Satire has long been used as a tool of criticism, particularly when dealing with issues to which a certain degree of societal stigma is attached. Tyrants do not like being reminded that they are tyrants; the perpetually offended do not like being told that they have no reason to be offended.
Satire and its close cousin, parody, are effective ways of communicating ideas in an entertaining and often humorous manner. Humor can disarm a person of preconceived notions and render them more receptive to alternative viewpoints, while irony offers a layer of protection in the form of tongue-in-cheek deniability.
When ideological movements packaged in oxytocin-eliciting buzzwords are treated as though they are above scrutiny — and when the slightest attempt at critical examination is met with moral hysteria and the threat of “cancellation”, satire becomes one of the few remaining avenues of dissent.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seeks to block this avenue, effectively locking down what little remains of free speech at a time when so many remain under lockdown.
Twitter recently enacted a site-wide purge of satire accounts, claiming they had been engaging in platform manipulation — i.e., behaviors “intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter”. Users were offered no explanation as to how they had engaged in such behavior, as identifying specific violations is only possible when accounts are suspended on an individual basis.
The periodic purging of accounts that have violated no rules has become a begrudgingly-accepted reality for those who tweet outside the left-wing echo chamber, with the most massive purges occurring prior to or immediately following major political events: State of the Union Addresses, the 2018 midterm elections, the release of the Mueller report, etc. This latest purge happened to fall on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
It primarily affected accounts publishing tweets which satirized the mainstream political left: Titania McGrath and her housemate Jarvis, radical intersectionalist attorney Lawyer Andy, Guy Verhoftwat — a direct parody of the Belgian politician that was clearly labeled as such.
Accounts for satirical websites The Babylon Bee, NPC Daily, and Journalist Excellence Worldwide were also suspended, though Babylon Bee and NPC Daily were later restored after conservative commentators Mindy Robinson and James Woods rallied fans to their cause. Andrew Doyle’s Titania McGrath character was issued only a temporary ban, but hundreds more remain lost.
This is not the first time Twitter has specifically targeted satire accounts for removal, though it is certainly the broadest in terms of scope.
Following on the heels of the Kavanaugh hearings (which came to a close exactly one month prior to the 2018 midterms), thousands took to Twitter to express their disgust with the Democrats and their surrogates in the media. In what quickly became known as Grey October, users created profiles based on the satirical NPC meme and carried out what would evolve into a month-long “occupation” of Twitter.
It began with only a few dozen accounts tweeting ironic statements about Brett Kavanaugh, the #MeToo movement, and various Democratic causes, yet it quickly blew up into a massive online demonstration. Twitter’s attempts to crack down on NPC activity succeeded only in attracting new participants, many of whom were first-time Twitter users who had become enchanted with the NPC meme. Thousands more joined in in response to the media coverage, which sought to attribute the sudden spectacle of NPCs to “bots” rather than peaceful human demonstrators.
The bot narrative would eventually be used to justify the involvement of the DNC’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), tasked with securing the re-election of Democratic incumbents. Under the guise of stopping election interference, DCCC operatives were given access to flag these alleged “bot” accounts. The demonstrations were quickly stifled, Grey October came to a close, yet the spirit of Grey Lives Matter lives on in its slogan: “Orange Man Bad”.
While the idea of a private platform engaging in political censorship on behalf of federal officials may have once been seen as a shocking abuse of the First Amendment, the shock value since has worn off as censorship-by-proxy becomes an increasingly common tool of the Left. Trump himself has repeatedly fallen afoul of the Twitter censors, and earlier this month Twitter Communications Director Nick Pacilio ordered the temporary suspension of the President’s campaign account. Pacilio previously served as Press Secretary for Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
That Twitter would engage in platform manipulation and election interference to combat platform manipulation and election interference is peak irony — and exactly the sort of remedy a parody account might advocate.
Indeed, given the incongruity between Jack Dorsey’s professed commitment to “openness and civility of public conversation” and the public support he shows for BLM and Antifa — not to mention some of the more bizarre, ritualistic behaviors he claims to engage in for the sake of holistic wellbeing, @jack himself has all the makings of a parody account.
Dorsey, ban thyself!