“Christ is king in this country. We don’t want illegal aliens from Mexico or outer space!” Ryan Sanchez shouted to his viewers online. He gestured with a smirk to a tall metallic box he called an ‘oh-ball-eqsque,’ probably meaning to say ‘obelisk.’
Streamed to the white supremacist friendly, Twitch alternative DLive a group of “America First” Groypers clad in military fatigues, trump merch, and night vision goggles toppled the Atascadero, CA monolith, the third installation of what appears to be a guerrilla art project reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“I will fuck you to death if you don’t sing!” Sanchez barked at his colleagues, imploring them to belt out the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Sanchez, who streams under the handle Culture War Criminal, commanded his accomplices to tear the monolith down and then raise a wooden cross in its place. All the while they chanted “Christ is King, Christ is King!”
Before its destruction, the art project had become a sort of social media sensation. Monoliths previously appeared in Utah and Romania respectively. For some the work served as a somewhat clickbaity potential publicity stunt amidst the 2020 news cycle of “civil unrest”, the nationwide pandemic, and the rise of fascism. But fascists, specifically Groypers, got to the monolith.
“Groypers” emerged out of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. At that rally neo-Nazis, militiamen, neo-Confederates, “alt-right” and “alt-lite” groups marched together attacking and terrorizing counter-protestors. James Alex Fields Jr., one of the Nazis who attended that day, infamously rammed his car into a crowd of antiracist counter-protestors, murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Fascists were able to organize the rally as effectively as they did in part because the clean-cut, camera-friendly “alt-right” was given more than half a year of sympathetic coverage in mainstream press. With the attacks and murder, their goodwill ran out. What followed is sometimes called the “Optics Debate.” Some fascists wanted to be “un-optical” and openly worship Hitler complete with all the esoteric symbology and make direct call-backs to historic fascist movements. Other fascists wanted to keep looking clean-cut and appealing to mainstream Republicans and society at large, infiltrating and pushing their ideas on the sly. The Groypers come out of the latter.
The Groyper/America First youth movement is led by Holocaust denier and Unite the Right attendee Nicholas J. Fuentes. “Groyper,” their mascot, is the non-trademarked version of the alt-right-appropriated cartoon frog ‘Pepe.’ Groypers–and the America First movement more broadly–cut their teeth in a internal Republican Party culture war in 2018 and 2019. That conflict saw white nationalists including members of the now (allegedly) dissolved American Identity Movement (previously Identity Evropa) and the former members of mainstream Republican orgs like Turning Point USA students and College Republicans swayed to white nationalist ideas turn on more “mainstream” right-wing figures. Groypers would confront people like Charlie Kirk, Ben Shapiro, Dan Crenshaw, and Donald Trump Jr. over the course of a series of TPUSA speaking engagements. Through the vehicle of the Q&A portion of events, Groypers would berate those they viewed as “Conservative Inc.” for failing to live up to their political vision. Groypers would ask questions designed to force the speaker towards openly embracing explicitly antisemitic or white nationalist positions.
“So from an America First perspective, why do we give 3.8 billion dollars to Israel which is more aid than we’ve given to Africa, more aid than we’ve given to South America, and more aid we’ve given to the Caribbean combined, which is home to a billion poor people especially when they deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in the 1970s?” a Groyper asked at one Turning Point USA event in October 2019.
Such questions are meant to present the online viewership with anecdotal “gotcha” moments to provide the context to roll out more esoteric “redpills” like the Zionist Occupation Government conspiracy theory. The idea is that an “America First conservative” should put “America”–which to them is white Christians–first, but people like Charlie Kirk don’t. Instead, people like Kirk compromise their values by supporting not being bigoted enough towards marginalized people and supporting the U.S. funding of the State of Israel.
