Kanye West was spotted on Tuesday in Florida, en route to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. But the notable story from the visit isn’t that West asked the former president to be his running mate, which is the sort of move we’ve learned to expect from the rapper. Instead, everyone is talking about the fact that West brought along noted antisemite Nick Fuentes, with whom he was spotted in the airport in a video circulated widely by fans in right-wing Telegram chats.
According to a Politico reporter, and seemingly confirmed by a later tweet from West, Fuentes was the rapper’s guest at a dinner meeting with Trump. “Trump is really impressed with Nick Fuentes,” West said in a video he posted to Twitter advocating for the pardoning of Jan. 6 rioters.
But who is the 24-year-old Fuentes, and how did he wind up meeting with the former president of the United States?
A sprawling ideology of hate
In 2017, Fuentes gained a following as the host of a live streamed podcast called “America First with Nicholas J. Fuentes.” The podcast has spawned a network of associated groups and events run by Fuentes, including the America First Foundation and an annual conference, the America First Political Action Conference, which began in 2020.
On his show, Fuentes espouses a wide range of extreme views including opposing women’s voting rights and LGBTQ rights at large, as well as arguing that the First Amendment right to free speech does not apply to Muslims. He also identifies himself as a “proud incel” — short for “involuntarily celebite,” a subculture dominated by extreme misogyny and violence — and urges his followers to abstain from sex, saying “dating women is gay, having sex with women is gay. And having sex with men is gay,” adding, that “having sex in itself is gay, I think.”
Fuentes attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where marchers chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” He also spoke at the Capitol on Jan. 6, urging followers to “take this country back by force if necessary.”
His antisemitic statements and beliefs are so extensive they are hard to list comprehensively. He has denied the Holocaust, comparing dead Jews to making cookies. He derogatorily referred to Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh as a “shabbos goy race traitor” because he works for conservative talking head Ben Shapiro, who is Jewish. In his keynote speech for AFPAC in 2022, talking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he quipped, “They compare Putin to Hitler like it’s a bad thing.”
Fuentes has repeatedly endorsed the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which alleges that Jews and other minorities are attempting to wipe out white culture. He frequently uses antisemitic dog whistles such as the term “globalists” to warn against Jewish influence.
Fuentes gathers a following
Though he was briefly the darling of mainstream conservative groups such as Turning Point USA, Fuentes frequently positions himself as a maverick who is against mainstream conservatism. He blames Republicans as well as liberals for “issues” including feminism and immigration, and has criticized the GOP’s embrace of Israel. Most mainstream groups have disavowed him, and the Conservative Political Action Conference has removed him twice.
Nevertheless, conservative politicians including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar appeared at his AFPAC conference alongside Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes. (Greene later said she was unfamiliar with Fuentes.)
“America First” was demonetized and Fuentes was blocked from YouTube for hate speech in 2020, and removed from Twitter in 2021. He has been blocked from an exhaustive list of social media platforms since, including Facebook, Twitch, Reddit and even free speech platforms that often allow hate speech, such as Gettr and DLive, a streaming site known for hosting white supremacist content. Financial service apps such as Venmo, PayPal and the cryptocurrency site Coinbase have also blocked Fuentes.
Since social media sites removed him, Fuentes has formed his own streaming platform, Cozy.tv, in partnership with radio host Alex Jones, who was recently convicted of defamation and fined nearly a billion dollars for promoting conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school shooting. Fuentes also has 45,000 followers on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, and a verified account on Trump’s social media site, Truth Social.
Despite his deplatforming, however, Fuentes is also adept at using rhetoric that appeals to young, Gen Z listeners, including embracing a bastardized version of the meme figure Pepe the Frog as his mascot. To avoid further alienating people, he leans on vague language such as “American values” as a stand-in for discussing white culture.
Key to his success is his tone. Fuentes leverages online subcultures such as the “edgelord” archetype — based on making provocative statements purely for shock value — to retain plausible deniability and insist that his extreme statements openly encouraging violence against women or Holocaust denial are jokes.
The groyper army
Thanks to his show and various publicity stunts, Fuentes amassed a devoted following, which he dubbed the “groypers” or “groyper army,” uniting disparate alt-right groups and ideologies including incels and white nationalists.
Groypers insist that they are “conservative Christians,” not white supremacists, a term which Fuentes calls an “anti-white slur.” (He views the term “racist” the same way.) Nevertheless, the group holds many positions in line with white supremacy including opposing immigration and “globalism,” a term used as an antisemitic dog whistle.
Groypers in particular want to fit in with mainstream GOP groups which they intend to disrupt, while also presenting themselves as a more viable alternative than the public image of the alt-right. (They call mainstream conservatives “cuckservatives,” a mash of “conservative” and “cuckold,” implying that the conservatives have been emasculated by nonwhite groups such as Jews.)
It appears that the groypers’ mission is to move the Overton Window in an attempt to mainstream discussion of white nationalist policies. But to avoid being rejected by the mainstream conservative base they hope to win, groypers have adapted Fuentes’ rhetorical flourishes, such as using vagaries like “demographics” and “culture” to ask controversial questions about white dominance and the great replacement theory. They emphasize their Christianity in an attempt to ally their ideology with more mainstream Christian conservatism.
Though Fuentes himself is locked out of most mainstream social media, other groypers are not, and have followings on YouTube and TikTok.
The dream team: Trump, West and Fuentes
Fuentes and the groypers disavowed the GOP for much of Trump’s presidency, criticizing the former president’s support for Israel in particular. However, Fuentes also spoke at the Capitol on Jan. 6, urging people to take back the government, and has been vocal in his support for Trump since.
In early 2022, Fuentes advocated for “a white uprising” to install Trump. He suggested that the U.S. should “stop having elections” so that the former president could continue ruling, as a dictator, over a white society. When Trump announced his plan to run for president in the 2024 election, Fuentes livestreamed the former president’s speech on Cozy.tv.
Trump, as he has made clear for years, is willing to associate with anyone who supports him, including white supremacists. He did, however, attempt to distance himself from the meeting, implying he was unfamiliar with West’s guests.
West, meanwhile, has been making numerous antisemitic statements of exactly the mixture Fuentes is known for, a potent cocktail of Christian nationalism and conspiratorial allegations about Jewish control. Fuentes has posted a multi-hour video to his Cozy.tv platform criticizing the Anti-Defamation League’s response to West and Kyrie Irving’s statements.
Just two weeks ago, Fuentes released a video openly threatening Jews. “The Jews had better start being nice to people like us,” he said in a video reminiscent of West’s recent statements. “Because what comes out of this is going to be a lot uglier and a lot worse for them than anything that’s being said on this show.”
“In spite of the fact that I’ve been bullied by the Jews, and I’ve been oppressed and slandered and lied about and attacked by the Jews, I’ve been completely precise, for the most part, and even-handed and nuanced,” he said. “The Jews are going to look at people like me and America First and say damn, I miss when it was just that funny guy.”
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