Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist congressional candidate from Wisconsin, took to Gab.ai yesterday to reveal one of the alt-right’s best-kept secrets: the identity of notorious Twitter troll @Ricky_Vaughn99.
While yet to be independently confirmed, the alleged doxing has already ricocheted around the far right where an ongoing debate about “optics” — internet shorthand for which costumes and aesthetics the far-right should use to rebrand itself — was further inflamed by the revelation.
The alleged dox appears to have grown out of a running spat between white supremacist Christopher Cantwell and infamous neo-Nazi troll Andrew “weev” Auernheimer. Weev has accused Cantwell of being a federal informant and Cantwell has responded by accusing weev of colluding with @Ricky_Vaughn99 to deliberately split the far-right movement between “vanguardists,” i.e. those who advocate for militant street action, and “mainstreamers,” embodied by Vaughn.
As Auernheimer wrote in March, at the Right Stuff’s 504um:
[Vaughn and I] decided (not in league with one another, conspiracy freaks, I'm just saying that the reasoning behind his actions is obviously the same as mine) that hard divisions must be made sooner rather than later between viable actors and nonviable actors. Anyone that was not capable of seeing what these people were and joining in the denouncement was, in our thinking, a non-viable actor and poisonous to the future of the movement.
Vaughn also wrote “I’m dividing the movement between effective people and dumb losers.”
The dox comes at a pivotal moment for the alt-right, which has been embroiled in several publicity and legal scandals over the past few months. In February, Elliot Kline of Identity Evropa was revealed to have lied about his military service record. March saw the collapse of the Traditionalist Worker Party following Matthew Heimbach’s arrest for battery, domestic battery in the presence of a child, strangulation and intimidation during an affair with his benefactor and father-in-law’s wife.
In March, Mike Peinovich, host of the radio show the “Daily Shoah,” aired his frustrations with the hard right vanguardists in the optics debate who refused to soften their presentation:
We [the “alt-right”] made it so that we definitely put ourselves off in this ghetto where we are now this thing and we burned any bridges that we had to the wider right. And we're going to have to spend some time rebuilding that.
Lending some credence to the accuracy of the doxing, Richard Spencer, an ally of Vaughn’s, tweeted overnight that “Paul Nehlen needs to just go away.”
Ricky Vaughn’s rise and Gab
The pseudonymous Ricky Vaughn Twitter account — named after a character from the 1989 film Major League — was highly influential in spreading the ideas of the racist alt-right in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Peaking at 62,000 followers and posting some 221,000 tweets, an MIT election study during the primaries ranked the Twitter account as more influential than the accounts of NBC News, Stephen Colbert, and the Democratic Party among many others.
Vaughn was one of the first alt-right users to fully seize the potential in strategic, mainstream social media use. His rapid ascension as an influencer earned him instant celebrity on the far right.
When Vaughn was banned from Twitter in October of 2016, he became even more of a cause célèbre among the far-right. Vaughn then took his act to Andrew Torba's Gab — a Twitter alternative tailor-made for the racists rejected by the mainstream platform — where he quickly became a prominent presence with double the "Gab score" of neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin and other alt-right personalities.
The alt-right is split on the question of doxing as a tactic against fellow travelers. Some heralded Nehlen’s actions as a positive move due to Vaughn’s habit of criticizing others in the movement while others thought it was a mistake. It led many Gab users to question whether doxing is something that should be allowed on the platform.
“Exposing someone’s identity with malicious intent in order to silence them or scare them can certainly be a form of censorship. I personally think it is reprehensible, but as our guidelines stand today we do not prohibit hearsay and I don’t think that we should,” Gab founder Torba wrote on Tuesday afternoon. “Ultimately anons need to be responsible for their own OPSEC because once information is out, there is no making it private again. Such is the reality of the internet.”
Matt Forney, a noxious men’s right’s advocate, disagreed, and said that he cancelled his Gab “Pro” account over Torba’s refusal to act:
I just cancelled my Gab Pro subscription (which was due to renew today) to protest Andrew Torba's refusal to ban Paul Nehlen for doxing Ricky Vaughn.
“What Nehlen did was indefensible, and Torba's autistic unwillingness to realize this will kill Gab in the long run,” Forney continued. “I will not financially support Gab so long as Torba continues to act in this fashion.”
One user on the white nationalist blog Occidental Dissent predicted in December of 2017 that “2018 will be the year that 'Fake Right' Alt Lite brands like Weird Mike Cernovich, Jack Proboscis, Laura Loomer, and Ricky Vaughn die out and are forgotten.”
Vaughn’s account on Gab remains active as of the writing of this piece.
This piece will be updated.