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In a now-annual tradition, conservative youth outreach nonprofit group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) held their second 4-day megaconference, AmericaFest, in Phoenix, Arizona. From December 17-20, the downtown Phoenix Convention Center was draped in red, white, and blue TPUSA banners, some displaying TPUSA co-founder and CEO Charlie Kirk. The convention halls and nearby hotels were packed with teens and young adults to watch their favorite influencer in the far-right ecosystem. The unspoken dress code was navy blue Tucker Carlson suits with little flag pins for the men, hot pink blazers with bedazzled cowboy boots or heels for the women.
GLITZ, GRIFT AND GENDER
Attendees could grab a photo in Media Row with Jack Posobiec or Kyle Rittenhouse then head down to the main stage to hear Matt Walsh, Dennis Prager, or Steve Bannon give relationship advice or rant about transgender people. Throughout the convention halls, “Breakout Sessions” were held where one could listen to TPUSA “Ambassadors” give “The Blueprint for Manhood” or watch Andy Ngo host a panel on being “canceled.”
Standard tickets ranged from $20 to $750 and student registrants from the ages of 16 to 26 could add an additional hotel package. For an extra fee, you could stick around to watch country singers and Christian bands close out the night. Those looking to burn even more cash could head down to the Exhibitor Hall and buy a $100 bedazzled high heel-shaped purse with “Trump” stamped on it and an $80 sweater reading “A vaccine won’t save you, but Jesus will.”
I arrived about an hour before the Day 1 speakers were scheduled to go on. While waiting to go through the metal detectors, a group affiliated with the Steve Bannon/Guo Wengui anti-CCP movement, the New Federal State of China (NFSC), handed out fliers fear mongering about China overtaking America. One flier showed a CCP-decorated Winne the Pooh buying political access from a nameless U.S. politician. Another featured Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculpture “The Thinker,” but both had the same message:
“Take down the CCP so your children don’t have to! America’s greatness begins again when the CCP ends.”
The blue flags representing the NFSC flew outside the entrance to AmericaFest. Inside, the group had two separate booths. On Media Row, the New NSFC conducted interviews for their own NFSC TV broadcast that was airing the AmericaFest activities in Mandarin. In the Exhibitor Hall, one could learn how to get involved with their movement.
The anti-China sentiment continued as the first day of programming began. Before Kirk took the stage as the opening speaker, a TPUSA-produced video depicted a United States dystopia 20-30 years in the future with Xi Jinping ruling as our leader. The communist flag flies on the burning ruins of America while a PSA warns that violators of the one-child policy will be “terminated.” The narrator asks:
“With our future hanging in the balance are you prepared for the fight?”
As the propaganda video faded away, Kirk walked out to a drumline chanting “USA, USA, USA.” The multiple smoke machines left the entire room hazy.
Kirk would take the stage multiple times throughout the weekend. Like many of the speakers, he emphasized the importance of getting involved with local school boards while also reminding them to homeschool their own children. He also touted his newest project, Turning Point Academy, their alternative program to the traditional K-12 curriculum.
“What do we stand for at Turning Point Academy? Super simple. We believe there is a God and you are not Him. We believe in natural law. No CRT, no wokism, no Queer Theory, no LGBTQ nonsense, no postmodernism, no post-structuralism. Pro-American, pro-freedom, pro-liberty ideas and curriculum for the next generation,” said Kirk.
In a nearby hall, an “Educator’s Summit” was being held where parents and teachers could learn how to order the TPUSA-approved educational program. Also throughout the venue, Kirk’s anti-education book “The College Scam” was available for sale and displayed across the official broadcast of the entire 4-day conference.
Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson closed out the Day 1 lineup before “DJ Bad Ash” and a set of Country musicians took the stage.
Sunday started early, opening with prayer and ending with “worship night.” The day was packed with speakers who spent their day in-and-out of Media Row with the many far-right outlets covering the day. LindellTV, One American News Network, Flashpoint, War Room, NTD News, The Daily Caller, Proverbs Media Group, The Epoch Times all packed the floor. Even explicit QAnon influencer “Mel K” had a booth for her podcast, while Austin “Baby Q” Steinbart trolled around giving interviews about his “Quantum Party of America.”
