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Did Ta-Nehisi Coates Leave Twitter Because Of White Nationalists?

Ta-Nehisi Coates deleted his Twitter account Monday evening, and it may have been prompted by white nationalists.

Even Richard Spencer — the face of American white nationalism — eventually piled on the debate over an essay criticizing Coates’ new book.

Coates, a renowned public intellectual and a national correspondent for The Atlantic, was caught in a Twitter storm over the weekend after The Guardian published an essay criticizing his politics and relationship with Barack Obama. The essay by Cornel West, a socialist public intellectual and prominent critic of the Democratic Party, was widely shared across social media.

The essay, called “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle,” accused Coates of ignoring the Obama administration’s use of drone warfare and suggested that Coates has a “preoccupation with white acceptance.” The essay was prompted by Coates’ new book, “We Were Eight Years In Power,” about the Obama administration.

The essay ignited the Twittersphere, with writers, academics and activists weighing in.


One of the strongest responses came from New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb, who criticized West harshly for praising Malcolm X in the Guardian essay, despite West’s ties with the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan said in 2000 that he “created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm X’s assassination.”


As the debate wore on, Coates tweeted his articles to point to places where he had addressed things like drone warfare.

But West’s article soon began to take hold in white supremacist and white nationalist communities on Twitter. Coates responded with disbelief.

Image by twitter

He soon deleted his account.

Image by twitter

That evening, Richard Spencer retweeted West’s essay.


This was not the first time that Coates had suspended his Twitter account. He has questioned the usefulness of the social media platform for young journalists. But this appears to be the first time Coates has left Twitter after such a prominent intellectual spat.

After Coates’ account went inactive, several Twitter users responded with frustration — and pushed for further debate.


Contact Ari Feldman at feldman@forward.com or on Twitter @aefeldman

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