Since early October, members and supporters of the white nationalist movement in the United States have organized and swarmed events hosted by GOP-aligned institutions that seek to engage young people on college campuses, including Young America’s Foundation, The Daily Wire, and Turning Point USA. Organizers of the disruptions have a handful of additional stunts planned for the next few weeks.
Leading the action is anti-Semitic and racist podcaster Nicholas Fuentes, who frequently denies being a white nationalist, a term he admits may be “descriptive,” but is widely unpopular. Fuentes attended the 2017 Unite the Right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist drove a vehicle into a crowd and murdered a counterdemonstrator. His supporters have dubbed themselves the “Groyper Army,” referring to a two-year-old meme meant to depict a more racist version of the “Pepe the Frog” character hijacked by the alt-right a few years ago.
Fuentes has long antagonized Turning Point USA—he notably threw a tantrum after attempting to speak to a Turning Point USA chapter at Iowa State University earlier this year—and tensions flared after Right Wing Watch first reported that Turning Point USA severed ties with a brand ambassador who had posed for photographs with Fuentes and other far-right political entertainers.
The current wave of real-life disruptions began, according to the blog Angry White Men, on Oct. 27 at the Politicon conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where event staff blocked Fuentes from entering an event where Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk was scheduled to deliver a speech. Assisting in the propaganda push since then has been disgraced former Daily Caller editor Scott Greer, YouTube entertainer Vincent James Foxx, Identity Evropa leader Patrick Casey, and Infowars employee Jacob Lloyd. Racist blogs including The Daily Stormer, Occidental Dissent, and American Renaissance have also published articles supportive of Fuentes supporters’ antics. The string of stunts has been defended by national-level pundits including far-right columnists Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, the latter of whom was fired as a YAF speaker after she publicly backed the far-right disruptors.
There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.
Our full statement below: pic.twitter.com/b5EB7P53v3
— YAF (@yaf) November 17, 2019
White nationalists have historically targeted what they perceive to be fertile recruiting ground in campus youth organizations, and the current responses from institutional Republican groups are a reminder of why that is. For years, the GOP’s willingness to associate with bigots and racists has been noticed and seized upon by white nationalist groups, including Identity Evropa (rebranded as American Identity Movement), and by white nationalist propagandists, including James Allsup. Members of Identity Evropa have planned to recruit from Turning Point USA chapters since at least 2018, according to leaked chat logs published by Unicorn Riot.
As Vox’s Jane Coaston reported, the white nationalists targeting the campus organizations believe groups like YAF and TPUSA “need to be confronted because they are shutting down ‘socially conservative Christians and supporters of President Trumps agenda’ and promoting ‘degeneracy’ by having gay speakers.” Their strategy has been to overwhelm lines for the question-and-answer portions of college talks by more establishment figures such as Kirk and Shapiro with people who use the opportunity to deploy far-right talking points and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the form of questions to the speakers.
The strategy exploits two long-established accusations hurled by self-described campus conservatives: that the political left wants to silence those who advance ideas that speak too much truth to power, and that the prevalence of white nationalism in America is an overblown myth. When speakers at events hosted by groups like Turning Point USA have rejected questions posed by the far-right event crashers, the questioner uses the first talking point to establish themselves as a “more legitimate” conservative. If the establishment speaker denounces white supremacism and anti-Semitism in an answer to a far-right questioner, the disruptors claim the speakers are taking cues from the political left in order to dodge legitimate questions. Under this pressure, the conservative establishment falls to the very game it designed, and white nationalist organizers can siphon impressionable young people out of more establishment-aligned groups and into the hate movement.
At the peak of the push to confront campus conservative groups, the president’s adult son Donald Trump Jr. was heckled off stage at a Turning Point USA event at the University of California, Los Angeles, by protesters who were told the event would not include a question-and-answer session. Kimberly Guilfoyle, attending as Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, shouted at the disruptors that they probably needed online dating to meet people “because you’re impressing no one here to get a date in person.” Kirk was targeted on multiple occasions and at the University of Houston he unveiled a television from beneath a cloth and played a video of Fuentes that he apparently believed would cause Fuentes’ fans to distance themselves from him. Instead, Kirk was chased off campus by the chanting crowd.
Here is Charlie Kirk getting chased off scene by Trump supporters after trying to convince his audience that neo-Nazi Nicholas Fuentes is a bad guy pic.twitter.com/FDlClt9iSJ
— Wild Geerters (@classiclib3ral) November 15, 2019
Online, conservative personalities have highlighted clips of Fuentes’ podcast, including moments where Fuentes appears to promote Holocaust denial, voice support for Jim Crow laws, and explode in an anti-Semitic rant against The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. Sebastian Gorka, who served as deputy assistant to the president for seven months in the Trump administration, spent part of a radio show in late October railing against Fuentes and his supporters, and he questioned how Fuentes was able to maintain a verified Twitter account. The rant was delivered without a hint of irony, despite the fact that Gorka was pushed from his White House post in a controversy over his membership in a far-right Hungarian group with World War II links to the Nazis.
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) November 1, 2019
Although Fuentes’ online viewership numbers are up for the time being, there is little indication that Fuentes’ campaign had garnered him the seat at the table he craved beyond pockets of the right that already supported him, or among conservatives who have been disgraced in the movement. Fuentes and his allies have succeeded in making noise and embarrassing major conservative youth organizations, but the end result seems counter-productive to Fuentes’ long-sought desire for credibility in the broader right-wing movement.
But even if through such disruption Fuentes only managed to further isolate himself in the broader right, the white nationalist movement availed itself an opportunity to scrape up impressionable youths and bring them into its ranks, despite being unable to fully rehab its public image after the 2017 melee in Charlottesville. With blood on its hands, the “alt-right” was denounced by prominent Republicans, the media personalities affiliated with the movement were cast out, and the foot soldiers of the movement were identified, named, and shamed. The white nationalist movement splintered after Unite the Right, and ever since then, movement leaders have been throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something stuck.
It remains to be seen if this idea will stick.