For a 24-year-old into virtual reality and games, Palmer Luckey seemed to have it pretty sweet: He's had great success with his virtual reality headset company, Oculus; gets to hang out at video game conferences; and generally be rich and have a good time. Apparently, though, he found a new hobby: funding hateful political speech.
Luckey, whose estimated net worth is $700 million since the 2014 sale of Oculus to Facebook for $2 billion, has been anonymously spending part of his wealth on the creation of pro-Trump memes by a 501(c)(4) group called Nimble America. The group's greatest claim to fame is a billboard it says it paid for outside of Pittsburgh, where the first presidential debate will be held Monday, declaring Hillary Clinton "Too Big To Jail."
The Daily Beast, which broke the story (seriously, go read the whole thing), reports that Nimble America was co-founded by moderators of the subreddit r/the_donald, a pro-Trump board that's become a big convergence point for some of Trump's broadly bigoted, aggrieved online boosters. Luckey wrote on Reddit that he'd offered his help:
“I came into touch with them over Facebook,” Luckey said of the band of trolls behind the operation. “It went along the lines of ‘hey, I have a bunch of money. I would love to see more of this stuff.’ They wanted to build buzz and do fundraising.”
On the Reddit account NimbleRichMan, which has been deleted in the hours since Luckey's involvement was reported, Luckey previously answered questions on r/the_donald about his reasoning for getting involved with Nimble America.
“The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals,” NimbleRichMan wrote on Saturday. Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast he penned the posts under his Reddit pseudonym. “The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can’t fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.”
Of course, Luckey happily works for and sold his VR startup to Facebook, a company that's a prime conduit for this spending, and which spends massive amounts of money influencing politics itself.
Nimble America, according to its website, "BELIEVES THAT AMERICA HAS BEEN LEAD BY POOR LEADERS WHO HAVE ABANDONED AMERICAN PRINCIPLES AND SOLD OUT ALL AMERICANS." A picture on the site proudly displays the Clinton "too big to jail" ad outside Pittsburgh, and the organization has also spent money on online ads and "website ops." Someone from the group wrote on Reddit "it’s time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not."
VR producer Cody Brown also found one of Luckey's Reddit posts, which says he's "supported Donald's presidential ambitions for years":
In a bio that seems to have been scrubbed from NimbleAmerica's site, but has been preserved by Kotaku, Luckey is described as follows:
NimbleRichMan is a near Billionaire and staunch supporter of the Common Sense Conservative movement. He is co-founder along with D.B. Purple and our third silent partner. Milo Yiannopoulos has personally vetted NimbleRichMan and the Non-Profit Nimble America, Inc. he helped create. NimbleRichMan will continue to guide Nimble America as its Vice-President.
Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart Tech editor and encourager of harassment campaigns against a number of women, including actress Leslie Jones, apparently met Luckey in Los Angeles more than a year ago.
Turns out 24-year-old multi-millionaires have awful politics, who'd have thought.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org