By forcing the audience to choose between “America First” and “Israel First” they are able to insinuate that much of the Republican party is Jewish controlled, thus delegitimizing the conservative establishment in their target audiences minds. This highly conspiratorial framework forces the Groypers towards a strategy of entryism and recruitment of College Republicans. The point of their movement is to build up white nationalist cadre or “influencers” as their beliefs are unpopular without “good optics”. With this foothold in former organizing networks of Turning Point USA, Young American’s for Liberty, and College Republican chapters, these young white nationalists look to push the Republican Party Overton window towards outright Christo-Fascism.
This strategy has largely worked thanks to an increasingly conspiratorial and white nationalist-friendly Trump administration. Berkeley Antifa recently reported Matthias Ronnau, a Groyper-friendly former UC Berkeley College Republican club president, became a presidential elector for the state of California. Ronnau previously appeared on the white supremacist media network “Red Ice” alongside former Identity Evropa leader Nathan Damigo.
CHRISTIAN SECOR, AKA “SCUFFED ELLIOT RODGER”
Similarly, the UCLA College Republicans, the “Bruin Republicans,'' recently formed the group ‘America First Bruins’ and aligned themselves with America First organizer Jaden McNeil’s ‘America First Students.’ Christian Secor, a member of Bruin Republicans, quickly caught UCLA students’ attention with his open embrace of fascism on Twitter and offline organizing. Secor appears to have interned with Groyper ally Michelle Malkin who spoke at AFPAC (which Secor himself attended), the America First response to CPAC. At AFPAC, Malkin spoke alongside Nick Fuentes, Jake Lloyd of InfoWars, then-current American Identity Movement leader Patrick Casey, and Scott Greer, a white nationalist who was outed as working for the Daily Wire. Malkin was likewise invited to speak by the Bruin Republicans, and presumably the cadre of white nationalists who would go on to found AF Bruins. Secor himself was IDed by UCLA students on Twitter. LCRW confirmed he participated in the destruction of the Atascadero Monolith. Secor often appears on streams on DLive alongside fellow monolith-toppler “CultureWarCriminal.”
On DLive, Secor has gone by the alias “Scuffed Elliot Rodger” a reference to the 2014 Isla Vista Mass Murderer and University of California, Santa Barbara student who fatally stabbed his three roommates before driving to a nearby sorority house, and after failing to gain entry went on a killing spree, murdering four more pedestrians and injuring fourteen both by vehicular attack and gunfire before killing himself. His manifesto, detailing his hatred of women and mixed race couples, gained him infamy amongst the Incel or “involuntarily celibate” community, of which the Groypers gain ample recruits.
While streaming alongside Ryan Sanchez, aka “CultureWarCriminal,” Secor appeared dressed in an America First-branded “Million MAGA March Veteran” hoodie. In the stream, Secor pepper sprayed a seemingly intoxicated Black man beneath the Huntington Beach pier. For Secor and the group of Groyper this was “good content.” Secor referred to his assault with the chemical weapon as “content spray”. What he meant by this is the tendency among a certain subset of America First DLive streamers to produce “IRL streams,” as opposed to political analysis, gaming streamers, etc. “IRL” is short for ‘in real life.’ Motivated by a content hungry audience of Groypers, IRL streamers often seek out and verbally harass marginalized people, often leading to the streamer using pepper spraying under the pretext of self-defense. As nearly all Groypers are white, if the police are ever involved like in the case of Secor’s pepper spraying incident, suspicion is usually placed on the victim of their attack.
Together alongside Ryan Sanchez, who streams on DLive under the “CultureWarCriminal'' alias, Secor and other Groypers have sought to adapt more hardline, “unoptical”, strategies to the America First movement. The monolith destruction was one such tactic.
