A while ago, Elon Musk presented an ideal of what he thought free speech on Twitter should be:
By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.
If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.
Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.
This is slightly confused thinking given that the American Constitution often overrides the will of a mere majority, but it would have been pretty great, frankly, if Twitter refused to ban anything outside of what is allowed by the First Amendment.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where Musk very often allows for bans such as prohibiting an account that told people where he was in real time, bans on pedophilia advocates and other restrictions. Of course, it is 10,000% better than the old regime, but it's not quite the pure free speech utopia he suggested early on. So, if we are not going to have complete freedom of speech (our preference), then how the heck is this allowed?
Yes, the account is literally ‘Rape All TERFs.’ And advocating for such a violent act is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has said:
the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.
Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). In other words, the mere existence of this account cannot be criminalized under American law. But as we just said, Twitter goes further than what can be prohibited under American law and if an advocate of pedophilia is banned, how is this account allowed?
And while we can’t say if any individual Tweets might violate American law—because the account is protected—J.K. Rowling retweeted this Tweet alleging that the account seems to have crossed the line into threats via DM:
Here’s the pics, blown up:
That sure sounds like a threat and threats are not free speech (not to mention that such dm's suggests its writer belongs in a straightjacket).
I know they say they're women but this reads exactly like a man wrote it.— Salty Libertarian (@Yikibe) June 24, 2023
Undoubtedly.— FeministRoar (@FeministRoar) June 24, 2023
I think I’ll die, thanks.— quelizinha (@quelizinha) June 25, 2023
That’s fine as a joke, but the actual correct reaction is to get angry and use that energy productively.
I can’t even form a sentence— Binky (@TheOnlyGuru) June 25, 2023
*pushes up glasses* That’s not technically true, unless you get hung up on a lack of punctuation at the end.
"TERF Rape Squadron" ......— John Locke (@Libertarian1777) June 26, 2023
Sounds like a really respectable outfit.
No wonder they escaped being censored......🤡🤡🤡🤡 https://t.co/snwoNYFlWt
I wonder how long it took him to write that one handed...— Summer of SMOD (@TheOneWhoSmods) June 26, 2023
Reaching … for … mental … bleach…
Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. We used to say this on the playground. Then we didn’t hang out with the bullies.— Ohio Women’s History Project (@ohiowomenshist) June 25, 2023
Words can’t hurt, but threats can lead to a breach of the peace, which is why they are rightfully prohibited by law in most jurisdictions.
Report to the person's local police force.— Adrian Richards (@Species_8472_UK) June 26, 2023
Or she might be able to report it to her own local police—which is easier.
Still, in the end ‘Feminist Roar’ had this relatively hopeful message:
Thanks to everyone sending supportive messages in response to this. I'm fine. Honestly, if I had £1 for every message like this I've received from transactivists over the past decade I'd be a rich woman. The point is, this is what transactivism *is*. Violent misogyny. https://t.co/PseVVRILmX— FeministRoar (@FeministRoar) June 24, 2023
Good to know she’s not letting it get her down.
Still, someone had a helpful reminder:
It's the best argument for conceal carry yet.— Solo Schwo (@OhNoSchwo) June 25, 2023
This is a perfect example of why we say often the Second Amendment protects the First. If you are concerned someone might physically attack you because of your beliefs, having a gun might make you feel safer when advocating your views. How much differently would the attack on Salman Rushdie have turned out if Rushdie had been packing? Heck, if he was openly carrying a gun, would it have happened at all? Sure, the police should protect you regardless of your viewpoint, but 1) we are increasingly skeptical of the claim that they would act neutrally and, 2) even if they would, they can’t be everywhere at once.
Of course, ‘Feminist Roar’ says that she lives in Wales, where they aren’t protected by the actual First or Second Amendments and they don’t enjoy a government that respects the principles underlying either one. But it highlights again why such principles are vital, and every government should adopt and respect these principles.
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