Chris Loesch, the husband of CNN contributor Dana Loesch, is a Twitter victim. That much is certain. The question is whether his tormentors are a nefarious horde of liberal tweeters or a benevolent algorithm that snared him accidentally.
Here's what we know: Rebecca Hains, an assistant professor of communications at Salem State University in Massachusetts, tweeted a link at 5:10 p.m. ET on Sunday evening to an account of a Twitter dustup she had with Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator. The two had mixed it up over the politics of birth control, and Hains accused Loesch of distorting facts and sensationalizing her comments.
The tussle would have gone unnoticed had it not been spotted by Daniel Barber, a Bay Area freelance writer and Twitter bomb-thrower who goes by @DBarberHotnuke. (His profile picture is of a mushroom cloud.) After retweeting Hains' post, he went on to offer a few choice comments about Loesch, an affiliate of the late conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart:
After some scattered pushback, Barber elaborated:
No one ever said Twitter was civil. A half-hour later, Loesch's husband, Chris Loesch, dutifully responded:
Dana Loesch says she regularly receives hate mail, and usually her husband ignores it. This time he decided to respond. "When people are really rude, you can only look the other way so many times," he told Yahoo News. "You need to sometimes remind them people are watching."
Chris Loesch posted nearly 50 tweets in the next 45 minutes, retweeting messages from supporters and responding to others who he felt were maligning his wife. Around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Twitter suspended his account.
Several conservative sites arrived at the conclusion that Chris Loesch was the target of a coordinated campaign of liberals who reported his account as abusive. " He was apparently targeted by leftist users who utilized the 'Block & Report Spam' function to trigger the social media account's automatic spam algorithm," one Washington Times blogger wrote. Human Events, a less obliquely conservative outlet, called the campaign the work of "digital brown shirt gangs that make coordinated attacks to silence conservative voices by abusing Twitter's spam flagging feature." Supporters started a #FreeChrisLoesch hashtag. After he was briefly reinstated later that night and then summarily uninstated, the tag was appended to #FreeChrisLoeschAgain.