“Strap yourselves in, ’cos guess what? 2023, we’re talking about Jewish power. 2023, we’re talking about the Holocaust. That’s where it had to go.”—Nick Fuentes
I arrived in New York four years ago with a familiar Jewish story: I was running from anti-Semitism. I came of age in a cosmopolitan London in which it was the norm to be vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes were commonplace. I was told as a preteen by campmates that their parents would not allow them to befriend Jews. When I divulged my Jewishness to colleagues during an internship in Parliament, I was interrogated about whether my family served in the IDF. In college, I was barricaded into a room by anti-Zionist protestors who laughed and filmed me while they banged on the windows. It was the post-Iraq War, post-financial-crash era, and Britain was not doing well. The far left, led by Jeremy Corbyn, saw an opening, built a new movement, and soon took over the Labor party. Corbyn and his followers, some instinctively and some consciously, wielded anti-Semitism as a political strategy—as a wedge to divide the hacks from the pure-hearted and as a signal of their willingness to tell brave truths about the world. The targets of this strategy were not, in the main, the conservatives on the other side of the parliamentary chamber. They were the remnants of the Blairite center-left within Corbyn’s own party, and, well, many of them just so happened to be Jews.
To be sure, I wasn’t one of those targets. I was a conservative from the moment I understood the word, and the movement it connoted. This was my other reason for leaving the UK: I had set my sights on the conservative movement in the United States, to me the most admirable and successful of its kind. And one of the key things that drew me in was the unique position of the Jews there. It took time and very hard work for those Jews, many of them known, rightly or wrongly, as neoconservatives, to entrench themselves—to escape suspicion and to be welcomed in a movement that had been known for its crackpots. But, starting in the 1970s, they, with the help of figures like William F. Buckley, made it happen.
When my dreams began to come true, and I first spent time in Washington, I felt a similar sense of welcome from the people I encountered. I met conservatives of all backgrounds—libertarians, pro-lifers, foreign-policy hawks, and more—and what seemed to me one of the main attitudes that united them was their support for Israel and the Jewish people. They asked genuinely interested questions about my Jewish life. The Jews were on their minds, in a good way.
This isn’t the place to recount in full the changes and pressures on the American right as a whole in the last five to six years, but suffice it to say that today the feel to both Washington and the wider movement is very different. When I first arrived in Washington, the young aspirants I encountered would sometimes ask each other when they had last traveled to Israel. Now the question is “Where were you on January 6th?” And some don’t mean it hoping the answer is “anywhere but the Capitol.”
Indeed, the more I heard this, and the more I researched the present essay, I realized just how many conversations I had been suppressing since moving to the United States in 2019—conversations I thought I’d left across the Atlantic. Had I not stayed quiet when a friend voiced his sympathy for Kanye West in October of 2022, after West had tweeted to 30 million followers about going “death con 3 on Jewish people”? Had I not politely laughed when, at a holiday party for a conservative magazine in New York, an editor mocked Upper East Side Jews for acting like Bernie Madoff, complete with too many pairs of tacky shoes? Had I not stared back in silence when a classmate referred to Ben Shapiro as a “super Jew” in a sarcastically adulating tone?
For a while, I assumed that my conversation partners were members of or sympathetic to the alt-right—the internet-based movement of discontents, meme creators, and neo-Nazis that reached the height of its influence and infamy in the early years of the Trump administration before the response to their 2017 march in Charlottesville drove its members back into their online underground (and deeper into their own monoculture).
But it is now 2023. Nobody really uses the term alt-right anymore, and many of its most notorious figures have been displaced from their positions of influence. A new generation has come to supplant them. This generation has evolved ideologically from its forebears in a few key respects, and, in part because of that, has grown more self-confident and more powerful, wielding influence over figures who were considered mainstream conservatives five or six years ago.
You’ll have heard about many of these people and the events they’ve been involved in. But how they fit together is a story that goes beyond the headlines. What’s more, the position of the Jews in this story is no longer that of an incidental feature of generalized bigotry. No, just as I saw in Britain with the Labor party, Jews, Judaism, and Israel are today being used by these growing factions on the American right as a knife to stab their political opponents—opponents on the right as much as or even more than on the left.
What was the alt-right? The main picture that filtered out to the mainstream back when that movement first reared its head circa 2016 was one of maladjusted young men wearing polo shirts and sporting undercuts. It was not particularly organized or hierarchical, but you could point to a handful of leaders or figureheads who reflected a few core ideas and tendencies: Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannopoulos. Floating above these men was the movement’s north star, the leader they had been waiting for to provide a mass platform for their agenda: Donald Trump, though it was always unclear how aware of it and its folkways he himself was, which of course does not excuse the sometimes explicit and sometimes tacit support he or his advisors signaled.
Bannon, to dredge up a recent history that feels suddenly musty, was for years the chairman of the online publication Breitbart News, publishing a mix of rightwing news, opinion, and conspiracy theory. Indeed, in March of that year, the budding conservative media star Ben Shapiro announced his resignation as editor-at-large of Breitbart. In his resignation letter, Shapiro derided Breitbart’s pandering to then-candidate Trump, and blamed Bannon for steering the publication away from reporting and into partisan promotion. “Trump’s personal Pravda,” he called it. (In National Review a few months later, Shapiro decried Trump’s “anti-Semitic supporters,” who were targeting him directly.) Soon enough, under Trump’s aegis, Bannon was subsumed for a time into the right-wing mainstream. He became Trump’s chief campaign strategist in August of 2016 and upon Trump’s inauguration worked in the White House for a short but significant period. Once he was fired from that position, he went on to promote right-wing populism in Europe.
Bannon’s motivating issue was immigration. He seemed to hate the concept personally and saw it as a potent political tool, one that ultimately ended up helping Trump get elected. “Isn’t the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we gotta get sorted here, not illegal immigration?” he asked in 2016. “As horrific as that is, and it’s horrific, don’t we have a problem? We’ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that’s kinda overwhelmed the country?”
In this he reflected a core obsession of the alt-right: the idea that America was being taken over by immigrants. To the extent that Jews played into the subject, it was as a group seen by many alt-righters to have foreign origins that wanted to bring in yet more foreigners like them.
