Rapper Ye’s December 2 ban from Twitter has become almost an act of martyrdom for some right-wing figures who have openly stated that antisemitic rants should be allowed on Musk’s free speech platform.
In the lead-up to his acquisition of Twitter, Musk declared himself a “free speech absolutist,” and soon began offering a “general amnesty” to previously banned accounts once he became the Chief Twit. The move was celebrated by right-wing figures who saw his takeover as a chance to reclaim a presence on the platform.
Despite Musk’s promises to ensure Twitter doesn’t become a “free-for-all hellscape,” harassment, hate speech, and conspiracy theories have flourished on the platform since he took charge. Accounts of a number of previously banned far-right and fringe actors have been restored, while some progressive and anti-fascist users have been hit with seemingly random and unsubstantiated bans.
Prior to Musk’s acquisition, Ye’s account had been temporarily restricted after an antisemitic tweet. His profile and tweets remained visible, but he was unable to create new posts. The post has since been deleted and Ye started tweeting again on November 20. (Musk claimed that Twitter made the decision to restore Ye’s account prior to his takeover.)
Ye’s return to Twitter commenced with his now-infamous “Shalom” tweet, and it was quickly followed by his two separate interviews packed with antisemitic tirades, including professing his admiration for Adolf Hitler. It was not until Ye tweeted a picture of a swastika interlaced with a Star of David that Musk banned his account on the grounds that the post promoted violence.
After Ye’s ban, many right-wing outlets were quick to cry foul on Musk for supposedly walking back his promises for a free speech platform. Some even took their criticism a step further and excused Ye’s post, incorrectly suggesting that his First Amendment right to free speech prevents Musk from banning him — as the new Twitter CEO has vocally opposed “censorship that goes far beyond the law” — or saying that the comments did not rise to the level of inciting violence. Fringe social media users similarly berated Musk’s decision, with some posts echoing the same antisemitism that got Ye banned. Nick Fuentes, a known white supremacist who has been working closely with Ye, lambasted Musk for bowing to “high pressure activist groups (Jewish)” and making Twitter a “controlled platform.”
While many of those critical of Ye’s ban have been quick to note that antisemitism and other forms of hate are protected free speech, countless experts and analysts have pointed to the very real and harmful effects of unchecked hate speech. High-profile instances of antisemitic speech like Ye’s have been accompanied by banner drops, instances of vandalism, and other acts that serve only to further hatred against Jewish people.
- On the December 2 edition of The Daily Wire’s The Ben Shapiro Show, Ben Shapiro sharply denounced Ye’s antisemitism, but still asked: “Is what Ye is doing tantamount to incitement? I don’t think so because I have a very strict legal standard for incitement. So do I think Ye actually should be banned from Twitter? I think the answer is no. I don’t think that Ye should be banned from Twitter. … I actually don’t think that Musk should have done it.”
- Infowars published an article bemoaning that “Musk said last week he was going to launch a ‘general amnesty’ this week and start unbanning people en masse if they hadn’t ‘broken the law or engaged in egregious spam’ but instead he has banned Ye over complete bulls**t.”
- A December 2 article on Breitbart asserted that Ye’s suspension from Twitter demonstrates that Musk’s calls for “free speech absolutism” on the platform is “a fantasy.”
- Tayler Hansen, an independent conservative journalist known for covering the January 6 Capitol insurrection, pushed back against Musk’s decision on Twitter, saying, “As a free speech absolutist this permanent ban doesn’t feel right— even if you vehemently disagree with what @kanyewest was saying today, he did not break the law. What is the official reason for Ye’s perma-ban?”
- Conservative media pundit and virulent racist Ann Coulter also lambasted Musk for suspending Ye, arguing, “You believe in free speech or you don't, @elonmusk. Even the ACLU defended a Nazi parade on free speech grounds. This isn't even a parade. It's just WORDS.”
- Newsmax producer Justine Brooke Murray defended Ye’s right to post anything on Twitter: “You can’t pick and choose when to support free speech. Let antisemites like Kanye publicly humiliate themselves. Remember Skokie, Illinois?”
- Timcast Editor-in-Chief Cassandra McDonald tweeted, “Instead of saying I support free speech I’m just going to start saying I support the freedom to offend. It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does.”
- Discussing Ye’s suspension on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jeanine Pirro claimed, “America was founded on the concept of free speech. Hate speech is protected. … You’re free to say whatever you want.”
- Actor Kevin Sorbo tweeted, “I may not agree with what Ye said yesterday. But he has the right to say it. That’s how free speech works.”
- Podcast host Joe Walsh tweeted, “As an American, I will defend any American’s right to be an anti-Semite, or a bigot, or a racist. Because I will always defend free speech. But as a human, I will fight against all anti-Semitism, bigotry, and racism. Because I will always fight against evil.”
- On Newsmax, conservative contributor Erin Elmore said, “The speech we should protect is the speech that offends us the most, and we do live in the United States of America and as conservatives, we’ve often said, ‘We're being censored, we're being silenced.’ Nobody should be censored or silenced.” Daily Caller reporter Brianna Lyman added, “It's very concerning for me to hear this, but nonetheless, Kanye has the right to say this. Now with Twitter specifically though, the biggest question is what is the official reason that Musk banned him. If it's because of what he said on Infowars, then Musk does not believe in free speech like he claims he does.”
- Cartoonist Scott Adams tweeted, “If the limit to free speech is ‘inciting violence,’ free speech is an illusion. If Elon Musk gets to decide how much you incited violence with your free speech, are you free? Not even close. It doesn't matter who decides. It isn't a practical standard in a woke world.”
- Conservative social media influencers Hodgetwins wrote, “Kanye said some crazy shit. Nobody agrees with him saying he supports Hitler and Nazi’s, but he shouldn’t of been banned. No laws broken, he didn’t incite violence. We can disagree with what people say but that doesn’t mean they should be permanently banned.”