Nicholas Fuentes is having a pretty chaotic year.
First came word of a federal investigation into him and his friend Patrick Casey, head of the hateful Identity Evropa movement, for their involvement in the January 6th insurrection. He got mocked for being a fake incel by some of his fans. He then pissed off Rep. Paul Gosar, leading the once-allied congressman to say that Fuentes “has a problem with his mouth.”
The 23-year-old white nationalist has used that mouth to agitate with his “America First” livestream and podcast, building up a fanbase that refers to itself as the “Groyper Army.” Fuentes regularly peddles racist pseudoscience, anti-feminist hot takes and reactionary violence; he’s also denied the Holocaust and spreads anti-Semitic conspiracies. Through it all, there are winking, ironic-but-not calls for revolution and a new world order.
It’s a mix of charismatic bullshit and unnerving bigotry that’s captured the attention of young right-wingers all over the country, especially college Republican groups that lean into extremist thought and leadership. In fact, he has deliberately seeked alliances with young people who want to be helpful to Fuentes’ America First movement.
But this month, Fuentes’ network has shown signs of erosion, with two key figures defecting and going public.
The first was Jaden McNeil, the ex-treasurer and right-hand man of Fuentes who was involved in the insurrection and booted from Kansas State University for his support of America First. He stepped down from the organization and went public with his grievances earlier this month, joining the popular Kino Casino livestream to call Fuentes a scammer who has kept key leaders in the dark about finances and spending.
One detail is that Fuentes has been complaining regularly about the federal government’s seizure of his money as part of its investigation into whether his fundraisers were used for the Capitol insurrection. On the livestream, however, McNeil claimed that Fuentes was lying to gain sympathy and financial support. “The $500k? He’s had that for almost a year, okay? He’s had that back from the feds for almost a year, and he’s been using that to raise money… and throw a pity party. I’m dead serious. He bought a $70,000 car right afterward,” McNeil says.
He was joined on the stream by Simon Dickerman, who has at various points managed Fuentes’ merch site and done video work at protest events. Dickerman jumped ship from America First too, and has been open about his problems with Fuentes, including how his involvement and control with a variety of college political groups could get everyone into a lot of trouble. “Nick has made himself so radioactive to other people,” Dickerman says.
Meanwhile, the internet is soaking it all in, with fans pondering the gossip and others just laughing at the discord around Fuentes. One popular take is that McNeil bailed on Fuentes because the latter man was upset with McNeil getting a girlfriend and spending more time with her.
Others are framing the crisis as Fuentes being pissed because an associate lost their virginity.
Then, last week, Fuentes popped off on a Texas A&M freshman named Carson Wolf, who had become a friend of the America First network and even got Fuentes to support his stream. That all changed when Wolf publicly criticized incel ideology, leading Fuentes and his fans to turn on him, as reported by extremism expert and journalist Nick Martin. Wolf has since deleted all of his social media channels, claiming that he needs to take a break.
Experts have noted that far-right extremist groups sometimes struggle to stay coherent because volatile personalities and ideological disagreement leads to power struggles, fights over trust and ultimately new factions. That’s been observed in hardcore militias and other serious groups, so one can imagine how easy it is in the world of livestreaming grifters and political tire-kickers, seeking opportunities in the cynical wasteland of white nationalist rhetoric.
There’s a bunch of restless, ambitious young men wondering how they can leave their mark on the world. Perhaps it can happen collectively, through the force of a niche movement like the Groypers. But attention spans are short when you’re young and flirting with the edges of extremism. Ideologies shift and mature over time, especially when you’re confronted with a leader who acts like a bullshit artist to you, not just the camera.
Amid that comes entropy. Maybe Fuentes will stop dropping close friends while marching toward his racist utopia. But odds are, this is just the start of a rot that will weaken America First, no matter how much Fuentes barks in denial.