There may be no surer way to land in Twitter jail than to call Biden administration official Rachel Levine a man, but some fed-up conservatives are taking a stand on what they describe as the platform’s push to replace fact with fiction.
In the space of two days, Twitter suspended the accounts of the Babylon Bee and Turning Point USA CEO Charlie Kirk for describing the transgender assistant health secretary as male, making them the latest in a long line of conservatives to run afoul of the “hateful conduct” policy with Levine-themed tweets.
The difference is that the Bee and Mr. Kirk are refusing to delete the tweets, declaring that doing so would make them complicit in a falsehood.
“Twitter wants me to admit to a lie for saying something true. That I cannot do,” Mr. Kirk told The Washington Times in a Wednesday email.
Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon, who said that to remove the tweet would be “like asking us to say that 2 and 2 make 5,” called on others to join the conservative Christian satire site in challenging the policy.
“We don’t believe that facts are hate speech, that speaking truth is hate speech,” said Mr. Dillon on Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “At some point, people have to stick by this, Tucker. People have to be willing to say, listen, if they want us to deny the truth in order to stay on this platform, then we speak the truth. Make them kick you off. Make them boot you.”
After Mr. Carlson posted screenshots Tuesday of the offending tweets on Twitter, he was also censored, according to to the Daily Caller, which the Fox host co-founded. The tweets are no longer visible on his account.
Both Mr. Kirk and the Bee, which each have more than 1 million followers, have said they will appeal the lockouts.
That they would put their influential podiums at risk comes as a sign that the right has reached a boiling point on tech censorship as well as the left’s campaign to credit male-born individuals with female accomplishments.
Dr. Levinewho reportedly transitioned to female in 2011 at the age of 53, was recently named one of USA Today’s 2022 Women of the Year, prompting the Babylon Bee to mock the award with the March 15 tweet, “The Babylon Bee’s Man of the Year is Rachel Levine.”
Mr. Dillon said that the tweet was “just a joke. It’s pretty harmless, and it’s certainly not hurting anybody.”
“And this is a public official,” he added. “It’s not like we’re punching down at some downtrodden person.”
Even so, Twitter reacted Sunday by suspending @theBabylonBee. The next day, Twitter froze Babylon Bee editor-in-chief Kyle Mann’s account for a tweet blasting the lockout.
His tweet: “Maybe they’ll let us back into our @theBabylonBee Twitter account if we throw a few thousand Uighurs in a concentration camp,” an apparent reference to the Chinese government accounts active on Twitter.
Twitter wasn’t finished: On Tuesday, the tech platform froze out Mr. Kirk’s @charliekirk11 account for a March 15 tweet that began, “Richard Levine spent the first 54 years of his life as a man.”
“He had a wife and a family,” said the Kirk tweet. “He ‘transitioned’ to being a woman in 2011, Joe Biden appointed Levine to be a 4-Star Admiral and now USA Today has named ‘Rachel’ Levine as a ‘Woman of the Year.’ Where are the feminists??”
Mr. Kirk did not actually call Dr. Levine a man, but did use the federal official’s “deadname,” a violation of Twitter rules.
“We took enforcement action on the accounts you referenced for violating the Twitter Rules on hateful conduct,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Washington Times. “Per the policy: ‘We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize , degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.’”
In addition, the account owner “will be required to delete the violative Tweet and spend 12 hours in read-only mode before regaining full access to their account,” meaning that the accounts will remain frozen unless the offending tweet is removed.
Turning Point USA called the ban “a symptom of a growing anti-democratic climate perpetuated by Big Tech.”
“The cinensors at Twitter, with this latest assault on objective truth, have proven unequivocally that they don’t believe in biology — only ideology,” said Mr. Kirk in a statement, adding, “They want submission. We must not give them what they want.”
Not surprisingly, the Bee has fired back with a slew of satirical posts on the lockout. Items include “Twitter Throws Babylon Bee Into Fiery Furnace After Refusal To Worship Pride Flag,” and “Babylon Bee Writers Struggling To Come Up With New Material After Twitter Bans 1 Of Their 2 Jokes.”
Twitter hates comedy.
It hates truth.
It hates free speech.
And it hates the American People, because they refuse to be docile sheep. https://t.co/ejgtbWewsd
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 21, 2022
The lockouts drew plenty of reaction on social media. Some commenters said that following Twitter’s rules is simply the price of admission for being able to access the platform, while others cheered the decision.
“Twitter suspends the account of infamous MAGA hack Charlie Kirk after he repeatedly misgenders US assistant secretary for health Rachel Levine and heaps transgender insults on her,” tweeted Occupy Democrats.
Inez Stepman, senior policy analyst at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, slammed the suspensions.
“That men and women are biologically different is one of the most basic and obvious truths of the human condition,” said Ms. Stepman. “That stating such obvious truths results in censorship from social media behemoths is good reason to question the amount of power they have to shape discourse in the public square.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted in reaction to the Babylon Bee lockout that “Twitter hates comedy. It hates the truth.”
Twitter has a record of targeting tweets hostile to Dr. Levine, a pediatrician and the former Pennsylvania health secretary.
The Media Research Center found a dozen examples of lawmakers, media outlets and others whose accounts were flagged or frozen in the last year for tweets about Dr. Levine’s sex.
They include accounts owned by Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton; Catholic World Report; PJ Media, and the Daily Citizen, a Christian news outlet run by Focus on the Family .
PJ Media editor Paula Bolyard blasted Twitter “science deniers” for the lockout over the conservative outlet’s Oct. 19 tweet, “Rachel Levine is Not the ‘First Female Four-Star Admiral’ Because He’s a Male.’”
“They’ll hold our account hostage until we ‘acknowledge’ the error of our ways. Every cell in [Levine’s] body is coded with male DNA, yet we’re in the wrong?” asked Ms. Bolyard on her own account.
Account owners have typically deleted their tweets rather than lose access.
Mr. Banks said he removed his tweet to stay in communication with his constituents, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“Twitter demanded I delete the tweet if I wanted to participate in a momentous political debate, which is my job, so I did, but I stand by every word in my factual statement,” said Mr. Banks in an email. “Twitter provides a crucial platform for elected officials to communicate with voters, which is part of what makes Twitter’s biased and arbitrary censorship so dangerous.”
He lost access to his official account for an Oct. 23 tweet saying the “title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man,” referring to the announcement of Dr. Levine’s promotion to four-star admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
Mr. Banks added Wednesday: “Fighting the left’s censorship will remain a priority of mine for as long as I’m in Congress.”