AOC unblocks prominent Jewish activist on Twitter
This morning, rookie Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) “sincerely apologized” to high-profile Jewish activist, Dov Hikind for blocking him on Twitter.
Hikind, a 35-year former New York State Assemblyman and the founder of Americans Against Antisemitism, filed the lawsuit against AOC after he tried to respond to tweets she had posted comparing immigrant detention centres to concentration camps, and her call to revive the term “Never Again.”
In what caused a wave of outrage Wednesday evening, former Conservative Party candidate Cyara Bird tweeted that Natalie, her 17-year-old cousin, had been suspended from school for having “rejected the idea” of wearing a rainbow poppy instead of the traditional red-and-black one at their school’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
The Post Millennial reported on the initial claims, reaching out to the Interlake School Board and Stonewall Collegiate, Natalie’s school, for comment on the matter. While both declined to provide comment on the suspension, the Interlake School Board posted a poorly-received clarification to their Twitter account which stated that no students had been mandated to wear a rainbow poppy.
As the situation developed, The Post Millennial published a subsequent article featuring a statement from Natalie with additional details that clarified the situation. Rather than having been suspended for rejecting the poppy during choir practice as Bird’s initial tweet read, Natalie outlined that she had been suspended for “rejecting the idea” of the rainbow poppy replacing the red-and-black poppy, plastering posters in her school which included criticisms of the rainbow poppy symbol. Natalie’s father also confirmed that she had in fact been suspended until after the Remembrance Day holiday.
On November 8th, Cyara Bird issued a statement on her Twitter addressing the viral fallout from the coverage of her initial tweets. Apologizing that her “words were misconstrued,” Bird goes on to reiterate earlier sentiments she had made on her Twitter about her support for the LGBT community and veterans.
Bird had put her social media accounts on private early this morning after facing a barrage of criticism and abuse for her initial tweets on her cousin’s suspension.
The Post Millennial reached out to Bird for comment, but Bird stated that she would not be discussing the matter further.
It takes only a cursory examination of our tumultuous human history to appreciate that periods of liberty—when individual citizens are largely free to speak, think, believe and act as they choose—are vanishingly rare and must be jealously guarded. In the span of three days last week, incidents in Toronto and Vancouver demonstrated that shockingly few people seem to understand this, and fewer still actually care.
Both incidents involved radical feminist Meghan Murphy, who had speaking engagements booked at the Toronto Public Library and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in B.C. on the topic of sex-based rights and their apparent conflict with gender identity.
The first event went ahead despite petitions, protests, threats to the library of ex-communication from PRIDE events, and even denunciation by the Mayor of Toronto. But for the fortitude of Chief Librarian Vickery Bowles, who described freedom of expression as “a hill to die on,” the mob would have had its way: the event would have been cancelled.
Indeed, the second event was scrubbed from its initial venue at SFU, due to threats of violence and disruption from so-called “activist” groups. Had the organizers not managed to find a last-minute replacement location, the heckler’s veto would have won the day.
Most thoughtful people would agree that a conflict of rights between two groups should be sorted out in a rational and fair manner, and that the best way to do that is by undertaking a thorough examination and discussion of the issues, which includes hearing and listening to the other side. But intolerant mobs have instead decided that anything Meghan Murphy or her following says, or might say in the future, is unquestionably “hate” speech that must be stopped at all costs.
This is not new a new phenomenon in our times. Any speaker whose ideological outlook doesn’t conform to that of the mobs will face attempts to deplatform them. Recently in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia Free Speech Club attempted to bring two “politically incorrect” speakers to campus, but was thwarted by high security fees after UBC determined there would likely be damaging protests. The event was moved to the local Hellenic Centre, which then faced online harassment and bullying from groups such as the “Revolutionary Student Movement” and the “Revolutionary Communists.” Death threats were made to the organizer of the event and a police presence was required to ensure it could proceed.
As anthropology professor Mark Collard, one of the organizers of the cancelled SFU event, told me, “In 300,000 years, humans have only managed to discover two ways of dealing with political disputes: conversation and democracy, or violence.”
If the mobs get their way, there will be no conversation. But if we can’t have a conversation, we are left with violence or threats of violence. In Toronto, baying crowds numbering in the hundreds lined the walkway where the much smaller group of mainly women exited the building after Ms. Murphy’s talk. As though channelling medieval witch-burners, they chanted, “walk of shame, walk of shame.” At least one called for their deaths, expressing the wish that they would “bleed out.”