Bannon was inspired by the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, author of Pagan Imperialism (1928), who offered a critique of Christianity in the name of fascism and ancient Roman beliefs and practices. Richard Spencer, another of the movement’s leaders, was a dour man in his thirties who after dropping out of a PhD program attempted to provide the young movement with an intellectual foundation. For that, he thought, the white-identity movement would have to shed foundational aspects of Christianity. He saw some utility in the religion as a uniting force in history for white peoples—but thought that the substance of the Christian religion itself was no longer needed (even if Christian heritage could be a useful identity marker). He describes the “profound thing that was born into the world through Judaism of hating the body” and denounced Christian and Jewish teachings as “an attack on things that are physical and beautiful.” As the writer Graeme Wood, a high school classmate of Spencer’s, put it then in the Atlantic, “Spencer was right about religion’s power. It exerted a binding force and sense of purpose on its followers, and in its absence, the alt-right is delighted to supply values and idols all its own.”
In other words, beyond opposition to immigration, a second core stance of the alt-right was a belief in paganism both in itself and as a tool for uniting an irreligious white far-right base. As Spencer put it, men could be saved from worrying about religion’s “hellfire”—from sin and guilt. Indeed, in 2016, the alternative right was more hostile to Christianity than favorable to it. Some were members of overtly pagan organizations, such as the Wolves of Vinland, a cult in Virginia whose members would gather in the woods to adorn themselves with Norse body paint, murder sheep, and wrestle one another. (A number of Wolves have been arrested, some for setting fire to black churches and others for attempted bank robbery.) The Wolves became well-known due to the prominence of member Kevin DeAnna, previously a speaker and writer for conventional conservative causes and publications.
The belief in paganism contributed to how the alt-right saw Jews. Alt-righters often framed their anti-Semitism in terms reminiscent of Otto Weininger, the Jewish-born German anti-Semite popular around the turn of the 20th century whom Julius Evola counted among his own influences. Jews in this line of thinking represent the evils of femininity and materialism; broadly, they are bad because they are weak, not because they are powerful, and their weakness is contagious and corrupting.
If Bannon was the link to political power and the most fervent promulgator of anti-immigrant ideas, and if Spencer liberated the hardcore alt-righters from the pesky moral constraints of Christianity in the name of pagan strength and white supremacy, then Milo Yiannopoulos was the movement’s ambassador to the mainstream. Raised in elite schools in Britain, and working for Breitbart for a time, he quickly became one of the alt-right’s most famous voices, his irreverent British sarcasm and exaggerated pompous demeanor winning him millions of admirers. Even if you didn’t like him, you wanted to listen to him because he was entertaining. Though he was, to any observer, one of the key popularizers of the alt-right, in 2016 he tried to maintain a distance from the label. Perhaps that was one reason for his popularity. Certainly, Milo was the largest influence on the movement’s widely noted tone of voice, at turns obnoxious and funny.
In “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” co-published that year on Breitbart with fellow journalist Allum Bokhari, Milo describes the various features of the movement with a pretense to objectivity. He focuses at first on culture, quoting Andrew Breitbart’s maxim that “politics is downstream of culture,” arguing that the alt-right wants America to look inward as opposed to outward, cultivating a conservatism that can contend with the threats of radical feminism, nascent speech controls, and the Black Lives Matter movement. He then turns to the meme-based faction of the alt-right, making the case that they are less interested in policy and excited most by its shiny and new transgressive qualities, which he feels is a similar sentiment that young people felt about the New Left of the late 1960s. The meme faction, who create the text-on-image collages that are the lingua franca of internet radicalism, reveled in toying with familiar anti-Semitic tropes: denying the Holocaust, alleging that the Jews did 9/11, that they control the world, and so on. Milo tries to argue that the memers are both harmless and hilariously entertaining. He describes their work, like a cartoon Jewish figure dubbed Shlomo Shekelburg, as an “outburst of creativity and taboo-shattering.” He expresses admiration without explicitly indicating approval.
In that same article, Milo conveniently identifies himself as gay and Jewish—his mother is of Jewish descent—and argues that the alt-right cannot possibly be anti-Semitic or homophobic if they invite him to their parties. Milo’s position on anti-Semitic memes, as well as racist memes of all kinds, in other words, was to be deliberately coy. This, more than anything, was his core contribution to and reflection of the movement he was both defining and denying membership in.
Of these three main figures, none now maintains the influence and profile they once did. Bannon has fallen in with a sketchy Chinese billionaire and been convicted of contempt of Congress. Spencer was hounded out of his hometown after Charlottesville, got divorced, and has generally lost influence even within the far right. Milo not only lost influence as a provocateur but was actively cancelled by some of his own people for advocating sexual relationships between teenage boys and adult men—though, as we’ll see, that’s not the end of his story.
Likewise, the defining traits of the alt-right that these leaders represented—hatred of immigration, paganism, and coyness—have been superseded by others, as has the very term “alt-right.” But none of this means that the same ideological space is vacant, or that those who inhabit it now wield less influence than their predecessors, and it certainly doesn’t mean that anti-Semitism has disappeared from that space. In fact, all three replacement traits, and the replacement leaders, are as or more anti-Semitic than before. Obviously, anti-Semitism was a common feature of the alt-right movement—but it was not yet the political weapon in the struggle to define the future of the right that it has become.
To wit, the first ideological change that has taken place among the new far right, or dissident right, or whatever you want to call it—no single name has stuck so far—is a shift away from paganism. The far-right is now more eager to adopt already existing religious and specifically Christian symbols than it was seven or eight years ago. This shift has turned out to be strategically effective. Much more than paganism ever did, religious and Christian symbols resonate deeply with Americans, and they touch upon broader, legitimate American concerns about the decline of the traditional family and religious observance. So those who use those symbols and that language feel more familiar to casual observers—more comfortable and less dangerous.
But less dangerous can be deceptive. The shift to a Christian-inflected presentation has also lent a language and structure to the far right’s instinctive anti-Semitism. Many of the most anti-Semitic among the new far right are, at the same time, eager to speak about their Christian faith. Perhaps correspondingly, while members of the far-right are still taken in by the pagans’ talk of Jewish femininity, their anti-Jewish ideas also reflect a hatred of Jewish power—a flavor of hatred with a legacy going back thousands of years.
