of thousands of biggots to harass other posters. Twitter is not obligated to provide a platform for people to use to harass other twitter members on a massive scale.

            Twitter has a harassment problem. They need to address it in ways that make a significant difference. This seems like an appropriate thing to do. He didn’t get banned for his views. This is a guy explicitly pushing the boundaries of what he can get away with and at point you have to draw the line. And Twitter finally drew it again, this time permanently. He had his chance over and over and over.

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          “Sometimes I will block these people on my website, where I have to read the comments, but I would never try to get them blocked on Twitter, where I can avoid comments.”

          The difference is that Twitter has blocked a sender, Jerry has blocked a receiving site. On Twitter the latter is possible too, if all those who doesn’t want to read Yiannopoulos blocked him.

          So no special pleading is used for the difference in actions, I think.

    • Paul S
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      This was addressed two posts ago. Tw**tr by nature of it’s monopoly is acting as a public, not private, forum and it is billed as such. As a public forum, they should be held to the same standards and restrictions of free speech as any other public forum.

      • Marta
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        What the hell is a “public forum”?

        Twitter is funded in some way by tax dollars?

        You think that Twitter’s success or popularity somehow means that its users, who pay fuckall to use it, have a right to demand that Twitter operates according to user tastes?

        If I were you, I’d get a refund from Twitter, dump their stock, and write my congressman about regulating the bastards.

        • Paul S
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          Not being a twitterite or social media maven, I stand corrected by you and George that it is neither a monopoly or public.
          If it’s like a social club e.g. Elks, GSA, BSA, they have every right to set policy.

          • Marta
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

            Not that anyone asked me, and my comments notwithstanding, I’m not opposed to regulating business.

            If anything, my complaints are that businesses, and the business climate in general, would benefit if Congress did its job and passed legislation with an eye toward benefitting consumers rather than favoring business.

            The problems with that are multiple, not least of which is that Congress is dumber than a bag of hammers, so any legislation is likely to be Draconian, and 2) be worthless owing to the law of unintended consequences.

            I apologize for my harsh tone; your reply to me was gracious.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

              The problem is not so much that “Congress is dumber than a bag of hammers” (though, let’s face it, some members are) as that they’re greedier than our porcine cousins — for K-Street campaign contributions, and for access to the revolving door when their time in office is up, so have every incentive to do the bidding of their corporate keepers.

      • Christopher
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        twitter a monopoly? that’s a new one. last I checked, there are quite a few places to post inane pics and comments available for public ingestion and regurgitation. and as twitter is not a government site, it has no real requirement to allow full free access. now, if it were to block all of one type of person, gays, for example, it could get in trouble possibly, but that’s about it. it’s no more a monopoly than wal-mart. sure, it may be the biggest, the most used, the most convenient, but it’s by no means the only way to piss your life away online. Facebook, pinterest, even tumblr and myspace. or, just start your own bl*g on wordpress!

        and btw, why are people allowed to call this a “blog” in other comments?!

  2. rwilsker
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    So where does Leslie Jones freedom of speech come into this? The reality is that hatemongers like Yiannopoulos can marshall their deranged fans to basically drive someone off of Twitter. (And please don’t compare the relatively few – admittedly vile – tweets you get with the literally thousands of tweets that Jones was getting.)

    At some point, there’s has to be a balance. If someone is using a technique to directly or indirectly drive another person off of something like Twitter, there needs to be some remedy.

    The Romans solved this issue by exiling someone for a defined period of time. After that period ended, they were free to return.

    A timeout penalty seems fairer than a lifetime ban.

    But when I look at the many people who have been hounded off of Twitter or Facebook – mostly women – by organized campaigns, I don’t see the issue as being as simple as you make it out to be.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Milo Twitter Ban Explained:

      How Milo galvanized an entire onslaught of racist brigading against Leslie Jones

      The harassment against Jones didn’t start with Yiannopoulos. It gradually escalated over Sunday and Monday, as more people began to react to Jones’s Twitter celebrations of the film.

      But it got a swift push from Yiannopoulos Monday evening. In response to a tweet in which Jones described a litany of extreme examples of the racist harassment she had been receiving, Yiannopoulos accused her of being unable to handle “hate mail” and playing the victim:

      This tweet was all he needed to summon hours and hours of harassment against Jones that responded both to him and to her directly — though at that point, neither of them had actually directly interacted.

      Yeah. That evil, horrible Milo. He should have kept his mouth shut, since he is directly responsible for how other people chose to react to Leslie Jones!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The Romans solved this issue by exiling someone for a defined period of time. After that period ended, they were free to return.