Just three days later, under threats of violence from mobs in Vancouver, Professor Collard withdrew his support for Ms. Murphy’s event at the Harbour Centre on SFU’s downtown campus. Having been advised by SFU’s security chief that the risk of violence ranked “11 on a scale of 1 to 10”, he was told to choose between freedom of speech, which he considers of utmost importance, and the safety of attendees.
It is difficult for any group or individual to find a platform if they dissent from the increasingly narrow range of acceptable speech. Who gets to speak and what they say is being decided by modern-day Brownshirts, some of whom have already demonstrated that they have lost their grip on basic human decency by beating journalists and shouting down little old ladies with walkers.
Nearly 100 years ago, a newly-formed extremist group in Munich—including a large number of students and young middle-class professionals—started patrolling the streets and disrupting the meetings and speeches of those they disagreed with. Daniel Siemens’ book Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts describes how the movement grew to include bloody street battles between fascists and communists, which the fledgling German democracy proved unable to control, accelerating the erosion of the free and democratic society and paving the way for Hitler’s rise.
There is no question that ordinary people can easily be swept up in political violence, believing themselves to be on the side of right. But the inevitable result is to ensure the demise of a civil and free society unless the adults among us who value our freedoms start taking a stand.
Sadly, the “adults” are doing a shockingly poor job at even grasping the issue. It wasn’t just the mob outside the library that the fearless Ms. Bowles had to withstand. The pressure came too from mainstream media like the CBC, as well as the Mayor and Toronto city councillors who challenged her stance. The Council appallingly voted 20-1 to review the Toronto Public Library’s policies on the use of community spaces. The message has been delivered that city politicians would be quite happy to see unpopular opinions censored.
For civil society and liberty to survive, institutions like governments, courts, universities and libraries need to take seriously their commitment to the fundamental freedoms of Canadians and stop enabling the mobs by tacitly endorsing their tactics.
Universities should make it clear that freedom of expression and academic freedom are non-negotiable. If security fees are to be charged at all, the invoice should be rendered to those who threaten violence or the disruption of events, and universities should file formal complaints with police about criminal behaviour. Demanding such fees from event organizers, who are doing nothing wrong by exercising their free expression rights, is grossly unfair.
Those who host or organize events need to hold fast and find some backbone. Backing down under vague threats of potential violence is ceding control of the discourse to the heckler and the mob. The SFU event should have proceeded as planned, and any disrupters dealt with firmly and immediately, using legal tools that are readily available.
Police need to ensure the safety of people attending events, as they did at the Murphy event in Vancouver at the replacement location. While protestors have every right to stand outside and peacefully demonstrate (even with cardboard guillotines as they did outside the Vancouver event), violence and threats of violence need to be taken seriously and dealt with by police. Violence needs to be met with criminal charges and a firm message from the courts: mess with our liberty at your peril.
And ordinary citizens, too, need to step up before this country becomes toxic and unlivable, with people speaking their opinions only in hushed whispers around their kitchen tables. We expect our public institutions to uphold our Charter freedoms, but we should all be standing up for the free exchange of ideas.
In 1867 the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill delivered an inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews:
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.
Future historians may decry our times as the turning point when Lady Liberty laid down her torch and gave up the fight; or, they may proclaim it as the time when our free and democratic order was defended by ordinary people standing up to the mobs and declaring, “Enough!”
Lisa Bildy is an Ontario-based lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. Her Twitter handle is @LDBildy.
In a newly released clip taken during the protests outside of Saturday’s GIDYVR debate featuring Jon Kay, Meghan Murphy, and myself, professional anti-bigotry activist Amanda Jabbour is seen racially abusing an interracial couple.
“Is that your mail-order bride?” Jabbour is seen repeatedly pointing at the Asian partner of the attendee, before asking “How much? How much did you pay?”
Jabbour, who identified herself to Press for Truth reporter Dan Dicks in a separate video as representing the PACE society with colleagues at the protest, is also seen yelling at and following the police officers protecting the entrance of the Pan Pacific Hotel, stating “your only purpose is oppressing people” and demanding to be allowed inside the private venue, where the debate was taking place in the conference room.
In Dicks’ video, Jabbour is also seen confronting an unidentified cameraperson. Jabbour aggressively approaches the woman, goading “next time you kick me, it better be f*cking hard, b*tch!” Jabbour had tripped over the camera person’s leg moments prior. Jabbour then attempts to lick the woman’s camera before rushing back to Dicks and holding her hand over his filming cell phone. Both journalists are also targeted by Jabbour blowing cigarette smoke at them.
