Arizona has become an unspeakable hotbed for right-wing extremist activity in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The state is no stranger to Bundy-friendly politicians or the numerous racist militias who harass migrants at the border, but the “Stop the Steal” era has severely shifted the Arizona right. Nothing highlights this radicalization more than the AZ GOP’s leadership openly associating with two previously-fringe communities, QAnon and the white nationalist Groyper movement. The constant pandering to and platforming of these two groups has brought them into the state’s conservative mainstream. It’s also resulted in a budding relationship between prominent influencers in the “Q” universe and the violent, antisemitic Groypers.
GROYPERS & QANON SUMMARIZED
The America First “Groypers” are the antisemitic, christofascist fanbase of neo-nazi leader and live-streamer Nick Fuentes. They are an extremely online (mostly) young and white subculture raised from the depths of 4chan and Kiwi Farms that established themselves in college campuses and young Republican organizations around the country. Occasionally, Groypers stop spamming the N-word in chatrooms and join in offline violence. They were a heavy presence at the January 6th insurrection, which resulted in Fuentes receiving a Congressional subpoena for his role in organizing the day. Their political philosophy is modeled after longtime right wing ideologue and former Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Buchanan repeatedly contributed to white nationalist outlets and promoted conspiracies about “white genocide.” Similar to Buchanan, the Groypers aspire to wedge their ideology into mainstream conservative politics and they’re experiencing growing success in Arizona.
QAnon is a far-right, catch-all viral conspiracy movement that centers Donald Trump as it’s lead hero. They believe Trump and the U.S. military are secretly fighting against a hidden cabal of pedophilic, baby-eating, Satanic elites all funded by George Soros and the Rothschild family (read: the Jews.) QAnon adherents believe in the prophecies of “Q,” a 4chan then 8chan (renamed 8kun) poster who claimed to be a government insider. “Q” asserted that the Clintons, Soros, Hollywood elites and other bad actors would all be rounded up by the military, tried and executed in an event they call “the storm,” followed by a golden age called “the Great Awakening” where secret advanced technology, cures for cancer and other wonders hidden by “the elites” would be made accessible to the public.
Similarly pulled from the conspiratorial, meme-heavy abyss of 4chan, and later 8chan/8kun, QAnon has evolved from an internet subculture to an active political front with over 50 Q-promoting national GOP candidates running for congress in 2022, according to a Media Matters tracker. Dedicated followers of the conspiracy spent three years decoding Q’s false prophecies and failed predictions before the poster/cult prophet went dark in December 2020 after Trump lost the election. While adherents often downplay Q and the movement’s slogans and iconography nowadays, they still spread the same kind of conspiracy theories and have successfully latched onto and amplified similar ones around the COVID-19 pandemic. Q’s vanishing likewise hasn’t stopped the top architects of QAnon from entering mainstream politics, including Tracy “Beanz” Diazwho won a local-level South Carolina seat and 8chan/8kun administrator Ron Watkins who’sattempting to run for Arizona Congress.
Groypers largely target suit-wearing Gen-Z and millennial Republicans. QAnon tends to reach an older audience (read: Baby Boomers.), Despite the age gap, the two movements have deep similarities. Both came out of 4chan/8chan—platforms where people openly plot harassment campaigns and say hateful things without consequence because of the ‘free speech maximalist’ approach of the forums’ operators. Both appropriated cartoonist Matt Furie’s Pepe the Frog character, once a widely-spread but generally apolitical 4chan meme. Both similarly hijack Christian iconography for their own ends. Nick Fuentes, like Buchanan, is a practicing Catholic who desires a nationalistic, hyper-traditionalist society that rejects all forms racial and gender equality and liberation for LGBTQ individuals (despite Fuentes himself going on a date with a catboy.) As a result, the Groyper movement is largely tradCath — short for “traditional” Catholic — though hard-right Mormons, Orthodox Christians and other organized religious groups join their ranks.
QAnon’s mythos is heavily reliant on the Christian apocalypse and Doomsday end-of-time prophecies, leading to a disproportionate amount of religious followers, particularly evangelical Christians, when compared to the general population. Popular pastors like Greg Locke bring in their large congregation by mixing right-wing politics and QAnon conspiracies into their sermons. Throughout 2021 and continuing this year, Christian entrepreneur Clay Clark hosted the traveling “ReAwaken America Tour” which features medical, election, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and far-right pastors. In January 2022, Rep. Mark Finchem, Sen. Wendy Rogers, and AZ GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward were all guest speakers for the tour’s stop in Phoenix at Dream City Church. Police were called after attendees of the Arizona conference harassed teachers at a nearby school over their mask policy.