This can be seen quite easily by looking at the shift from Bannon, the Evola-influenced Trump svengali, to the current most politically powerful involved far-right leader. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia is a former owner of a construction business and a gym elected to Congress in 2020. She now sits on the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees. She’s also, notoriously, a crackpot, known for a Facebook page espousing QAnon and anti-Semitic drivel, mostly couched in the terms of anti-Zionism familiar to me from my days in the UK. In 2018, she re-posted a video that alleged “Zionist supremacists” were conspiring to flood Europe with migrants. In the same year, she mused that the Rothschilds were financing a space laser causing California wildfires.
When hours of video footage of Greene saying such things came to light in 2020, Republican House leadership denounced her. But in a matter of months, that was forgotten, as party leaders saw the popularity her controversy generated in the base, for whom strength and outspokenness are cardinal virtues. Now Greene is an advisor to both House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the former president Donald Trump, who is rumored to be considering her as his vice-presidential running mate. “If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” McCarthy said to the New York Times. Greene helped secure McCarthy’s election as speaker and reinforced that support and influence in recent weeks by keeping her fellow Freedom Caucus members from rebelling against the debt-ceiling deal he negotiated with the Biden administration. For likely similar reasons, Greene seems to have cleaned up her act a bit.
But not much. In 2022, amid her period of political rehabilitation, Greene was the first speaker at a far-right conference in Orlando, the America First Political Action Conference. Greene’s speech was full of praise for the audience—more about them and their conference later—addressing them, directly, for taking up the mantle of fighting for the United States. Her speech did not veer explicitly into anti-Semitism: she focused on familiar topics like transgenderism, vaccine mandates, Democrats, and China. Greene has also since distanced herself from that group, as well as from her support for QAnon. But her appearance at the conference gave the entire event, and its movement and organizers, a link to official power.
Both her style and her views involve a flamboyant reliance on Christian symbols and rhetoric. Last year, Greene was criticized for voicing support for Christian nationalism at a student conference. In response, she doubled down on the shock factor, offering $30 t-shirts for sale that featured the slogans “stand against the Godless Left” and “Proud Christian Nationalist.” Greene’s approach combines pride in religious affirmation without the complicating factor of the older and more confusing syntax of Scripture. I’m not Christian, and so I can’t define for Christians who is and isn’t properly observing their religion. But it seems to me and more than a few other observers that the Christianity being offered here is closer to a symbolic totem of identity than to a deeply lived and guiding moral code. Many observers tend to gloss over the new-old Christian valence to the far right precisely because the tenor of it is so absurd and lightweight. Nonetheless, it’s a real and canny shift. The far right may be post-Christian still. But they’re now post-Christian in a Christian way.
If you could say that about Greene, the most politically powerful of the far right’s new figureheads, you could it say even more about Kanye West, the most culturally powerful. West, perhaps the most brilliant and certainly the most popular hip-hop star of the last couple decades, has spent years cooking up a form of celebrity-imbued Christianity. His Sunday Services, an event series he’s run on and off for half a decade, combine rap concert, gospel choir, celebrity worship, Jesus worship, and fashion show into one Gesamtkunstwerk. The guy has an ingenious sonar capacity for meeting the needs of the culture. And that is part of what’s so disturbing in his anti-Jewish turn.
West’s anti-Semitism, of course, is much more flagrant than Greene’s. For that reason, I don’t intend to spend much time detailing it. Everyone has heard about his anti-Jew spiral over the last year. His comments to Tucker Carlson. His tweets: going “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” over the Jewish holiday of Sukkot; sending out a graphic of a Star of David with a swastika; repeatedly professing his admiration for Hitler and calling on the Jews to forgive the acts of the Holocaust, while simultaneously denying that Hitler killed six million Jews. And, of course, his dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Trump, accompanied by a twenty-four-year-old Holocaust denier, and Milo Yiannopoulos, who has reappeared after his cancellation as West’s once-former and now-again 2024 presidential-campaign advisor. (He’s also gone from being gay to “ex-gay” to gay again. Also, he’s now Catholic, not Jewish.)
What is more interesting, right now, than reliving Kanye’s explosion is examining the response to it. This involved wild condemnation from the mainstream media, corporate America, the left, and the right. It also involved a parallel period of pedestal-placing on the underground and social-media right—on podcasts, Twitter, and in chatrooms. Then-Fox News star Tucker Carlson initially suppressed some of West’s more pungent statements so that West would seem a more likable and effective conservative. On livestreams with Alex Jones and Tim Pool, who each gave Kanye the opportunity to redeem himself and water down his critique of Jewish power as a critique of the establishment, he instead doubled down, confirming that he was indeed targeting Jews for being Jewish.
At a private dinner in Washington, a conservative and non-Jewish friend of mine, who describes himself as a Zionist, came to Kanye’s defense after the death con debacle. He admitted that Kanye needed better PR, and wished he would shut up sometimes—but felt that he was overall a man that made conservatism look good in the public square. National Review’s Dan McLaughlin wrote an article giving Kanye “one cheer.” “There really is no way to read any of this as anything but textbook, open anti-Semitism,” he wrote. But having an ally with West’s level of reach was a goldmine for conservatives that could not be closed: “He’s bringing some conservative or right-leaning messages to people who don’t hear those messages very often, and he’s showing the courage to buck the leftist conformity of the industry and genre in which he swims.”
At the time, I admit that I didn’t know what to say to these apologetics. It seemed obvious to me that West’s conservatism was a mere layering of Christian religious imagery onto a self-serving reactionary impulse. What should my response have been to my friend and the writer who claimed West’s usefulness in winning the attention of young conservatives? I was torn. “People who don’t hear those messages very often.” Given that my friend and the writer presumably interact primarily with people who do hear conservative messages often, were they really defending Kanye as an outreach asset, or were they defending Kanye because they liked him?
