By Brandon Fey, Staff Writer
On Thursday, Nov. 2, the CEO of The Babylon Bee Seth Dillon visited Gettysburg College. The leader of the popular conservative satire publication was hosted by the Gettysburg College chapter of the Young Americans For Freedom (YAF). At 6:30 p.m. he gave a lecture titled “Big Tech’s War on Truth” in room 260 of the College Union Building (CUB).
This event was publicized earlier in the week through the use of chalk statements written outside of CUB and Plank Gym. Other students then utilized the chalk to write messages of their own, including responses to YAF’s messages.
The event was attended by students from varying campus political organizations who were curious about what the talk was to involve.
It began with Seth Dillon describing the criticism that The Babylon Bee faces for its satire. It has often been the target of social media fact checkers who treat the content as if it were factual and not the intended satire.
Dillon then mentioned his publication’s recent controversy after the Biden administration’s transgender Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine was named “Woman of the Year” by USA Today. This gave Dillon’s content creators the idea for a parody challenge by suggesting to name Levine “Man of the Year” instead. He acknowledged the risks in publishing this joke on Twitter, as it would violate the platform’s community guidelines and potentially result in the suspension or termination of The Babylon Bee’s account.
He decided to proceed by posting the joke, which was flagged by Twitter as expected. The Babylon Bee was suspended on Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy and the company demanded they delete the tweet lest the account remain inaccessible.
Dillon said he refused to delete the tweet despite this, citing the importance of satire and the truth that Rachel Levine is a “transgender man,” even if some people find it offensive.
Shortly after these events, popular business magnate Elon Musk contacted The Babylon Bee to confirm if it was true that the publication was banned from Twitter. Dillon confirmed the rumor and explained the ultimatum posed by the platform.
Musk respected their decision not to delete the tweet. The billionaire then informed them he was in the process of buying Twitter for $44 billion. Once he controlled the site, he restored accounts of The Babylon Bee and those who had retweeted the post about Levine. Musk purchased Twitter, renaming it X, because he believes that “wokeness” is a harmful ideology that promotes division, exclusion and hate, posing a significant threat to civilization.
Dillon’s talk then shifted to focus on his personal beliefs regarding truth and the value of comedy. He argued that free speech is important for challenging bad ideas and preventing their consequences in the real world. He mentioned the importance of reason and philosophy as a means of dealing with bad ideas.
According to Dillon, the dangers of toxic ideologies must be challenged effectively. He believes humor to be a powerful tool that reaches more people than mere refutation. He cited Bill Maher as an example of a comedian, who, despite being politically liberal, has used humor to address gender and woke issues in the face of criticism.
Dillon discussed the issues of big tech censorship, explaining how COVID-19 information had been censored as “misinformation” despite being factually true, and how this censorship backfired by drawing attention to the suppressed information.
He argued that censorship guards narratives, not the truth, and that efforts to control what people believe and say often result in the spread of more misinformation. He spoke on the importance of standing boldly for the truth, even when it is difficult or unpopular, referencing the social experiments of psychologist Soloman Asch in the 1950s, which revealed the strong influence that social conformity has over behavior.
He believes that, under the guise of claiming to be marginalized, individuals that his publication has targeted actually have great social power and influence, allowing them to punish and censor those who make jokes about them, which he stated was a form of oppression.
Dillon held that comedians have a moral responsibility to make people take bad ideas less seriously and ought to challenge the powerful, speaking truth through humor.
“Every joke is a tiny revolution, and breaking the cycle of conformity is important for society,” Dillon said.
Time was left at the end of the talk for audience members to pose questions. In this portion of the event, Dillon discussed his company’s alternative means of revenue, as all of its content is available on social media for free. He maintains his business through ad revenue, book publications and offering exclusive subscriptions.
He also responded to some of the audience members about his comments regarding his sense of objective truth, the rational limits of free speech and the definition of “man” and “woman.” The discussion remained civil and respectful, and Dillon thanked the College for hosting him before he left.
“I thought it went really well. We reached our goal for attendance and I was happy to see a lot of different faces from different groups,” said President of YAF John Riccardi ’24. “It always reinforces my faith in the community when I get to see civil conversation because we’re told constantly that you can’t have it, but it happened here and I was really proud of how the event went.”