Unsurprisingly, Jewish people are by far the least likely religious group to believe in the conspiracies of QAnon. Antisemitism is steeped in Q lore, which echoes centuries-old tropes of Satanic Panic and Jewish blood libel. As a mass umbrella, pick-your-own-adventure conspiracy, not everyone who believes in Q is a raging antisemite, but those in the movement have a high tolerance for the constant barrage of anti-Jewish hatred, coded or otherwise. Key enemies of the Anons include George Soros or anyone with the last name Rothschild and more recently top influencers have pointed their followers towards blatant nazi propaganda.
Post-January 6, a Q-influencer from Florida, Robert Smart, quickly rose in popularity on Telegram under the screenname GhostEzra. Smart’s Telegram still boasts a 308K+ following where he regularly shares neo-nazi and antisemitic material in between his speculations about which celebritiesy are actually clones. The self-described “QAnon John” Sabal recently promoted Europa: The Last Battle, a nazi propaganda film, made direct references to antisemitic conspiracies about a Jewish “cabal,” and posted outright blood libel. Offline, Sabal hosts multi-day political conferences featuring redpilled Republicans and major faces in the QAnon, medical, and election disinformation universe. At a May 2021 conference, disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn infamously suggested a Myanmar-style coup “should” happen in the United States. A few months later Sabal hosted another 3-day event in Las Vegas, rallying a mini Q-caucus from Arizona, including panels from sitting lawmakers State Senators Wendy Rogers, Sonny Borrelli and State Representatives Mark Finchem and Leo Biasiucci. QAnon propaganda videos played throughout the Vegas conference, including one that suggested Jews were responsible for a “false flag” around 9/11. Another clip claimed Hitler “faked his death,” as images of the neo-nazi Black Sun and broken sun cross flashed on the screen.
The America First/Groypers are more far vocal with their antisemitic beliefs. Fuentes is a Holocaust-denier who grew his racist following after attending the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville alongside a long list of modern-day American Nazi groups. Across all his platforms, Fuentes regularly spews hateful, antisemitic conspiracies and obsesses over conservative figures’ connections to Israel. In a response to Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who is Black, saying “White Nationalism is domestic terrorism and has no place in America,” Fuentes replied that the U.S is a “white nation” and declared that any suggestion otherwise is a “a bastardized Jewish subversion of the American creed.” Fellow Groyper influencer Baked Alaska/Tim Gionet explained how their movement attempts to mainstream these white supremacist talking points, like the 14 words, to “normie” Republicans.
Fantasies of violence is another recurring theme in QAnon, which has obsessed since the beginning about their political enemies being rounded up for treason and mass executed at Guantanamo Bay. Even though Q went dark before the insurrection, Ron Watkins, speculated to be one of the multiple individuals who anonymously posted as Q, focused the attention of his equally influential Twitter following onto Vice President Mike Pence. In the early morning of January 6, Watkins (CodeMonkeyZ on Twitter) accused Pence of engineering a “coup’ against Trump and linked a blog post by QAnon influencer Robert Cornero, Jr. aka Neon Revolt who called for Pence to be arrested “for treason.”
Similar fascistic, “Day of the Rope”-style desires exist amongst the Groypers. Two days before the chaos in the D.C., Fuentes carefullysuggested killing state legislators to his loyal watchers. After the Capitol riot, the ADL Center on Extremism identified QAnon and Groyper/America First as two of the mostcommonly cited organizations to participate on the day.
STOP THE STEAL: ARIZONA EDITION
Another group largely responsible for the violent “Stop the Steal” protest and this growing far-right coalition is the radicalized faction of the Arizona Republican Party. The moment Arizona was projected for Biden, hoards of disgruntled Trump supporters expressed their anger (and generated conspiracies in real time) outside the Phoenix Capitol and Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. Rep. Paul Gosar, state senator Kelly Townsend, and Pizzagate proponent Mike Cernovich began rallying night one to call the 2020 election illegitimate. The movement would quickly build to a constant, rolling protest packed with Arizona lawmakers, Oath Keepers, III%ers, Proud Boys, Neo-Confederates, the AZ Patriots, Groypers, and QAnon adherents — including Arizona-based J6 mascot Jacob Chansley aka the “Q Shaman.”
