Right-wingers have derided former President Donald Trump’s indictments as a sign of “weaponized” government. But none have gone as far as zoomer demagogue Nick Fuentes, whose followers call themselves the Groypers.
On his America First podcast last month, Fuentes denounced the Georgia indictment of Trump in explicitly racist terms by saying that Fani Willis, the African-American district attorney in Fulton County, was involved in a “peasant revolt” against “the king” as a means of avenging the killing of George Floyd.
“She’s saying Trump has to show up to the jailhouse and pay bond like some Black person,” Fuentes fumed. Imitating Black dialect, he play-acted Willis talking in a simpering voice.
Fuentes and his rabid Groypers occupy the extreme right end of the spectrum of youthful influencers trying to lay claim to a new generation of conservatives. Populist, antisemitic, and often shockingly racist, they are in a long-running war with more mainstream right-wingers like Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, and Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles of Daily Wire—challenging them in trolling ways to drop dog-whistles in favor of frank “America First” nationalism.
What is a Groyper?
“Groyper” is the name of a cartoon toad, a heavier and smarmier cousin of the alt-right mascot Pepe the Frog. Often portrayed naked, with his chin resting on his hands and a crafty smile, the Groyper meme spread among anonymous 4chan posters after its creation in 2015. By 2017, a Groyper avatar became a way to signal allegiance to white nationalism. It was used by the leader of white supremacist organization Identity Evropa, Eli Mosley; senatorial candidate Shiva Ayyudurai, who is known to play footsie with the fringe (and is incidentally not white); and even Mormon white nationalists in Utah.
Fuentes was a teenage Trump supporter in 2016, writing articles like “The Passion of the Trump” on his personal website. In 2017, he attended the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, where chants of “Jews will not replace us” rang out, and peace activist Heather Heyer was killed. Fuentes’s attendance at the rally changed his fortunes.
Contrary to its name, “Unite The Right” in fact ruptured the right.
Kirk, Knowles, and Walsh tried to backpedal away from any association between mainstream conservatives like themselves and the demographics-obsessed alt-right. Walsh was out instantly with a column lumping the Charlottesville marchers with antifa. Knowles recorded a video for Prager University claiming that the white-identitarian alt-right was closer to the left than to conservatives like themselves. Kirk repeatedly tried to distance Turning Point USA from white supremacists, leading to a rupture within his own group.
A rift formed among young conservatives. Fuentes, meanwhile, doubled down, achieving notoriety with his transgressive homophobia, antisemitism, and white nationalism—all delivered with an ironic sneer.
Despite being booted off mainstream channels, his platform and audience grew with every hate-filled diatribe, as he live streamed his daily show, “America First with Nicholas J. Fuentes” on Rumble.
And the feud never went away. The so-called “Groyper Wars” started as a war of words between Walsh and Fuentes in August 2019. Fuentes fulminated against Walsh as a “race traitor” and threw antisemitic slurs at him for being employed by a Jew (Ben Shapiro). Walsh retaliated on his own podcast, calling Fuentes “psychotic.”
As reported by the Daily Dot, Fuentes’s youthful followers began disrupting public events hosted by Kirk and the others, challenging them with provocative questions about their support for Israel, liberal values, and the vision of a melting-pot America.
At an Ohio State University event that was part of Kirk’s “Culture War” tour, a Groyper asked Kirk, “How does anal sex help us win the culture war?” challenging mainstream conservativism’s tepid embrace of gay people.
At another event at the University of Kentucky, a braces-wearing, pre-adolescent Groyper challenged Knowles to acknowledge that “demographics is destiny”—which tends to be a racist trope used by people who want to preserve white supremacy in America.
Fuentes insists that while his targets distance themselves from Groypers to make themselves palatable to the mainstream, they secretly agree with him and use dog whistles instead of being honest.
He may have a point.
Recently, in a leaked audio, Walsh was heard equating “Anglo-Saxon culture” with America, speaking of whites “dying off” and leaving a void. Kirk, for his part, tweeted “Whiteness is great,” drawing condemnation even from conservatives like Christopher Rufo.
Nothing that Kirk or Walsh have said, however, matches the depravity Fuentes spews on a daily basis.
During a recent episode of the Valuetainment Money podcast where Fuentes was invited to defend his beliefs, he refused to condemn Adolf Hitler as a “bad person” unless Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were called “bad” in the same way. Later, on Telegram, he bragged about the number of views that clip got. Hitler support and Holocaust denial are two of Fuentes’ favorite topics to broach.
He claimed during that episode that he is not a racist nor a white supremacist. However, just two weeks later, on his own podcast, he was fantasizing about Beijing taking over New York City with draconian Chinese laws and beheading black people on the streets. “Wouldn’t that be AWESOME!?” he said, fantasizing about various such scenarios. “Is that not ideal?”
Right Wing Watch, an outlet that tracks extremism, first highlighted that clip from Fuentes’s podcast. But Fuentes often links to their coverage of his transgressions, asking his followers on Telegram to “juice” their posts about him.
These methods have worked. Being willing to be the one voicing transgressive thoughts for the many who agree with but would rather not be the face of, he has become influential beyond his age group, beyond his internet footprint, and even beyond the Groypers, culminating in a dinner with Trump that became a month-long news cycle.
He was permanently banned (again) from X at the start of this year for antisemitic comments he made on Spaces.
Despite this, a hashtag he started pushing on Telegram at the end of August —“BanTheADL”—started trending on X within hours. By the next day, it had reached the attention of the billionaire owner of the platform, and the subsequent tussle between the ADL and Elon Musk made national news.
Fuente, repeatedly deplatformed, still clearly has a voice, an audience, and a fan base.
Even more troubling, recent reports have shown that an influential border group in Texas has some ties to Fuentes’ Groyper army, raising fears of hard-right fans of the movement pushing immigration policy.