      I’m willing to cede to the Classicists, but I suspect you’re referring to the Greeks and their potsherds – ostraki – carrying the names of people voted to be ostracised.
      The Romans did use ostracism too, I’m sure, but it was the Greeks who made it famous.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Not a classicist by trade either but, if memory serves, the Roman emperor Augustus exiled the poet Ovid among the Pontic Greeks of Toomis circa the first decade CE.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          Was it a regular procedure, or a one-off act by a new-in-post Emperor (who was also a dictator in our meaning of the word, not theirs). Ostracism was certainly a part of regular political activity for the Athenians at least (if not all the democratic Greek states).

  3. Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I quoted Jerry and look what happened:

    • Paul S
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      How brave of PZ, volunteering to be banned for saying something he personally doesn’t agree with.
      I’m sure he’d take issue with being banned for discouraging free speech.

      • Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        PZ (who, by the way, has banned me from seeing his Twitter feed, though I’ve never tweeted at him) doesn’t seem to understand the difference between good behavior and legal behavior. I don’t approve of Milo’s behavior, nor did I approve of the Nazis marching through the Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, nor do I approve of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrating at soldiers’ funerals. But they have the legal right to do that, and that right is what I’m defending.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink


          Here’s what I wrote back to PZ:

          “Need epistemic curiosity re free speech: how do we know what we know & who decides diff bw bad behavior & illegality”

          While I think it is probably a good thing that PZ seems to get that his posts can engender uncivil responses from his followers and maybe his words reflect that he’s taking some responsibility for modeling a lack of decorum, I agree that people are wholesale missing the distinctions between criticism, offense, abuse, and illegal threats. Who is capable of deciding the difference between offense and criticism?

          Because I quoted Jerry’s words about bells tolling, I was called a racist (as well as a gaggle of other insults).

          Am I a racist and should I be banned from Twitter now? If an Authoritarian Leftist holds the Twitter go-to-jail card, I might very well get banned. While I know this is unlikely, who decides what constitutes racism?

          And are you a racist because people say you are? Or if a mob of people come at you saying you are?

          The Authoritarian Left could use a dose epistemic humility, as well as curiosity.

        • Christopher
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Westboro protested the Guns ‘n Roses concert earlier this month is KC. I was a standing next to a guy from Minnesota, had to explain what they were doing. Poor sheltered guy had never seen those twits in action before.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            “Welcome to the jungle, yo.”

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Is this a different PZ Myers than the guy who unleashed his horde on Michael Nugent?

      • Cindy
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        It’s the guy who accused Mike Nugent of hosting a ‘haven for rapists’ – all because Nugent did not ban from his blog folks that PZM does not like.

  4. George
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    My libertarian instincts come into play here. I call myself a classic liberal. I think libertarians are nuts. But I must respectfully disagree with PCC.

    Twitter is a private company that is not doing well. Its market value is not in the stratosphere like those of other social media companies. Pinterest and Snapchat have higher (albeit private) valuations than Twitter. If Twitter thinks that banning someone like Milo is in the best interest of the company, that is their right. Paul S above is wrong when he says Twitter is a monopoly. You can post on Facebook, reddit, Instagram and a myriad of other places. If the Milo decision is a bad one, Twitter will suffer the consequences.

    It may be a poor business decision for Twitter to ban Milo. I do not know if it is. Frankly, I am not sure how social media companies will make money. Most do not. I do not think the amount of advertising revenue is infinite. But this is a business decision for Twitter and I leave it to them. Milo still has many outlets for whatever he is spewing.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Social media policies are modeled on fear of offense and, worse, the perception of offense.

      As you point out, Milo can go somewhere else and this, I think, makes Twitter seem less relevant, i.e., you do not need Twitter to have an audience. Many teachers do not and they can affect hundreds of lives each year.

      • George
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Actually social media policies are modeled to maximize revenue. If limiting offense does that, so be it.

        What is interesting is the perception of Twitter’s power and influence. Twitter only has 310mm or so active users. It only has about one billion “Unique visits monthly to sites with embedded Tweets” – their words not mine. Those are not impressive numbers. Pokemon Go has already moved ahead of Twitter in usage.

        Twitter’s biggest problem is that not that many people use it. When it came out, some predicted that it would supplant Facebook. Has not come close. And I think Instagram has moved ahead of it. Also, in the youth demographic, tumblr.

    • mudskipper
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Yes, people are so involved in the politics of this that they forget Twitter is a business.