RYAN SANCHEZ, AKA “CULTURE WAR CRIMINAL”
After gaining fame within the Groyper movement, and even being shouted out by Fuentes himself on “America First'', Sanchez, aided by Secor, has only recently transitioned towards a career as an “IRL streamer” in the past two months. Despite some slight criticism about optics (Fuentes wasn’t particularly fond of the illegality of Sanchez’s stunt as well as the bad press surrounding it), Sanchez models his streams in part off of his personal friend and fellow America First movementarian Timothy Gionet, better known as “Baked Alaska.” “Baked” is a neo-Nazi social media personality who marched alongside former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke at Unite the Right in Charlottesville. Like Gionet, Sanchez, Secor, and two-as-of-yet unidentified Groypers have streamed for the past several weeks harassing people of color, unhoused community members, and LGBTQ folks, and have likewise attended and become major fixtures of the #StopTheSteal Rallies in Orange County, specifically in Huntington Beach. Rather than being shunned for their fairly unconcealed white nationalism, Sanchez and his crew of Groypers were repeatedly invited to speak at these rallies and embedded themselves with the “SoCal Trump Train'' network of California Republicans.
Sanchez’s infiltration into mainstream Republican spaces shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was an active member of Identity Evropa (IE), a white nationalist group who promoted a strategy of nazifying the Republican party. IE eventually became the ‘America First’ movement. But Sanchez’s history with white supremacist organizing neither begins nor ends there.
Sanchez first popped up in the news for his involvement with the Rise Above Movement, a white nationalist “fight club” formed in 2016 that recruited young men from across Southern California and traveled to violent far right rallies across the California Coast in addition to Unite the Right at Charlottesville. With apparent crossover membership and influence from groups like the Hammerskin Nation, R.A.M. made a name for itself for its MMA style fighting techniques, brutality, and heavy involvement with European white nationalist groups including Azov Battalion, the Ukrainian Neo-Nazi militia.
While rolling with the Rise Above Movement (then called DIY Division), Sanchez appeared in DIY Division propaganda featured on their instagram. Most notably, he partook in the violent anti-Muslim “Anti Sharia Law” June 10th, 2017 protest in Huntington Beach. The rally was organized by an SPLC-designated Anti-Muslim Hate Group, ACT for America, and propagandized by Vincent James of the now Groyper-friendly Red Elephant Media. Sanchez and other RAM members clad in skull masks and waving crusader crosses assaulted anti-racist protestors and journalists. As NoCARA or Northern California Anti-Racist Action reported, Sanchez was detained by police, and apparently released without charges. Police records show Sanchez was cited for “Challenging a fight in a public place” for his alleged attacking of a counterprotestor’s car, as well as a noise disturbance violation, though the initial charge of challenging a fight was apparently dropped. Sanchez has likewise admitted to training with R.A.M., and having a personal relationship with R.A.M. leaders Robert Rundo and Ben Daley.
In livestreams Sanchez has likewise alluded to his past arrest, most notably following the outing in which Christian Secor, whom he was then streaming with, maced a Black man near the Huntington Beach Pier.
It is unclear what exactly caused Sanchez to part ways with the Rise Above Movement. However by September 27th, 2017 he was posting to the #receiving channel of the Identity Evropa discord the “Nice Respectable People Group”. This was about a month after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where Sanchez’s former RAM colleagues marched. A “R.A.M. Goals” document written by member Benjamin Daley noted the group’s connections to both Patriot Front and Identity Evropa.
As stated before, the aftermath of Unite the Right brought about an internal struggle in the white nationalist movement called the “optics debate.” The massive amounts of doxes, arrests and bad publicity from Unite the Right made openly organizing and marching impractical. Instead, white nationalists split on whether to be open neo-Nazis, embrace terrorism and try to push society their way from the outskirts or continue to try to carefully craft a favorable image of themselves and infiltrate established power. Many other current members of the America First movement consciously made a choice after the Unite the Right to “hide their power levels” or become optics-minded and “Ghost Skins”—essentially, honing in on carving out their own base within the Republican party.
While in Identity Evropa as user @FranciscoNunez, Sanchez repeatedly placed Neo-Nazi promotional material around Southern California area colleges, including the University of California, Irvine which it appears he then attended. Sanchez organized alongside members like user @DeusVolk, aka Alex Loupe, identified by Rose City Antifa as a siege-pilled “identitarian,” and then San Diego Unified School District custodian. Siege by neo-Nazi James Mason advocates for small cell and individual terror attacks against infrastructure like power plants and bridges with the goal of waging asymmetrical warfare against and collapsing U.S. society.