The Arizona “Stop the Steal” era was overwhelmed by the sea of Groypers, including Nick Fuentes who was invited as a multi-day guest speaker. Fuentes’ presence brought out every major influencer within the Groyper movement, including Steve Franssen and more explicit neo-nazis like Vincent James Foxx, who both propagandized at the podium at the Arizona Capitol. Elected officials like Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Gosar, Sheriff Mark Lamb, former Rep. Anthony Kern, state senator Wendy Rogers, Rep, Mark Finchem, and AZ GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward were co-speakers with the white nationalist youth group. Groyper and neo-nazi streamers Jared “Woozah” Nobel, Baked Alaska, Greyson Arnold, and Tor “Catboy Kami” Brookes trolled bystanders on the grounds and harassed counter-protesters while screaming racial slurs. Brookes, an Australian white supremacist associated with Fuentes, filmed himself shouting an impromptu antisemitic speech disparaging Jews and crying “white power.” Those around him cheered.
January 6, 2021 had Arizona involvement at every level of the Capitol attack. Rep. Mark Finchem and former representative Anthony Kern were both photographed amongst the chaotic scene. Kern, currently running for state senator, insists he did not breach the Capitol despite the pictures that show him in areas beyond the barricades and on the front steps. Rep. Finchem also claims he never got within 500 yards of the Capitol, despite photographic evidence also showing otherwise. Finchem joins Kern and 55 others who weddre involved in J6 confirmed to be running for the 2022 election. Other Arizonans who stormed the grounds included the “Q Shaman,” Book of Mormon-cosplaying Nathan Entrekin, and Groyper live-streamer Baked Alaska. Micajah Jackson, who marched alongside the crowd of Arizona Proud Boys and frequently associates with Arizona Groypers, accepted a plea deal for breaching the Capitol. A few miles away, across the ferry, three “quick reaction force” Oath Keeper teams were prepared with a large weapons and ammo cache. Ed Vallejo, of the Arizona team, was one of 11 charged for seditious conspiracy alongside Oath Keeper leader/founder Stewart Rhodes.
Nearby on D.C. Capitol grounds, Nick Fuentes was addressing his Groyper minions as they chanted “Christ is King’’ in their matching navy blue “America First’’ hats. One of those disciples was Arizona groyper Greyson Arnold who stood alongside Fuentes and the white supremacist New Jersey organization European Heritage Association. Arnold, a Nazi-sympathizer, hosts a political stream where he holds conversations with fellow Groypers and occasionally interviews Rep. Paul Gosar, who was a key planner behind Stop the Steal.
“We really are in a Civil War. It’s just that the gunfire hasn’t started,” Rep. Gosartold Greyson Arnold a few months before the insurrection.
Gosar’s role was inside the Capitol, where he challenged the Arizona election results and voted in an attempt to reject the election results alongside fellow Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko. Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander, whose orange turtleneck was a regular sight at the Arizona rallies, claimed Reps. Gosar and Biggs helped him plan the violent D.C. event. Gosar would become the first politician to spread the ridiculous lie that “Antifa” was responsible for storming the Capitol.
POST-JANUARY 6TH RADICALIZATION CONTINUES
On February 26, 2021, a little over a month after the insurrection, Rep. Paul Gosar and Nick Fuentes officially joined forces at the second America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC II). Rep. Gosar was the honored guest at the white nationalist’s annual event, which also featured disgraced former GOP representative Steve King, self-described “mommy” of the groypers Michelle Malkin, and violent neo-nazi Vincent James Foxx. AFPAC II would begin Rep. Gosar’s superstardom in Groyper World as he posed with white identity extremists like Kerry “Speckzo’’ Cosgriff of the now-defunct white nationalist organization Identity Evorpa. At the conference, Fuentes bragged about his presence on January 6th and repeated talking points from the racist white replacement conspiracy theory. As Rep. Gosar sat in the audience, Fuentes complained the United States losing it’s “white demographic core” would result in the end of America.
Rep. Gosar’s open affiliation with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist resulted in exactly zero repercussions from the Arizona Republican Party. In fact, the AZ GOP fully stuck by Gosar’s side throughout his endless controversies and upcoming candidates have continued to seek and advertise his endorsement. Since AFPAC II, Gosar has made the Groypers a key demographic target and fully embraced his role in the neo-nazi movement. Autographing America First hats, planning fundraisers with Fuentes, and organizing with Groyper-identifying ASU student group College Republicans United. Gosar’s social media timeline is scattered with Groyper micro-influencers and America First memes signaling to the neo-fascist movement, including the overtly violent anti-immigrant video edit that resulted in his censuring.