      Twitter wants to maximize the amount of traffic it receives. I’m willing to bet that Jones generated more traffic than Milo–yet she was the one who was driven out by this kerfuffle. That’s not the result that Twitter wants. And she’s not the first relatively high-profile person to be driven from Twitter due to harassment.

      It doesn’t seem to me that it would be a good business model for Twitter to allow provocateurs and their followers to drive out more traffic than they create, whatever the free speech issues might be.

  5. Cindy
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    If twitter was banning atheists for blasphemy, I doubt that so many people would be agreeing that this is legitimate because ‘twitter is a private company’.

    I sincerely doubt that many people would be making such an argument. It’s really easy to speak in favour of censorship when you are not the one who is being censored. Because of course, you are ‘right’, so it’s not really censorship. But what you forget is, the other guy also thinks he’s ‘right’. In fact, the other guy who wants to silence atheists, who considers any and all atheist speech to be hate speech, has ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ so how could he *possibly* be wrong? In fact, was it not this way for most of human history? Even today, atheists in some places cannot safely speak up, lest they be made pariahs. Even though it is legal for them to profess their atheism, in practise, they will be treated as outcasts for daring to go against the grain.

  6. Kiwi Dave
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    If Twitter is free as a private organization to refuse service to those whose views and behaviour it rejects, are bakers equally free to refuse to supply wedding cakes to gay couples, or Muslim taxi drivers free to refuse service to passengers with alcohol or dogs? Or are my analogies quite mistaken, as is very possible?

    • Victor M
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      If a baker is trying to sell cakes and a person walks in and harasses all his black customers (or is simply being an a**) then yes, the baker has the right to refuse service, or 86 them.

  7. kelskye
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Banning is always the way of those who think they have both the moral authority and political authority. When that political authority fades away, banning then becomes a tool of oppression by people with a different morality seeking to push that authority onto others.

    The liberals calling for public shamings, for banning of particular views, of private life consequences for acts of speech, etc. are taking away the ability to resist when the conservatives get back the moral authority and do the same.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      The liberals calling for public shamings, for banning of particular views, of private life consequences for acts of speech, etc. are taking away the ability to resist when the conservatives get back the moral authority and do the same.


      In my country, Canada, the Conservative PM, Stephen Harper, kept trying to force a spybill, similar to what the NSA is doing in the USA, onto Canadians. Conservatives rejoiced – after all, the Conservative Party of Canada could use the information to keep disruptive lefties in line…

      Thankfully, some conservatives with sense spoke up, and they rightly pointed out that the CPC would not be in power forever, and should the dirty commies ever get elected, that the power of the spybill would then be turned against conservatives…

      • kelskye
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        It’s sad that pragmatic expediency is sufficiently persuasive., Self-interest seems the only way to temper moralism. Doubt in one’s own righteousness would be preferable, but unrealistic given our moral minds.

  8. Rhetoric
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    There is a supercut of Leslie Jones’tweets about “white people” that if you substituted “white” for “black” would be so unquestioably racist she would probably never get a job in show biz again.

    But I am of the opinion that the idle ramblings of what are most likely teenagers should just be ignored… Instead we put their racist tweets on the national news allowing them to achieve a form of validation they would otherwise never recieve.

  9. Sameer
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    The obligatory XKCD.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      I think anyone who has gotten out of the cave knows about the first amendment restriction on government. But how about Business?

      He needs to state for the record his position on corporate Masters of Mankind (and of Congress – as John Dewey said, “Government is the shadow cast by Business”) firing their servants/serfs on account of the latter’s opinions, political or otherwise, or for firing them for no just cause. Or for including “do not disparage” clauses in termination/severance agreements. Are corporations themselves similarly held to such clauses? In relation to that subject, in the last few weeks I’ve read in the NY Times of employees training their replacements, and that so sticking in their craws that they are prompted to forgo severance pay so as to be able to publicly vent about being treated so shabbily.

      Is such treatment one of those vaunted, worthy, sacred “American Values,” on behalf of which U.S. (corporate person) citizens expect the flower of our youth in the military to go in harm’s way to preserve, protect and defend?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        I’d always heard the Dewey quote as “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business” — which gives it a somewhat different connotation. Is there another Dewey quote you’re referencing?

        • Filippo
          Posted July 23, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          “Is there another Dewey quote you’re referencing?”

          No, there is not another Dewey quote I’m referencing. I was strictly going by my imperfect memory. Thank you kindly for your alert and assiduous correction.

          Inasmuch as Bu$ine$$ has monumentally imposed and continues to impose itself in politics – ranging from the SCOTUS Dred Scott (human property) to Citizens United decisions – I don’t think it’s much of a stretch anymore to opinionate that Government is the shadow cast by Bu$ine$$ (on society).

