In March 2019, a webcomic known as “Strange Planet” began dominating Facebook’s feed (as well as Instagram and Twitter), and in April 2019, rumors began circulating about creator Nathan W. Pyle’s purported anti-abortion position:
Posts about the rumor quickly spread on Facebook, where some users referenced the “your fave is problematic” meme and expressed dismay about Pyle’s purported position:
OH MY GOD WHAT A TERRIBLE WAY TO START MY MORNING WITH THIS PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE NON SENSE I LOVE strange planet and I do NOT love this
The genesis of the rumor appeared to be an April 8 2019 tweet (archived here), which accrued over 8,000 shares in under 24 hours:
oh yikes, the cute alien comics dude is anti abortion https://t.co/1YcuW2DmmQ
— ⚑⚧︎ Anarcho-Chompette ⚧︎⚑ (@anarchopupgirl) April 8, 2019
In that tweet, the poster referenced a January 2017 post from Pyle, in which he expressed his gratitude his then-girlfriend had been “given the gift of life” and used the hashtag #MarchForLife:
The person who found Pyle’s 2017 tweet did not explain how or why they came across it, and its popularity quickly populated Twitter’s standard search query form. However, a search of all tweets from @NathanWPyle on April 8 2019 did not return any results relating to abortion. The #MarchForLife hashtag only returned the result above.
In Pyle’s newly-viral old tweet, he did not: express an articulated opinion about abortion, mention the word abortion, or reference supporting any particular position politically. Many users pointed to the last lines of his Twitter biography, which in April 2019 read:
Married to @tayloralexypyle / NYT Bestseller: NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette / ✨Strange Planet✨ / formerly @BuzzFeed / I follow Jesus
The tweet is legitimate, and remained live on Twitter as of the day it was reposted (archived here). However, it appeared to exist in a vacuum, with no additional information suggesting that Pyle was vehemently opposed to abortion and no context around the circumstances of the situation Pyle referenced were available in the original 2017 tweet.
The claim Pyle was “problematic” for expressing a nebulously anti-abortion view in 2017 called to mind the “milkshake duck” meme, although Pyle’s putative position was more of an opinion than a secret. In a 2017 article about the phenomenon, Vox observed that its very nature puts everyone in the “cancellation” crosshairs:
Don’t expect to be able to escape the Milkshake Duck, however — the whole point of the Milkshake Duck is that it’s coming for us all. We’re only halfway through December: There’s still plenty of time left in the year to unearth 2017’s biggest Milkshake Duck yet.
In 2017, Pyle once expressed his gratitude that a single individual in his life had been born. Without context for that statement, it is impossible to class the entirety of his views. And even if Pyle personally opposed abortion, that was not evidence that his personal opinion matched his political stance. Pyle has not yet responded to the controversy; we contacted him to ask for clarification and have not yet received a reply.
Update, April 9 2019, 3:56 PM: Pyle published a tweet the day after the controversy began, clarifying his political and personal positions:
— Nathan W. Pyle (@nathanwpyle) April 9, 2019