“I am alive physically but digitally speaking there has been execution squads across the alt-right. There is a great purge going on and they are purging people based on their views.” So said Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the alt-right, the white nationalist movement that has gained public name recognition concurrently with the rise of president-elect Donald Trump.
Spencer refers to Twitter’s suspension of his account and those of a dozen other similarly-minded individuals that occurred on Tuesday. They are apparently the first notable “victims” of Twitter’s new measures to crack down on the harassment and abuse that has become notorious within the platform.
Since the ban, the alt-right leaders have shifted to a platform called Gab, which is in beta. (Those interested in signing up can request an invitation.) There is some disagreement among members whether Gab is the way to go for the movement — some like the “free speech for everyone” slogan, but others think it will just devolve into an echo chamber — but there is little doubt that the platform is already trending alt-right. As Gab “welcome[s] everyone and always will,” according to its founder and CEO Andrew Torba, there is also little doubt that there is little the alt-right won’t be able to say and do there.
These alt-right snowflakes, ironically, have found their own safe space.
Regardless of whether you agree with Twitter’s decision, as a private entity, they are well within their rights to set up an anti-harassment policy. Spencer and the others are reacting out of the assumption that Twitter intends to censor opinion, rather than crack down on abuse, but when a hallmark of one’s movement is insensitive expressions of racist statements, one can have a hard time telling the difference.
In other words, Spencer probably shouldn’t have been surprised that expressing his views would get his booted, when they include such things as casually calling for the removal of African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States, but when he considers that just another opinion, he’s going to throw a hissy fit about his digital martyrdom.
Aside from the racist comments — Spencer has also openly dreamed of “a white ethno-state on the American continent” — he and his ilk have now given us another example of how unconservative the alt-right really is. Rather than take personal responsibility for their actions, they whine about supposed censorship of a private entity.
By contrast, when conservatives complain about the recent labeling by Facebook and Google of certain sites as fake news under their very broad definitions for the purposes deciding who’s allowed to use their advertising platform, it’s because we’d prefer that people learn to responsibly parse information on their own.
Whether or not people are susceptible to clickbait is up to them, but they should also have the opportunity to discover the leanings as well as the great journalism available on many of the listed site. But I digress.
To reiterate the point, Twitter does not owe anyone a platform to harass others. Regardless of whether they made the right decision here, at least everyone benefits from seeing the ironic blubbering of the same crowd who derided the reactions of devastated Hillary Clinton supporters who fully expected to see her become the first woman president of the United States.
Certainly, the threat of the alt-right’s appalling views becoming more mainstream is a threat to be taken seriously. However, if this is all it takes to get them to confab from the safety of a friendly social platform and cry about their mistreatment, maybe they can be laughed back into irrelevance.
(An earlier version of this story called Gab “invite-only,” implying that if the platform tilted alt-right, it would remain so due to the choices of the current users. The invite-only aspect is only true in regards to its beta testing stage and does not mean that users will be the ones sending the invitations.)