“VIP guest” Kyle Rittenhouse could be spotted throughout the conference giving interviews, taking photos with fans, and advertising the right-wing dating app The Right Stuff with his girlfriend Skyler Bergoon.
Last year, Rittenhouse headlined AmericaFest only a month after leaving jail. It was his first major public appearance after a jury found him “not guilty” on murder charges after he killed two men and injured another at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before stepping out to a sea of screaming fans and his own custom rap song, a video recap displayed the corpses of his victims. Since then, he’s become a media darling in the far-right convention circuit as he tries to grift his audience into paying off his legal bills.
“Dump your liberal boyfriend,” read Rittenhouse and Bergoon’s matching white sweaters.
TPUSA and the right continue to parade Rittenhouse as a bizarre teen sex symbol, characterizing him as the ideal Gen-Z “alpha male.” As an event geared towards teenagers and young adults, relationship advice is a common theme from the middle-aged to elderly speakers. The main advice? Get married young and have lots of conservative children.
“If you’re young, you’re not too young to look for a spouse. Don’t say ‘I’ll look for one when I’m ready.’ You’re never ready to get married and you’re never ready to be a parent. So dammit just do it! You don’t grow up if you don’t get married. Ask anyone who’s been married – even if they’re divorced,” said twice-divorced Dennis Prager.
Interns carried a large cell phone-shaped matchmaking display for The Right Stuff dating app around the conference, attempting to pair strangers and spark them into conversation. Guests are regularly encouraged to treat the conservative conference as an opportunity to mingle with one another.
“Aspire to be something more than a consumer of pornography. Aspire to actually create something in your life, like create a family, for instance. That is the single greatest act of rebellion against the liberal culture that is suppressing people’s desires,” shouted Missouri senator Josh Hawley.
The main stage continuously cycled out conservative commentators, with over 50 appearing over the following days. Sandwiched in between speeches, a techno remix of t.A.T.u.’s “Not Gonna Get Us” played through the blown out speakers.
Occasionally, a spokesperson for some conservative-labeled product took the stage to shill their brand. Conservative luxury cologne, a patriotic sugar substitute, and an “alternative” nasal spray being sold by an anti-vaxxer were just a few of the products being advertised. The same items could then be found for sale in the Exhibitor Hall alongside Mike Lindell’s “MyStore” pop-up booth.
Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld ranted about women who shave their head and dye their hair—ironic, given he was wearing a Cramps shirt and later wore a GG Allin shirt. “CRT” propagandist James Lindsay talked about “wokism” being comparable to a gnostic cult. Also ironic, given his affiliation with Nicki Clyne of the abusive sex cult NXIVM.
Kari Lake walked out to chants of “Kari, Kari,” and the audience was captivated by her continuous refusal to accept her recent gubernatorial loss. She asked the audience to donate to her legal fund as she continues to challenge the 2022 Arizona midterm.
TPUSA has received a lot of criticism from fellow conservatives for backing so many losing candidates, including Lake. Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has also criticized Kirk and Turning Point, who have been actively campaigning to remove McDaniel as RNC leader. Kirk has been pushing for Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair of the California Republican Party, to replace McDaniel. A “straw poll” was held on stage with most of the audience respondents supporting Dhillon and pillow magnate Mike Lindell coming in second.
Despite their many election losses, Kirk managed to get a couple Turning Point alumni into office. Anna Paulina Luna previously served as the head of “Hispanic outreach” for TPUSA and won her recent election in Florida’s 13th congressional district.
“I believe as a biological woman, it is okay to protect women’s sports. It is okay to say I love the nuclear family. It’s okay to stand up for parental rights against drag queen reading hours to children.” said Luna.
In her own speech, Lauren Boebert bragged about Luna’s win as another addition to the far-right Freedom Caucus. Kirk also gloated that the National Field Administrative Director of Turning Point Action, Austin Smith, won his midterm. Smith joins fellow Turning Point affiliate Jake Hoffman in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Speakers begin to blur by the end of the day. The grievances are all the same – take back the schools, take back the churches, take back elections, take back the culture. Tucker Carlson, Kirk, Matt Walsh and others praised Elon Musk for taking over Twitter and immediately suspending journalists and antifascist researchers.
