(NYTimes) - Twitter feuds claimed another high-profile casualty Tuesday (Dec 19) when writer Ta-Nehisi Coates deleted his account after sparring with Harvard professor Cornel West.
It started on Sunday, when West published an article in The Guardian calling Coates "the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle", and accusing him of "fetishising white supremacy" while ignoring "Wall Street greed, US imperial crimes or black elite indifference to poverty". West, a professor of philosophy at Harvard (and a sporadic Twitter user), then posted about his article, calling Coates' views about race in America "dangerously misleading". The tweet drew hundreds of responses from friends and supporters of Coates, including The New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb, who picked apart what he called West's "threadbare commentary". West's tweet also drew plenty of agreement, including from supporters on the political left. But it was also retweeted by white supremacist Richard Spencer, who added, "He's not wrong."
Late on Monday, Coates, who had more than 1.25 million Twitter followers as of earlier this month, tweeted: "Peace, y'all. I'm out. I didn't get in it for this." And at some point after that, he deleted his account.
It was not the first time that West had taken aim at Coates. In 2015, after Coates' book Between The World And Me was published, West, a fierce critic of President Barack Obama from the left, posted a critique on Facebook, calling him "a clever wordsmith with journalistic talent who avoids any critique of the Black president in power". Coates' latest book, We Were Eight Years In Power, collects some of his columns from The Atlantic and reckons with Obama's presidency.
In his thread on Sunday, Cobb suggested that West's argument was driven less by intellectual differences than by professional rivalry.
Others expressed dismay that many Twitter users were focused on what writer and sociologist Eve Ewing described as "some dudes being mad at each other", rather than deeper issues.