Sanchez also participated in regional “activism” alongside the SoCal Identity Evropa chapter. Chat logs reveal Sanchez to be an active member of both the discord and Identity Evropa, going on numerous flyering runs on campuses and banner drops. Sanchez littered UCI with “Its OK to be White” fliers. The stunt was part of a nationwide op by 4chan’s /pol/ board to recruit and popularize “identitarian” type consciousness among their target audience. Sanchez received applause by then-user @ReinhardWolff, since IDed as later head of Identity Evropa, Patrick Casey.
Emerging out of R.A.M., Sanchez still maintained a hardline “white power” approach within the Identity Evropa chat. On October 6th, 2017 he told his fellow Identity Evropa nazis that he believed the deadly Unite the Right rally, “. . . was good for the movement in the long run because all the cowards and cucks abandoned ship.” He also backed Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer (named after the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer), albeit to push back from the more movementarian, optics-minded members of Identity Evropa. Sanchez likewise injected his Neo-Nazi politics into his “Conservative Student Union” meetings. He bragged in the discord about his efforts to recruit his peers, saying he was teaching them about white genocide conspiracy theories. It appears like Sanchez also attempted to redpill students on campus via explicitly anti-semitic questions and comments and would pass out his IE business card after class. Sanchez would even attempt to recruit his family to Identity Evropa.
But by March 2018, Sanchez landed in the #jail channel of the discord for posting soft-core anime porn. Apparent repeat “violations” lead to his IE coordinator following up with him allegedly after an Identity Evropa donor complained about Sanchez’s repeatedly “unoptical” behavior. Despite claiming to know Patrick Casey since he was sixteen, Sanchez’s last activity documented on the server was an over forty day restriction to the #jail channel.
Since 2018 it appears that Sanchez has become an adherent of Nick Fuentes’s America First camp. This is unsurprising as Identity Evropa’s optics-minded rebrand American Identity Movement recently “dissolved,” leading the America First network of Groypers to seemingly inherit much of the organizational infrastructure and funding. Through DLive streaming and local “activism” with AF Bruins founder Christian Secor, it appears that Sanchez is still looking to inject a more militant edge into America First culture. As “CultureWarCriminial” on DLive he has gone so far as to shout out the explicitly white nationalist Männerbund network on stream. Sanchez repeatedly plays and sings along to the network’s anthem, “By God We’ll Have Our Home Again.” Sanchez claims to have been invited to the second recording of the song.
The Männerbund is a loose telegram and podcast network composed of white nationalists who have fallen on the alternative side of the America First-ers on the “Optics question”. Those that comprise the Männerbund network largely gather around the iconography of a stacked Tiwaz rune (ᛏ). The symbol was originally associated with the Norse god of heroic victory, Tyr, but more importantly for the Männerbund’s audience, the Tiwaz was used as the emblem of the 32nd SS Volunteer Grenadier Division, and the white nationalist group Nordic Resistance. The term Männerbund translates roughly to “male society,” and the network combines the viciously patriarchal traditionalism of the “Manosphere” or “Men’s Rights Movement” with a brand of white nationalism that directly ties itself to the deadly Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville.
Ideological adherents to the Männerbund like Sanchez seek to carve out a white ethnostate out of a balkanized United States, but believe to get to that point, they have to build up fraternal organizations. Similar organizations like the Proud Boys hide their fascist politics behind the guise of being fraternal organizations, yet the Männerbund is explicitly white supremacist. Despite this, the Männerbund’s anthem has been featured in “Stop the Steal” promotional material and sung at a Proud Boy Anti-Antifa Rally in Sacramento, as well as the recent coup attempt in DC. Sanchez asks that all his viewers learn this song by heart.
