The tweets, continued Klein, violated the site’s standards, and a suspension of unspecified duration is now in place.
The disciplinary move may well satisfy critics who hammered Rensin for his thoughts on civil unrest. And that’s about it.
A little context to this episode is in order. Yesterday at a Trump rally in San Jose, protesters and supporters of the presumptive Republican nominee clashed.
From his Twitter perch, Rensin added some perspective on the scuffles:
That commentary hardly originates from left field. Other stuff from Rensin’s Twitter output:
For more of Rensin’s work product, take a right at Vox’s First Person vertical and plunge in. Here’s something on media: “The Guardian study’s hidden lesson: trolls reinforce white male dominance in journalism.” Here’s something on religion: “How the outdated, nonsensical Passover rules taught me what Judaism is really about.” Here’s something on history: “Your Hitler analogy is wrong, and other complaints from a history professor.”
As deputy editor of the First Person presentation, it’s hard to know which pieces he championed or edited, but it’s no stretch to posit that Vox knew what it was doing when it put him in this role: Here’s a rangy and opinionated journalist who can bottle political manifestos in 140 characters, as well as in article templates. Vox wanted provocative. They got it.
Now, what to do with that trait when it embarrasses you? There are some options here. One is to fire Rensin for advocating illegal activity, a sure way to send the message that the tweet violated the site’s standards.
Another approach is to convince Rensin he was wrong and have him delete the tweet and apologize. A non-starter, to judge from the written record. Less than a month ago, Rensin wrote a treatise on the subject of political violence on his own website, which appears to lack a resident editor. “I take an absolutist line on violence: It is categorically immoral. It is immoral in war. It is immoral in criminal justice. It is immoral in conflict resolution and ethical calculus and in the name of political expediency,” writes Rensin before exploring the thoughts and fate of Robespierre. “He interests me in part because he is perhaps the most notorious example of a man seduced by the expediency of political violence, and seduced despite his earlier and evidently sincere opposition to bloodshed,” notes Rensin. The left needs to “reckon with the question of violence now,” argues Rensin, even though it has very little power. A distillation of sorts came in this tweet from this morning:
The point here is that Rensin’s riot-advice tweet resulted not from a momentary malfunction of a brain circuit but rather from study and contemplation. Evidence to this effect comes from his Twitter feed itself, which still contains the riot-advice tweet (as of posting time, that is).
In light of all that, we have at hand another pointless journalism suspension, a knee-jerk response to public condemnation that this blog has blasted time and again. We emailed Klein with this question: “Is the suspension designed to provoke a rethinking of [Rensin’s] worldview, or to let him know that there’ll be penalties for expressing it?”