Only a few weeks after appearing at AFPAC II, Gosar was scheduled as a guest on popular QAnon 24/7 broadcast, Patriot Soapbox. He backed out of this controversial appearance, but it wasn’t the only time the sitting representative sucked up to the Q movement. Rep. Gosar has tweeted out a “tip” from a QAnon influencer and rallied with election, medical, and QAnon conspiracy theorists at the Q-friendly Dream City Church in Glendale, AZ. 8kun administrator and top Q influencer Ron Watkins also claims to have a history with Gosar, saying he’s had phone calls with the congressman and “worked closely with him” on “election fraud stuff.”
Whether Ron Watkins is Q or not, he’s one of the figureheads most responsible for platforming the conspiracy cult and era of election disinformation. When Q moved from 4chan to 8chan Ron was operating as site administrator on the fringe imageboard. Ron’s dad, Jim Watkins, owns the website which also hosted forums for neo-nazis and child pornography, and became the chosen platform for the Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso mass murderers to post their racist manifestos. Ron’s posts under his own identity are equal in the conspiratorial nonsense shitposting of a Q-drop. Leading up to January 6 his Twitter was a top source of election lies. Right-wing disinformation outlets One America News Network (OAN) and The Gateway Pundit platformed him and unhinged attorney Sidney Powell cited Watkins as an “expert witness” in her efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. Before the insurrection and his inevitable permaban on Twitter, Ron Watkins was being retweeted by Donald Trump, future Maricopa “audit” figurehead Doug Logan, and AZ GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward.
Months after Jan. 6 and still unwilling to accept Trump’s loss, the Arizona Senate Republicans hired four private firms to conduct a partisan, grift-heavy “audit” in Maricopa County in a continued effort to overturn the state’s election results. The grueling details of the 7-month recount is too much to fit here — but it kept the mourning MAGA fans on a steady stream of copium, believing that Trump would eventually return to office based on it’s irrelevant findings. This inevitable failed prophecy made it the new focus of the QAnon movement, who had been looking for any bit of false-hope since Trump lost and Q went silent. Ron Watkins, posting again under his online alias “CodeMonkeyZ” on a new Telegram account, quickly inserted himself into the latest, localized wave of election disinformation. Watkins grew his new platform’s following with his usual riddle-laced conspiracies, this time with a heavy Maricopa focus, targeting anyone in Arizona politics that got in the way of the “audit.” Clearly enjoying the attention (or power?) he got from the conspiratorial-heavy state, Watkins relocated from Japan to run for Congress in the Grand Canyon state.
Ron Watkins coming to Arizona will not result in an election win, but the move has positioned him in a political landscape ripe with true Q believers, armed militia groups, fascist street gangs, and Groypers. Several sitting Republicans have already appeared at QAnon-affiliated events with the former 8kun administrator including Rep. Mark Finchem, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, Sen. Wendy Rogers, and Rep. Leo Biascucci who were all guest speakers at “For God & Country Patriot Double Down,” hosted by the self-nicknamed “QAnon John” Sabal. The multi-day conference was packed with antisemitic, election, and medical conspiracies, with two separate Q-influencers grifting off the possibility that they’re the long-dead JFK Jr. (they’re not). Watkins and the official members of the GOP had separate panels but all discussed the future of Arizona politics.
In his short time in Phoenix, Watkins has also already formed an alliance with a duo of Arizona Groypers including Greyson Arnold, who previously stood alongside Nick Fuentes during the Capitol riot. At the beginning of November 2021, Watkins boosted the Telegram and Twitter accounts of Arnold and his fellow Groyper friend Kyle Clifton. Even by Groyper standards, Clifton is deeply antisemitic and regularly shares conspiracies about Jews (imposed with vile Happy Merchant imagery) and the Anti-Defamation League. The pair caught the attention of Watkins after they attempted to question Ray Epps, who’s at the center of numerous right-wing “fedsurrection” conspiracies, outside his Queen Creek ranch. Footage of their brief confrontation with Epps was shared by both Q and Groyper accounts and resulted in Watkins privately reaching out to the groypers, according to a post by Clifton. Watkins boosting the Holocaust-denying duo multiple times resulted in their Telegram accounts gaining thousands of new followers.
Watkins and Arnold officially met in-person at the “ReAwaken America” tour held on Jan. 14-15, 2022 at Dream City Church. Despite being a mostly Q-friendly event, Arnold was displaying a media pass and covered the multi-day conference for his Youtube channel, which normally hosts interviews with Groypers and other white nationalist activists. Outside the far-right church, Arnold asked Watkins about his congressional run and if he’d “promote more of a nationalist approach.”Arnold also praised Watkins for boosting his and Kyle Clifton’s social media accounts. Clifton and Arnold’s presence in Arizona politics runs even deeper, also associating with and interviewing Oath Keeper sitting state senator Wendy Rogers.