When I began my career in 2017, I was considered radioactive in the American Right for my White Identitarian, race realist, “Jewish aware,” counter-Zionist, authoritarian, traditional Catholic views. Mainstream Right groups were “raceblind,” pro immigration, pro-Israel, socially moderate, pandering to minorities.
My vision was to create a space in the American Right that was more Christian and American than the Alt Right, but more “based and redpilled” than the Alt-Lite or neocons. The seeds of AF were present in this emerging 2017 “post-Trump” split in the online “alternative Right.”
In 2023, on almost every count, our previously radioactive views are pounding on the door of the political mainstream and although unknown to the boomers that watch tv, have already triumphed behind the cameras. Since 2019 nobody has left more of an indelible mark on conservative political youth than me. I get namedropped in every corridor and it always gets back to me.
Thus runs a recent social-media message from a twenty-four-year-old livestreamer named Nick Fuentes. Want to know why the winner of 21 Grammy awards now tweets out swastikas? Sure, part of it has to do with obviously untreated mental illness, and part of it has to do with his own paranoia about Jews exploiting him in his music and business career. But a lot of it overlaps with his partnership with Fuentes, the supposedly unknown-to-Trump surprise guest at their Mar-a-Lago dinner. (Fuentes asserts that Trump did not initially recognize him but later expressed admiration for Fuentes after hearing what he had to say.) Likewise, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s controversial speech at that conference in Orlando in 2022? That was a conference that Fuentes organized and headlined.
Look around at the far right now and you’ll see that the uniting factor is Fuentes. I dislike taking him at his word—boastful and always angling, Fuentes is not a reliable narrator of much—but the social-media message is in my view a pretty accurate summary of his influence. Fuentes is the gravitational center of the new far right, surrounded by numerous internet influencers, bloggers, and politicians. He is, more than anyone, Milo 2:0: the movement’s communicator-in-chief and most popular figure. He mixes a familiar brand of alt-right internet humor with a movement of devoted followers, known as Groypers, that exceeds anything Milo had. That is not, however, to say he is the same as Milo. As I’ll explain shortly, Fuentes reflects in nearly all respects the far right’s ideological or strategic evolution from the Milo years.
Fuentes rose out of the ashes of the alt-right, coming to prominence as a podcaster while still in college. He was brought into the mainstream Republican fold as a young movement prodigy, until, as a student, he attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which led to his being fired from the conservative Right Side Broadcasting Network, where his show was originally hosted. He then decided to drop out of Boston University and start up on his own, with his own show and network. Five years later, Fuentes, and his America First organization, is a kingmaker, perhaps the kingmaker, on the enlarged far right. The group has now hosted three of those yearly political action conferences in Florida, deliberately timed and intended to rival the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, which takes place nearby.
Fuentes’s recent auto-documentary, The Most Canceled Man in America, released on a fringe paid streaming service over the summer, neatly sums up his worldview. The film opens with Fuentes sharing two sources that most impacted his political consciousness before the Trump years: Thomas Sowell’s interviews published by the Hoover Institution, and Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. So far, so standard. You could ask any conservative child or grandchild of the Reagan era and get the same answers. (Ironic, though, that a far-right kingpin would choose a black man and a Jewish man as his two chief influences.) From there, however, Fuentes turns sharply, repudiating the free-market and classical liberal ideas of those two guideposts and the mainstream conservative movement they helped to fashion, and moves into a tirade against the American “regime,” placing America’s “sins” on the same level as China’s and Russia’s. The film is made with notably high production value, a sign of the money involved, and features guests like Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice and a notorious alt-right agitator dating back to before 2016. Fuentes details at length the alleged persecution he has faced from the federal government due to his participation in the Stop the Steal protests and the ongoing investigations concerning January 6th, 2021, describing himself as a “dissident.”
Fuentes also likes to style himself a devout Catholic and talks of the papacy as his highest authority. In this way, he is one of the figures most responsible for the far right’s shift away from paganism. Again, though, this sense of Christianity comes across as primarily symbolic—as a backdrop to a fundamentalist way of life that includes taking back the right for women to vote. He prefers to use the term Christian as a political tool to denounce non-Christians. The introductory reel to his livestreams begins with rap and synth music with Fuentes’s voice overlaid saying “This is a Christian nation. This is America.” Fuentes declares he is part of the “Jesus gang” but decries pro-life movements when they defend black fetuses, demonstrating just how his racism outweighs his Christian commitments.
Despite this, his ambition for himself and his movement outweighed his racism, temporarily at least, when it came to the reach and celebrity power of West, whose anti-Semitism tour he joined and perhaps guided last fall and winter. For the same reason, at a recent rally, Fuentes stood dressed as West in black pants, a black puffer jacket, and thick-framed black glasses, in front of the projected image of a white cross against a stormy grey background. The imagery of Christianity—contorted and hulled of real meaning—is in this staging made into the unifying characteristic of Fuentes’s movement, as opposed to the blood-and-soil defense of masculine whiteness popular in 2016. Perhaps it is because Fuentes doesn’t quite have it in him to appear as threateningly masculine as Spencer—he’s a pretty slight guy and has proclaimed himself to be an incel (“involuntary celibate”)—that he relies on the borrowed authority of militant Christianity.
There is another notable change from the alt-right era that can be seen in Fuentes. He retains the same sense of humor and brashness as Milo but has dropped Milo’s coyness entirely. He now proudly proclaims what was obvious before—that the anti-Semitic and racist humor is a front for actual malice.
Nearly every video stream contains barbs aimed at the Jews. “Down with the Jesus-killing shekel collectors,” he trills. The Babylonian Talmud “says horrible things about Christ.” “Transgenderism is a Jewish phenomenon.” On the party responsible for two recent car crashes he was in: “Is it the devil? Is it the government? Is it the Jews?” The Christianity is, unfortunately, inextricable from the anti-Semitism. He seeks to take the “Judeo” out of the Judeo-Christian descriptions of American moral purpose favored by conservatives. And the Jews didn’t just kill Jesus—they’re now trying to destroy Fuentes’s moral leader and the nation over which he presided: “Every day [since Trump’s rise] the Jews have gone to war” against America, he says. For this, they must be opposed, and their extermination denied: “It doesn’t really sound correct to me, wait a second,” he muses. “It takes one hour to cook a batch of cookies, and you have fifteen ovens, probably in four different kitchens, right, doing 24 hours a day every day for five years, how long would it take to make six million? Hmm, I dunno, it certainly wouldn’t be five years right. The math doesn’t seem to add up there.”
