On August 20, 2021, a network of paleoconservative and White nationalist youth activists will gather at F.D. Roosevelt State Park outside of Atlanta, Georgia for a weekend camping retreat called 76Fest. Arielle Early, an 18-year-old White nationalist social media influencer billed as a “special guest” at 76Fest, asked listeners on a July 25 episode of her podcast, “How do we win the culture war?” The task, she explained, is to reach “the people who need help identifying what they believe in.”
When I talk to a friend, we always bring up with events [like] 76fest–I hope you guys do go there–I always say, these events are Hitler Youth, without the Hitler. And what do I mean by that? You have to get to the youth. They claim this [Generation Z] might be the most conservative generation, but honestly I’m not seeing it.
Promising right-wing college students and youth activists “a weekend away from it all…a chance to find life long friends in the movement” and an immersive experience in nationalist art, culture and the American landscape, 76Fest retreats feature speakers from leaders of the White nationalist America First/groyper movement and the American Populist Union, a new nationalist youth organization that is closely connected to, and carefully mimics the ideology and aesthetics of the groyper movement. Its organizers plan to continue holding camping retreats throughout the 2021-22 school year, and 76Fest stands to become an important staging ground for these movements to build vital in-person relationships with activists within campus Republican groups and youth-facing conservative institutions.
The leaders of this nascent movement aim to position themselves as the countercultural vanguard of Gen-Z conservatism, and open space in the broader conservative movement for more virulent anti-immigrant xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ traditionalism, and White Christian nationalism to move mainstream.
“Everything Mainstream Conservatism Has Told You is a Lie”
76Fest began as Conservative Coachella, a weekend camping retreat held in Cumberland, Maryland in May 2021, organized and attended by students from the Turning Point USA chapter at Towson University and George Mason University College Republicans. While attendees went on hiking trips, visited a firing range, mingled around campfires and more, the main event of Conservative Coachella featured speeches by American Populist Union leaders Vince Dao, John Doyle and Red Eagle Politics, as well as Shekinah Hollingsworth, a supporter of Fuentes and his America First/groyper movement who is now running for a state legislative office in Maryland.
Hollingsworth, who adopts the moniker ‘Based Biracial’ on Instagram, is one of many non-White activists in the groyper movement who strategically utilize the language of identity politics to sanitize a White nationalist political agenda. She marched with Fuentes and the groypers during the Million MAGA March in Washington, D.C. in December 2020, participated in the rally leading to the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, and attended Fuentes’ second annual America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) one month later. “Drastic, purposeful demographic change, should frighten American blacks as much as whites,” Hollingsworth wrote in a December 2020 post entitled ‘Why the America First Movement is Not White Supremacy’. “The rewriting of American history [signaling conservative opposition to ‘critical race theory’, the removal of Confederate monuments, and more] should frighten blacks as much as whites.”
During the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising, Hollingsworth shared Twitter posts from the White nationalist website VDARE, calling on President Trump to “crush” the “black insurrection/antifa insurgency.” In a June 2021 Instagram post, Hollingsworth lambasted “the blatant attacks on whiteness” in American society, continuing that “[whites are] always talked about as an existential threat to everything around them, as if history didn’t teach us that they were the main purveyors of the society we’re reaping the benefits of today.”
Hollingsworth interned at or worked with a number of conservative organizations during the Trump presidency including the Heritage Foundation, Campus Reform, and the Black Conservative Federation, and is a 2018 graduate of the Leadership Institute’s National Youth Leadership School, which trained Hollingsworth, according to its website, on “best practices for organizing a youth-based campaign.” Before launching her own electoral campaign in January 2021, Hollingsworth served as a Field Organizer for then-President Trump’s re-election campaign in Iowa, and as a Data Entry Specialist for White nationalist Lauren Witzke’s campaign in Delaware.
In the wake of Trump’s electoral defeat, Hollingsworth echoed the groypers in demanding radical change in the conservative establishment. “We must be purposeful in our efforts to burn the GOP”, she told followers in a December 2020 Instagram post. “To burn the establishment, elite class, that has hated you, and your values…our post-Trump strategy,” she continued, must be “to primary, and defeat any, and every weak, snake, elitist GOP member of Congress, and Senator, and replace them with nationalist driven patriots…to create networks of nationalusts (sic) around the country…we must gather, we must yell, we must intimidate, we must be strong…America First is inevitable”, she concluded, championing the groyper movement mantra.
At Conservative Coachella, APU speakers hit similar themes. 21-year-old Doyle asserted that “everything mainstream conservatism has told you is a lie”, whereas “authentic conservatism is that which preserves and conserves the traditional American society.” Locating authentic right-wing values in “nature, hierarchy and order,” Doyle lauded “the forgotten gamers of America–the white boys,” and charged that “ultimately it’s going to be the responsibility of strong men to take our country back.”
18-year-old APU co-founder Dao, meanwhile, channeled the core White nationalist obsession with the ‘great replacement’ of Whites when he defined “the real problems facing our country….as a society we are undergoing the fastest and basically largest demographic change out of any stable country in world history– and yet we are not even allowed to question what the political, cultural and societal effects of that transformation might be.”
“Preserve That White Race”
At 76Fest, the groypers are poised to take center stage. 18-year-old groyper influencer Kai Schwemmer, who launders stylized takes on White nationalist ideology for a Gen-Z audience through his popular Kai Clips account on TikTok, is billed to speak at 76Fest alongside Bryson Gray, a conservative rapper who has long professed vocal support for groyper leader Nick Fuentes to his over 164,000 followers on Twitter.