“Of course, this was not really a violation of free speech. It was just a social media platform enforcing its rules. Honestly I have to admit, even if it had been a violation of their Free Speech, I still would not defend them. And here’s why: it’s good for people to get a dose of their own medicine for a change. It is good,” said Walsh. “When someone on that side is banned, it is automatically not the same as when someone from our side is banned,” he continued.
Last year, the most popular topic was the appearance of Kyle Rittenhouse. This year the most popular subject was the neverending, unfiltered transphobia.
Women introduced themselves on stage as “real women,” while almost every speaker managed to sneak in some variation of the “my pronouns are” joke. Always to uproarious laughter, of course. Greg Gutfeld defended conversion therapy and others, like conservative podcaster Allie Stuckey, used their time slot to “defend traditional marriage.”
“Gender is binary” signs were placed outside the bathrooms. Others held signs throughout the convention center that read “Save the tomboys. Gender nonconforming children are not trans!” and directed attendees to the booth for the anti-transhate group “Gays Against Groomers.” At their table in the Exhibitor Hall, one could spin their prize wheel and win a “protect kids from transitioning” sticker. Their reading material included a mock newspaper called “The Gays Against Groomers Times” that accused the LGBTQ+ suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project of being a “pedo paradise.”
“Just last weekend, we had the opportunity to have a booth at one of the largest conventions in the country, AMFEST! Gays Against Groomers will not stop there. Starting in 2023, we will continue to launch new chapters in every city and state in the country, as well as many other countries. Most importantly, we will continue to work with lawmakers to pass legislation to amend school curriculum and put an end to the monstrous practice of gender affirming care,” read their post-AmericaFest email.
The main hall filled up as self-described theocratic fascist and transphobic propagandist Matt Walsh took the stage.
“Good to be here with my fellow right-wing extremists,” Walsh opened to cheers.
Walsh openly calls for cops to assault drag queens and arrest anyone who attends drag shows. He’s also helped Chaya Raichik/Libs of TikTok target health clinics that provide gender-affirming care, leading to a wave of bomb threats at Boston Children’s Hospital. Walsh is one of the most hateful propagandists in modern politics and the TPUSA crowd was enamored with him.
“I’ve been accused of putting lives at risk. That’s nonsense, that’s emotional blackmail. But I’ll tell you, even if it was putting lives at risk, I would still say it. I would risk your life for the truth,” said Walsh.
Walsh ranted about gender-affirming care, drag shows, pronouns, and Pride parades:
“Anytime you give your opinion on anything LGBT or trans this is what you’ll hear: ‘Why do you care so much, can’t you just let people be?’ Well you are the ones who wouldn’t allow us to not care. Why do we care? You throw parades announcing your sexuality and gender identity to the world. You won’t shut up about it. You put it on a flag. You can’t put something on a flag and then ask me why I care about it. You demanded that we care and congratulations, now we do. You just don’t like the conclusions we have drawn.”
The following day, I overheard two young women discussing their anger with drag shows existing in their hometown and how they wanted a version of The Texas Family Project’s anti-drag “alert system” in Arizona. The hatred was palpable.
Groypers at AmericaFest
On Monday night, across the street at the Hyatt Place Phoenix, another far-right event was taking place, The Nightmare Election Before Christmas hosted by Republicans for National Renewal (RNR).
It’s become a Turning Point conference tradition for more explicit far-right groups to host a nearby satellite event, usually directly across from the building hosting TPUSA. Across from the 2021 Student Action Summit in Florida, “groyper”-lite Christian nationalist group America Populist Union (now American Virtue) pulled this exact move. Sometimes, neo-nazi groyper leader Nick Fuentes attempts to disrupt the main conference.
Last year, the neo-fascist RNR held a similar Christmas reception across from AmericaFest, titled “It’s a Wonderful Nation,” where Arizona Republicans, Turning Point influencers, and open white nationalists mingled amongst one another. RNR leadership includes Mark Ivanyo and Shane Trejo, the latter of whom co-hosted a neo-nazi podcast alongside a member of Identity Evropa. Trejo’s podcast “Blood, Soil, and Liberty” only lasted 15 episodes but each installment, including “Tanner Flake for Fuhrer,” remains online.
