Dear Milo: The six stages of lifetime-ban grief from fellow Twitter exile Charles C. Johnson

23 Feb

Dear Milo: The six stages of lifetime-ban grief from fellow Twitter exile Charles C. Johnson

By now it’s probably seeming more real to Milo Yiannopoulos, formerly @nero on Twitter and now banned for life, that the little blue bird is never coming back. His followers will find new heroes, his enemies will stop caring about his tantrums; it’s all coming to an end.

If you missed it, Mr. Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter after Ghostbusters and SNL actress Leslie Jones was subjected to a campaign of racist and sexist harassment seemingly at the direction of the Breitbart writer and champion of so-called “alt-right” politics on the Internet.

There’s maybe only one member of the right-wing blogosphere who knows exactly what the next year of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s life is going to be like now, and that’s Charles C. Johnson.

We reached out to Mr. Johnson, 27, who lives in California, to find out what it has been like to become Twitter famous for right-wing online trolling, and then have all that access taken away. “I was the canary in the coal mine,” he says, speaking from the Republican National Convention. “I’m the man who was banned from Twitter before it was cool.”

Some might recall that for a hot minute in 2015, Mr. Johnson was the subject of think pieces on whether Twitter is a mall or a public square, whether it was a free-speech paragon or just another media company trying to sell ads. “Chuck,” as Mr. Johnson also goes by, was referenced in passing this week as new waves of those think pieces sloshed around pondering Mr. Yiannopoulos and those same questions about Twitter’s role and responsibility in our social-media society. “A moment of silence for the dearly departed Milo Yiannopoulos. May he rest peacefully in his Twitter grave next to Charles C. Johnson,” wrote Teddy Wilson, a reporter for the non-profit online news agency Rewire, on Twitter.

Mr. Johnson is a serial provocateur who has a habit of making false claims that he usually does not retract in the face of evidence. There’s a reason he was once described by Gawker as the “Web’s Worst Journalist” and by The New York Times as “mood slime.”

For instance, back in his tweeting days, he frequently claimed, with no evidence, that President Barack Obama was gay: “Once you accept the premise that Obama is gay a lot of things start to make sense,” he wrote in December, 2014. So take everything he claims with a grain of salt.

The stages of Twitter-ban grief:


On May 24, 2015, Twitter permanently suspended Mr. Johnson, after temporarily banning him three times earlier, in what looks like an escalating series of misdeeds, including falsely claiming that a picture of a young woman he posted was that of a high-profile rape victim. The proximate cause of his final ban was a tweet that was a solicitation of funds to “take out” Black Lives Matter organizer and spokesperson DeRay Mckesson, which many interpreted as a threat against his life or livelihood.

“I was watching Anthony Bourdain, and I went to bed. I woke up, my grandma called me up, ‘Go turn on CNN … They are saying you want to assassinate a civil rights leader!’ Twitter has never given me a reason – to this day – as to why I was suspended.

“They IP-blocked my house, my entire street. Anyone who sets up a Twitter account at my house, they can’t get on. They shut down accounts they think might be affiliated with me. They shut down my company’s account.”

Fast forward to this week: “Milo was like, ‘no, they’ll never ban me … because people like me more than they like you.’ His view was, if you’re a celebrity they will actually protect you on Twitter. I didn’t think that was true. I was like, ‘They’ll figure out an excuse to ban you.’ I had a conversation with him three days ago about how this was going to happen.”


“They say you’ve been kicked off, your account will not be restored. I sent them like 40 messages. I’ve used various Silicon Valley connections, to offer a truce. I’ve actually sent attorneys to send them messages. I’ve offered to cut deals with them where I can just put my account on locked and not broadcast to everyone, just to my followers. I have no problem paying Twitter like a thousand dollars a month or whatever.

“I want to sit down with them and just talk to them. I want 15 minutes of [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey’s time. I want them to tell me why I was kicked off. Why is there no Twitter court? Why can’t you adjudicate. If you’re going to suspend somebody’s account, at least give me a reason or an appealable process.

“We used to bust up monopolies in this country, and I think that’s probably what needs to happen with Twitter if its behaviour continues. We expect to file a lawsuit in my case against Twitter in the near future. I’m trying to talk to Milo about essentially joining that suit.”

Anger/Race blaming

Mr. Johnson has written pieces that blame Twitter’s user-growth issues on an explicit policy of being “anti-white.” Challenged again in our interview, he rhymed off what he believes are examples.

Twitter has a policy on not discussing the accounts it suspends in aggregate or in specific, and declined to comment on Mr. Johnson’s allegation of racial bias.

“People have called me the Nelson Mandela of Twitter, which is hilarious,” he says.


“It does affect you, but it affects more your psychology … you get e-mails from people: ‘I’m sorry to see you go.’ I do miss Twitter, I do think it’s a very useful tool for getting out your message. In all honesty, being off of Twitter has hurt me financially. Traffic on my website is up, though my donations are down. The one thing I miss the most about Twitter was the relationships with all these people who send me information.

“In a way, my banning actually made things worse. What it did was created this view of a war on Twitter. Twitter has descended into something much more vicious, like the comment sections on a lot of websites. I think that might also be because of the larger economic forces.

“It’s terrible that people have to deal with racism, anti-semitism, anti-feminist or anti-conservative or anti-whatever views … but this is just part of life now on the Internet. If you get really angry on the Internet, or really sad … maybe don’t go on the Internet. Maybe go outside. Maybe go read a book, hang out with a loved one. These are all things I’ve learned about dealing with the stress of it.”


“Being kicked off of Twitter was a freeing experience. It does make it harder to broadcast your views on things in the moment, but maybe it’s not always good to say what you think in the moment. Maybe less is more. It’s also forced me to build relationships behind the scenes that have actually elevated my career.

“I do enjoy having my day back. I saw Milo a few days ago, he looked a little haggard being on Twitter all the time. I have other friends who have a difficult relationship with their wives or girlfriends because they are obsessed with Twitter. In a way, being off of Twitter forced me to prioritize my business decisions, and my life decisions.

“One thing I like to do now post-Twitter, I like to go for long swims in the local pool or lake … that way no one can reach me on the Internet and it feels really good.”

Moving on

“I’m not as noisy as I once was but I’m very much involved behind the scenes. I’m going on various YouTube channels. The mistake a lot of people make is that you’re no longer present when you’re off Twitter, but there’s a big Internet out there.”

Note: there are still lots of accounts that claim to be Mr. Johnson. One such account is @ChuckCJ0hnson, which retweeted photos and videos from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week that appear to have been taken or made with his co-operation, though he denies he is operating the account.

“I’m not on Twitter under my name. If people want to create fan pages to me, and other accounts, they are free to do that. I have nothing to do with those accounts,” he says.

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