The Other Antisemites
Kanye West has taken the heat. Behind him is the movement we actually need to be worried about.
Ye is posting swastikas and talking about all the good things Hitler did.
It’s been years in the making. From his strange infatuation with Donald Trump to his bizarre presidential bid to his failed plan to buy Parler — Ye has been situating himself in the far-right ecosystem for the past few years.
It culminated yesterday on Alex Jones’ show, with The Artist Formerly Known as Kanye West talking up the Third Reich and posting the Swastika/Star of David logo of the Raëlian UFO pseudo-religion to tease his supposed second run at the presidency.
Twitter, where Ye was allowed back under the guise of amnesty for Holocaust deniers and coup-endorsers, was abuzz. The genius behind My Dark Twisted Fantasy’s unhinged amalgam of all kinds of antisemitism racked up the condemnations.
But have our efforts to lambaste Yeezus let his compatriots off the hook?
This week, a dispatch that’s not about Ye at all — it’s about the people, movements, and systems that radicalized him, used him, and are now happy to see him take the heat.
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“We're pleased to tell you we determined you're exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code,” reads the form letter to the America First Foundation, dated May 13, 2020.
Their IRS paperwork list three directors of the Foundation: Jaden McNeil, Michelle Malkin, and Nicholas Fuentes.
Sometimes we talk about the ascendent far-right as a cohesive unit: A relatively uniform movement of like-minded individuals: A fasces.
The America First Foundation was started to lay waste to the idea that there was consensus on the far-right on ideology, tactics, even rhetoric. The Foundation was set up to draw the battle lines for a right-wing civil war. One, they hoped, would tilt the Republican Party towards their brand of ethno-Christian nationalism.
Donald Trump became a guiding light for all manner of right-wing influencers, from corporatist tax cut fetishists to neo-Nazis: His cult of personality brought in a diverse crew of followers. But the hard-right, white nationalist faction had largely failed to create any kind of cohesive or organized enough movement to wield any major political power.
The Republican Party is too big and diverse to truly be effectively taken over from within by such a small and radical group — influence has to come from outside. Some external movements like QAnon, meanwhile, are too paranoid and decentralized to actually organize anything. The most effective of the new class of pressure lobbies have been groups like Turning Point USA — originally a campus-oriented organization to promote paleoconservatism, founder Charlie Kirk has levelled up the organization into a mix of an activist hub and thinktank. It has been instrumental, for example, in turning anti-trans bigotry into a mainstay of right-wing activism, which has cemented it as a central policy of the GOP.
But for some, groups like TPUSA were insufficiently radical. They needed a clubhouse. Enter the American First Foundation.
“When Charlie Kirk and TPUSA talk about ‘fighting the culture war on college campuses’ they mean using leftist smear tactics to disavow conservatives, being pro LGBT, and empowering Jewish women & women of color,” wrote McNeil, America First’s treasurer, on Telegram last year. (All of those things, I take it, are meant to be bad.)
America First calls itself “Christian nationalist.” In effect, it is a white nationalist movement that has become a vehicle for a new stream of neo-Nazism.
Fuentes, just 24, is their precocious memelord streamer, ideologue, and leader. His brand of 4chan ironic detachment makes everything sound like a joke — when, in actuality, nothing is. His followers call themselves Groypers.
He made his name by saying the outlandish things that were always thought to be disqualifying. “Who runs the media? Globalists. Time to kill the globalists,” he said on a Right Side Broadcasting stream in 2017. “I don't want to not watch CNN. I don't want CNN to go out of business. I don't want CNN to be more honest. I want people that run CNN to be arrested and deported or hanged.” While monitoring that violent rhetoric is critical, the attention he received for those kinds of comments helped his rise as the most radical of the radicals. It gave him street cred.
Malkin, a one-time Fox News star turned Newsmax host, offers a veneer of professionalism and mainstream appeal to the group. But she’s no less of a radical.
“ADL, Jewish media & Con Inc tried to destroy me for talking about the Great Replacement REALITY (not theory) and defending young #AmericaFirsters who challenged Israel First ethnostate hypocrites,” she wrote in October.
America First and the Groypers have hit on a potent combination: Ironic edgelord humor to win over youth online; a hardline ideology that finds purchase amongst those already radicalized; and a strong penchant for real-world organizing.
That ability to turn out bodies into the meatspace became clearer and clearer after the 2020 election. Fuentes organized rallies at state houses and called on his supporters to become more “feral” in their efforts to stop the “coup.” Fuentes was in D.C. on January 6, and called on his supporters to occupy the capitol.
While Fuentes was more talk than action that day, some of his supporters were pictured on the floor of the Senate chamber — one, who was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for his role in the insurrection, particularly because of his ownership of unregistered firearms, including a “ghost gun.”
The Groypers have no aversion to violence. Fuentes himself was put on the no-fly list because, according to the Department of Homeland Security, he kept threatening to murder flight attendants on his livestreams.
Fuentes et al have perfected the ironic I was just joking out for their virulent antisemitism.
