Twitter controversies are almost always dumb. They tend to be fueled by people in media and politics who devote disproportionate time to monitoring their feeds, losing sight of the website’s relative insignificance offline. But sometimes there are broader implications to dust-ups on the platform.
Conservative ire over Twitter’s treatment of Jesse Kelly, for instance, wasn’t just about Kelly. Nor were concerns about the site’s revised code of conduct only about transgender issues. At work is a much deeper worry that Twitter’s (or Google’s or Facebook’s) targeting of conservative and anti-left perspectives are harbingers of a troublesome future.
Such moves can reasonably be interpreted as victories for those who wish (openly, in some cases) to narrow the boundaries of what constitutes permissible speech to the point where right-of-center expression is no longer acceptable in major forums. The question is whether that’s the audience Twitter was looking to please. The more responsive Silicon Valley, the media, and large corporations are to such sentiments, the less space conservatives will eventually have across major platforms to make their arguments.
It all feeds the sense that the gatekeepers of our culture are gradually closing its doors on the right, a process that’s legitimized by progressive elites in academia and the media who largely share similar views on, say, transgender issues or President Trump, and increasingly share a willingness to disenfranchise those who disagree.
That’s partially why the “Roseanne” reboot set records last year. The show’s sympathetic (yet complex) depiction of a Trump voter is something nobody else in Hollywood was willing to run with, but audiences were eager to see. The left already filters entertainment and political media enough.
Decent people are not persuaded by being silenced or dismissed as immoral. Permitting without protest, for example, Twitter’s treatment of Kelly or revised code of conduct makes it easier for people with immense power to take more and more steps incrementally turning down the volume on center-right speech. While that may sound utopian to some, it’s a recipe for cultural discord (see: the 2016 election).
Again, I’ll be the first to agree that most controversies involving Twitter are wastes of time. But there are legitimate reasons to worry the platform’s ostensible placation of progressive activists signals the elite class’ mounting interest in pleasing those who wish to narrow the boundaries of acceptable speech. It’s not just about one user or one political issue, it’s about what the gatekeeper’s steps to control them represent. That’s reason enough for people across the ideological spectrum to be concerned.