Twitter's Purge Will Affect Right-Wing Moderates

January 2nd, 2018 | Liberty 5-3000
twitter purge

What would a society free of deviants be like? Twitter’s new rules and subsequent purge are part of an attempt to find out.  Their new "evolving" and "contextual" rules are designed to eradicate "hate-speech" and allow all members to have a "voice" on the platform. Although it has been said the rules will be applied to all that infringe, it has been suggested by several outlets that Twitter’s new rules are anticipated to disproportionately affect Alt-Right accounts. Despite the fact that Twitter’s new policies will affect only accounts who advocate extreme positions, namely, racism, violence or the silencing of others, I anticipate that the new policies will have an effect not only on the political outliers, but on the moderate right as well.


In the Rules of Sociological Method, Emile Durkheim, the father of modern Sociology, explores the issues of deviance and crime (amongst other things). He tells us that a crimeless society has never existed and could never exist- that deviance is functional to a healthy society. These social outliers give us our bearings, allowing us to ascertain what is normal by contrast and help us draw boundaries on what behaviour we are willing to accept and tolerate and what should be punished. Durkheim also tells us that we need criminals and deviants because the severity of their crimes or moral infractions prevents the administering of more austere punishments to lesser crimes. At times, Durkheim believed criminals could pave the way for social change, which depended on how their crimes were viewed by the collective conscience of the society. Most importantly, Durkheim tells us that even if a crimeless society- a “society of saints” could exist, it would still have deviants. In the absence of rape, murder and theft, the smallest infringements would be categorized as crimes, instead. He writes:


Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will there be unknown, but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness. If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such. For the same reason, the perfect and upright man judges his smaller failings with a severity that the majority reserve for acts more truly in the nature of an offense.        



In this regard, attempts to eradicate the deviant and the criminal will only result in a shifting of the goal posts- a redefinition as to what constitutes an infraction. Rightfully, Durkheim saw both law and morality as evolutionary, something that grew or changed as time went on.


There exist contemporary examples of the redefinition of deviance that Durkheim spoke of, with a current example being the preoccupations of western third-wave feminism. There are places in the world where women actually do have it bad. There are women who face arranged marriages, genital mutilation, and an inability to drive or to attend school. These women have no legal recourse for rape, domestic violence or a fair and equitable divorce. Thankfully western women don’t have to face many of these indignities, but in the event they do, both the law and public support are on their side. Accordingly, you would think that western women- firstly, would focus all their efforts in helping other women elsewhere in the world who do, in fact, face these problems, and secondly, that they would be grateful for the way of life afforded to them in western nations. But you and I both know this isn’t the case. Instead, in the absence of injustices as harsh as the ones listed above, the goal posts as to what constitutes an injustice towards women is shifted. This is why western feminists preoccupy themselves with trivialities like fat-phobia, manspreading and mansplaining, even when their fellow females elsewhere in the world face much harsher realities.

Another example of the sliding scale of deviance is one that political commentator Ben Shapiro frequently speaks about, the concept of microaggressions. Western societies are the benefactors of the Enlightenment, which has provided us with the use of reason, civil debate and well-thought out argumentation to settle disputes, as opposed to the use of violence or force to achieve means. Since our political disagreements are not normally settled with the use of violence in the twenty-first century, a new infraction has been created- that of hurt feelings, or microaggressions. As Shapiro has told us, this provides a tactical advantage for the political left, as violence typically begets more violence. By obfuscating real physical violence with the mental "violence" suffered from someone’s words, the left can retaliate physically. As the preoccupations of modern feminism and the concept of microaggressions have shown us, Durkheim was correct that attempts to completely eradicate crime and deviance would result in less-severe acts being categorized as such.


So how does this relate to Twitter’s purge, said to disproportionately affect the Alt-Right? How does it affect the moderate right?

Please do not be fooled into thinking that you, as a moderate, will be safe on social media and elsewhere in society. If the Alt-Right and actual Neo-Nazis are forced out of common public platforms and congregate only in echo-chambers like Gab and their own private events, conservatives and the moderate right will come to be defined as the new deviants. We are already starting to see small examples of this shifting definition of deviance- with seemingly innocent beliefs like a meritocratic approach to hiring and university admission now being deemed as racist. We need the crazies and extremists to continue to have a public voice, if anything, so we can be viewed in contrast as moderate and reasonable. They do not make us look bad, contrary to popular belief. They make us look acceptable and normal. People do not mistake conservatives and the far right as being one and the same- even leftists are able to differentiate between civic nationalism and ethno-nationalism, between a belief that hard work contributes to success versus a belief in racial superiority of whites.


What can you do? Moderates need to advocate for the Alt-Right to stay on social media, and to host public events. Do not let the goal posts of "deviant" behaviour to be shifted to moderate conservatives. I acknowledge that there is a risk of us being viewed as allies to the Alt-Right, but in my opinion its negligible. To be safe, we need to ensure a continued presence of the Alt-Right by forwarding the notion of inherent values in free-speech. Our continued "moderate" and non-deviant status is contingent on the continued promulgation of Enlightenment values of democratic debate, and we need to be more vocal about the value of free-speech for everyone, the Alt-Right and Antifa-types included. If David Frum, a Jewish, moderate Republican can openly advocate for Richard Spencer’s return to Twitter after he was banned, and no one accused him of being an Alt-Right ally, we also can advocate for people on the extremes of the political spectrum to remain on Twitter and other social media.


In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky advised his fellow leftists that power isn’t actually in what you have, but in what your enemies believe you have. Corporations like Twitter and Facebook cave to the demands of the extreme left because their constant mob behaviour in both campaigning and complaining gives the impression that they are a more sizable amount of their customer base than they actually are.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe these corporations are purely ideologically motivated. At the end of the day, they are a business, and need to make money to stay operational. Like university professors, they preach left but walk right in their own lives. Their CEO’s have no intention to part with their massive salaries or downsize their mansions. If the heads of these corporations were truly ideological purists, Twitter wouldn’t have let Richard Spencer back on after his suspension. But they did. He obviously had enough of a fan base that the threat of his people leaving the platform justified his reinstatement. Perhaps Frum’s public statements had something to do with it. But as of the date of this article, Spencer appears to have also survived Twitter’s December 18 "purge". Countless other political "radicals" remain on Twitter to this day, while each of their situations are unique, the amount of fans and followers these people have undoubtedly play a role in whether they remain on the platform.


In this regard, the moderate right needs more organization in advancing their own campaigns for free-speech on social media. Would Twitter have enacted its new rules against "hate-speech" and the behaviour-policing of its member’s offline activities if they thought they risked losing a majority of its members? My answer is no. And if we can show Twitter that we comprise a sizable enough amount of its membership, these platforms will heavily consider policies that facilitate actual free-speech. The remedy isn’t to allow the hard right to flee to places like Gab. We should not rejoice or celebrate the banning of Alt-Right accounts, no matter how much we dislike or disagree with them. Our non-deviant status is dependent on the continued presence of all voices and opinions on Twitter and other social media- the Alt-Right and other extremists especially.