NAOMI WOLF: The Pain of Listening to Twitter Censorship Testimony

As I type, I am undergoing the excruciating experience of listening to C-SPAN, which is airing “Twitter’s Response to Hunter Biden Laptop Story.” The larger issue is: who censored Twitter, and why, and whether there was illegal collusion (there was) between Twitter and the US government.

So I finally am seeing them — up close, in real life, in person. I am finally able to look at the faces of the heretofore faceless technocrats who took it upon themselves to try to destroy my life and ruin my name.

I am witnessing, as I see them seated primly in rows in a Congressional hearing room, the very faces — the somber, ill-cut but costly blue suits, the bad wire-rimmed glasses, the judgmental expressions — of those who were personally responsible for the misery, trauma, reputational damage, shattered dreams, and loss of income, in my one life, over the course of last two and a half years.

Here at last are the very people who took it upon themselves, or who oversaw their colleagues, to single me out, to collude with the White House, and with Carol Crawford of CDC, and with DHS perhaps, to suspend me — following an accurate tweet of mine that warned women of menstrual harms following mRNA injection.

The positions of these people, the views of them — their self-regarding, self-satisfied, smug certainty that their rightness is the only rightness that could ever be — do not remind me of the testimony or views of actual Americans. They remind me rather of the affect of functionaries in a Stalinist show trial, or of the nameless bureaucrats in Kafka’s The Trial.

There, onscreen, present at last, is Yoel Roth, “Former Twitter Head of Trust & Safety” - with that oddly prim, pursed mouth that these technocrats all seem to have; with those fingertips touching each other, presenting himself as if he is the moderator of reality itself, and as if he finds himself in the presence of something that smells bad. There are his glazed defiant blue eyes, his slightly balding pate; the costly haircut; there is the sneering downward cast of his mouth. I try not ever to make critical personal remarks, but the ugliness, sorrow, loss, isolation and pain I sustained, and still sustain every day, at the hands of these until-now-faceless, self-righteous people, tend to make me see them aversively; or perhaps I see the moral ugliness of their decisions, as if manifested in their faces and body language.

Sorry — not sorry.

There he is: Mr Roth, wrongly claiming that, “paradoxically,” more speech equals more danger and not more safety for society. There he is, this person so sure that he is so right, having tweeted that Republicans are “NAZIS”. And here he is, sorry about that tweet now - that is, now that he is being asked about it — by those same Republicans.

There is Anika Collier Navaroli, “Former US Safety Policy Team Senior Expert,” talking about “dangerous speech”. There is her pale-gray jacket, her earnest if not bullying posture, as she leans forward, passionately describing the terrifying nature of freedom of speech. She describes a Twitter policy to address “coded incitement to violence” and to “address dogwhistles”. Overt threats of violence are of course already illegal, and they are the province of law enforcement, not of social media functionaries. Yet based on these “coded” tweets, rather than on actual threats of violence, Ms. Navaroli calls for more censorship. Thus she is already staking out and defending the Orwellian province of “thought crimes” or “pre-crime.” It was never Ms. Navaroli’s role to decide if “dogwhistles” would lead to violence; that is the role of police and of the FBI. Why is she claiming that a social media platform is supposed to take on the role of maintaining physical public safety, that belongs to law enforcement?

Ms. Navaroli ends her hectoring introductory peroration with a pious, condescending conclusion that her mission is to make communication online “safe.” Her evidence of the crimes committed by speaking on Twitter, include this 1984-level sentence: “The President said he liked to send out his tweets like “little missiles”; and to me that sounded like weaponization of a platform.”’ Has the woman never taken an English class or learned about metaphors? Still later in the hearing, she accuses “fan fiction” of leading directly to the murder of people on Jan 6 — putting herself right in line with the many despots and tyrants who, since the birth of the novel, have accused the act of reading of causing social mayhem.

Here is Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), asking Yoel Roth about Twitter’s marking of certain speech as “unsafe”.

There is Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton, a leader whom I used greatly to respect, fulminating about “conspiracies.” There she is using the dangerous language of “incitement”, a meaningless word that serves only to criminalize First Amendment-protected speech. There is Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), on her first week on the job, alarmingly wrongly stating that it is her task to “protect the American people from misinformation” — a role for a member of Congress that is identified literally nowhere in the Constitution or in the Bill of Rights.

There is former Twitter counsel, former “head of legal, policy and trust” at Twitter, Ms. Vijaya Gadde, with her slightly more polished look and her sapphire-colored jacket; a package that proves, however only that pure evil can be as well dressed and coiffed as not. There Ms. Gadde is, prevaricating when Rep Nancy Mace (R-SC) asks her directly if Twitter ever censored Americans pursuant to demands from the Government. After Ms. Gadde’s mumbled gibberish in response, haplessly phrased in the passive voice, Rep Mace thanked Ms Gadde for admitting that Twitter had become a “subsidiary” of the FBI in illegally violating the First Amendment rights of Americans.

It is so painful for me to see these faces. I have a very intimate relationship to these people.

They tried to destroy me, and did a fair job of it, by some measures.

