Prominent journalists are still suspended on Twitter – so why is Elon Musk reinstating white supremacists like Nick Fuentes?
Yesterday, Nick Fuentes, a self proclaimed Hitler loving white supremacist had his account reinstated on Twitter, and racked up over 147,000 followers in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, journalists who reported on the @ElonJet are still nowhere to be found. Here, HUNGER examines Musk’s hypocritical attitude towards free speech absolutism, and the dangers of reintroducing the likes of Fuentes to the masses.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” is how Elon Musk explained why he spent $44bn on acquiring Twitter (or should we say forced into acquiring). So it was no surprise to see a number of controversial figures – who had previously violated community guidelines – reintroduced into the Twittersphere. It started with the likes of former US President Donald Trump, conservative commentator Jordan Peterson and Andrew Tate. Granted, all incredibly controversial figures in their own right whose suspension from the platform was believed to be warranted by many – but none more so dangerous or despicable than Musk’s latest recipient of a digital pardon.
If you’ve never heard the name Nick Fuentes, you should count yourself lucky. Fuentes is a 24-year-old American Hitler-loving, holocaust denying white nationalist who has built up a worryingly large online fanbase, which he calls ‘Groypers,’ who have relayed his volatile rhetoric throughout social media in his absence – but now he’s back to do it himself. As an avid white supremacist, Fuentes has often called for the subjugation of Jewish people and the embrace of Christian nationalism in his home country. “We’ve got to make America a Christian nation again. And you can understand why influential Jewish people in conservative media are not really gung-ho about that,” he said in February 2022. “They’re not promoting white identity. They’re not promoting this.” He’s regularly attacked Black people, declaring that Jim Crow segregation “was better for them, it’s better for us, it’s better in general,” and described homosexuals as “disgusting.”
Before 2022, Fuentes wasn’t known to the masses like he is today. He first garnered mainstream attention after becoming disgraced rapper Kanye West’s communications manager for his 2024 presidential campaign – even attending an infamous Mar-a-Lago dinner with his hero, Trump. Bonding over their anti-semitic views, Fuentes and Ye went on Alex Jones’ Infowars for an hours-long interview, in which the rapper declared, “I see good things about Hitler” and complained about people “dissing the Nazis all the time.” As Fuentes’ name began to rise, alt-righters had a new icon. They no longer had to listen to the carefully crafted dog whistles of Trump and other conservative figures – now they had someone who truly didn’t care about the backlash.
Now, somehow, this individual is back on Musk’s Twitter, able to reach an audience of millions at the click of a button. And unfortunately, users are flocking to his page at an alarming rate. Since being welcomed back to the platform yesterday (January 24th), Fuentes has clocked in a massive 147,000 followers. His first tweet back – featuring a Spongebob Squarepants meme – received 2.1m views and 16,000 likes. Clearly, Fuentes’ views are no longer constrained to the likes of Telegram and his own live streaming platform, Cozy.tv, where the eyes on him are but a fraction of what he’ll receive on Twitter. Obviously, Twitter will keep a close eye on him; they’re not stupid enough to let neo-Nazi propaganda spread through their platform and ruin even more relationships with advertisers – but that’s not the point. Fuentes will understand he can’t spurt all-out racism, homophobia and anti-semitism on the platform (Ye was swiftly banned after posting an image of swastika). Instead, he’ll begin using dog whistles and euphemisms to keep his reach alive, directing users to his other platforms where he can be as hateful as he likes with no consequences. If he’s intelligent enough, Fuentes will grasp that this opportunity is crucial in spreading his ideology – and that’s what is so terrifying.
What makes Fuentes’ reintroduction into the social media giant even more baffling is that Musk had previously banned users due to his own personal agenda. After a firestorm of controversy following Musk booting several journalists off Twitter in December, the billionaire announced he would agree to allow reporters back on. But they had to eliminate certain tweets. Reporters who didn’t comply would remain banned. This, of course, refers to tweets mentioning the account that tracked Musk’s private jet flight records – @ElonJet. Washington Post journalist Paul Farhi reported, “Twitter has privately demanded that the suspended journalists delete the tweets that drew Musk’s ire in the first place — a condition the reporters have refused to accept. The result is a stalemate: The suspended journalists remain in Twitter purgatory, unable to access their accounts.” Those journalists who refused – Ryan Mac of the New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and Susan Li of Fox Business, among others – are still banned on Twitter.
So, why, then, does an incredibly damaging figure like Fuentes remain when journalists who never violated Twitter rules are stuck in Twitter purgatory? Clearly, the rules are arbitrary, capricious and based on the personal biases of the company’s owner. If Musk really is a “free speech absolutist” there’s no reason why those wrongly removed from the platform should continue to be ostracised while a self-admitted white supremacist is let loose into a world full of young and impressionable Twitter users.