Twitter Should Not Have Banned Michael Knowles
On November 4, Michael Knowles, a conservative political commentator and host of The Daily Wire podcast The Michael Knowles Show, announced that Twitter suspended an account because of a joke relating to the midterm elections.
The tweet, posted on the afternoon of November 2, read “Remember, Democrats: Don’t forget to vote on Wednesday, November 7! #Resist #Retweet” Twitter claimed that Knowles's account “violated the Twitter Rules” and that his account would be unlocked once he removed the “Tweets that violate [their] rules.”
After criticism from conservatives that Twitter did not similarly suspend the accounts of liberal Twitter users who posted an almost identical joke, they began buckling down on their standards, booting those users from the platform as well.
While Twitter’s response shows an apologetic attempt at political neutrality, booting Knowles and other users from Twitter demonstrates an overreaction to political comedy.
The tweet, in my opinion, was dangerous. Misinformation regarding the polls is far from rare; The New York Times reported six types of misinformation including rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement were arresting voters at the polls — a ploy meant to frighten Latino voters out of showing up. Others reported false announcements leaked from Russian social media accounts that voters could submit ballots online, by text, or through email.
Maybe we need to have more faith in ourselves and other voters and assume that people will immediately recognize November 7 as the day after polling. Voting, however, is too vital for assumptions. Knowles’s tweet, along with the many others that jokingly reminded the tweeter’s opposing party of the wrong polling date, have legitimate potential to prevent voters from showing up on November 6, putting their chance to vote at risk. And for that reason, those tweets should have been removed.
But Knowles’s accounts should not have been suspended. As Emily Zonaitti wrote in the Daily Wire “by banning Knowles for making a joke, Twitter was declaring comedy, as a whole, off-limits.” The specifics of the tweet had harmful potential, not the account itself. Comedic political commentators on both sides of the political spectrum use Twitter as one of their many platforms for engaging their audiences, and, in most cases, there is no harm in that.
In his talk at Yeshiva University last year titled “Why the Right is Funnier than the Left These Days,” Knowles explained that liberals and leftists are less funny than conservatives on the right because “comedy is aggressive; snowflakes are too fragile these days to handle it.” Twitter, in this case, proved him right; his joke struck them as offensive, and instead of removing the single tweet they shut down his whole account.
Knowles’s tweet was funny, and, as a comedic political commentator, the nature of this tweet on his account where he posts about politics with bits of comedy sprinkled in, shouldn’t have caused such an extreme reaction. Whoever screens tweets for inappropriate content should have smirked or giggled at this joke before taking it down, sending Knowles a digital pat on the back with the explanation as to why Twitter removed his post.
As of Tuesday, November 6, Knowles is #free, and hopefully, people knew to show up to the polls.
Photo Caption: Michael Knowles
Photo Credit: imdb.com
In-Text Photos: From Michael Knowles’s Instagram Account