Fuentes’s hatred of Jews unsurprisingly extends to a hatred of the Jewish state. He mocks a Twitter user who claimed to be both part of Fuentes’s movement and pro-Israel. “Oy vey, us Israeli nationalists are your biggest allies, we’re your biggest friends, meshuggenneh!” Fuentes puts on a decent Brooklyn accent, despite his mispronunciation of words like Likud as “Lee-Kud.” (Or perhaps the mispronunciation is the point.) His assertion is not just that Israel is a bad actor, but that all support for Israel must be condemned and supporters ostracized from his movement. Here, he is an avatar of growing discontent with Israel on the right—not with Israel’s actions but with its very existence, a development familiar to me from the anti-Zionism of the Corbyn gang in the UK. On second thought, though, calling Fuentes a mere anti-Zionist is the wrong way to describe someone who’s suggested deploying nuclear weapons against Israel. “In five-six years in the new Trump administration, you know one of you guys is going to encounter somebody else in the elevator,” Fuentes fantasized on a livestream. “And then [you’ll] like hit the nuclear launch button and like, nuke a certain country . . . nuclear missile bursts through the waves of the Mediterranean, the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The shift away from coyness involves Fuentes being upfront not only about his anti-Semitism but also about a new sense of identity it has given him. Fuentes has replaced the coyness of the alt-right with—and I really can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s the truth—a sense of goyness, a sense of seeing himself and his movement not only as the enemy of the Jews but as their explicit and sworn mirror-opposite. “You know they’re shitting their pants that the goy is waking up,” he said after Kanye’s coming out last year. “Between Ye, and everything with that, and this. The goy is waking up. The devil is a defeated foe, and the goy is a wakened hero! Let’s go. The goy is an awakened race of people.” In case this wasn’t clear enough, he said that Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year would enable the firing of those “in charge of banning the groypers . . . the goyim who are too awake . . . the politically conscious.”
Here is anti-Semitism not only as hatred but as self-definition. For some reason this aspect of Fuentes has gone improperly recognized. Compared to the amusingly named Goyim Defense League, whose anti-Semitic posters make the headlines of Jewish papers but whose livestreams receive views in the low thousands, Fuentes is the definition of virality.
IV. The Uniting Force
It’s hard to see where West, Fuentes, Greene, and Yiannopoulos—a Grammy award-winning rapper, a twenty-four-year-old basement-dwelling white supremacist, a forty-something politician from Georgia, and a self-hating gay Catholic man—fit together without anti-Semitism. The Jews, in other words, have become a key unifying force for the far-right in the United States.
How does that unifying function work? By another key shift in ideological priority, not a complete one by any means, but a detectable change in what they emphasize: the far right talks less about immigration or any other concrete social issue now than it used to, and much more about wokeness and their own rights of expression—to say whatever they want. Of course, most conservatives are also concerned with wokeness, as are many liberals, but the far right’s definition goes far beyond the standard argument. They believe that the greatest taboos against “freedom of speech”—meaning, essentially, the freedom to disparage—are related to Jews and Israel, and also, I should say, to black Americans. (Fuentes’s anti-black racism, though less infrequently expressed than his anti-Semitism, is plain to see, and as vile.)
Fuentes, for instance, doesn’t actually spend much time these days talking about social issues, other than to decry feminism. Instead, his main concern is all about what one can and cannot say. In the first livestream he made after a transgender man shot up a school in Nashville, he declined to pay more than a few seconds notice to it. Instead, he spent most of his time responding to a fellow streamer whose show he had been a guest on, who was facing cancellation for racist language. “Never apologize,” Fuentes fulminated.
Like the shift from paganism to Christianity, the shift to anti-woke taboo-shattering has had ramifications for how the far right sees Jews. It connects quite naturally to long-standing anti-Semitic tropes that go deeper than fears about Jews and immigration, tropes that left-wing radicals and anti-Semites enjoy playing with as well. Sure, Jews let foreigners like themselves in, but there’s something worse they do than that. Joe Rogan is not a member of the far right. But he’s a major player in the free-speech wars, and came under fire earlier this year for defending Ilhan Omar’s comments about Jews—“It’s all about the Benjamins”—during an episode of his wildly popular podcast. “Benjamins are money,” he explained. “The idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. . . . That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza, it’s f—ing stupid.” His guests, the progressive Krystal Ball and the conservative Saagar Enjeti, hosts of a podcast called Breaking Points, went further. They argued that there is a current taboo—which must be broken—against criticizing Israel and the Jews. Ball alleges that throughout her upbringing, one was not allowed to publicly criticize the Israeli government. Really? “It’s like the Ukraine thing—they’re dancing around the issue. When you even suggest that arming Ukraine could cross a Russia red line . . . you’re not allowed to talk about that now.”
In other words, there exists a deep-seated resentment in these quarters toward some amorphous entity that controls “what you are allowed to talk about.” Need I spell it out? The nature of this muzzling entity is perceived to be both Jewish and Israeli, or at least pro-Jewish and pro-Israel—which means that one must be anti-Jewish and anti-Israel to combat it.
Fuentes, as ever, puts it most clearly:
The Nazi-Hitler issue is the final frontier . . . of political correctness. The window has been shifting over the last seven years; it used to be the case that people would get canceled for anything . . . of course, Donald Trump . . . changed all of that . . . now you’re able to say a lot more. . . . But this was always the red line . . . for both sides . . . the red line was always Jews and all these derivative issues like Israel, Jewish representation in media, Hollywood, finance, government, and then the Holocaust. And, of course, my career was shaped by this dynamic. This is the taboo that basically frames the entire political conversation. Almost all of the political dialectic in America in the 21st century is framed by these issues. And even when they’re not explicitly mentioned, they implicitly undergird and . . . found the issues.
