For disgraced rapper Ye, life seems to be back to celebrity business as usual. He’s been spotted out with his new wife, Bianca Censori, while shopping at Balenciaga in Beverly Hills, dining at Nobu’s Malibu outpost, and sparring with citizen paparazzi.
It’s almost as if the last few months of 2022—where Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, used a string of media appearances to spout anti-semitic conspiracy theories—never happened.
But for the far-right, who scrambled to co-opt Ye as he dug himself deeper into the bowels of antisemitism and hate, doesn’t seem to care that the rapper has retreated back into his Hollywood life.
White nationalist shitposter Nick Fuentes and his army of Gen Z trolls, known as “groypers,” continue to use Ye, a mega celebrity and a Black man, as a pawn in their broader strategy to smuggle hateful views into the mainstream and build up fresh support on college campuses. His longshot presidential campaign, #Ye2024, has even inspired a new network, “Students for Ye,” which Fuentes and his ilk are using to lure in and radicalize young, college-aged recruits.
A groyper-led campaign called “#YeIsRight” has also materialized on college campuses, recently appearing at a student organization fair at a Florida university. And searching #Ye24 on Instagram turns up anti-semitic cartoons, racist videos, and the logo for Fuentes’ organization “America First.”
These ecosystems, both online and in the real world, circulate screenshots of Ye’s bizarre appearances on far-right podcasts, including one where he showed up wearing an executioner's hood and proclaimed his love for Hitler.
“Regardless of whether Ye continues to pursue any presidential campaign, the groypers are using him as a meme to brand themselves as an edgy alternative to mainstream conservatism and gain attention,” said Ben Lorber, senior research analyst for Political Research Associates, who has been tracking Fuentes and the groypers for years.
“Groypers are using him as a meme to brand themselves as an edgy alternative to mainstream conservatism and gain attention.”
Students for Ye debuted on Twitter Spaces in mid-December via Daniel Schmidt, an 18-year-old University of Chicago sophomore and wannabe far-right media mogul. He’s the editor-in-chief of “The College Dissident,” a new, right-wing student blog, which launched earlier this month and runs headlines like, ‘Time to Fight Anti-White Hatred on Campus.” Schmidt also has a substack and once posed as a host of his own news show “Piece of Schmidt” where he interviewed Tucker Carlson on camera. During that segment, which aired last July, Carlson and Schmidt discussed a wide array of topics, including anti-whiteness and why online porn is damaging young men.
Schmidt and Fuentes are evidently in each other's orbit, though it’s not immediately clear how much of a hand Fuentes has in Students for Ye. A cursory look at both men’s social media indicates that they’re very familiar with one another. Schmidt regularly promotes Fuentes, and vice versa. (Most recently, Schmidt was incensed when Fuentes was briefly reinstated then booted from Twitter.)
Fuentes has also been aggressively promoting Schmidt and Students for Ye. He urged his followers to help boost subscribers to the Students for Ye Telegram channel and described the initial one thousand followers as “the first believers in our grassroots movement to support a potential YE24 campaign.” (Subscribers remain stalled around 1,500.) Students for Ye has accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and a verified account on Trump’s Truth Social and has been recruiting on Fuentes’ streaming platform Cozy.tv.
So far, Students for Ye have racked up a measly 9,000 followers on Twitter, where the group regularly tweets vague statements, often with religious overtones, about the true meaning of “YE24.” They’re casting Ye as a devout Christian, in-keeping with the surging christian nationalist ideology that the far-right have sought to harness in recent years.
“What Ye has been saying isn’t just for the weekly news cycle,” one recent tweet reads. “Ye has awoken a revolutionary spirit within millions of young men and women. But this revolutionary spirit isn’t a new one, it’s the Holy Spirit.”
Lorber identified dozens of pages on Instagram claiming to be linked to specific college chapters for Students for Ye, but it’s not clear whether they exist in any real grassroots sense, or if it's just astroturfing.
Schmidt didn’t respond to VICE News’ straightforward questions about Students for Ye, including whether he’d ever spoken to the rapper, whether Ye’s presidential campaign was still operating, or if Students for Ye had anything to do with a recent groyper stunt at Florida’s Atlantic University.
Do you have any information about Students for Ye or far-right groypers organizing on college campuses? Submit tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or @tesstess on Wire.
Two groypers, Tyler Russell and Dalton Clodfelter, gatecrashed an event at the Boca Raton campus that was designed to help students get more involved in university life. They set up a table with a banner saying “#YeIsRight,” and filmed themselves arguing with students and spreading Holocaust denial conspiracies. The hour-long video was posted on the alternative streaming platform Rumble and promoted by Students for Ye.
In the video, one student, who identified himself as Hudson, sits down at the table for a discussion.
“He’s being antisemitic against Jewish people,” Hudson said about Ye.
“How did you conclude that?” Russell said.
“He basically said he supported Nazis and loves Hitler in one of his recent interviews,” Hudson replied.
