Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus and one of the key figures in virtual reality’s resurgence, has been pouring money into a group that wants to harness the power of memes to secure Donald Trump’s election as president. Nimble America, a 501(c)(4) group, believes that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Although Luckey claims to have only given the group money, The Daily Beast found that his involvement went further.
Luckey’s startup Oculus was bought by Facebook in March 2014 for $2 billion. The following year, Luckey reportedly met with Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos for the first time (who was recently profiled by Out Magazine on its front cover), after which Luckey was first introduced to the idea of founding a group dedicated to Trump memes.
“I came into touch with them [the group founders] over Facebook,” Luckey told the publication. “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.”
Nimble America was founded by Luckey and two moderators of the “/r/The_Donald” subreddit, and Luckey is listed on Nimble America’s site as a vice president. It isn’t clear how much money Nimble America has on hand, or how much Luckey has given to the group. At launch, the group had over $11,000, but as a 501(c)(4), the group is tax exempt. Nimble America is allowed to spend money advocating for candidates in elections, all the while those activities are not the sole focus of the group.
“Meme magic” is a term associated with 4chan’s “/pol/“ politics board, although the meme later spread into 8chan board with the founding of the “/magick/“ board. According to KnowYourMeme, the term focuses on how virtual memes can have real-life impact and effect changes in the world, hence why Nimble America would have an interest in proving its existence.
It’s a strange turn in a turbulent election, and in many ways it’s hard to believe that this isn’t one of the weirder revelations in this campaign. In the same year the Republican nominee called for a Russian hack of the Democratic nominee’s emails, an artist placed a nude statue of a candidate in New York City, and a conspiracy theory took hold that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, it’s hard to point to Luckey’s involvement in meme magic as the most surprising piece of news.