Twitter, for many young Americans, has replaced bars for meeting other people and newspapers as the place to gather information. One of the better aspects of Twitter as a tool is its utility in connecting people who otherwise would not meet or have a chance to interact with celebrities, media outlets, politicians, and the like. A particularly nasty side effect of this is that it also lends itself to people to, often anonymously, harass others. One of the primary provocateurs for whipping up mobs is Milo Yiannopoulos, a divisive figure employed by Breitbart. Milo, or @Nero, as he is known on Twitter, has pushed further and further into seeing how much he can say or direct his army of anonymous, insecure beta males with MAGA hats jammed onto their unwashed hair past the line of decency. This week he and his army of prepubescent aspiring Trumps went a bridge too far for Twitter in their harassment of Lesley Jones for her role in the new Ghostbusters film. Regardless of Jones’ comedic ability, criticism of a public figure can go too far, and Twitter banned Yiannopoulos.
Controversy seems to follow Yiannopoulos, and he thrives off of it. His army of unkempt gremlins promptly lost their minds at their prophet’s removal from the site, many declaring this to be unconstitutional. They felt he had a constitutional right to be on Twitter, and felt that this was likely all the fault of “PC Culture” or “SJW’s.” How many of these same people protested against government or even public opinion pressuring businesses to act against their conscience when Memories Pizza in Indiana became a national controversy as a result of the owner saying that they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding? How many of these people shook their head in disbelief when Governor Pence of Indiana, now their carrot juice soaked Messiah’s presidential running mate, caved on RFRA in the wake of the Memories Pizza dust up?
Free association and the right of an individual or company to choose who they do business with went out the door when their sainted and bleached hair hero was turned away by a business he broached a contract with? Twitter’s terms of service clearly states they reserve the right to remove anyone in the event that they deem circumstances warrant it. “But the First Amendment!” they whined behind their keyboards, forgetting that Twitter being forced to allow someone to use its service is not covered by any provisions of the First Amendment, despite their religious commitment to Milo’s frequent benedictions on their savior Donald J. Trump from their Holy Text of Breitbart on it.
On a larger scale, we have forgotten we are a nation and a people founded upon the idea of free association and the ability of individuals to come together to form collective groups that admit and expel people based on criteria the group or corporation sets. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about his visit America in the 19th century in Democracy in America he found a far ranging territory full of independent minded people who organized and socialized based on mutual interests. There was no single, state sanctioned church but many; there were dozens of private societies and clubs in towns of even moderate size; he even observed newspapers abounded in the fledgling country because associations and organizations felt compelled to share information about themselves and other groups around them. They admitted and forced out members based on shared ideology. This tradition carries through to today in America – so long as admittance or expulsion is not based on defining characteristics such as race or sexual orientation Americans are by and large free to organize how they please. We don’t blink an eye when a university has standards for membership or when fraternities and country clubs require a rigorous vetting before being welcomed in. De Tocqueville noted that what made America’s unique government work was the intense desire of its people to maintain and police these associations on their own volition. He also recognized that as time went on the government would continue to creep in its growth, and there was a danger in the successive generations relying less on the principle of free association and more upon the government to determine their ability to organize.
There is the chance that Yiannopoulos’ fans are highly illiterate and don’t really understand what they’re saying, unless they are suggesting the government seize Twitter as a state property. Given their Doritos-stained messiah’s authoritarian streak, I suppose I can’t really be surprised if their fascist reaction shouldn’t be so surprising, though their flirting with neo-Marxism should be troubling. Yiannopoulos has ruffled more than a few feathers in the last few years, and while there are questions about limits on free speech in our country, this is not the battle or issue his socially anemic cult believes it is. Rather it is about an American corporation falling back upon a tradition older than our country — the right of a group to expel someone from it based on its own criteria. May we not soon forget that right.