Another quote widely shared on right-wing media neatly links the free-speech stand to anti-Semitism in one sentence: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” The quote is supposedly from Voltaire but was actually uttered by the American neo-Nazi Kevin Alfred Strom, and has been used ever since to imply Jewish control over American media and opinion.
The shift in priority to belligerent speech has also activated people who might not otherwise have cared, or who were actively turned off by the previous focus on immigration. Kanye is one of them. After all, since, according to him, the Jews controlled his business for most of his career, he’s now even more concerned with what he himself can and can’t do and say. In this, he both reflects and further generates a shift in that direction among some perhaps-surprising quarters: gamers and hip-hop fans, who care a lot about what they themselves can and can’t do and say themselves and less about immigrants, a vaguer and less immediate problem than if they’ll get banned from playing Call of Duty online for saying something rude about Jews or blacks. Indeed, a friend’s brother reports that in the wake of Kanye’s comments, Warzone matches were full of support for West and outrage at his canceling—not from a majority by any means, but from a loud minority that met little pushback. (Also notable: Milo got his start nearly a decade ago writing about Gamergate, a convoluted controversy about political correctness in the video-game business.)
Another example: the podcast No Jumper, hosted by a heavily tattooed white man known as Adam22, is one of the most popular hip-hop podcasts in the world, with over 4.5 million subscribers and millions more viewers. It recently featured, in separate episodes lasting hours, both Fuentes and Richard Spencer as guests. (The episode with the former has been seen by over 600,000 on YouTube alone.)
Jack Teixeira, the young man caught leaking Pentagon briefing papers to the world this spring, similarly unites many of these factors. A far-right obsessive, he seems practically to have lived on Discord, the chat-room network most popular with gamers, where he posted those documents. As the Washington Post reports, “In a video seen by The Post, the man . . . stands at a shooting range, wearing safety glasses and ear coverings and holding a large rifle. He yells a series of racial and anti-Semitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target.” Of course, he was immediately embraced as a fellow victim of the speech wars. “This guy was a Christian,” one of his Discord friends said in his defense. Marjorie Taylor Greene jumped in too, writing on Twitter: “Jake Teixeira is white, male, christian, and antiwar . . . Ask yourself who is the real enemy? A young low level national guardsmen? Or the administration that is waging war in Ukraine, a non-NATO nation, against nuclear Russia without war powers?”
V. The Jew at the Party
Anti-Semitism is not only the glue holding disparate parts of the far right together. It’s also the building block of a wall being constructed to define who is and isn’t part of this loose constellation of movements—and to exclude even or especially those who might otherwise sound like they’d be natural members.
Part of the far-right that still maintains an attachment to hyper-masculine paganism, Bronze Age Pervert, a social-media theorist and practitioner with the real name of Costin Alamariu, rose to prominence during the Trump administration for his apparent influence on the White House. (Several profiles of him have been published over the years, most recently in The Daily Beast and Tablet.) “Every junior staffer in the Trump administration read Bronze Age Mindset, by the figure who calls himself ‘Bronze Age Pervert,’” Republican operative Nate Hochman once said.
Alamariu has a fascinating story. In brief, he completed a Ph.D. at Yale, and then invented an “aspiring nude bodybuilder” persona with an affected Slavic accent who hosts a podcast set in an anonymous beach-town in the Caribbean, complete with the sounds of thrashing waves. Alamariu encourages his listeners and his over 100,000 Twitter followers, mostly men, to stoke the flames of life.
Alamariu operates beyond the Fuentes-like mode of pure grievance politics. He has a clear vision of how society should be governed: the strong and worthy shall take power, by force, earning their worth through displays of glory (i.e. combat in war) and govern according to Greek conceptions of a philosopher class supported by lower-order “bugs,” as he calls them. Sometimes this means esoterically instructing men with “superior attributes” to eschew traditional relationships and father thousands of children, and other times it means wading directly into policy: for example, lamenting the absence of a military coup in Brazil to keep former president Jair Bolsonaro in power. And more recently, it means explicitly endorsing fascism. “I believe in Fascism or ’something worse,’” he wrote recently, “and I can say so unambiguously because, unlike others, I have given up long ago all hope of being part of the respectable world or winning a respectable audience.”
Such opinions would make Alamariu’s far-right credentials unimpeachable, one might think. And yet this is increasingly not the case, in part because, like any radical space, this one is internecine and filled with factional feuds, in larger part because—irony of ironies—it seems as if Alamariu himself might be Jewish.
In April, an anonymous far-right Twitter account, with the handle InternetRadical and name Chief Keef (taken from the rapper of the same name), alleged that Alamariu had been deliberately concealing a Jewish identity, including a Zionist father living in Newton, Massachusetts, which the account referred to as “Jewton.” The twenty-part Twitter thread ended with a photoshopped meme of Alamariu in an LGBT-flag-patterned kippa. (Mr. Keef does not miss a beat. As soon as I followed him to keep up with his anti-BAP campaign, he posed a screenshot of my account on Twitter and blasted me as a Netanyahu-funded entity. “COSTIN ALAMARIU is calling in reinforcements from his Tikvah Fund network smh [three crying with laughter faces] They literally are all on the @netanyahu payroll smh.” Sounds nice, where may I get the rewards of such a payroll, please?)
Fuentes similarly thinks Alamariu is “a gay Jewish Zionist Immigrant shilling for the Likud Party.” Indeed, it seems the two have been at odds for a while. “I’ve been at war with Bronze Age Pervert for years. . . I’ve been at war with this guy, this Jew.” What’s more, Fuentes says, Alamariu “tried to abort the Groyper movement.” And “don’t tell me you’re a pagan, Nietzschean, MAGA frog, you’re a gay Jew.” (The frog, for those who have forgotten their alt-right lore, is a reference to the popular illustrated meme figure who represented the movement’s adherents.)
Smearing intention aside, could the fact of Alamariu’s Jewishness be true? He hardly sounds like a nice Jewish boy. My attempt to find out has been more complicated than I anticipated; this is a bit of a detour from the main thrust of this essay but it’s too fun to leave out.
