Kenneth Osgood is a historian who, he says, “writes sleep-inducing books and articles weighed down by pages of footnotes”. He rarely tweets and has just 139 followers who are mostly historians like him. He is kind of like me. Although I have tweeted more than him, every one of my tweets is simply a link to my blog posts. I have never tweeted anything funny or a hot take on an issue, which seems to be the dominant form of the medium. It is hardly surprising that I have even fewer followers than Osgood, just 130.
Osgood was angered by Musk’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump, a man who had incited violence against his own vice president and instigated a riot on the Capitol. He decided to quit Twitter but found that doing so is a pain. Social media sites do not make it easy to leave. So he decided to test whether it might be easier to get booted off the platform since Twitter owner Elon Musk seems to be trigger-happy with the ‘ban’ button.
His article describes what he did.
Could I get myself banned for lobbying nothing more than silly schoolyard insults at Musk, the kind that I heard in kindergarten — “bologna face” being an example of the genre? I set some clear rules: no profanity, no political insults, no references to Musk’s real-world circumstances or personal life. I didn’t want anyone to think for a moment that I was the actual Elon Musk, and I wanted the “insults” to be banal and harmless, maybe even wholesome (if that’s a thing).
Inspired by the comedian Kathy Griffin, who had her account suspended for impersonating Musk, I made some changes. First, I deleted all my old tweets, one by one. (That did not take long.) Then I downloaded a picture of Musk, drew a mustache and glasses on his face, uploaded the new image as my avatar, and changed my screen name to “Elon Musk.”
I also edited my profile. My likes were now “the moon, working late, government subsidies, making people miserable, hate speech.” And my dislikes were “complete paragraphs, evidence, nice people.”
Not having any real practice with the medium, he asked his teenage daughter to help and they came up with some insults like “”My name is Elon. I am a poopy pants.” But he found that coming up with childish schoolyard taunts three times a day was exhausting and after a few weeks he quit. Maybe he could have got some ideas from the French taunts in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, such as “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”
But then when he tried to log on some weeks later, he found that his account had been suspended. Success at last!
Now Osgood wonders how hard it is to get re-instated. After all, Ye got back on after just a few weeks even after making anti-Semitic tweets, surely a more serious offense than taunts. He hopes that making fun of Musk is considered more serious and that he is not re-instated because then he would have to figure out how to really quit.