Wisconsin Republican Paul Nehlen, a congressional hopeful running against House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and overt white nationalist, was recently banned by Twitter after he tweeted out a racist picture of Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancée.
For those who want to see the tweet. It is as bad as you would imagine.
The tweet is not really worth discussing. Racist man tweets out something racist. Sad, but not surprising.
What I think is truly noteworthy about this situation is Twitter’s reaction. His account was banned “for repeated violations of our terms of service,” according to a Twitter spokesperson.
There are many ways to look at this. Is it a freedom of speech issue? Are you guaranteed freedom of speech on a private website? Do social media sites have a responsibility to allow all discussion? These are complex issues that our founding fathers could never imagine when they wrote the Constitution more than 200 years ago.
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According to reporting from Newsweek, “in recent months, Twitter has removed accounts that have spread racist or abusive messages as it seeks to make the platform more user-friendly.” This take is sensible. Those with African descent may feel less inclined to use Twitter if they keep encountering racist content on the site. In some ways, Twitter is just trying to protect their bottom line.
But this issue goes deeper than Twitter’s bottom line. Twitter realizes this. In a recent blog post, Twitter announced that it “is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation.”
The important question for Twitter, and similar companies, is does content like Nehlen’s tweet advance any sort of conversation? The answer is no.
The tweet is inflammatory and unabashedly racist.
Nehlen’s justification for his tweet is noteworthy, if only for its complete lack of reasoning. He believed that recent findings of one of the first Britons actually being black (this face was the one photoshopped onto Markle), were attempts at “dispossessing whites of their homeland.” He continued, “I made a joke of it. It’s not a laughing matter, so I chose to laugh about it.”
Joking about something you declare is no laughing matter makes less than zero sense.
His tweet makes much more sense if you look at it from the angle that he wanted to incite anger by appealing the very racism that has held our country back since its inception.
This is not an attempt to create an educated discussion. I still don’t even understand what sort of discussion he could be trying to start — that science is wrong? That the fact that there were black people in Britain since the beginning of time is somehow a bad thing?
There is no constructive value for this tweet. Twitter’s only choice was to get rid of it.
Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in finance.