A philosopher recently got banned from Twitter/X. Can you guess who it is?
Here’s a hint: just remember that Twitter/X is currently our best known approximation of Bizarro World.[Note: the suspension has now been undone; see Update 3, below.]
In other words, think of one of the most well-meaning, helpful, and nice philosophers active on Twitter, and you’ll have a good chance of guessing correctly.
Here are some more hints: she holds a named chair, works in philosophy of religion and cognitive science (among other topics), is the editor-in-chief of a journal, is a co-moderator of a blog that provides career advice to newbie philosophers, illustrates philosophical thought experiments, and writes a fair amount of public-facing philosophy.
Oh, and she plays the lute.
Have you guessed yet?
It’s Professor Helen De Cruz of Saint Louis University.
Now look, I know the lute isn’t everyone’s cup of mead. It’s no mandolin, nor is it a zither, either. But that’s no reason to kick the woman off of Twitter.
Was it the reason? No one seems to know. All she received from Twitter was the following:
In a public update on Facebook, Professor De Cruz, who had over 30,000 followers on Twitter, wrote:
I wondered what on Earth could have precipitated this, as I did not violate their terms of service. I tweeted some pictures from an 18th c book I just got as a present (Telliamed). But now, I think, it’s my piece in Aeon… I got *so many* reactions to it, and my inbox the past days has been full with messages from people saying they really like the piece and it gave them hope. And it got hundreds of retweets etc. So my guess is the team of Twitter don’t like the piece?
Telliamed is “a geological treatise presented as the theories of an Indian mystic encountered by a French missionary during an imaginary voyage to India.” And the piece at Aeon is on climate change, Spinoza, and self-realization. Risqué material.
Given Twitter’s seemingly more frequent glitchiness lately, it’s possible there was no decision to suspend her account; rather, it may just have been the result of a programming problem. We just don’t know. Nor do we know if the suspension will ever be reversed.
Whatever it is that led to her being banned, we can all hope that Professor De Cruz enjoys this forced respite from that hellsite while it lasts, and in the meanwhile we can heed the lessons of her experience.
(*steps away from the harpsichord*)
UPDATE: The suspension of Professor De Cruz’s Twitter account consists in it being consigned to “read only” mode, which means that though it is visible, she cannot tweet from it.
There is some speculation on social media that the suspension is owed to a tweet from Professor De Cruz several days earlier (or a campaign in response to the tweet) about the International Chess Federation banning trans women from competing in women’s chess events.
To my knowledge, there is no evidence to support this speculation.
The tweet was mild, especially by social media standards:
Problems for women in chess
* sexual harassment by coaches etc.
* fellow players hitting on you in competitions
* paucity of female role models and coaches
* sexist assumptions about women’s chess capacities
Not problems for women in chess:
* Trans women chess players
— Helen De Cruz (@Helenreflects) August 20, 2023
Were this tweet, or a campaign against her because of it, the cause of De Cruz being banned, that would fit with the sensitivity and censoriousness of anti-trans activism, but that doesn’t seem like sufficient reason to think it played a role.
Speaking of censorship, please, for the sake of having a nice Friday evening and my syllabi ready by Monday, no comments on the topic of whether trans women should be banned from women’s chess competitions, ok? Thanks.
UPDATE 2: Banned by Twitter:
UPDATE 3 (2:59pm): Professor De Cruz reports here and on Twitter that the ban was rescinded “without explanation or justification.” It appears Twitter did not even bother to inform her of this; it was brought to her attention by one of her followers on the site.