January 30, 2023

This article is part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s home for opinion and news analysis. 

When Christian nationalist livestreamer and January 6 insurrectionist Nick Fuentes had dinner with former President Donald Trump and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) at Mar-a-Lago last month, many Americans over the age of 30 were left wondering: who is Nick Fuentes?

In an effort to explain him, Jimmy Kimmel played a clip of Fuentes saying he was an incel because “having sex with women is gay.” The video was met with a roar of laughter from the audience. But if the audience thought they were laughing at Fuentes and not with him, they were confused. If jokes about sleeping with women being gay don’t land with you, it’s because Fuentes’ show isn’t for you. 

“We’re not playing for the boomers who are dying,” Fuentes explained during a January 2022 livestream. “We’re playing for the young people…I’m not trying to convince the elites. I’m trying to convince the children of the elites.”

“Matt Gaetz will not be a Groyper,” he added later. “All of his staff will be.”

Fuentes has run a far right livestream for years, and has amassed a loyal following of fans who call themselves Groypers. Typically dressed in a suit, the 24-year-old Fuentes discusses everything from the news of the day (with an antisemitic, racist, and Christian nationalist spin) to personal (and often petty) gripes. Sometimes his streams will run three or four hours, peppered with absurdist jokes and earnest anecdotes. Fuentes is an engaging streamer, and the zoomer far right is not immune to the parasocial relationship that livestreaming tends to cultivate. Fuentes’ Groyper Army dutifully runs troll campaigns online and in person on his behalf, causing some far right detractors to refer to Fuentes as a cult of personality.

Fuentes was banned from Twitter in July 2021, but has managed to run Twitter Spaces with some regularity since then. He knows the value of Twitter for recruitment, and has consistently encouraged his followers to stay on mainstream platforms. “If you’re not on the platforms, you’re not in the game,” he told the Groypers during an October stream. “Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit. They’ve got billions of users. That’s where most people get all of their information — opinions, taste, style — is from social media in some form. And once you get cut off from those things…you can’t get any message out there.” Fuentes has always focused on optics, often telling his followers to study the terms of service for social media platforms. The goal is to get out as much propaganda as possible, without crossing the line that turns normies off or gets you banned. 

In the past, Fuentes has managed to get Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to speak at AFPAC, the white nationalist conference Fuentes runs in parallel to CPAC. And as alarming as his connections to sitting politicians are, his newfound friendship with Ye affords him an entirely new type of cultural (and financial) platform. Prior to Ye, Fuentes already had influence within Turning Point USA, a mainstream Republican organization aimed at cultivating a MAGA movement among young conservatives. While Ye has not yet filed to run, his alliance with Fuentes gives him a certain cachet among young right-wingers. A nationwide Students for Ye organization has already formed. Arizona State University’s College Republicans United chapter, which previously invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak, already announced plans to have a meeting discussing Fuentes and Students for Ye. The founders of Students for Ye have made it clear that their top priority is taking over TPUSA clubs across the country. 

Even if Ye does not file to run, the momentum of the movement itself is there, and college campuses have already seen the consequences of his rhetoric. For Fuentes and his followers, having one of the most commercially successful hip hop artists of our time say the things they usually say behind closed doors or on paywalled podcasts is invigorating, encouraging growth of their movement that has not died out in the years since Fuentes participated in the Unite the Right rally — even if it has been invisible to many adults. 

Of course, Ye’s continued declaration of his love for Hitler has certainly helped ratchet up Fuentes’ own rhetoric beyond that point. But that does not mean the entire Groyper base is ready to throw optics to the wind. While Fuentes’ ban evasion accounts eventually end up suspended, many of the people in his circle and fanbase have been reinstated under Twitter’s new ownership. Twitter, especially the Spaces feature, has now become a key organizing tool for the burgeoning Students for Ye movement.

It might seem odd that a white nationalist would be so quick to associate with a Black man. “Fuentes has long cultivated relationships with right-wing influencers of color,” explained Ben Lorber, a research analyst at Political Research Associates. “Many share a commitment to antisemitism, misogyny and Christian nationalism, and many agree with Fuentes when he insists that white Americans are under attack, America should remain majority-white, and other white nationalist canards.” 

Fuentes has also long been a fan of Ye. When Ye tweeted that he and Donald Trump both had “dragon energy” in 2018, Fuentes donned a Yeezus sweater for the night’s stream. For nearly 90 minutes, he excitedly pseudo-analyzed Trump and Ye as a yin and yang of dragon energy, complete with signs he saw from God. “I don’t doubt that something is happening on another level. Whether that’s spiritual, whether that’s another dimension, I don’t know what it is. But something is going on. You see very evil forces in the country are being beaten back, are being exposed, are being fought.”

This was not a one off. Fuentes has brought up Ye numerous times over the years, with particular regularity in the months before they met last November. As Ye made appearances on media that would still platform him after his threat to go “Death Con 3 on the Jewish People,” Fuentes live reacted on stream to nearly every interview. When Ye would blame Jewish people for his problems, Fuentes would pause the interview and talk about the precise conspiracies that most related to Ye’s situation.  

“He just gets it,” Fuentes said about Ye’s openly antisemitic rhetoric in early October. “He didn’t read a book about it. He didn’t, like, study it. People that are real and authentic just get it. He always has. He’s always had this depth of character…directionally, the guy just gets it, he knows what’s going on.” By the time they met, Fuentes had already dedicated countless hours to analyzing Ye’s beliefs and learning the gaps in his knowledge of specific antisemitic conspiracies theories. 

Fuentes, of course, has spent much of his life studying and teaching conspiracy theories — which have now seemingly found an outlet Ye. During the now infamous InfoWars interview, Alex Jones asked Ye for his stance on any issue. Ye quickly turned to Fuentes. “Nick?” Fuentes brought up his personal support for Putin, and Ye interjected his agreement. Throughout the entire interview, Ye deferred to Fuentes to express his positions, lobbing questions to Fuentes with the familiarity of someone asking to hear a story they have heard before. At one point, after Fuentes gave a long winded answer about his views on race, Ye informed Jones, “this is the future President you’re talking to right now.” 

During the Q&A portion of a December livestream, Fuentes claimed that one of his first conversations of substance with Ye was teaching him an obscure Holocaust denial conspiracy theory. Days later, Ye referenced the same conspiracy theory during an interview with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. While Ye has talked over and been combative with nearly every person who has interviewed him over the last three months, he has consistently and openly relied on Fuentes’ knowledge of both conspiracy theories and Christianity.

While Groypers have continued to throw their support behind Ye, there are plans to grow the coalition. The college students behind Students for Ye have said one of their main focuses is networking, connecting all of the college Republicans that support Ye. “One of the things we’re really gonna work on with Students for Ye is taking over these TPUSA chapters. We wanna see these universities fall,” chairman Daniel Schmidt said in a recent livestream. Schmidt, who has previously conducted a 40 minute interview of Tucker Carlson and given a speech at an Eagle Forum conference, is poised to be able to accomplish at least some of his networking goals, especially with the help of Twitter Spaces (during the inaugural Students for Ye Space, one student chirped in to say he was excited to bring the group to his campus, and listed some of his own connections from local politics).  

Whether Ye files or not, he will continue to have the kind of built-in platform that decades of fame and wealth bring — and it seems very likely that Nick Fuentes, a man whose abhorrent beliefs have caused him to be banned from every mainstream social media platform and rejected from patronizing numerous banks, is now the personal tutor for conspiracy and hate for one of the most famous hip hop artists in the world.


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