Why the Founder of Facebook's Oculus Is Fueling Trump's 'Meme Machine'
The founder of one of Facebook’s biggest acquisitions is working behind the scenes to help Donald Trump’s candidacy, according to a report.
Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey has been financially backing Nimble America, a not-for-profit organization supporting Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and says it’s working for “social welfare,” The Daily Beast is reporting.
According to Luckey, who spoke with The Daily Beast about his involvement in Nimble America, he has helped the group create Internet-wide memes—posts that go viral—that target Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It’s been described as a “meme machine.”
“I’ve got plenty of money,” Luckey told The Daily Beast. “Money is not my issue. I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time.”
While it’s unclear exactly what Nimble America has done in support of Trump, it has taken credit for designing a billboard ad posted outside of Pittsburgh showing an unflattering cartoon depiction of Hillary Clinton with the tagline “Too Big to Jail,” according to The Daily Beast. It has also claimed to have driven viral content across social media and popular online forums site Reddit.
“We conquered Reddit and drive narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it’s time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not,” one of the group’s members posted to Reddit.
Palmer Luckey, 24, founded Oculus VR to develop the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset designed to play video games and other content when connected to a PC. While Luckey initially raised capital for his company through a massive crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, his company hit its stride in 2014 when Facebook [fortunes-stock symbol=”FB”] announced that it had acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion. The Rift is now one of many virtual-reality headsets hoping to capture dominant share in what is expected to be a large market.
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Until now, Luckey’s political leanings have never been discussed, and it seems he wanted to keep his involvement with Nimble America out of the spotlight. Since its founding, Nimble America has only said that it has the backing of a “near-billionaire,” and has used the r/The_Donald subreddit as a platform to raise money for its efforts. According to Luckey, whose net worth is estimated at $700 million, he used the pseudonym “NimbleRichMan” while communicating with Reddit users and posted several posts to the subreddit.
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“The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals,” one NimbleRichMan post reads. “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.”
Luckey’s anonymity started to crack last weekend, when Nimble America was trying to raise funds. According to the report, the organization promised the unofficial Trump subreddit that any funds raised through it would be matched by the unidentified “near-billionaire.” Soon after, some of the subreddit’s members revolted, fearing that the funds wouldn’t go to help Trump and that the “near-billionaire” didn’t actually exist.
Now, Luckey has gone public with his backing. While he insisted to The Daily Beast that he’s only helping Nimble America with fundraising, the group’s member listing refers to Luckey as its vice president. Looking ahead, Nimble America is hoping to continue its anti-Clinton efforts and says it will have another billboard ready for Monday, when the two candidates spar in their first Presidential debate.
For his part, Luckey told The Daily Beast that he wants to see how the pro-Trump “meme machine” operates before he invests any more cash into Nimble America.
“I’m not going to keep throwing money after something if I don’t see any results,” Luckey said in the interview.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on Luckey’s involvement with Nimble America.