“Are you Christian?” Russell asked.
“No I’m not,” Hudson said.
“Do you love Hitler?”
“No I do not.”
“Why is that?”
“He murdered millions,” Hudson said.
“OK, well we can call that into question later, we can have that discussion,” Russell said.
In the video, Russell also tried to soften some of Ye’s more candid expressions of anti-semitism. For example, they said he loves Hitler because he’s a “true Christian.” They point to the part where, in the three hours of unbridled antisemitism broadcast on Infowars, Ye proclaimed, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis,” as further “evidence” of this. And they try to justify tired antisemitic tropes, while simultaneously casting doubt over the atrocities suffered by the Jewish people such as the Holocaust.
The stunt prompted an outcry from students, including Jewish student groups. Florida’s Atlantic University put out a statement saying that it “strongly and unequivocally condemns hate and antisemitism,” but was also beholden to abide by the First Amendment.
And last week, students at the University of Alabama encountered chalk messages scrawled on campus: “#YeIsRight” and “America First.” A Twitter account that monitors antisemitism shared an image of the chalk message, urging university officials to investigate the incident.
“Your Jewish students are reporting they do not feel safe on campus with sentiment like this being spewed,” they wrote. Schmidt shared their post, with his own caption: “Based.”
Understanding the real intent of Students for Ye requires knowing Fuentes’ long-term strategy around college campuses.
The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which Fuentes participated in while still a freshman in college, triggered a fierce debate about “optics” within the far-right. Fuentes and other preppy white nationalists, who wanted to build influence in mainstream political circles, realized that marching alongside swastika-toting skinheads was a bad look.
By 2019, Fuentes had built a loyal following of incels, internet racists, and trolls, who became known as “groypers.” He urged them to change their aesthetic and start dressing smartly to blend in with respectable political circles. Fuentes also touted his pro-Trump organization, “America First,” as the authentic voice of young conservatives, casting groups like Turning Point USA—and its founder right-wing influencer Charlie Kirk—as just another establishment outfit that was beholden to cancel culture and political correctness.
Fuentes and his supporters, who’d claimed the moniker of “groypers,” relentlessly trolled, harassed and doxed prominent Turning Point members. This period is known, affectionately, to Fuentes and his ilk as the “groyper wars, which continue to this day.
“The groyper’s goal is always to brand themselves as more right-wing than Charlie Kirk and Turning Point,” said Lorber. But as mainstream conservatism continues to lurch right, and Kirk embraces white nationalist talking points such as the Great Replacement, the groypers have had to go even one step further.
Students for Ye is still in its infancy and hasn’t had to encounter much in terms of real-life opposition. Much like Fuentes bends any negative press to his own advantage, Students for Ye is seizing on whatever pushback or criticism they’ve gotten to their own advantage, in an attempt to cast themselves as persecuted truth-tellers. For example, a junior from Tulane University in Louisiana wrote an article for College Dissident titled, “Ye Did Nothing Wrong,” bemoaning what she saw as the unfair cancellation of the famous rapper.
Two days later, another article appeared on The College Dissident, claiming that the Tulane student had faced massive blowback from defending Ye, had been shut out of her sorority, received death threats, and been advised by school administrators to leave campus for her own safety.
Citing confidentiality rules, the school was unable to confirm what they told the student but said that they treat safety concerns very seriously, investigate threats, and offer counsel and support to anyone who is receiving them. The school also shared an email that they sent to the student body following the initial op-ed, acknowledging the “distress, outrage and pain” that it caused, “especially in light of increasing instances of antisemetic rhetoric and violence throughout our country.”
The College Dissident is also using Ye to draw battle lines with Turning Point USA. One recent post, citing an unnamed “whistleblower” from Turning Point, claimed that its leader Kirk had instructed student activists to stop using “Ye-affiliated artwork” that was part of the organization’s “activism kit.” They also noted that Kirk had condemned Ye as a “Jew hater.”
“Groypers are constantly struggling to find ways to go harder than Turning Point USA, and antisemitism is kind of the last frontier for that,” Lorber said. “Antisemitism has always been a core part of groyper messaging. In 2020, you saw them downplaying it a bit, just showing it around the edges. They weren’t leading with the public face of antisemitism, but now with Students for Ye, it’s impossible not to.”
“Antisemitism has always been a core part of groyper messaging.”
It’s not clear whether Ye is serious about running for president. He announced his intention to run in November, but he has yet to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission indicating that he was going ahead with the campaign. And Ye’s campaign team, stacked with right-wing trolls, has also more or less fallen apart. Far-right provocateur Milo Yianopolous was initially running the show, but quit after the rapper’s disastrous “I love Hitler” interview on Infowars.
Fuentes, whom Ye brought to dinner with Trump at Mar-A-Lago in November, days before the rapper formally announced his presidential run, still claims to be running “comms” for the campaign.
Even if Ye’s campaign isn’t real, he’s given the far-right more than enough material to continue using his name for their benefit.
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