No stranger to courting right-wing extremists, Sen. Wendy Rogers is a radicalization powerhouse who vocally demands a shift of the Overton Window, espouses “great replacement” conspiracies, and calls for a return to McCarthyism. Posting about him over two dozen times, Rogers has openly expressed her love of Nick Fuentes and bragged about the white supremacist leader calling her “based” for supporting the Groyper movement. And no other sitting politician has linked themselves to QAnon as much as Sen. Rogers, sharing Q-drops and appearing as a reoccurring guest on Q networks like RedPill78, the SGT Report, the MG Show, and X22 Report.
As a freshman senator, Wendy Rogers has built her entire brand on the foundation of election disinformation and far-right pandering. She quickly gained a national fanbase during the Maricopa “audit” where she continues to lead the never-ending, impossible, unconstitutional quest to “decertify” the 2020 election. The lies and movements Sen. Rogers platforms has financially paid off. She far out-earned all her colleagues over the last year’s fundraising cycle. Retweeting white supremacists and celebrating the Confederacy on MLK Jr. Day, openly calling for Christian theocracy, and frequently appearing on the antisemitic TruNews broadcast has turned Sen. Rogers into a twisted far-right darling.
Rogers is terminally online and rarely scrolls by a far-right conspiracy theory without sharing it to the timeline, even ones as wild as HAARP weather modification. It only took the Oath Keeper and state senator one day after Jan. 6 to start spreading disinformation about “Antifa mobs” storming the D.C. Capitol. The night before, she claimed the violence could have been avoided if Congress had allowed “for an audit of the machines and votes,” a power Congress doesn’t even have. Sen. Rogers is currently one of the loudest voices to cry “fedsurrection,” a far-right conspiracy claiming the day was fully orchestrated by federal agents to target conservatives. She now expresses support for anyone facing J6-related charges or Congressional subpoenas, including Groyper streamer Baked Alaska/Tim Gionet who faces charges relating to Jan. 6th and an antisemitic hate crime in Arizona where he destroyed a Hanukkah display at the state capitol.
American conservatives continue to radicalize and politicians like Paul Gosar and Wendy Rogers have found their audience with some of the most extreme far-right movements. The two Arizona politicians secured this alliance further when they both made the move to nazi-heavy social media network, Gab. The indescribable hellsite initially gained a following in the aftermath of Unite the Right, and built up the user base by serving as the alt-platform for far-right hate movements. Lax on content moderation and hate speech regulations, Gab welcomes those too extreme for traditional tech sites, including QAnon and the Groypers who have both experienced mass bans elsewhere.
Gab CEO Andrew Torba has a long history of posting his racist and antisemitic beliefs, even saying that his website is part of a greater effort to build a “parallel Christian society because we are fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one.” Unsurprisingly, the mass shooter responsible for killing 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue maintained an active, neo-nazi account on Torba’s antisemite-friendly website. As a white Christian nationalist himself, Torba’s politics has turned Gab into the Groyper safe haven — recently linking with Groyper artists for their promotional material, merging with Nick Fuentes’ streaming site, and serving as an advertiser for Fuentes’ upcoming AFPAC III conference. Trying to expand his far-right brand further, Torba is also engaging in an active effort to recruit extremist-friendly politicians.
In an attempt to bring Rep. Paul Gosar onto the platform, Gab and multiple Groyper accounts started amplifying a campaign to “#GetGosarOnGab.” Less than two months later, the representative would join the site. A similar campaign has started to get Rep. Andy Biggs onto the Gab, but several Arizona republicans have already joined the far-right, swastika-heavy echo chamber including Rep. Mark Finchem, AZ GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and Sen. Wendy Rogers. Only being on Gab since November 2021, Rep. Gosar has already followed and posted in support of Nick Fuentes, shared art of himself with Fuentes’ “America First” logo, reposted from multiple Groyper accounts, and (somehow) expresses an even more anti-immigrant stance than what appears on his Twitter account. Similarly, Sen. Rogers shares more inflammatory statements on her Gab accounts and regularly encourages her followers to sign up.
“I said some red pill stuff on Telegram and Gab,” Rogers tweets as she directs more of her followers to get on the growing alt-tech hate sites.
On February 25, 2022 Nick Fuentes will host the third annual America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Speakers are currently “to be announced,” however Fuentes has hinted that Sen. Rogers will be a guest at AFPAC III. Sponsored by Gab, Fuentes’ video ad for the white nationalist conference flashes the neo-nazi slogan that echoed through the tiki-torch chants at “Unite the Right”—