RNR receptions are packed with far-right extremists attempting to siphon TPUSA conservatives (who they call “Con Inc.” ) into their more extreme ideologies. Self-described Christian fascist John Doyle spoke at The Nightmare Election Before Christmas alongside AZ GOP members Wendy Rogers, Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern, Blake Masters, Abe Hamadeh, and Austin Smith. Doyle is the host of his own online show “Heck Off, Commie!” where he preaches his own brand of Christian white nationalism. Outside a Dallas drag show protest, Doyle was spotted harassing parents and calling for the execution of everyone inside. Doyle was also a guest at Nick Fuentes’ third America First Political Action Conference and appeared on the flier. In 2020, he also helped Fuentes organize a “Stop the Steal” rally in Detroit, Michigan.
The Hyatt conference room was packed with similar names from the Gen Z “alt-right” influencer ecosystem, including “Based” Brandt Wiggins, Jack Francis aka“Red Eagle Patriot,” and APU/America Virtue chairman Vince Dao.
“We’re looking for our favorite big booty Latina AOC,” shouted far-right troll and wannabe comedian Alex Stein on the RNR stage. “We’re going to take down AOC. We’re going to make love in Capitol Hill and Marjorie Taylor Greene is gonna watch,” Stein continued, referencing a previous incident where he sexually harassed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The room was almost all men, but a few children stood at the front as Stein and the crowd jumped up and down chanting “Big booty Latina! Big booty Latina!”
Other guests to the private RNR afterparty included Turning Point Action leader Lacey Nagao, and interns who worked on the Kari Lake campaign, including Anthony DeWitt and Matthew Martinez. Explicit neo-nazis filled the crowd like the former propagandist for the nazi fighting gang Rise Above Movement, Ryan Sanchez. Kyle Clifton, an antisemitic Arizona streamer, was also in attendance.
Despite the reputation of neo-nazis like Clifton and Sanchez, TPUSA still granted both passes to the AmericaFest conference as well. A photo posted with anti-trans hate group Gays Against Groomers also shows that TPUSA approved a pass for white supremacist Greyson Arnold.
For years, the nazi groypers have had an ongoing “war” with Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk. Groypers are so incredibly racist, antisemitic and misogynistic that even TPUSA is too “cucked” for them. They’ve vocalized their dissatisfaction with TPUSA’s stance on Israel and having women and people of color in leadership/influencer positions. Groypers often “troll” Kirk at speaking events in an attempt to pull him and TPUSA further to the right. In response, Fuentes is blacklisted from TPUSA events. However, the presence of Doyle, Clifton, Sanchez, Arnold and other groypers at AmericaFest shows TPUSA’s comfort with groyper nazis, as long as they’re not as publicly known as Fuentes.
A large plastic “free speech ball,” sitting in the Exhibitor Hall also highlighted the presence of the groypers at AmericaFest. Guests are encouraged to write whatever they want on the oversidzed beach ball. It was packed with messages referencing Fuentes. Some just wrote his name, others marked it with “NJFG4L,” an acronym for Fuentes loyalists meaning “Nicholas J. Fuentes gang for life.” Also spotted on the free speech ball included support for Fuentes’ newest antisemitic pal, Kanye West:
“YE WAS RIGHT,” it read.
While Kirk and TPUSA had no issue with a bunch of known neo-nazis at AmericaFest, they did have a problem with journalists critical of them. LCRW News editor-in-chief Abner Häuge was notified of their ban only days before the conference.
“We regret to inform you that your AMFEST 2022 invitation has been revoked,” read the email sent to Häuge. “This decision is final.”
In an interview with Red Voice Media, John Doyle talked about his initial AmericaFest ban but getting re-approved after complaining:
“What I suspect happened is that some staffers weren’t exactly in love with my flavor of political dialogue, probably women frankly. But it’s okay, I made some phone calls and got back in,” he said.
Doyle continued on, expressing his appreciation for TPUSA’s growing radicalization:
“A lot of top people at Turning Point, particularly Charlie Kirk have gotten a lot better in the Trump Era. They’re getting better on all sorts of issues: anti-white racism, immigration, things like that, so I’m pretty optimistic.”