We live in a very strange time, one in which we can sit back and watch the greatest minds of our time get drawn into bitter fights with internet trolls. Journalist-turned-TV writer David Simon has, without hyperbole, created some of the most powerful entertainment of the past 20 years. From The Wire and The Corner to Treme and Generation Kill, Simon has proven himself a fierce, articulate critic of the kinds of institutional injustices that make the poor poorer and the rich richer. Now, he’s aimed that acidic tongue at another target: Twitter.
If you follow Simon at his @AoDespair account, you’ve probably seen him hurling invective at the MAGA trolls that love to poke the bear. It’s mostly pretty amusing, as Simon is as linguistically creative in 280 characters as he is on HBO. Here’s but a few recent examples:
But, alas, Simon appears to have gone too far in a pair of tweets, one in which he told a Trump supporter that they “should die of a slow moving veneral rash that settles in your lying throat” and another where he implored his sparring partner to “die of boils.” He’s been temporarily locked out of his account, and the platform won’t let him back in until he deletes the offending tweets. In a statement on his website addressing the ban, Simon indicates that he’s in a bit of a stand-off with the company, saying that he’s “indifferent to removing the tweets they insist are violative of their rules.” (That said, the former tweet has apparently been deleted.)
Per Consequence Of Sound, Simon also discussed the ban during a talk at this past weekend’s ATX Festival in Austin. “I’m going to get back on and I’m going to basically say all the same things I got thrown off for,” he said, “and I’m going to tweet them at [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey. I’m going to use the exact same language on the premise that telling somebody they can drop dead is not harassment. So I’m just going to say, ‘Really, for your policies, you should drop dead.’ And then I’ll be banned again.”
Twitter, meanwhile, gave this statement to EW regarding Simon’s ban. “We cannot comment on specific accounts for privacy and security reasons, but it’s against the Twitter Rules to engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.”
It might sound as if Simon is being, well, a bit petulant about all of this, but his anger at Dorsey is indicative of a larger discussion about the platform, one regarding Twitter’s curious policing in regards to threats and hate speech. Just last week, for example, Huffington Post’s Luke O’Brien was locked out of from the platform for telling someone to “DDT” themselves in a post referencing the WWE (the DDT is a popular professional wrestling maneuver). What makes O’Brien’s removal insane is that the reporter was in the midst of receiving a flood of death threats in response to a recent story, not one of which was addressed by Twitter.
Twitter has banned a handful of hate groups, as well as white supremacists like Baked Alaska, but doing so essentially required these chuds to brazenly flaunt their desire for racially-motivated genocide. Meanwhile, racism and harassment flourishes as Dorsey and his company instead choose to target decidedly non-threatening comments.
Anyways, this is what Simon is getting at with his comments, which you can read in full below. Whether or not he’ll be allowed back on the platform is yet to be seen, but he’s not doing himself any favors by now wishing those boils on Dorsey himself.
Also, I have been banned from Twitter, and as I am at this moment indifferent to removing the tweets they insist are violative of their rules, it is unclear when I will return to that framework. So I’m hoping that if I post anything remotely meaningful about Tony, others will do me the favor of linking it beyond this digital cul de sac.
Suffice to say that while you can arrive on Twitter and disseminate the untethered and anti-human opinion that mothers who have their children kidnapped and held incommunicado from them at the American border are criminals—and both mother and child deserve that fate—or that 14-year-old boys who survive the Holocaust are guilty of betraying fellow Jews when there is no evidence of such, you CANNOT wish that the people who traffic in such vile shit should crawl off and die of a fulminant venereal rash. Slander is cool, brutality is acceptable. But the hyperbolic and comic hope that a just god might smite the slanderer or brutalizer with a deadly skin disorder is somehow beyond the pale.
Die of boils, @jack.
Seriously. As far as I’m concerned, your standards in this instance are exactly indicative of why social media—and Twitter specifically—is complicit in transforming our national agora into a haven for lies, disinformation and the politics of totalitarian extremity. The real profanity and disease on the internet is untouched, while you police decorum.