Jabbour is listed as the Occupational Health and Safety Facilitator for the PACE Society, a charity focused on de-stigmatizing sex work and supporting sex workers. Jabbour is also the founder of Sault Ste. Marie Sex Workers’ Rights.
PACE Society’s most recently published annual report states the 62% of their funding is provided by the government, with the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia appearing to provide the majority of the support. While this information is not provided in any subsequent reports, the 2015 annual report stated that 82% of PACE’s funding was spent on salaries for staff.
The Post Millennial reached out to Jabbour via the PACE Society, but PACE instead offered an email where “comments or concerns” could be sent. When clarification was sought on whether or not a comment would be given, PACE hung up, and subsequent calls were not answered.
For years, conservatives have claimed that Twitter censors their views; that Twitter has a “left-wing bias” and purposely blocks opinions on the right.
They are only partially correct, however.
Twitter does censor, suspend, and ban users and their tweets. Yes, this is prevalent on the right-wing.
However, Twitter is not a leftist haven either. In fact, Twitter has increased censorship leftist opinions, especially those that are on the more populist brand.
For example, a “Democratic Socialist” candidate for Congress, Joshua Collins, saw a one-week ban on Twitter after quarrelling with Republican congressional candidate Joey Saladino.
What this demonstrates is that Twitter does not have an explicit or implicit bias against the right-wing. Nor does it have a similar bias against the left-wing.
Twitter censors anyone that challenges the status quo from either side of the political spectrum.
The bias against the right
In a discussion on the Joe Rogan podcast, Tim Pool sat down with Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO) and Vijaya Gadde (Twitter head for legal, policy, and trust and safety).
Pool described the platform as heavily favouring the “left” by enforcing rules such as misgendering. He said many Conservatives do not believe in this, and hence, there exists bias.
So Pool is right, but only partially.
Slavoj Zizek, the most prominent leftist philosopher alive today, is one of the fiercest critics of political correctness. He has, in fact, labelled it as one of the “most dangerous forms of authoritarianism.”
This form of radical liberalism, according to Zizek, has no real place on the actual left-wing. It is a form of liberal political discourse that is used by the establishment to divide people into competing identity camps.
Pool further claims that holding such an immense monopoly over online information, and enforcing its own biased set of vague rules, as Twitter does, are not conducive to free speech.
Gadde responded that Twitter “doesn’t look at the political spectrum of people when looking at their tweets.”
She may be right. However, when your platform already has an inherent bias, anyone who doesn’t wish to conform to this bias is at risk of being expunged.
And according to Pool, that is wrong.
The bias against the left
Leftists on the more populist side of the argument, such as Berniecrats and Marxists, have faced explicit censorship and bias on Twitter.
Joshua Collins, a socialist candidate running for the Democratic nomination for Congress (WA-10), personally faced the wrath of Twitter’s censorship.
Collins has more than 40,000 followers on Twitter. His fame has resulted in numerous fake accounts popping up using his name.
“I attempted to get verification because there were, at one time, five people pretending to be me, with my same display name and profile picture,” Collins told The Post Millennial.
According to him, he should thus be verified. But Twitter changed its rules fairly recently.
The Intercept mentions that “Twitter’s government relations team has been telling candidates seeking verification that they won’t be giving any new contenders a blue checkmark until after they win the state’s primary.”
Mckayla Wilkes, another socialist candidate for Congress, told The Post Millennial, “This leaves unverified candidates who are clearly public figures, like Cory Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, and gives yet another advantage to incumbents.”
Rebecca Parson, a third socialist candidate for Congress, informed The Post Millennial that this decision by Twitter has, “made it harder to get found by media and to raise money through organic online traffic.” She says this is important for grassroots campaigns like hers.
Collins, Parson, and Wilkes mentioned that Twitter, “seems to make exceptions to their own policy, in opaque and arbitrary ways.”
In another instance, many Berniecrats were unable to check replies to a tweet by the Working Families Party. The WFP chose to endorse Warren over Bernie, and Twitter blocked Berniecrats from viewing replies to the tweet (and hence replying), but others were able to freely reply.
Parson also confirmed she couldn’t see the replies on the tweet.
In a more recent case, Joshua Collins was suspended from Twitter for proving that Joey Saladino, a YouTuber running for Congress as a Republican, drank his own piss in a video and used black people as a prop to propagate racist views.
Censorship affects populists, on the left and right
With the cases highlighted above, it is clear that Twitter’s arbitrary policies and lack of transparency is hindering discourse on its website.
As many on the right and left notice the challenges big-tech poses to discourse and politics in general, they are raising their voices.
It seems like it will only be a matter of time until these voices reach the doors of Congress.