I must admit I sneered at all of the “First they came for Alex Jones …” posts right after he was banned from every social media platform save Geocities.
True, I found it anomalous that every major tech company found him in violation of its terms of service with felicitous simultaneity for doing the same things that he’d been doing for nigh on a decade and a half, but even most conservatives would agree Jones was sui generis as a fringe voice. I disagreed with the decision but couldn’t summon any outrage; Jones was a singular figure and surely the banning was a singular occurrence — even as it was obvious to anyone paying attention that social media was cracking down on conservative voices in more covert ways.
Never since my prediction that Ryan Leaf would get the best of Peyton Manning (made back in high school, I must note) have I made a prognostication so horribly, frightfully wrong. Jones was clearly a test case. When the media didn’t mind and conservative outrage was mild at best, they moved onto figures still perhaps on the fringes but certainly not in the territory Jones occupied. And then the figures weren’t fringe.
And then they started going after religious figures.
The figure in question would be the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. Franklin, as you probably know, is a well-known evangelist in his own right, although certainly not an uncontroversial one. If you don’t agree with his views on the Bible, that’s fine — but the justification for the interpretation is clearly in there and (at least to this observer) it’s being given out of conviction and not hate.
That wasn’t Facebook’s verdict, however. Graham apparently found himself banned from the platform for 24 hours over something he wrote. Two years ago.
“Last week I was banned from posting on @Facebook for 24 hrs because of a 2016 post about NC’s House Bill 2 (bathroom bill). They said the post went against their ‘community standards on hate speech.’ Facebook is making & changing the rules,” Graham tweeted.
Last week I was banned from posting on @Facebook for 24 hrs because of a 2016 post about NC’s House Bill 2 (bathroom bill). They said the post went against their “community standards on hate speech.” Facebook is making & changing the rules. 1/2 https://t.co/HYIgErnp3J
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 29, 2018
“@Facebook is censoring free speech. They’re making & changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules & His Word is truth. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA,” he added.
.@Facebook is censoring free speech. They’re making & changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules & His Word is truth. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA. You can read the post that Facebook took down last week here: 2/2 https://t.co/SIbgivZjTo
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 29, 2018
North Carolina House Bill 2 was a 2016 piece of legislation that required individuals to use bathrooms that corresponded with their biological sex. Critics called it a piece of anti-LGBT legislation, while supporters of the bill contended it was passed in response to a poorly written anti-discrimination act in the city of Charlotte that would have essentially mandated unisex bathrooms. The bill was later repealed after numerous boycotts.
On April 9, 2016, Graham made the post that led to his temporary banning.
“Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going ‘backwards instead of forwards,'” Graham wrote.
“Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense.
“Mr. Springsteen, a nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress. I’m thankful North Carolina has a governor, Pat McCrory, and a lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, and legislators who put the safety of our women and children first! HB2 protects the safety and privacy of women and children and preserves the human rights of millions of faith-based citizens of this state.”
This may not be your opinion, and you’re welcome to be angry. Graham’s take is also entirely within the realm of civilized debate and defensible within a biblical framework. Is this what you believe Facebook ought to be banning?
I’d also like to point out that there were, no doubt, a wave of liberals who complained about the post when it was made in April 2016. If what Graham is saying is accurate, the only action taken against it was now — two years later, when the only people left scrutinizing the post could only be described as cranks who apparently see some worth in going through old social media entries of conservative figures they don’t like in the hope of finding something they thought was worth reporting.
And in 2018, they struck gold.
Graham linked a Fox News article about the vagaries of Facebook’s speech policies, which is worth reading but profoundly unsurprising. It’s a window into a corporate culture that bans someone for supporting separate bathrooms for each sex but — according to sources within Facebook — allows praise for the Taliban provided it has to do with the terrorist group’s agreement to a cease-fire.
What’s most important is the result of social media’s enforcement vagaries — namely, the banning of conservative figures on almost a weekly basis.
They at least gave excuses for Alex Jones and Gavin McInnes — Jones for TOS violations and attempts to circumvent bans, McInnes for his association with the Proud Boys. The excuse for James Woods’ lockout was so woeful — that a joke meme he posted could theoretically have influenced an election — I feel sympathy for whatever Twitter employee was tasked with writing it. When it came to pugnacious conservative pundit Jesse Kelly, they didn’t even bother giving an explanation when he was perma-banned, then they didn’t give much of an explanation when they restored his account, only denying it was a perma-ban. This isn’t even going into shadow-banning, a phenomenon for which an OED-sized work could plausibly be compiled.
Think Facebook is any better? Just ask Franklin Graham — who can get temporarily exiled for something that was just fine two years ago but is apparently morally noxious now.
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