In recent years, the non-profit Turning Point USA (TPUSA) has become one of the country’s most influential right-wing organizations.
Since being founded by conservative activist Charlie Kirk in 2012, TPUSA has grown to have a presence at over 1,300 college campuses and high schools. It’s 2018 Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach drew high-profile conservative speakers like Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Dr. Jordan Peterson, and Donald Trump Jr. Kirk has also been a frequent guest on Fox News, and has rubbed shoulders with President Trump.
Now, the group is looking to branch out overseas, establishing the first Turning Point UK (TPUK) chapter last week. Conservative Members of Parliament, perhaps looking for any distraction from the endless Brexit negotiations, quickly heaped on the praise. Ardent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg retweeted TPUK’s launch video saying the “left has no monopoly on the ‘young'” — which was then retweeted by Nigel Farage, another hardline Brexiteer and Trump acolyte. Conservative MP Steve Baker said TPUK “could be huge,” while Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin referred to the organization as “the future.”
However, away from Conservative MP Twitter, the reaction was decidedly more mixed. As the New Statesmen first noted, TPUK was quickly overrun with a variety of parody accounts from British Universities, all pretending to be “official” Turning Point chapters.
I reiterate again. This is the ONLY regional TPUK chapter authorised by @TPointUK as part of the official UK launch. The rest are antifa trying to make us look bad.
— Turning Point Manchester (@TurningPointMCR) February 3, 2019
If Elected, Marxist SJW Jeremy Corbyn Would:
• Destroy the Economy
• Kill White Men
• Ban Conservatives
• Convert every Waitrose into an aldi
• help poor people
— Turning Point UK Manchester (@TPUK_Manchester) February 4, 2019
In the US, TPUSA has become synonymous with imbecilic, self-defeating stunts meant to “trigger” liberals. One example took place back in October 2017, when a group of TPUSA activists at Kent State University dressed up in diapers as a way to mock the concept of “safe spaces”. That incident eventually led to the resignation of chapter president Kaitlin Bennett — otherwise known as Kent State gun girl, who is now an Infowars contributor.
“I have been highly disappointed in the leadership of those higher up than me in Turning Point USA,” Bennett wrote in a February 2018 blog post. “I was embarrassed to have been left alone to deal with the aftermath of the safe space event, and even lied about by Turning Point national.”
Other campus chapters have similarly soured on TPUSA and its founder in recent months, culminating in an embarrassing incident at their national summit in December, when dozens of attendees hijacked the app built for the event and used it to create and share memes about Kirk with other convention participants.
More worryingly, however, the group as acted as cover for the mainstreaming of far-right ideas. The group maintains a McCarthy-like Professor Watchlist, which aims to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda.” According to a New Yorker profile of the Palm Beach Summit, the group was also actively hostile to minorities, with one former employee claiming that African-American recruits were actively dis-invited from attending the student summit, and that speakers “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock.”
The grassroots nature of TPUK also falls apart as soon as you give it a closer look. The group is headed by George Farmer (who is also the fiancee of Candance Owens, another member of TPUSA). Farmer’s father is a millionaire Conservative Party donor who also financed his son’s initiation into the Bullingdon Club, an elite Oxford University pseudo-fraternity whose past members include former Prime Minister David Cameron and Conservative MP Boris Johnson.
The Club’s initiations often include either destroying restaurant rooms where they dine (and then paying for the damage) or, more recently, reportedly burning a 50-pound note in front of beggars. The Club’s rituals are so cartoonishly arrogant, their exploits were even the subject of a 2010 play called “Posh”.
George Farmer was also recently photographed alongside Michael Heaver, a pro-Brexit activist, and former Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson. According to the Independent, Watson was also present at a launch event for TPUK earlier in January, along with Brexit campaigner Andy Wigmore and the editor of Breitbart London.