Port: Ex-Heitkamp staffer appears to take credit for Twitter suspension of conservative Fargo commentator
Another sordid chapter in the increasingly alarming story about Americans abandoning certain egalitarian notions about free speech and open discourse because they can't stand that someone, somewhere, might be saying something they don't like.
MINOT, N.D. — Conservative television commentator Chris Berg was suspended from Twitter over the weekend.
As I write this, at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9, Berg's account remains suspended.
I spoke with Berg, and he says he's still received no specifics from Twitter as to why he was suspended, but a Facebook post from a former staffer for North Dakota former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp gives us an inkling as to what might have happened.
Kyle McFadden is currently an associate at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a firm chaired by Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeline Albright. According to his company bio , he "conducts research and analysis for clients on corporate sustainability, social impact initiatives, and technology trends." His previous work includes staffing for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and in Heitkamp's Washington, D.C., office.
He also touts time he spent conducting interviews on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
McFadden left a comment on a Facebook thread noting Berg's suspension, writing "well deserved" before posting what appears to be a screen capture of a message from Twitter indicating that Berg's account had been suspended in response to a complaint from McFadden.
It's not clear from the post what the basis for McFadden's report to Twitter was.
I've attempted to reach out to McFadden for more details, but I've been unsuccessful so far. He appears to have blocked me on Facebook after I sent him a message there inquiring.
This situation is simultaneously common, in that it's the sort of petulance which is playing out on social media all over the country, and the world, and noteworthy, because it's the first time it's happening (that I'm aware of) to a prominent member of the news media in our part of the world.
I've asked numerous acquaintances, who have followed Berg's tweets closer than I have if they saw anything particularly untoward, which might have justified a suspension. Even Berg's critics can't cite anything specific. Berg himself has told me that he felt his posts, which, before his suspension, were focused on election news, were "benign."
I've heard a lot of hot air from folks who don't like Berg's politics, claims about "lies" and "misinformation," though when pressed for details, it becomes obvious that the problem is less Berg's veracity than his point of view.
Which makes those accusations little better than outgoing President Donald Trump's endless bloviating about "fake news" that isn't so much fake as merely inconvenient.
Where does this leave us?
With another sordid chapter in the increasingly alarming story about Americans abandoning certain egalitarian notions about free speech and open discourse because they can't stand that someone, somewhere, might be saying something they don't like.
As to this situation, specifically, at the very least, if Twitter is going to silence a member of the news media, they owe the public a detailed explanation as to why.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com .