Self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” and new Twitter owner Elon Musk is facing blowback for banning Ye, aka Kanye West, from the platform on Thursday.
The right is having a free speech reckoning.
Twitter suspended West’s account after he posted an image of a swastika within a Star of David, a symbol apparently belonging to the Raelian movement, a faith group that believes aliens created humanity using advanced technology.
West, a rap mogul, also tweeted out apparent screenshots of text messages between him and Musk and a photo meant to mock the tech billionaire.
- For the most part, mainstream conservatives and free-speech advocates supported Musk’s decision to suspend Ye, who has lately been on an anti-Semitic media bender.
- In a tweet, Musk explained the move, saying, “I tried my best.”
- According to Musk, the rapper violated Twitter’s rules against inciting violence.
WHAT THEY SAID
But critics on the right and left accused Musk of betraying his oft-stated commitment to freedom of speech.
On the right: Scott Adams, the “Dilbert” creator and popular Twitter personality, accused Musk of blowing smoke.
On the left: Ken “Popehat” White, a former federal prosecutor turned legal commentator, called Musk’s free speech rhetoric “increasingly transparent” B.S.
Under Musk, Twitter has reinstated the accounts of a number of previously banned conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, and Republican members of Congress have seen a boost in their followings on the platform.
- But West’s suspension wasn’t the first time Musk has fallen short of his purported free speech absolutism.
- Critics have pointed out that Musk’s new content moderation policy isn’t all that different from the previous Twitter regime’s, which he criticized as censorious.
Free speech absolutism is a “fantasy,” liberal philosopher Sam Harris said earlier this week on his “Making Sense” podcast.
- The right’s hostility toward content moderation isn’t realistic, he added.
- “Contrary to what most people think it’s legal to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, but wouldn’t we want the owner of that theatre to remove someone who was shouting that over and over again?”