As rioters and looters went on the rampage in Charlotte on Wednesday evening, WBTV News reported live via Twitter that “protesters” (my quotes, not WBTV’s) on I277 were “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles. AVOID.” Glenn Reynolds retweeted the item and commented: “Run them down.” Falling into the category of “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d,” I found that cathartic.
The powers-that-be at Twitter, however, were having none of it. They promptly suspended Glenn’s account. On the condition that he delete his tweet, they also restored his account the following day. Twitchy preserves the record of what went down here. Glenn commented at InstaPundit here.
I thought Twitter’s suspension of Glenn’s account was ludicrous and its restoration of his account on the condition that he delete his tweet almost laughable. Yet this was only the beginning of the saga. Glenn had started a joke that started the whole world crying but, unlike the guy in the Bee Gees’ song, the joke wasn’t on him.
I would be shocked if Glenn isn’t the most popular contributor to USA Today. His twice-a-week column for the paper is certainly must reading. Yet USA Today felt it had to get in on the act, suspending Glenn’s column for one month on account of his tweet. Here is Glenn’s expression of second thoughts in his own words:
Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.
I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”
Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”
I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.
Well, I got it the first time, no explanation necessary, but okay. Can this be the end of the story? No, it cannot.
Glenn must also be the most distinguished member of the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Law School faculty, so the University of Tennessee was yet to be heard from. Law school dean Melanie Wilson announced:
University administrators, college faculty, and I are investigating this matter.
The university is committed to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and diverse viewpoints, all of which are important for an institution of higher education and the free exchange of ideas. My colleagues and I in the university’s leadership support peaceful civil disobedience and all forms of free speech, but we do not support violence or language that encourages violence.
Good for you, Dean Wilson. You possess virtuous sentiments and demonstrate mastery of the operative cliches and shibboleths of your ilk.
Dean Wilson’s statement is a joke. Dean Wilson, university administrators and college faculty investigating the matter are a joke. National Review’s David French gets the joke: “What’s there to investigate? He wrote a tweet, it says what it says, he deleted it, and he made his explanation.”
Well, they must perform to appease the crazy campus gods and others that Glenn had the temerity to taunt in his tweet. Dean Wilson, university administrators and college faculty investigating the matter are kin to the mob that descended on Sherburn in Huckleberry Finn. As Sherburn put it, “a MAN’S safe in the hands of ten thousand of [their] kind – as long as it’s daytime and [they’re] not behind him.”
Glenn will have the last laugh. Having demonstrated to many of us the highest and best use of Twitter, he has vowed to quit Twitter “[a]s soon as this settles down.” And he won’t be the only one.
JOHN adds: There is no “right” to close down a highway, and if drivers just kept going, it couldn’t happen. Most likely no one would get hurt, either; the rioters would get out of the way. But any personal injury would be the fault of those who wandered on to the highway, not the motorists. Still more is this the case when motorists are being threatened by a mob. Like Scott, I didn’t think Glenn’s comment required either interpretation or apology. Let’s hope the witch hunt doesn’t go any further.