In late July, Schwemmer–who recently appeared in a video promoting Fuentes’ ‘White Boy Summer’ tour and lamented on Twitter that “the white population is globally declining and…the acceleration of mass immigration is one major part of this”–joined the cast of youth influencers at Republican Hype House, one of TikTok’s largest and most influential Gen-Z conservative accounts, giving him a platform of over 1.2 million followers on the youth-driven app. Another Republican Hype House member, TPUSA ambassador Blake Kresses, is also slated to speak at 76Fest.
Out of all 76Fest personalities, Arielle Early has made the least effort to modulate the core ideas of White nationalism, as others have, in language more palatable to a mainstream conservative audience. As with many conservative activists, Early cut a path through establishment youth groups like Turning Point USA and PragerU during the Trump presidency before accelerating further right during the summer 2020 BLM uprising.
By late 2020, Early was sharing content on Telegram from neo-Nazis like Joseph Jordan/Eric Striker and pages like War on Whites, and associating closely with Ryan Sanchez aka ‘CultureWarCriminal’, a groyper leader and veteran of Trump-era White nationalist groups like Identity Evropa and the Rise Above Movement. “I believe in nationalism,” Early told listeners in the April 2021 inaugural stream on her YouTube channel.
I believe in your race–I believe every race has the right to preserve who you are, in your culture…if you’re white you should be able to preserve that white race…there should be nations that are for your people. Why is it that America and England, two major white nations, are the melting pot of society?…they only want to erase white culture…I believe in a Christian nation. If America was founded by true Christians, it wouldn’t have freedom of religion because ‘freedom of religion’ means freedom of no religion.
Early tweeted on March 30 that “all ((they)) do is mock Christianity”–using the White nationalist ‘echo’ symbol to designate Jews–“all ((they)) do is hate Jesus, all ((they)) do is hate”. On her YouTube channel, Early has suggested that Jews are behind subversive Freemasonry and “own the big businesses”, that Israel was behind 9/11, and other antisemitic conspiracies.
Early’s vision for societal transformation hinges on a hard-edged anti-feminism–arguing on one stream, for example, against a woman’s right to vote–and militant Christian apocalypticism. “America will almost have to collapse in order for us to gain our idea of conservatism back,” she proclaimed in a June 2021 video. “I will fight until the death to save this nation and our Godly values.”
In a July video entitled “We live in a period”–a likely reference to a speech by British fascist Oswald Mosley–Early hinted at what “our idea of conservatism” means to her. “The only thing that ever came close to defeating communism was fascism…antifa will call you Nazi, fascist, pig, racist because they know what defeated them, or came close.” Reiterating her belief that “you have to get the youth,” Early repeated–“you have to Hitler Youth the youth, without the Hitler. You have to get the youth to understand what’s at stake.”
Meanwhile, 76Fest attendees are drawn heavily from the groyper and online far-right youth milieu. They include Dalton Clodfelter, a groyper movement personality and APU ambassador who proclaimed on an August 15 livestream that “we have to understand that race is real, and America is based in white European civilization and culture”; a 15-year-old Atlanta-based streamer “One Young Patriot” who marched with Fuentes and attended APU’s inaugural summit in July; and U.K. student Elizabeth Heverin, a self-described “traditionalist” who made headlines in March 2021 when she was banned from student organizations at Aberdeen University for “discriminatory or racist language”, and is now studying in the US.
“We Must Create Our Own Counterculture”
The 76Fest project is spearheaded by Rachel Tsimmerman, a recent Towson University graduate who served as President of Towson’s Turning Point USA chapter. Tsimmerman, who donned the signature groyper ‘America First’ hat at Conservative Coachella, is listed as Field Representative at the Campus Leadership Program of the Leadership Institute. On its website, the Institute’s Campus Leadership Program boasts that it helps conservative students “plan major events” and “organize and lead mass-based youth efforts for candidates or causes of your choice”, offering training on fundraising, grassroots organizing, communications and more.
Tsimmerman, who is Jewish, hopes to build 76Fest into a national institution aimed at conservative campus activists. In May in a private far-right Discord server, Tsimmerman recruited activists who “are in college or going to be in college in the fall”, “can gather 30-50 conservatives in your state” and “would like to host based paleocon speakers in person” to get involved with 76Fest. Tsimmerman explained further that “I’m looking into the festival industry and it’s actually pretty easy to get into…we want to plan more of these…for the next few years,” in preparation for “a big actual Coachella like event.” Already, a third 76Fest retreat, featuring American Populist Union speakers, is slated to occur in Delaware September 24-26, and Tsimmerman has suggested that Nick Fuentes may speak at 76Fest events in the future.
After the success of 2017’s Unite the Right rally, White nationalist organizing was steadily driven from the public square by successful antifascist organizing, lawsuits, social media deplatforming, and other setbacks, rendering activists largely unable to develop meaningful in-person connections and reach new recruits during the later Trump years. As the conservative movement struggles to chart its direction in the uncertain waters of the post-Trump era, initiatives like 76Fest become a focal point where an emergent cadre of hard-right nationalist youth can gather momentum to alter the political landscape. “We must create our own counterculture and institutions,” Dao told an interviewer in June 2021. “We must take over the mainstream.”