As both an “IRL” streamer and regular (gaming and podcast style) streamer, Sanchez as “CultureWarCriminal” has continuously promoted the more “white power”-style militancy within the Groyper/America First camp. Yet, he also continues to display a more identitarian style of propaganda and entryism, as his publicity stunts and presence at the weekly Huntington Beach Stop the Steal protests demonstrate. Besides the infamous monolith destruction, Sanchez jokingly explored local sewers for “Hillary Clinton’s Pedophile Cabal”. Sanchez, Christian Secor and their Groyper clique spoke alongside all different slices of Trump supporters and Huntington Beach Republican politicians. Their entryism and messaging has largely been accepted at these gatherings (with some tension and infighting due to Sanchez’s fairly open homophobia). With the similarly fascist-minded Proud Boys acting as event security, the America First-ers have set to politicizing the disenfranchised and increasingly conspiratorial Republican base towards Neo-Nazism.
On stream for the last several weeks, Sanchez has been excited by the promise of Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. He advocates for secession and tells his followers to get more physically fit and more militant. When he plays World War II videogames or takes call-in questions from his small fanbase, he often has a Confederate battle flag behind him and has even worn a German Stahlhelm. He’s clearly seeking to push the envelope of America First’s optics towards his own personal tendency of white nationalism. He’s trying to make the Groypers more like R.A.M.
Perhaps most disturbing about Ryan Sanchez is not his entryism into the local Republican Party, or his newfound career as a content creator for the Gen-Z audience of DLive, but rather Ryan’s military record. From the time period of August 6, 2018 to February 5, 2019, Ryan Sanchez was an active duty Marine Corps reservist at Camp Pendleton, CA. The largest Marine Corp base on the West Coast, Pendleton has a long history of white supremacist organizing, with Ku Klux Klan organizing being “an open secret” in the 1970’s. Most troubling of all is the fact that by the time he joined the Marines, he had been involved in both Identity Evropa and R.A.M. In a rant streamed to DLive the night before the January 6th coup attempt, Ryan proclaimed:
“You know what I’m just going to say it now. I was kicked out of the Marine Corp because I allegedly was a member of RAM. People ask me why I’m so angry at the system, why I stream, why I’m so pissed at these people? It’s because if you dare to stand against the system they won’t ever let you walk away, they will never forgive you for daring to stand against them. They think you’re cattle. They think we are slaves, ok? And I joined the Marines to serve my country honorably, I loved the Marine Corp ok? My family have been Marines for generations, and I wanted nothing more than to be a Marine. And my CO loved me, ok? My unit loved me -- great marine. Hate to say it. Actually I love to say it, I’m a fucking great Marine, and frankly I was probably one of the best in my unit, out of all those fucking scumbags, gangbangers that the Marines take in nowadays. Yeah. I come from a military family, it's a tradition, it's in my blood. And yet, they thought it’d be appropriate to drag me in and treat me like a terrorist, take my M4, take my pocket knife out of my pocket, and haul me off to fucking interrogation cell–in CIS. And I was in there for six hours, six fucking hours I was in this cell, and these fucking feds tried to get me to talk, ok? And I wouldn’t talk to them, and they treated me like I was in fucking al-Qaeda, and they’re like ‘oh military tradition of service, you love your country, you want to be a marine? Sorry, we’re discharging you’–I hate these people with every fiber of my being, and I will never forgive them for what they took from me, and what they put my family through. The absolute hell they put my family through–the horrible year I’ve had! The horrible year I’ve had! 2020 was horrible for me!
Ryan then continued to stream for about fourteen more hours, cutting off at a twenty two hour streaming time. Speaking over a battle map overlay, he talked about the civil war beginning, about planning on starting a white nationalist friendly business. He talked about moving to the Pacific NorthWest and helping to carve it out into a whites-only homeland as so many neo-Nazis before him had tried. He titled his stream “OPERATION POTOMAC” at one point. When the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, he called it “THE NATIONAL REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN.”