Alex Berenson—author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence—received a permanent suspension from microblogging platform Twitter for spreading misinformation. While Berenson is known for his vocal opposition to cannabis legalization, this time, he was punished for spreading false information about COVID-19.
On his Substack page, Berenson posted a brief message, titled, “Goodbye Twitter” with a screenshot of his original tweet that led to his suspension. Berenson’s tweet that triggered the ban claimed that COVID-19 vaccines do not work. “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission,” Berenson tweeted. “Don’t think of it as a vaccine.”
Twitter officials believe that Berenson can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and that the accumulation of misleading tweets justifies a suspension.
“The account you referenced has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules,” a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News in response to an inquiry on August 28.
“The first four states to legalize—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—have seen sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults since 2014, according to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Berenson wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “Police reports and news articles show a clear link to cannabis in many cases.” Berenson was a former employee of the New York Times several years prior.
Berenson’s op-ed was published at the time of the release of Tell Your Children, his book that attempts to link violence with cannabis use. One night, Berenson’s wife Jacqueline, remembered a case in which a man “cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment.” Later Jacqueline wrote, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”
Berenson’s New York Times op-ed and book were so misleading, that two leading psychologists felt compelled to debunk the article in The Guardian.
Carl L Hart is the chairman and Ziff professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University and author of High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. Charles Ksir is professor emeritus of psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Wyoming and author of Drugs, Society and Human Behavior.
“Back in the 1930s, when there were virtually no scientific data on marijuana, ignorant and racist officials publicized exaggerated anecdotal accounts of its harms and were believed,” the authors wrote. “Almost 90 years and hundreds of studies later, there is no excuse for these exaggerations or the inappropriate conclusions drawn by Berenson.”
Alex Berenson on Censorship
This is by no means the first time a publisher or platform has banned Berenson for the spread of misinformation. Amazon denied taking part in a few of his booklets. Berenson’s former employer The New York Times declined to review his latest novel. In a December op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Berenson warned that the COVID-19 pandemic had ushered in “a new age of censorship and suppression.”
In an op-ed in Reason, the writer explained that while Berenson tried to scare people from pot, and vastly underestimated the death toll of COVID-19, it was a mistake to ban Berenson permanently from Twitter. Banning him from Twitter may only make things worse. The implications of banning one person could be extended to another.
The writer explained that if anything, Berenson will just profit more from his “martydrom” from Twitter. “COVID-19 has allowed Berenson to fully embrace his role as a purveyor of delusions,” the article reads, but a ban will only fuel the fire of opposition to those opinions.
Berenson’s ban got political very quickly. “I don’t know Berenson,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted. “But all the Leftie Brown Shirts cheering his being banned—you are the problem. You’re supporting authoritarian billionaires’ arbitrary censorship. & you are contributing to so many people’s distrust of Covid info—by silencing dissent, many are skeptical.”
It’s important to note that there are vastly different opinions of Berenson. Senator Ron Johnson (R–Wisconsin) called him a “courageous voice of reason” and “a valuable counter-perspective.”