On Thursday, anti-diversity advocate and right-wing darling Ann Coulter tweeted, simply, "14!" — a seemingly innocuous number that set off waves of joy and coded salutes to Hitler among Twitter's virtually ubiquitous legion of Nazi trolls.
In white supremacist circles, "14" is shorthand for the "14 words," or "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." It's a popular neo-Nazi slogan about protecting white identity from immigration, diversity and Jewish global control.
Many critics of Coulter read the tweet as a dog whistle to online racists. However, Coulter insisted to Mic that she never intended to set white supremacists into a frenzy, saying her "14" was referring to the number of full days President Barack Obama has left in office.
"I have tweeted the number of days Obama has left in office at least 50 times," she said in an email. "Anyone who hasn't figured that out by now is retarded."
On Twitter, too, Coulter doubled down, lashing out Thursday evening at the "hysterics" who connected her to online neo-Nazis. She also denied any knowledge of the popular white supremacist code and downplayed the number of Nazis on Twitter.
In the past, Coulter has rejected any association with the white-nationalist internet, while also dismissing concerns about its prestige. But this time she seemed genuinely insulted. "Being called a Nazi — even by people who are really, really, really dumb — isn't so fun," she tweeted.
Coulter is no card-carrying Nazi, but she's likely aware of the ideologies shared by the Coulter brand of white identity politics and the modern movement of white-nationalist trolls that calls itself the "alt-right." Over the past two years, her tweets and published work have taken a decidedly anti-diversity stance, and her comments on Jewish media control and black or Muslim crime — often supported by false news stories — share a fundamental ideology with the vulgar, openly racist screeds found on white-nationalist "alt-right" hubs in darker corners of the internet.
As high-profile figures like Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer and Donald Trump harnessed the alt-right's rabid energy to promote a racist college tour, a racist foundation, a racist book and a racist presidential campaign, those newly emboldened trolls tested their freedom and power by harassing reporters, Jews, women and people of color. Then their candidate won, emboldening them more. The post-election swastika graffiti speaks for itself.
Through all this, Coulter's message has been consistent. Many on Twitter noted that her supposed dog-whistle fit her tried-and-true strategy of shocking liberals, provoking outrage, then denying she meant it at all.
Coulter has the white-nationalist internet to thank for helping to push once-fringe anti-immigration beliefs into the mainstream. Like Trump, she distances herself from the horde — but knows the value of its support.