Alamariu’s dissertation supervisor at Yale, Steven B. Smith, is a celebrated scholar of political science (and an occasional Mosaic contributor). Did he see Alamariu’s notoriety coming? Smith tells me that Alamariu “was always a contrarian, he has a mischievous streak,” and was known as a provocateur in the classroom. A classmate noted he would make outrageous statements with a quizzical expression. But he never took this public at the time. To Smith, he appears to sound like a different person now, even changing and Russifying his accent (he is of Romanian origin.) “This stridency, this kind of white supremacist stridency. . . That was never . . . never heard that. He’s obviously crafted this persona.”
I was curious to hear whether he was at all a charismatic presence for his fellow classmates and teachers at Yale at the time. But Smith explains that Alamariu was highly elusive. “He was never part of a circle here, he had some friends; they were as perplexed by him as anybody else. He left the program as mysteriously as he entered it.” A classmate describes him as a loner. Was he the more intellectual, nerdy type of loner? Did he seem like he would do well in an environment like a think-tank or research institution? (I wondered whether he always had ambitions to join the conservative world, since for those who are not successful on an academic path, think-tanks are often a second option.) No, he “doesn’t play well with others,” Smith tells me.
In the end, the best way to understand Alamariu, Smith tells me, is to read Yukio Mishima, the brilliant, quasi-fascist 20th-century Japanese novelist who committed ritual suicide. Alamariu gave Smith some of Mishima’s books as a gift while still a student.
Of his Judaism, alas, there is no clear answer. “The fact that he might be Jewish is possible, although it never came up,” Smith says.
Poking around online, I did discover an old tweet posted by a previous account of Alamariu’s that read “I’m not neoreactionary, I’m a nude bodybuilder and a fascist. I am also Jewish, is this OK.” Proof, then? Hardly—he very well could have been trolling.
Neither does Alamariu’s attitude toward Jewish matters reveal much. In his manifesto, Bronze Age Mindset, he’s mostly critical of the Jews—and equally of Christianity. Where he departs from the far-right norm is in commending Zionism’s success as a national movement. “Many are right that in some sense the creation of Israel is the most ‘anti-Semitic’ act ever conceived,” he writes. But “it is, in any case, a great model for others to show that reestablishment of antiquity is fully possible.” Here, though, he qualifies his view by denouncing any policy implications for America this attitude may have: “there is no real reason why Americans or Europeans should have any regard for the welfare of this country.”
In any case, as a result of the accusations of his Jewish ancestry, Alamariu has turned to trolling his audience. He reposts a video, made by a supporter of his, of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi waving victoriously in military parades. The caption reads: “This zionist propaganda was made by @bronzeagemantis talmudic network #NameTheJew.” Alamariu responds proudly: “Patriots! Kadima! (please refer to me as the White King, an honorific, when repoasting such of my work heheh).” (Unknowingly, at least at the start of the evening, I once went to a bar with a group of people that included Gaddafi’s nephew—another example of being far closer to this nonsense than I ever intended.)
To me, it’s evident that Alamariu is playing the buffoon. He speaks on his podcast in a sort of cookie-monster affect and deliberately uses poor grammar in both speaking and writing (though an earlier article, under his real name, for the New Criterion is written in regular prose). Perhaps his obsession with affect and appearance (while not revealing his own face) is an attempt to overthrow his own insecurities about, to quote from his book, “the Judaizing tendency that promotes facility with words and number, but approaches mental deficiency and even retardation when it comes to anything visual.” Whatever the real reason, and the truth about his voice or appearance, the effect is terribly unpleasant.
In the end, whether Alamariu is Jewish or not matters less than the fact that Jewishness is turning out to be the most effective smear against him. It’s evident that Alamariu is irritated by the accusation and interacts with followers to deny it; the tone of these interactions is trolling, but it’s still a sort of try-hard attempt to prove he’s not Jewish by making fun of the Jews. Even for a self-declared fascist, no matter how much you shed your Jewishness, it will be dug up to tear you down. This is yet another dynamic familiar to me from my homeland, where otherwise in the club leftist Jews were challenged as soon as they made the slightest peep about anti-Semitism. In radical spaces left or right, Jews are only trusted as long as they keep quiet about being Jews—and if you’re not Jewish, the quickest way to discredit you is to say you are.
So there’s a noxious market demand on the irreverent right to score points against the Jews. And responding to that demand has created friction within the conservative movement. On the right now, as it was with the left in the UK, smearing the Jews, even if it isn’t directly approved of, is a crucial sign of rebelliousness in a market that demands more and more of it.
One example: Candace Owens, a writer, activist, and the star of the talk show Candace, hosted at the Daily Wire. She has been described as the “new face of black conservatism.” Since she became politically active for Trump around 2016, she has often made outlandish political comments. A few years ago, at the launch of right-wing student organization Turning Point’s UK branch, Candice spoke about Nazi Germany in exculpatory tones. “Whenever we say ‘nationalism,’ the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler. You know, he was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine.” I and others thought at first that Owens was merely speaking awkwardly. But her willingness to toy around with the Holocaust turned out to anticipate worse statements to come.
Owens is a notable friend of and collaborator with Kanye West. They appeared together at the Yeezy Paris fashion week show wearing “White Lives Matter” shirts in October 2022. After West’s “death con 3” tweet, she defended him, saying “If you are an honest person, you did not think this tweet was anti-Semitic.” Since then, she’s claimed that George Soros became a Nazi sympathizer during the Holocaust. “Because he was taken care of and he was protected and maybe he saw them through a different vein?” she pondered on a recent podcast. “It’s very difficult to get over the lessons that you learn from your childhood. And I’m wondering if he came out of that and was at all sympathetic to the Jewish people or if he was more sympathetic to the people that took care of him throughout that, uh, horrible tragedy of the Nazis occupying Hungary.” Then she retweeted, with compliments, a tweet by Max Blumenthal—a Jewish anti-Zionist writer and activist known for his support of autocrats like Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin and his hatred of neoconservatives—lambasting the “golden age” of American Jewry and the nefarious power they supposedly exercised through Zionist “lobby fronts” like the Anti-Defamation League to “the state of Israel.”