“The holocaust denial smear is probably the stupidest and most ridiculous attack they could possibly throw at me,” Fuentes posted in 2019. “It’s like, I rarely even talk about that on my show, I made a joke about it one time and so what that makes me a ‘Denier’ and it’s permanent and even though I said it was a joke, because I said it one time that’s just what I am?”
His defenders are quick to point to those kind of denials, as though Fuentes is incapable of lying. In reality, Fuentes posts about the Holocaust constantly. Earlier in 2019 he mocked right-wing meatmachine Jordan B. Peterson because he “literally cries abt the holocaust,” calling him a “gnostic quack,” demanding he “accept Christ.”
A few other hits:
“I actually don’t care about the Holocaust, I care about vaccine mandates and biometric verification tyranny.”
“Reminder that there is nothing ‘cool’ or conservative about shilling for the Jewish State of Israel.”
[In a tirade against the TV show The Hunters, about a group of Nazi hunters] “the series’ central motif which is that the Europeans’ alleged war against the Jews during WWII never ended, and in fact it also never began…The solution prescribed by the series is that Jews and other aggrieved minorities have to simply torture and murder all ‘Nazis.’ Who are the Nazis? According to the show— all white people.”
And, idk, this
Despite this storied history, Fuentes maintained some pretty impressive connections, making himself a bridge between the white nationalist right and the more establishment right-wing nutjobs.
He rubs CozyTV, a streaming platform used by Alex Jones, Ali Alexander, RooshV, Andrew Torba, Baked Alaska, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos. Jones has had Fuentes on as a guest to Infowars on multiple occasions.
America First, despite a lot of buzz, started off pretty modest. According to IRS tax filings, the Foundation raised less than $5,000 in 2020, ending the fiscal year with $37,000 in the bank. (It’s the only year for which we have financial data.) According to the state of Delaware, where the Foundation is incorporated, they are delinquent on their tax bill: A whopping $227.
Despite that, Fuentes and his crew have managed to throw quite the annual party.
At his second AFPAC — America First Political Action Conference — in 2021, Fuentes attracted former Congressman Steve King and sitting Representative Paul Gosar.
Gosar would distance himself shortly after AFPAC II, saying "I denounce, when we talk about white racism, that’s not appropriate.”
But AFPAC III would be an even bigger affair: Featuring a pre-taped message from Gosar. (He later claimed the video went to the wrong group.) Nevermind Gosar: AFPAC featured Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, Canada First leader Tyler Russell, and a whack of other white supremacist yahoos.
Even if America First is basically broke, and exists as little more than a rallying point for a reconstituted neo-Nazi movement, big, flashy events like this have succeeded in further cementing Fuentes as the chief.
Those of us who are familiar with Fuentes likely registered our sighs on the Richter scale when photos popped up of him hanging out with Kanye West.
America First is effective far beyond its resources because it knows exactly how to attract followers, game the news cycle, and use controversy to boost its standing. Fuentes latching himself to Ye, unhinged as he is, was a coup. Apparently it was a match made by Fuentes’ friends at Infowars.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the surreal events that followed. Fuentes and Ye sitting for dinner with Trump, hitting the interview circuit, culminating (for now) in Ye praising Hitler sitting next to Alex Jones.
There’s little doubt that Ye is a raging anti-semite. Ever since his induction to the American right-wing, he has gravitated towards conspiratorial and offensive theories that simplify the world — slavery was a choice, Black people are the original Israelites, the Holocaust didn’t happen. We can hope that the bizarre theatrics will lead to significantly fewer interview invites for the rapper going forward. He has shown little acumen for politics or organizing, perhaps Ye will just retreat from the public view in short order.
We need to focus on the people who created the ecosystem where he thrived, and which used him, up until he finally crossed the line.
Ye was on Tucker Carlson in October, and the host opted to cut antisemitic statements, instead broadcasting a softer interview that made the artist out to be a lot more palatable than he truly is. The GOP was touting Ye as their coolest celebrity. Donald Trump felt comfortable meeting with him and his entourage.
All those figures will be quick to distance themselves from Ye, but that’s a convenient out. Ye’s crime was saying the quiet parts loud.
Jones, for example, has traded in similar anti-semitic conspiracy theories about the international Jewish mafia since the 1990s. Carlson has been increasingly echoing white nationalist rhetoric. Marjorie Taylor-Greene continues to be one of the most high-profile Republican members of the House, and she owes a lot to her fanclub at the America First Foundation.
Fuentes’ movement continues to set the pace for these more mainstream figures. When the Republican Party denounced January 6 in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, Fuentes was unapologetic, downright proud — and the party came around to him in time. His enthusiastic thumping for a Christian theocracy is starting to run parallel with plenty of Evangelical influencers around the American right. He is defining a tone, often in praise of fascism, for young far-right activists in a way that few others are.
Ye was just a vehicle for Fuentes, and the America First leader couldn’t be happier.
Below the paywall, a little update on my recent reporting about police leaks to the organizers of the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy.’
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