Paul Nehlen, a Republican candidate hoping to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin in 2018, was indefinitely suspended from Twitter this weekend, which resulted in a flurry of activity from far-right and alt-right activists online.
In recent months, Nehlen had become more transparent with his sympathies and loyalties to the white nationalist alt-right movement and had engaged in a series of public meltdowns after critics called him out for his clearly anti-Semitic messages and media appearances. Until recent weeks, Twitter had turned a blind eye to months of his anti-Semitic and white supremacist content.
Nehlen was temporarily suspended last month after urging his supporters to combat the “Jewish media.” This weekend’s permanent ban came after Nehlen posted a doctored photo of United Kingdom’s Prince Harry and his fiancée Megan Markel that replaced Markel’s face with “Cheddar Man,” an artist rendition of a prehistoric British man with dark skin that outraged white nationalists who consider Britain to be an ethnic homeland for white people.
Prominent white nationalist media figures and others who lurk in the racist cesspools of the internet mourned Nehlen’s Twitter ban in a variety of ways that included Twitter campaigns and ramblings about an alleged Jewish conspiracy to censor conservatives.
Yesterday, on 4Chan’s “politically incorrect” forum board, one popular thread urged users to change their Twitter profile photos to a photo of Nehlen, to tweet with the hashtags “#ShallNotCensor” and “#FreeNehlen” and to retweet all users that follow those instructions:
By this morning, hundreds of accounts had followed the instructions posted on 4Chan:
Among those joining the campaign against Nehlen’s Twitter ban were white nationalist podcast host Mike “Enoch” Peinovich and Andrew Anglin, owner of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer. One alt-right activist declared Nehlen “the new Groyper,” referring to a toad spin-off of Pepe the Frog that has grown popular with alt-right activists online.
The campaign grew large enough that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Tracker noted the hashtags:
— SPLC Hate Tracker (@splchatetracker) February 12, 2018
Gab, an alt-right Twitter alternative that creator Andrew Torba claims will not censor even the vilest posts, joined in on Nehlen’s anti-Semitism, suggesting that a Jewish conspiracy may be at work to censor conservative views:
— Gab: Free Speech Social Network (@getongab) February 11, 2018
White nationalist podcast host Nick Fuentes praised Nehlen as a “fighter,” adding that he “will always respect somebody who lays it all on the line”:
Every time I get frustrated with some of the off-color things Paul Nehlen posts, I always come back around to defend him because of just how gutless his detractors are. Say what you will, he’s a fighter! I will always respect somebody who lays it all on the line.
— Nicholas J. Fuentes (@NickJFuentes) February 12, 2018
Jason Kessler, a white nationalist activist who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counter-protester murdered, said that Nehlen’s suspension showed why Congress should pass legislation to prevent Twitter bans:
Paul Nehlen’s account suspended again. I guess that goes to prove why the #ShallNotCensor legislation is needed.
— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) February 11, 2018
Although Nehlen will likely continue to cater to his highly energetic white nationalist fan base on platforms such as YouTube and Gab, Nehlen’s Twitter suspension serves to isolate him and his base from mainstream conservative discourse, lessening his ability to truly shift the “Overton Window” and drag Republican discourse further toward the alt-right.