These are the people — “my” people, paradoxically; people educated like me, people who shared my political views until 2020; these are people who vacationed where I used to vacation, who hang out with people I know — who were the agents behind full- on Stalinist-type persecution of innocent Americans; of me; these are the people who ruined my life, or sought to do so, and destroyed my career, or sought to do so. These emotionally ugly, these nasty, self-satisfied folks, so sure that they are right, so very, very wrong; are here at last; right here on C-Span.

They persecuted not just me but Dr. Martin Kulldorff; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya; Dr. Paul Alexander; Dr. Peter McCullough. So many others. They scrubbed and manipulated the discourse of a platform that has no right to be any more censorious than a telecom company, because they were willing to collude illegally with the government to decide what can be said in America. The messaging from the FBI via “the super-secret James Bond tele-portal”, as Rep Jim Jordan so brilliantly and rightly put it, reached into the voices of Americans and strangled Americans’ rights; but Twitter and the company’s political friends went further than mere silencing. These smarmy people ultimately hurt, and may have helped to injure and kill, many thousands.

These are the people who decided to remove the accurate tweet of mine about menstrual symptoms subsequent to MRNA vaccines, that could have saved millions of women from the current agony and infertility that they now endure. These are the people who obeyed the instructions of their colleagues in government to censor me.

I looked at the bios of the people cc’d on Twitter’s communications with the White House about attacking my accurate tweet; they were a lot of young functionaries at the US Bureau of the Census, at least two of them, oddly, educated at the University of Delaware. These low-level Gen Z apparatchiks, and their incompletely articulate bosses, thought it was fine to destroy the career and try to shred the reputation of someone who had written eight international bestsellers, who had been a Rhodes scholar, and an advisor to a Presidential campaign and to a Vice President; who had gone back to school at midlife and had worked for seven years successfully to complete a D Phil at Oxford University; who had been invited onto every major platform and written for every major newspaper and was a commentator on every major news network for 35 years, and who, for those decades, by those same platforms and news sites, had been identified as a global leader in the feminist movement.

These nothing people in front of me, these hacks, these people of zero cognitive distinction, these essentially trivial-minded humans, used their unearned, thuglike, intellectually meaningless power — the intellectually two-dimensional power of a social media platform — to announce to the world that I was crazy, unhinged; to present what appears to have been a file, to the BBC, to NPR, to The New York Times - to my own former colleagues — seeking to re-present me, a lifelong writer of heavily annotated bestselling nonfiction, as not credible.

For the two years subsequent to my deplatforming, news outlets — including those where I used to be a columnist, such as The Guardian and the Sunday Times of London — did not need to claim, let alone prove, that I was actually wrong in any concrete way; all they had to do now — and they did this repeatedly, clearly, as we see now, at the behest of the government involved - was to repeat the phrase replicated around the world, and embedded into posterity via my Wikipedia bio:

“Naomi Wolf was banned from Twitter for misinformation.”

“Misinformation” is never in quotes; the accurate caveat — “what Twitter called “misinformation”’ — is never added, in spite of this being the journalistically ethical and correct phrasing. This damning but really meaningless summary, then, is to what 35 years of labor, a status as a feminist leader, two degrees, eight bestsellers, thousands of footnotes, and the publication of essays in every major news site in North America, as well as most of Western Europe — got reduced.

It is incredible to me, as someone who was raised in an American meritocracy, and who has until very recently believed in American meritocracy, that a group of nonentities in Twitter, in collusion with nonentities at CDC (hi there, Carol Crawford), the White House and the US Dept. of the Census — were able thus so simply, and at such immediate, nuclear scale, to destroy the reputation of someone identified since 1990 as a major American voice.

So: this can happen to any American voice.

These ill-dressed, ill-spoken, banal careerist ciphers, cost me so much.

I re-trained for almost a decade, in the middle of my life, to teach. It is all I had ever really wanted to do with my life. Now I will never be able to be the only thing I ever wanted to be — a Professor of English Literature at a university.

I am now sixty. It’s too late for me. Twitter, in collusion with the Biden administration, cost me my hard-won lifelong dream. I’ve been maligned and censored by Twitter since 2021. Even if the company eventually settles my lawsuit against it, and even though Mr. Musk has “let” me back on the platform, that would be, this is, no victory.

Twitter has not sent an advisory to all of the news outlets around the world that depicted me, at Twitter’s own direction, as crazy, that they were wrong to have done so; there has been no press release stating that they erred, and that I was right, and that they are sorry for wrongly abusing my reputation — and for destroying women and babies. No, forever I will remain “deplatformed from Twitter for misinformation” in the cybersphere, even though it is finally being established that sadly I was deplatformed for telling God’s truth.

It is unlikely that any university at this point would see past the grotesque imprint on my bio that Twitter, via the White House, CDC, and perhaps the FBI, has taken care to embed in my bio, and in articles about me, around the world. It is unlikely, too, that I will ever recoup the six-figure investments that investors withdrew from my company when Twitter, colluding with the government, was orchestrating the shredding of my reputation. It is unlikely that a 35 years career and legacy online of what had been seen until very recently as a life of significant accomplishment, can ever be re-established.

