Life goes on, but hopefully not barreling through a crowd of people.


In response to a video of kinetic protesters ganging up on a car, Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds tweeted the following to the right. Needless to say, it stirred up some controversy and backlash. Some went so far as to call his tweet an appeal for “mass murder”, though others stuck with terminology “vehicular assault.”

It didn’t take long for Twitter to act, and Reynolds’s account was suspended. What followed after that was reasonably predictable, with various critics and defenders, mostly along predictable lines. Reynolds defended himself thusly:

Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars and surrounding them is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.ANOTHER UPDATE: Was just on Hugh Hewitt talking about this. Since Twitter won’t let me respond to — or even see — my critics, let me expand here.I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. I fully support people protesting police actions, and I’ve been writing in support of greater accountability for police for years.But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance.

I think some of the frustration with Twitter on the part of many of Reynolds’s defenders is rather legitimate. In some cases, I disagree but think they are touching on something about the dynamics of politics, celebrity, and Twitter. Where they take action and where they don’t. Flagging Reynolds does seem (at best) random compared to a lot of trangessions that are let slid.

But seriously, this is not the hill to die on. If Reynolds had wanted to tweet about getting away, he could have done so. He didn’t. There are two reasons that a driver in such a terrible situation might run somebody over: To get away, or to inflict injury. If you’re advocating action that could result in both of those things, you need to be very clear about which of those things is your goal. Reynolds, intentionally or not, went for the unacceptable one.

Had the drivers hurt someone in the process of getting out, I honestly wouldn’t have been too bothered. If there was a recorded phone call prior to that saying he was going to “Run these assholes over!” with a note of enthusiasm, then that might be a different story. Maybe. Those kinetic protesters did put themselves in harms way, but that’s not a blank check to do whatever. Put those words in a recording, and an obvious attempt to plow through people rather than simply get out, then the driver has some explaining to do. I might be loathe to want to prosecute, but at the very least such actions should not be applauded or encouraged.

That doesn’t mean that he needed to be permanently banned, and he wasn’t. He just had to delete the tweet and everything was restored. There appear to be some glitches in the process, but by and large this all seems within parameters both for Twitter and Reynolds. Reynolds said something he shouldn’t have, which happens. Twitter took action, but nothing earth-shattering, and life goes on. At least it should.

Category: Newsroom

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6 Responses to Onward

  1. Murali says:

    There is a curious binary in western democratic societies where law-breaking (and perhaps serious rights violations) in the service of political ends is given a lot more lee-way than law-breaking in the service of private ends. Yet, nothing about political ends renders the risk of hobbesian bads any less probable or disastrous if realised. If defensive killing is permitted against those who directly and imminently threaten your basic rights, then why should we give people who riot for political reasons a pass?

    Of course, if the state fails to protect a group from hobbesian bads and in fact participates in inflicting hobbesian bads on that group, then what duty does that group have to submit to the state?

    Put another way, we are in mutual defection mode here: open war between the AA community and everyone else. The only way this can be stopped is if the cops actually started protecting and serving the AA community and not systematically killing them.

  2. Aaron David says:

    Having once been caught in a riot ( in a car with a pizza delivery sign on it, I had to use Reynolds advice, which he followed up with “Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.”

    Even a bunch of drunk college students shaking your car, demanding pizza can be dangerous in a mob situation. We can also ask Reginald Denny how stopping can work in a situation like this.

    • trumwill says:

      That goes to the difference between “keep moving” and “run them over.”

      If he had said the former (or “Start moving again”) it’s a different conversation.

      When you’re talking about potential violence, wording matters. The second statement, which came after the uproar, wasn’t the problem.

  3. Aaron David says:

    I agree that phrasing matters, but when someone is shooting out a tweet, which as far as I understand is meant to be quick and off the cuff, the best choice may not readily come to mind. Does the sentiment override the actual words? Does it matter as it is much more Freudian to slip something out? Does Twitter allow for the precision necessary for tweets?

    This is why I pretty much ignore the tweetspace.

  4. Aaron David says:

    Well, it looks like you nailed it Will, as here is Instapundits apology on the matter:

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