Twitter owes U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) a big apology. They canceled him! Just because he used the site to do something that directly violated their terms of service — the very terms he agreed to when signing up for a Twitter account. IT’S SO UNFAIR! However, will Mr. Banks get his hateful ideas about transgender people out into the world if Twitter won’t let him? Wait a minute. Isn’t this guy a U.S. Representative ? So, doesn’t that mean he already has a louder voice than the vast majority of Americans? Why, yes. Yes, it does.
So, when Twitter suspended his account for making disparaging remarks about Dr. Rachel Levine, he was not exactly cancelled. Levine, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, is the highest-ranking transgender government official. In U.S. history. She recently became a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Since Levine is transgender and Rep. Banks is a creep, Banks misgendered her in a tweet dismissing her four-star admiral accomplishment. I will not repeat the Tweet, nor will I link to it because it does not deserve repeating. I certainly hope that this makes Banks feel cancelled all over again.
But while his account was suspended, he took to her personal Twitter account to cry. “My tweet was a statement of fact,” he wrote. “Big Tech doesn’t have to agree with me, but they shouldn’t’t be able to cancel me. If they silence me, they will silence you. We can’t allow Big Tech to prevent us from telling the truth.”
Oooh. Chilling. Twitter is out to silence us all. They won’t be happy until we’re all mimes trying desperately to feel our way out of invisible boxes. Banks also tweeted, “I won’t back down. I’ll be posting on my personal account for the time being.”
His personal account. On Twitter. The website that’s silencing him. Note that the tweet he said he would never take down is no longer posted. Whether he took it down or Twitter deleted it, I don’t know. But his Rep. account is back up and running. Again, the silence is deafening.
Republicans love to cry about “Big Tech” censoring them while espousing the value of private ownership and letting businesses do whatever they want. It makes their hatred of a site like Twitter kind of fascinating. To follow the conservative logic, Twitter is a place where people say things. The United States has Freedom of Speech. So, Twitter should not be able to take down or reject anything someone chooses to say. But that’s like saying a newspaper has an obligation to publish every letter to the editor they receive, no matter how hateful or gross or disturbing. Obviously, they don’t.
In fact, a lot of publications have either done away with online comments or made it harder to post anonymously. Because guess what? They do not have to print or post whatever anybody wants to say. And a LOT of what people want to say online is awful. Besides, it is well known that there are plenty of places on the internet where you can say awful things about transgender people. Twitter doesn’t have any obligation to be one of those places.
It doesn’t help that Twitter and other social media sites have not exactly done a good job keeping terrible people from using these websites as misinformation hubs and hatred platforms. Just saying. But since conservatives are so hot for the free market, they should just start their own social network where hatred is freely spewed, like Donald Trump just did. I can’t remember the name of his site, so let’s just call it Dumper. On Dumper you can say whatever you want, so long as you aren’t’t criticizing Trump. That’s seriously in their terms of service. So maybe they aren’t so passionate about unbridled free speech after all.
Banks also tweeted from his personal account, “When Republicans take back the House next year, we must restore honesty to our public forums and hold Big Tech accountable.” There are SO many good reasons to not let Republicans take back the House in 2022, this is but one of them. Does Big Tech need to be held accountable? For sure. But not for hurting conservative feelings. One can only hope voters in Indiana will cancel Banks for real soon enough.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.