I try never to complain in public. I try never to show self-pity or weakness, at least not to my enemies. But Twitter’s attacks on me are not over, and I am simply sick of the damage these mediocrities have done to me, and continue to try to do.

Just yesterday LinkedIn sent me a notification that a Twitter “Political Staffer” was viewing my bio. A notice of scrutiny by a Twitter staffer with friends in the administration reached my inbox the day before Congressional hearings about the censorship both entities imposed on people such as me.

Intimidate much, @Twitter?

I am a brave person — I guess — and I won’t be daunted by this obvious effort at harassment. But I am also human, and I happen to have a broken shoulder at the moment, and I am simply tired; tired of fighting these monsters.

And yes, it is wearying and threatening and coercive to see that this massive behemoth, with their friends at the highest levels of government, are not done messing with my own, personal, only life.

Yoel Roth is to this very minute, defending the de-platforming of people due to their having “spread COVID misinformation”; that, dear Reader, would be me. To this day, this trimly-styled nonentity defends debunked magical thinking.

To which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene rightly responded: “Mr Roth: who put you in charge of what is true and what is not?”

Rep. Taylor Greene also said to Mr Roth: “You abused the power of Big Tech to censor Americans. I am so glad you are censored now, and that you have lost your jobs.”

I cannot believe that “my own” people, my former tribe on the elite left, are joining forces with the government to violate the First Amendment rights of all Americans and then, worse still, to justify having done so. I can’t believe that Democrat after Democrat, liberal after liberal, is on C-Span singing the praises of censorship and inventing imaginary roles for government officials and social media platforms to keep Americans “safe” from the “threats“ of discourse and ideas. We used to be the side of Howl and Lady Chatterley’s Lover; of The Well of Loneliness. Heck, of the Free Speech Movement! What happened to us?

I can’t believe that people I thought were hostile to America’s interests — in this case, the Republicans demanding answers from the hacks and flunkies of Big Tech — are the allies in this hearing’s case at least, of truth and the Constitution and freedom of speech.

And I can’t believe that the forces who tore my life apart, temporarily half-destroyed my business, ended any hopes of my realizing my one life’s best dream, and set a match to my reputation, turn out, now that the curtain has been pulled back, as at the end of The Wizard of Oz - to be such small, small, sad, petty, miserable, mediocre people.

The larger issue is not the damage these smirking, small-minded people did to me. The larger issue is what the experience I underwent at their hands, represents for our culture.

There is a specific kind of damage that Twitter and the Biden administration did, in censoring and smearing the medical doctors — in silencing the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration. Medical harms, medical damage, limits to medical options and open debate, follow.

But consider my example as an example of something else, that is equally serious.

I am not a medical doctor or a public health official — I am, or I was, an American writer, identified as a cultural figure. So what happened to me means that any American cultural figure can be taken down. Any American cultural movement can be mis-framed, defamed, broken. Any American writer, musician, artist, sculptor, actor, director, can be annihilated and memory-holed. Any American artistic movement can be burned alive. And remember — Twitter is an international company, and wars can be waged, culturally, against us by our adversaries.

Why should any young writer, watching what happened to me, believe in meritocracy in American culture any more — why should she work hard, aspire largely, and master her craft? Clearly keeping her head down and parroting the party line will keep her safer.

So this issue brings us squarely into the cultural climate of 1933, when books were dragged from university libraries to be burned in a pile, in Berlin, or of 1937, when the Nazi party curated and hosted a “Degenerate Art” exhibit in Munich. What happened to me brings us squarely into a climate in which specific American writers, artists, sculptors, musicians, social activists, can be identified as enemies of the state, or identified as culturally or socially untouchable.

“Degeneracy” in 1937 was defined essentially as that of which the Nazi party did not approve.

Today on C-Span, we heard a lot about the decision to violate Americans’ rights, based simply on sentiments of which the Biden administration, or Twitter’s employees, did not approve.

The larger issue is that once a society crosses this Rubicon, with one cultural figure, this can happen to any cultural figure or any cultural movement. And if we do not reject (and indeed prosecute and legislate against) this unlawful suppression of views at the behest of the government, then we no longer live in an American culture, in which ideas rise and gain currency on the basis of merit and on the basis of ideas’ appeals to others.

We will, rather, be in a Nazi reality in which petty officials distort and dictate culture itself and reputationally behead those cultural leaders who pose challenges to the power structure.

Berlin, Munich, in this respect, are here again, in their darkest sense; those who decided, based on a party line, on proper and improper art, books, views — are not dead and gone; lost in history; no; here they are.

But this time they appear in our America, in their bad blue suits, with their pompous nasal voices; saying “I have no knowledge of this matter”; or “I can’t hear the question”; as they occupy, with their damaged consciences, their nauseating excuses, seats in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in the United States of America.

Will we let these cultural functionaries — who operate just like those petty tyrants of the cultures of Berlin and Munich not so long ago — take up space, with impunity, in the heart of our America?

Or will we drag America back into daylight and sunlight again, and force these equivocating wretches to face their own degenerate crimes — crimes against freedom of speech and the Constitution?


Image: Title: Yoel
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