Though she remains at the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, its founder and editor emeritus, has publicly criticized Owens for these comments, as he has also rebuked West. After the Mar-a-Lago dinner, and after West accused Shapiro of trashing him by accepting advertising money from West’s presidential “rival” Ron DeSantis, Shapiro replied: “Sadly, you’ve trashed yourself. It didn’t need my help. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t the Jews. It was just you.”
Shapiro is himself an Orthodox Jew, and a proud one at that. In 2016, he set a red line on anti-Semitism by speaking out about the online harassment he received during the election cycle and the corrosive impact anti-Semitism would have on the right. Sadly, his warnings have not yet been fully heeded. In the pages of National Review in 2016, Shapiro set three goalposts for judging the success of the alt-right. In order to achieve success, it would have to assert outsized influence, make inroads into more traditional right-wing movements, and convince mainstream conservatives that it is too large to ignore. My fear is that the inheritors of the alt-right I have described represent many of Shapiro’s predictions coming true. What’s worse, anti-Semitism is now being picked up as a potent tool in the battles to define the future of American conservatism.
VI. The Weapon of Anti-Semitism
“People in the GOP have noticed,” tweeted Robert Costa, a journalist plugged into conservatives in DC, last year. “Fuentes is not someone who has slipped under the radar. If you follow the base, you can’t somehow not see it, just like you can’t pretend groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers aren’t gaining ground in these same online spaces, too.”
While respectable figures feel themselves constrained by the popularity of the anti-Semites, the outlandish are rewarded. Candace Owens certainly has been—she has almost ten-million combined followers on social media and is one of the most recognizable female voices on the right today. Outlandishness, of course, was one of the central reasons the Trump phenomenon came about. He was able to generate huge grassroots energy for himself, and a sense that he was beholden to no outside interests, by nodding at the insane things his alt-right supporters would say and do. Hence his response to the alt-right’s Charlottesville rally, and his sharing a meme of Pepe the Frog, an alt-right symbol dating back to the Milo days. Today, the far right is even clearer in disparaging the U.S. relationship with Israel as well as Jewish communal institutions. As 2024 approaches, will he nod at those statements too?
And if Trump doesn’t win? Florida governor Ron DeSantis is a more mainstream figure, though he and his team have shown that they can be tempted by the siren song of online-flavored rebelliousness too. And that may lead them to the edge of trouble. DeSantis is a supporter of plenty of Jewish causes, and of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, but has faced pressure to respond to far-right anti-Semitism within his state. In January 2022, there were a series of neo-Nazi demonstrations in Orlando. In media coverage of the proceedings, he responded by claiming the issue had been used as a political weapon against him, inferring that his political opponents were trying to “smear me as if I had something to do with it.”
There’s also the possibility that DeSantis ends up being smeared for not having something to do with it. His travel to and support for Israel, as well as his broader Judeo-Christian vision of conservatism, could be used by right-wing anti-Semites as a point of attack. This is already happening in the Fuentes crowd, whose leader likes to say that DeSantis is in the pocket of Jewish donors. “If anybody did that to any other country we would call them a spy,” he says of DeSantis’s trips to Israel. Trump isn’t likely to fall prey to the same attacks, given Fuentes’s support for him, but he and others in the far right do think that the former president’s support for Israel is the worst thing about him.
Speculation about the future aside, the broader point here is that anti-Semitism, even as it remains both officially and pretty widely denounced, is less likely to be a point of weakness on the right in 2024 than it is a weapon. One way it’s wielded, on top of those we’ve already seen, is to say that conservatives are ineffective—not supremacist—because of Jews and Jewish (“neoconservative”) influence. The same goes for Israel policy. The notion that American Jews control U.S. policy towards the state of Israel, as well as U.S. government institutions like the CIA and so forth, is, of course, nothing new, and familiar to observers of far-left and Islamist anti-Semitism. What is new—or, rather, old and new again—is the assertion that support for Israel is foreign to American conservatism and to American values at large. Their target is not just Israel itself, but, closer to home, its supporters on the right.
Twitter has come up again and again in this essay. It’s no accident. The modern media ecosystem has not caused the spread of anti-Semitism in the American right, but it surely has accelerated it. It also means those attitudes are probably not getting put back in the barrel. In 2016, anti-Semitism on the right first emerged as a kind of issue by association—Spencer was found to have made some hot-mic anti-Semitic statements, and Bannon was allied with loosely anti-Semitic European parties. Today, the far-right benefits from a more mature internet media landscape in which they have almost unbridled freedom to say what they think. They can reach niche audiences online, benefit from anonymous donations via cryptocurrency, and owe no loyalty to mainstream social-media platforms, from which many of them have been banned already. Neither are they beholden to the influence of large donors or to established conservative institutions. This allows people to assert their own power and popularity outside the system and take hold from there. (This is no genius insight—Fuentes himself acknowledges this openly on his talk-show.)
In the dark corners of the internet, these figures are free to promote extreme and exhilarating conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence over American public and political life. They are able to make outlandish statements that delight their audience, and they no longer have to make excuses about humor as they speak to their followers directly and semi-privately. At the same time, they can be visible to the mainstream when they choose to be. Though he’s banned from Twitter, Fuentes clips are reposted to millions of views by allies like female anti-feminist YouTuber JustPearlyThings (1.48 million subscribers), who excused his Holocaust denial after his appearance on her show caused an uproar.
And with their new identity, and their focus on isolationism, Christian symbolism, and conspiracy theories about imagined threats to their freedom of speech, the far right heightens tensions with and increases pressure on the mainstream right. Just as, back in the UK, the movement that brought Corbyn to power had the establishment Labor party in its sights, this generation of far-rights activists are dead set on bullying and influencing the rest of the conservative movement. Will they take over, as the Corbyn faction did? Right now, that seems unlikely. The United States doesn’t look to me like Britain in the Corbyn years. Living in America, one benefits from protections of religious freedom, freedom of speech, and a robust philo-Semitic culture. But the continued existence of those freedoms and that culture depends on a renewed devotion, a renewed strategy, and a renewed self-confidence among America’s mainstream conservatives, and its Jews.
Nina Saadat contributed research to this essay.