clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Palmer Luckey is funding Donald Trump's internet trolls with his Oculus money

New, 167 comments
Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is financially supporting a pro-Donald Trump group of "shitposters," he confirmed to The Daily Beast today, using his considerable personal fortune to fund the creation of memes attacking Hillary Clinton. Luckey, who is believed to have received some $700 million from Facebook's $2 billion Oculus purchase, said he had donated "significant funds" to Nimble America — a group that calls itself a "social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life."

The group wants to "shitpost in real life"

In its announcement post on Trump-fan subreddit r/The_Donald, Nimble America said it had already "proven that shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real," and that it wanted to bring so-called "shitposting" into the real world "in a way that was transparent and had purpose." In practice, the unofficial Trump-supporting group suggested this could be done via T-shirts, Nimble America's spokesperson saying that it would "not just sell t-shirts to sell them, but to sell t-shirts to shitpost." The group's home page was last updated on July 11th.

Luckey said that he first reached out to the unofficial group over Facebook. "It went along the lines of ‘hey, I have a bunch of money. I would love to see more of this stuff,'" he told The Daily Beast, referring to the anti-Clinton memes the group had produced before its official launch as Nimble America. Luckey said the group wanted to "build buzz and do fundraising," and he offered to pay for both its initial push and its ads, as well as promising to match any money earned during a 48-hour donation drive. "I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time," he said.

Posting as "NimbleRichMan" on the Trump-themed subreddit that birthed Nimble America, Luckey said that he had supported Trump's presidential ambitions "for years," and had "encouraged him to run during the last election" — the same year that a 19-year-old Luckey first launched his Oculus Kickstarter. "The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals," he said under his pseudonym, stating that "you can't fight the American elite without serious firepower." Luckey said he had that financial firepower to spare. "I've got plenty of money," Luckey said. "Money is not my issue."

Trump supporters were wary of the shadowy money man

But Trump supporters were wary of the shadowy money man promising to bankroll a group that would bring their Pepe memes and Clinton attacks into the real world. Luckey had previous connections with right-wing fomenter Milo Yiannopoulos, who knew Luckey's real identity as NimbleRichMan, and vouched for his good intentions. But even with that heavyweight alt-right support, several Reddit users refused to believe the wealthy backer existed, pushed back against the plan to turn an online presence into a real-world group, or even suggested that the whole thing was a Clinton-backed ploy.

Luckey still works at Facebook

Nimble America co-founder Dustin Ward told The Daily Beast that his group had raised over $11,000 prior to launch — it's not clear how much of that came directly from Luckey's pockets. Ward said the bulk of that money was used to obtain the services of lawyers, but a financial statement shows a figure of $9,333 spent on Facebook and billboard ads, as well as the more nebulous expense of "website ops." The most recent transaction covered on the document took place on August 21st. Luckey seemed to support the group's plans to place a billboard. "It's something that no campaign is going to run," he told the Daily Beast.

The Oculus founder told the Daily Beast that he's simply provided the cash for Nimble America to launch and develop, but the group lists him as its vice president on its own site. Luckey still works at Facebook, the social network confirmed to The Verge, raising questions of objectivity within a social network that's been acting like a media company, with editorial teams and, more recently, algorithms defining the news its users see. Luckey is the second prominent person within Facebook's ranks to use their personal wealth to pull for Trump, after board member Peter Thiel pledged as a California delegate to the candidate and spoke in support of him at the Republican National Convention.