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Twitter Put Me in a Time-Out for Being Mean to a Nazi

Wednesday night on Twitter should have been a fun one for me. For the early part of the evening, it was: Charles Manson on his deathbed, everyone spamming Roy Moore’s campaign website, and — best of all — Twitter itself had just rolled out new guidelines that allowed it to un-verify a few prominent Nazis, who instantly compared the move to the Holocaust. I couldn’t resist clowning on these sad white supremacists.

But just as I was formulating a pithy reply to Richard Spencer (who had tweeted “Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White?”), my timeline disappeared, replaced with an alert. My account had been locked. The reason: hateful conduct.

The offending tweet, which I was asked to delete in order to regain access to my account after a 12-hour suspension, had been a reply to Jason Kessler, organizer of August’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, where civil rights activist Heather Heyer was killed — a murder he referred to as “payback time.” (You may recall watching him run into some bushes to hide from protesters demanding he take responsibility for her death.) I’d tweeted it a week earlier, on November 8, when Kessler bragged about getting verified. It was this very development that renewed an outcry about Twitter’s verification policy, which served to legitimize Kessler and other hard-right ideologues. Kessler was among those to lose the little blue check mark in the purge that followed on Wednesday.

Before I get to my own hateful tweet, let me say something about verification: It’s pretty dumb unless you’re a mega-celebrity whom people might impersonate, in which case it’s helpful for separating a famous person from their legions of thirsty fan accounts. I got verified through my last media job, and I guess the badge lets people know I’m a “legitimate” source of, like, baby goat content. But the main effect of this status, in my experience, is an occasional jealous troll quote-tweeting my hot takes and asking, “How did this random asshole get verified?” That is to say: Only total weenies take verification at all seriously, so it’s incumbent upon us to mock racists whenever they do so.

When I called Kessler a “dumpy shitcock,” the tweet quickly racked up a few hundred likes (at least 200 more than his original tweet, but who’s counting!) and amused reactions. But Twitter didn’t take immediate action against it, or me. What changed on Wednesday? When the new guidelines dropped, the Nazis wanted to ensure the other side suffered casualties as well. So they organized pile-ons for “anti-white” accounts.

I suspect my tweet was targeted for this kind of treatment, mass-reported until Twitter had no choice but to evaluate it under the stronger rubric for hateful conduct. From there, we can only speculate as to what triggered my ban — whether an algorithm or actual human read that sentence and determined it unacceptable. Let’s break it down.

To begin with, we have the imperative “suffocate,” the only word in the tweet that’s close to a violent threat. It’s true that suffocation means death from a deprivation of oxygen, making my comment roughly analogous to an invitation to die. That said, I never indicated that I would be the one to suffocate Kessler, nor is it conceivable that he could literally suffocate due to a lethal concentration of fart fumes, regardless of ethnic origin. Medical science offers no precedent for such a phenomenon, nor do I possess the means to create these conditions and expose Kessler to them. Furthermore, being a goy myself, I could not personally produce the noxious emissions to which I alluded.

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You’ll also notice that I failed to specifically abuse Kessler on the grounds of his identity, as described in Twitter’s violation notice: I did not reference his nationality, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. There is, of course, in the modifier “Jewish,” the implication that I am attacking him for being a Nazi, and therefore especially vulnerable to the gases of the Chosen People — yet Twitter says nothing about lashing out at morons for their shitty politics. However, in an ironic twist, my tweet may be read as anti-Semitic, insofar as it could suggest that Jewish farts are somehow inherently worse, or more damaging, than Christian farts, Muslim farts, and so on. This would be suitable grounds for a suspension from Twitter, and I’m very sorry for the imprecision of my language there.

Honestly, though? I doubt that’s why the hammer came down. After all, anti-Semites still enjoy pretty free rein on Twitter, and routinely bombard other users with Holocaust imagery, suffering little in the way of consequence. No, if I were to pinpoint where my tweet crossed the line, I’d have to conclude it was the epithet “dumpy shitcock.” While people call each other worse on this platform a million times a day, a Twitter friend pointed out that “dumpy shitcock” is fairly described as a medical condition, and the regulations cited in my lockout notice expressly forbid harassment on the basis of “disability” or “serious disease.” Therefore, it’s entirely possible that I got kicked offline for ridiculing Kessler’s malformed, poop-spackled penis — a burden beyond his control.

Until a Twitter representative familiar with their recent changes explains my punishment in greater detail, we cannot know for sure what I did wrong. That’s just as well, since I’m probably going to keep insulting any Nazi who tries to command a following there. Who’ll have their account deleted first — the genocidal fascist, or the guy blowing spitballs at him? I suppose I’d have to start flagging his hateful content if I want him off the site, but if this little skirmish proves anything, it’s this: Whoever smelt it dealt it.