A post-Christmas ban on Twitter spammers with anime avatars didn't go so well for the Arizona Republican Party, which reversed its policy on the popular Japanese cartoons once it became clear that some of its favorite right-wingers felt ostracized.
It was just the latest incident bringing attention to the Twitter account of Arizona's dominant political party. In recent weeks, the account has posted baseless presidential election conspiracy theories, shared a video of party chair Kelli Ward filmed at a Dutch angle, and encouraged supporters to give their lives in service to those conspiracy theories.
The Twitter fight started when the GOP account shared its new Twitter policy the day after Christmas, saying it would block recently created accounts, those with a low numbers of followers and those with anime avatars.
Anime fans on Twitter, a group notorious for being active online and defensive of its interests, complained. That led to a derisive clarification by the Arizona GOP that the policy only applied to accounts that met all four criteria. But in its explanation, the site also took a fateful shot at anime fans:
The result was an old-fashioned Twitter storm, with anime fans flooding the account with hundreds of anime-style illustrations, jokes and cartoon porn. The current top comment under the original post: a horny illustration of a witch.
Oops, looks like we triggered some folks. To clarify, you must meet ALL of the criteria listed below to be blocked. If you don’t have many friends or you simply have an affinity for Anime (these two things might have something in common ????), then don’t worry, you’re safe! https://t.co/dLxj0nmJUf— Arizona Republican Party (@AZGOP) December 27, 2020
In the end, the party of John McCain soon bowed to the heat, declaring love for the anime community and thanking a self-described "Anti-Islam" "German Patriot" for their support.
We love the Anime community ?? Thanks for the follow MAGA Fox! https://t.co/WWU1uh8MNl— Arizona Republican Party (@AZGOP) December 27, 2020
The unpolished, aggressive tone of the official Grand Old Party account matches that of the strident extremist wing of the party, which backs President Donald Trump and has split from more mainstream leaders such as Governor Doug Ducey over efforts to overturn election results.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party did not respond to a request for information on who runs the Twitter account and what the party's position on anime is. Possibly, the policy was meant to dispel attacks from anonymous accounts drawn by the Arizona Republican Party's recent national attention.
Anime avatars sometimes link to white supremacist and alt right online groups.
Nick Martin, a reporter who runs a news site focused on white supremacist extremism, pointed out on Twitter that while the Arizona party's initial post may have appeared as an effort to push away alt-right trolls who have crowded to the its banner under Trump, the end result was doubling down on support from far-right internet weirdos.
Yeah, it's a whole thing. The Gen Z white nationalists have leaned heavily into it, but it goes way back. Some view Japan as a functioning ethnostate. Others see Asians more broadly as a "model minority" in the US.— Nick Martin (@nickmartin) December 27, 2020
Yet far-left communities of online Maoists and communists have also emerged using the avatars and engaging in online sparring. The avatars have served as a way for people with strongly held political views to obscure their identity while trolling online, show their love for anime — or both.
Ironically, a member of the Arizona Republican party has engaged in similar practices to what the party's policy sought to prevent. State Representative Jake Hoffman, elected this year, heads a company recently revealed to be running a network of spam accounts with fake profile pictures. While there is no evidence that any of them were anime pictures, the revelations did nothing to prevent the party from appointing Hoffman to leading role on the Arizona House of Representative's elections committee.