On july 21, the far-right provocateur and former Rebel Media personality Lauren Southern announced that Patreon, the crowdfunding platform, had deleted her account. Over the past couple of years, Southern—a self-styled millennial version of Ann Coulter—has built a social media following with a toolkit favoured by the alt-right: titillating trolls, mocking feminists and trans-rights activists, stoking fears about immigrants (especially Muslims), and lionizing Donald Trump as a political saviour. Yet Southern’s support for Defend Europe, the anti-immigrant campaign devoted to disrupting migrant rescue operations, was, for Patreon, a bridge too far. In an email to Southern, the company noted her activities were “likely to cause loss of life.”
In her response, a seven-and-a-half minute YouTube video that has now been viewed nearly a half-million times, Southern painted herself as an heroic advocate of free speech. “I’m being banned, censored, and attacked everywhere I go,” she protested. “The entire establishment—corporations, government, media—is against me.” Within hours of Patreon’s decision, Southern’s new crowdfunding page was up and running. Within days, she had added several thousand followers on Twitter and Youtube. It became clear that Patreon had burnished, not tarnished, Southern’s brand.