          And you can quote me on that.😉

    • Taz
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      The more I see that XKCD the less I like it. It’s basically a defense of the heckler’s veto, which is not a good thing.

  10. Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    This is how mainstream media portrays what happened. Emphases mine (sources at the end).

    “Hundreds of anonymous Twitter commenters hurled racist and sexist remarks at the star’s Twitter account, rallied and directed by Mr. Yiannopoulos this week. – The New York Times”

    Breitbart writer, who tweeted as @Nero, handed permanent suspension after claims he fanned flames of social media attack on Ghostbusters’ Leslie Jones – The Guardian

    “The move comes less than a day after the notorious internet troll led a tweeted harassment campaign against Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones. – Buzzfeed”

    “The expulsion of Yiannopoulos, who counted more than 300,000 followers on the service, comes just one day after he urged on a hateful mob that harassed ‘Ghostbusters’ actress Leslie Jones to the point that she quit Twitter. – Techcrunch”

    “Among the suspended accounts is that of incendiary right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos, who reportedly spearheaded the coordinated assault. […] Recode and other outlets report that the abuse came largely at the behest of Yiannopoulos – Time”

    I noticed a while ago, that the so-called Regressives, with their postmodernist roots, often lose touch with reality and concrete matters. Instead, they’re concerned with metaconcepts and issues, what is problematic, with delegetimizations and marginalisations. But their tenuous relationship with reality also shows up in vapid propagandistic writing.

    According to their portrayal, Milo Yiannopoulos has rallied and directed, fanned the flames, led, urged and spearheaded: abuse, the hurling of racist and sexist remarks, an attack, a harassment campaign, an assault and a hateful mob to harass. But what did he write in concrete terms?

    No source can produce his incitement, and when you look at his first tweet, as documented by Heat Street, the whole story falls apart. He wrote: “If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim. EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS” and this is a response to Leslie Jones tweet where she wrote that she “have been called Apes, sent pics of their asses,even got a pic with semen on my face.”

    In other words, when Mr Yiannopoulos even enters the situation, the horrible things already happened, hence he begins with pointing out that “everyone gets hate mail FFS”. The media doesn’t provide journalism, but propaganda, and this is the real scandal.

    The massive erosion of trust in journalists and traditional media comes at a time when the lines between having an opinion and journalism disappear. We’ve collapsed into a state of perpetual propaganda. The apparent contempt for freedom of expression, the erection of ideological “Safe Spaces”, concern over Volksgesundheit of the Community and the reliance on folk devils lend this all a peculiar fascistic taint.

    There is also a parallel in our corner of the internet. On this month, five years ago, Richard Dawkins wrote two fateful comments, named after the former’s fictional recipient “Dear Muslima”. The second comment was largely forgotten or rather purposefully ignored. And much more was selectively “memory-holed” by a wide coalition of American secularists – at the time the Regressive/Postmodernist crowd was not named yet, and it just emerged (today they defacto are the US secular movement with few exceptions). Here’s an interesting example which should make the parallel clear. You can find many more in the media (thanks to e.g. Adam Lee, Phil Plait etc.), but this is from a skeptic conference:

    here is the infamous Dear Muslima comment printed out in letter form. It was the comment that gave the green light to attack women in the secular community – Amy Roth (SkepChicks) in a SkeptiCon talk(!)

    Just like in this case, the media and most bloggers have selectively cut away all the context, and streamlined it for their Critical Race Theory agenda (“social justice warrior”, intersectionality, lived experience, microaggressions etc.). No mainstream source mentions Rebecca Watson’s CFI talk that kicked it all off, which is sheer amazing. It’s like starting history lesson with the invasion of Omaha Beach and pretending this “assault” came out of nowhere. It actually starts with her making most severe accusations towards a hapless individual, the audience and atheists in general (compare with “Gamers are Dead” or starting off with insulting Ghostbusters fans).

    The media leaves everything away and starts with Richard Dawkins, and more or less makes the rest up as they go. Once the Reichstagsfire burns, the Social Justice Warrior police appears on stage to save the day against the trolls, racists, sexists and misogynists and the likes. In 2009, it was with Racefail in the fiction writer community. Then in 2011 it was with Elevatorgate in atheism. In 2014 it was GamerGate and many more (obscurer) attempts have been made. And yet, the same trick seems to work again and again and again. And then throw in the other types of stories that are omitted: Matt Taylor? Tim Hunt? As usual, It’s Okay When They Do It™ and instead of some harassment campaign led by evil people, the propaganameisters then declare this is some generic “social media witchhunt”.


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