I’m sure it’s all a coincidence

Conservative influencers cry foul after a Holocaust denier is banned from Twitter

I’m sure it’s all a coincidence

On Friday afternoon, Twitter banned the verified account of Nicholas Fuentes, one of the most prolific white nationalist activists of the modern era. Fuentes is, among other things, an unabashed racist and anti-Semite. He played a leading role in the proliferation of the “Stop the Steal” national protest movement, which alleged a soft coup was underway to steal the 2020 election from Trump and ultimately culminated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. He has toyed with Holocaust denial and used violent rhetoric to target his detractors.

As reported by SPLC senior investigative reporter Michael Hayden, Twitter has been essential in Fuentes’ rise among the far-right. The platform gave the young white nationalist a verified badge after he cried to the press when it became known he attended the deadly Unite the Right white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Despite his transparent pursuits to take white nationalism to broader audiences and his not-so-subtle reliance on a verified Twitter profile to accomplish those ends, the platform has repeatedly resisted the warnings of extremism researchers; Twitter claimed Fuentes did not run afoul of its policies against extremist content. Which if the position of Twitter was “anything goes” would be one thing, but in light of the platform’s promises to counter radical material its responses often left experts questioning the genuineness of that commitment.

So, nearly four years after the fact, Twitter finally sent Fuentes packing off its service. It’s a positive development for those who give a damn about the future of the world and the health of online conversations, but I am anything but impressed.

Twitter will be noted as among the last major platforms to realize the dangers inherent in Fuentes’ project. Other platforms kicked Fuentes off long ago and he struggles to conduct business transactions online because no one wants to touch his money. The FBI has been crawling all over him. It takes a certain kind of evil to turn so many services against you, and a threshold of toxicity must be exceeded. Fuentes had met that threshold seemingly everywhere but Twitter until now.

Alarmingly, certain spheres of right-wing influence online have taken it upon themselves to rush to the defense of Fuentes, despite his openly expressed desire to enforce a white supermajority in the United States. I worry that this embrace of Fuentes as another victim of “big tech” and “cancel culture” is a canary warning us of a greater moral rot and impending collapse.

Glenn Greenwald (sigh) came to Fuentes’ defense, parroting the same beat-to-death hyperbole that claims by banning—eh, hem—white nationalists from a service, it opens a vacuum under which all forms of speech will be swallowed. This suggestion is patently ridiculous, but then again so is Glenn nowadays. I’ve been hearing this exact warning for half a decade and I’ve yet to see the moderation End Times that I’ve heard so much about come true.

JD Vance, a faux populist who is enjoying an enhanced profile lately thanks to his bid for elected office, came to Fuentes’ defense while noting his mild distaste for the white nationalist. It’s a bit off putting to see Vance describe Fuentes as a “troll.” That’s a heavy amount of sanitizing.

Dinesh D’Souza, a historical revisionist who has made it his life mission to tell white boomers they aren’t actually racist via cosplaying History Channel documentaries, compared Fuentes to Rosa Parks. Really.

This take from John Carrillo made my dog start barking.

Brigitte Gabriel of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! For America came to Fuentes’ defense but kept sight on the real issues: Twitter blocks.

The Post Millennial, notably where Andy Ngo works as editor-at-large, referred to Fuentes as a “right-wing leader” in the subheader of an article about the ban.

But all of this pales in comparison to the absolute fit the crew at The Daily Wire threw. (I should remind everyone that the news blog is among the highest sources of right-wing Facebook traffic.)

Ben Shapiro called Fuentes a “garbage person”—scathing stuff—while ultimately defending him against being banned from Twitter.

Shapiro’s colleague, failed actor Michael Knowles, suggested Fuentes had been un-personed via his bans from platforms. He said it should worry anyone who “contradicts the dominant liberal regime.” Interesting way to describe an ideology built on violence and hate, but go off I guess.

The Daily Wire’s CEO described it as hurting his “freedom.”

Another Daily Wire employee, whom Fuentes once called a “race traitor” for working at an outlet spearheaded by Shapiro on account that Shapiro is Jewish, said the ban was “insane” and represented a “huge problem.”

That’s just a short sampling of what’s been happening online since Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fuentes appearing on some of these folks’ podcasts and programs, which ultimately is all someone like Fuentes seeks: legitimacy and sympathy.

Though temporary, the status as a small-scale martyr puts Fuentes in a position to further advance his profile in conservative circles. Time will tell whether this effort will prove sustainable, but the drumbeat of sympathizers does little to dissuade it.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that these mainstream-adjacent figures are rallying behind a white nationalist who would happily grind them into dirt given the faintest opportunity. The Holocaust denial, the open violent fantasies, the involvement in the lead-up to Jan. 6, the unfiltered racism, the seething hatred of Jews… I’m sure that has nothing to do with their defense of Fuentes.