Not literally, of course, but apparently the social media giant can’t make that distinction — and that’s a big problem, Simon said Saturday at the ATX Television Festival. Simon, whose Twitter handle is @AoDespair, was banned for a week on the platform after taking on trolls (or perhaps bots) who were cheering the Trump administration’s move to rip young migrant children away from their parents at the border.
In the posts flagged by Twitter, Simon told those users to essentially drop dead, using colorful language.
“I basically said ‘drop dead’ to people, that nomenclature, which is an art of phrase, it’s not me trying to have you threatened or killed,” Simon told IndieWire. “I use that phrase with a lot more florid descriptions of what they should die from, but nonetheless I was not saying ‘you should be shot,’ I wasn’t doxxing anybody. It’s basically saying ‘drop dead’ to people who were saying the mothers and children at the border who are being separated, the children being held incommunicado, that they are criminals and they deserve it.
“So you can Tweet that, that these human beings are criminals and they deserve to be separated from their kids, but I can’t tell them to drop dead?” Simon added. “Fuck you, Jack Dorsey.”
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Earlier, during an ATX panel on politics and TV, Simon said that he planned to return to Twitter once his suspension was lifted — but will immediately use the same language he used on those trolls, but directed toward Dorsey.
“I’m going to say all the same things that got me thrown off and I’m going to Tweet them at Jack Dorsey, the exact same language,” he said. “On the premise of telling people someone that they can drop dead is not harassment. I have no control over the mortality of other beings.
“Really for your policies, you can drop dead,” he added. “I’ll get banned again. I think it might be healthy, if I can keep myself banned my life might be more orderly.”
After the panel, asked whether he had been in touch with Twitter, Simon said he had only received form emails from the company.
“What happened is they showed me specifically three Tweets that I do not regard as being inappropriate or harassment or threatening to anybody in any sensical way,” Simon told IndieWire. “They said until you delete these, your account is frozen. I don’t want to delete them but even to write them back and appeal, you have to get that off my screen, there was only one choice — I had to press delete. So I press delete and deleted the three tweets.
“And I wrote them an appeal on their little form and I said, ‘look, I didn’t want to delete them, I want you to restore them, but I’m writing you now to say why your policy is inappropriate and dysfunctional,'” he said. “The only thing they wrote back is, “Thank you for deleting your Tweets, you’ll be restored in five days.’
“It was a week, but they counted the days since I was first frozen. So I’m in a seven-day penalty, but at the end, I’m going to basically write Jack Dorsey on Twitter, and I’m going to use the same insulting verbiage, and say ‘you might as well kill me again, because I’m not playing by these rules, this is abysmal.'”
Simon first revealed his Twitter penalty in a blog post on Friday, as he mentioned his sorrow over the death of his friend (and “Treme” contributor) Anthony Bourdain, and why he hadn’t been able to post a tribute on the social media platform.
“Slander is cool, brutality is acceptable. But the hyperbolic and comic hope that a just god might smite the slanderer or brutalizer with a deadly skin disorder is somehow beyond the pale,” he wrote on his blog. “Die of boils, @jack. Seriously. As far as I’m concerned, your standards in this instance are exactly indicative of why social media — and Twitter specifically — is complicit in transforming our national agora into a haven for lies, disinformation and the politics of totalitarian extremity. The real profanity and disease on the internet is untouched, while you police decorum.”
Simon was on stage at ATX’s “Politically Minded” panel with “The Good Fight” creators Robert and Michelle King. The trio of writers discussed their concern that the current widespread disinformation and attempts to discredit legitimate journalism may be impossible for this nation to combat in this digital age, where anyone can say anything with very little fear of reprisal.
“You couldn’t slander or libel people in the pre-digital age,” Simon said. “My friend Tony Bourdain, the news [of his suicide] wasn’t gone an hour before Alex Jones was saying he was killed by the ‘deep state.’ No one is held responsible in the same way we were when print and broadcast were held legally responsible.”
The Kings, who incorporated quite a bit of Trump into Season 2 of “The Good Fight,” even though they initially wanted to avoid it. (The plan for Season 2 if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? “Tort reform,” Robert King noted.)
They ultimately realized Trump is too prevalent in culture not to bring him into the show’s storylines. But it’s still hard to keep up with politics, Michelle King noted, because real life has become “so entertaining and mesmerizing.”
“Whatever else you want to say about the Trump administration, it is extremely well-cast,” she quipped.
Simon said he has been working on an HBO pilot, “Capitol Hill,” for several years, but is now on his fourth script because the unbelievability of reality keeps surpassing his show’s premise, a look at political partisanship, and how money clouds everything.
“This is the moment where you’ve got to stand up,” he said. “Where the republic is really tottering. Certain things we took for granted as being inherently implausible and beyond the pale for American political construct are now on the table. I’m not saying all art needs to be political, but all art is political.”