A new far-right group stepped out in the United States this fall — and it’s driving pro-Trump right-wingers crazy. The groypers are potential successors to the alt-right, but their aim is not to bolster Trumpism so much as to replace it with an even more radical and openly anti-Semitic form of white nationalism.
Turning Point USA, a popular student group headed by Charlie Kirk that supports U.S. President Donald Trump, came under attack this fall as Kirk’s Culture War college tour was treated to a series of high-profile disruptions by the groypers.
Led by 21-year-old YouTuber Nicholas Fuentes, an associate of infamous white nationalist (and self-described racial identitarian) Richard Spencer, the groypers made national headlines this month for heckling Donald Trump Jr. at an event at UCLA. That resulted in Trump Jr. and former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle leaving the stage after attempting to shout down the crowd.
Weeks before the event, the Zionist Organization of America called on Twitter to ban Fuentes for using the “analogy of Cookie Monster baking batches of cookies to attempt to deny the horrific murder of 6 million innocent Jews during the Holocaust” during a podcast he hosts.
Fuentes’ group, apparently named for a cartoon frog similar to alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog, has harassed pro-Trump speakers from popular conservative commentator and Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro to Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw to David Rubin, a host for the conservative pay television network BlazeTV.
At the events they disrupt, the groypers ask speakers leading questions about Israel, gay rights and immigration to force them to defend universal rights — thereby revealing them as “fake conservatives.”
Kirk, like Crenshaw and other speakers targeted by the groypers, are staunch defenders of Trump and often push the same kind of rhetoric as the president. Crenshaw and Kirk both regularly attack the so-called deep state and the “impeachment hoax,” but denounce the overt racism of the groypers.
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Vox’s Jane Coaston, one of the preeminent journalists covering the American right today, notes that the groyper army “is simply the alt-right of 2016 and 2017, warmed over, reenergized and using new terminology aimed at disassociating itself from the ‘optics’ problem” of the deadly August 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally — which, not coincidentally, Fuentes attended.
The alt-right — a far-right, white nationalist movement in the United States that grabbed attention early in Trump’s presidency — has lost steam in recent years as many of its leaders have been largely discredited and exiled from the American right wing. From Spencer to Milo Yiannopoulos to Gavin McInnes of the men-only, misogynist organization Proud Boys, the movement’s most vocal proponents are now rarely given media platforms.
The size and scope of the “groyper army” is not well documented, nor is its online reach. However, it has disrupted events from Tennessee to Los Angeles and appears to be gaining steam ahead of the 2020 presidential election campaign.
The groypers also ask questions using a variety of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to elicit reactions from the speakers they target. These questions include asking about Israeli domestic surveillance equipment at the White House and the “dancing Israelis” conspiracy theory, which claims that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks as evidenced by five Israeli nationals dancing in celebration as the Twin Towers burned.
Another common question asked by group members is about the USS Liberty, a U.S. spy ship that Israel sank in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967 after it misidentified it as an Egyptian vessel, killing 34 American sailors. The incident has become an anti-Semitic dog whistle used by the groypers to ask how support for Israel puts “America First” and to raise doubt over the U.S.-Israel alliance. When a groyper posed this question to Kirk when he was onstage with Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle at UCLA, Kirk denounced the conspiracy theory — which alleges Israel deliberately targeted the U.S. vessel — and ended up launching into a vehement defense of Israel.
Vox’s Coaston quotes the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website as urging the groypers: “When you get pulled out [by security], yell ‘GOOGLE THE USS LIBERTY’ or ‘GOOGLE DANCING ISRAELIS’ or ‘AMERICA FIRST NOT ISRAEL FIRST’ or just ‘NICK FUENTES.’”
While still very much on the fringe of the American right, Fuentes has found some mainstream support in well-known conservative pundit Michelle Malkin.
Malkin spent a decade churning out New York Times best-sellers, had a nationally syndicated newspaper column and is a regular on cable news. She was fired from the Young America's Foundation last week for supporting the groyper leader.
Her former employer is a conservative youth group whose events were also targeted by the groypers.
After YAF issued a statement upon her termination, saying that “There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists,” Malkin — who has praised Fuentes as a “New Right leader” — doubled down on Twitter in response to YAF. “The Keepers of the Gate have spoken. #AmericaFirst is not ‘mainstream.’ My defense of unjustly prosecuted Proud Boys, patriotic young nationalists/groypers & demographic truth-tellers must not be tolerated. SPLC is cheering,” she wrote, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Malkin’s tweet echoes the groypers’ sentiment that they and not the mainstream are the true voice of Trump’s “America First” agenda.
In mid-November, the “groyper army” targeted TPUSA events featuring rising GOP star Crenshaw at Arizona State and the University of Texas at Austin. The latter event saw groypers being escorted out of the auditorium after Crenshaw declared that he “sections off” any anger about “anti-whiteness” and was shouted down by an audience member who said: “We are mad because Israel, its prime minister, said 9/11 was good for Israel.”
Crenshaw has since slammed the groypers, repeatedly calling them the “alt-right 2.0.”
After conservative Daily Wire writer Matt Walsh tussled with a groyper at LA'S California State University in early November, Crenshaw came to his defense. The groyper had asked Walsh how he justified working for a non-Christian — meaning Shapiro, the Daily Wire’s editor-in-chief. “Wait, you’re telling me that my Jewish boss doesn’t believe that Jesus is the son of God?” Walsh asked sarcastically. “My god, I’m scandalized by this! I had no idea.”
In response to the incident, Crenshaw tweeted: “Matt is correct. They use slogans like ‘America first’ to get conservatives to sympathize with them. But after personally dealing with them, it’s pretty obvious they are vehement racists, anti-semites & ethnic-nationalists. Conservatives need to know the difference.” Malkin then blocked Crenshaw on Twitter.
Walsh had responded to Malkin in a tweet, writing, “Hi @michellemalkin. Fuentes called me a ‘race traitor’ and ‘f*ggot’ because I ‘work for Jews.’ He also said that black people who complained about segregation needed to ‘grow up.’ How do you feel about these statements? And in what way are they ‘America First’?”
Many of the conservative speakers the groypers have targeted are Jewish — including Shapiro, Rubin and Jonah Goldberg, a former editor for the National Review. Fuentes had previously personally targeted Rubin on his YouTube channel: “You want to talk to Jewy Jewstein?” Fuentes said. “I’m David Rubin and this is the gay Jewish show. Today we’ve got a Jew.”
At a speech at Stanford University last week, Shapiro ripped into Fuentes, calling him a “garbage human being” and “obviously white supremacist garbage.”
“Some call themselves ‘America First’ to hijack President Trump’s slogans to give themselves a patina of credibility … you’re seeing them adopt the beliefs of some of these other movements in order to find cover for their own vile belief system,” Shapiro said.
While Shapiro has been a vocal critic of this new movement and of the alt-right, he has also given credence to many of the arguments that bolster the far right in the United States. Shapiro recently argued in response to an Atlantic cover story on how to avoid another American Civil War that Democrats are using demographic change to force an ideological change in the United States — a notion similar to the “white genocide” conspiracy popular with the far right.
One thing the groypers and the alt-right movement have in common is that both have made Shapiro their worst enemy. A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that Shapiro was the number one target of the alt-right in 2016 — and it seems he will be for the groypers in 2020.