David Simon hasn’t stopped doling invective upon Twitter since the social media platform slapped The Wire and The Deuce creator with a two-week suspension for telling CEO Jack Dorsey to “die of boils.” Now, in a lengthy, vitriolic, and frequently hilarious blog post on his personal website, Simon has distilled his many tweet-length tirades into one single, persuasive chronicle of how Simon’s own suspension serves as a perfect touchstone for just how the social media platform has irrevocably tainted American discourse. That’s impressive enough on its own, but even more so when you witness just how he’s managed to transcend his own use of colorful profanity. The title alone is a masterpiece—above a photo of Dorsey reads the headline “A Fuckbonnet For Our Time”—and his subsequent description of Twitter as a “demagogue-encrusted, Nazi-profiteering national agora” is positively sublime.
Simon begins by informing the public that, after Simon refused to delete his “boils” tweet, the platform just went ahead and did it for him. That led him to reiterating his argument that Twitter’s developed an unfortunate habit for banning “the most casual sarcasm while leaving intact organized slander and disinformation.” He refers, of course, to Dorsey’s refusal to ban Infowars host Alex Jones from the platform after numerous instances of targeted harassment and demonstrably false disinformation campaigns. (Jones was eventually banned, but only after screaming in Dorsey’s face at last week’s congressional hearings.)
Simon continues, “Because if you can’t police your platform for the ethical substance of its content — if you can’t demand standards for what actually matters to the health of the republic — then this pretend-game of policing politeness or sarcasm-as-real-threat is not merely abdication, it is instead an effective block of the only intelligent and effective response to that which is so dishonorable and disgusting on Twitter.” That response, he argues, is dismissal—or, in Simon parlance, a simple and profane, yet non-threatening, desire that one dies of boils.
He goes on to acknowledge the tricky moral quagmires that accompany the monitoring of public discourse and the development of standards in regards to social media, but proceeds to thoroughly deconstruct Dorsey’s previous and, to quote Simon, “submoronic” assertion that it was not Twitter’s job to debunk disinformation, but that of journalists.
You tell us, Jack, that it is imperative that you be permitted to be a neutral bulletin board for any idea no matter how unfactual or revolting and that it is then up to trained journalists to come behind the social-media discussion and parse fact from fiction. No, Jack, just fucking no.
First of all, speed matters. The digital lies are marching into Poland before mainstream-media truths have boots on; shit, it’s that fundamental reality that finally brought me to an experiment with your platform — the sense that American political demeanor was being shaped long before any professional, fact-based response could be mustered. Second of all, even a crude reading of the last, failed century’s history will show you that your premise is, I’m sorry, submoronic.
The correct 1935 reply to Streicher or Goebbels asserting that Jews secretly drink the blood of baptized Christian babies was not, “We have looked into this claim and found that there is no evidence to support the lie that Jews drink Christian baby blood.” For fuck sake, Jack, don’t you understand? Whether such a refutation comes on Twitter or from a mainstream news organization, it succeeds only in granting rhetorical equanimity and status to any and every vile assertion that evil sees fit to utter.
Nor is the correct response to simply ignore such filth when it arrives on one’s digital doorstep. To do so simply allows it to stand public view tacitly as plausible opinion in the marketplace of ideas. Silence is also 1935, Jack.
Simon isn’t advocating for the removal of anyone from the platform—aside from “manufactured agitprop”—but rather genuine accountability. One solution, he posits, would be to eliminate anonymity so “existing libel law would actually return to its place as a viable bulwark against the worst and most reckless affronts against the truth.” But Simon, who routinely accuses Dorsey of valuing profit over humanity, knows that there’s “no profit in something as civil and responsible as a platform in which people are obliged to stand by the legitimacy of their facts and the dignity of their opinions,” so he’s not holding his breath for that to happen.
Really, Simon’s ultimate point is that Twitter’s clumsy approach to censorship has ultimately granted the same protections to “fascism and racism and organized depravity” as it has conversational speech. “You’ve brought those vile forces into the daylight and asked that they be treated as worthy of serious consideration,” he writes. “And now, those forces are threatening the American experiment.” Brutally, he asserts, “You’ve butchered it. Badly.”
Read the whole thing (and marvel at phrases like “waspish knob-polishers of marginal internet decorum”) here.