Among a set of virulently xenophobic and racist internet streamers who helped drum up support for a right-wing uprising to keep Donald Trump in power, interpersonal drama — contrived as often as not to sustain audience engagement — sometimes overshadows their shared anti-democratic aims.
The so-called Groyper movement — a subset of young men who push white nationalism under the guise of patriotism and Christianity — would play a role in the storming of Capitol. Christian Secor, a 22-year-old student at UCLA and president of the America First Bruins, carried the group's signature blue "America First" flag onto the Senate floor and sat in the chair designated for Vice President Mike Pence. Secor is charged with violent entry into the Capitol and assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, among other alleged federal offenses.
According to a government court filing, law enforcement found mace and body armor plates in Secor's bedroom and a "ghost gun" in a gun safe when they executed a search warrant at his house in mid-September. A ghost gun is a homemade or improvise firearm that typically lacks a serial number. The government also expressed concern in a court filing about text messages Secor exchanged with an associate the night before his arrest about "future operations" that needed to be "kept ultra secret."
Secor was released to home detention in late March.
In the affidavit supporting charges against Secor, the government cited his "ties to extremist groups," with connections to a "Person 1," who although not named by the government is clearly Nicholas Fuentes[JG1] , the leader of the Groyper movement. The affidavit also cites Secor's connections to a "Person 2," who the government identified as the streamer who goes by the name "Culture War Criminal." Before his Twitter account was suspended, "Culture War Criminal" tweeted: "Christian Secor is a great friend of mine, and a true American patriot. Thanks be to God that he's been released."
As members of the southern California Groyper movement, Secor and "Culture War Criminal" had both participated in Stop the Steal rallies in Huntington Beach, embedding with local GOP activists.
On New Year's Eve, YouTube streamer Corinne Cliford encountered "Culture War Criminal" in Huntington Beach. Following an altercation between Cliford and a group of unidentified pro-Trump women, "Culture War Criminal," who was also streaming, approached her with his cell phone mounted on a selfie stick and said, "There you are," as shown in one of Cliford's videos.
"Culture War Criminal" and his friends chanted, "Make America Great Again" and "F*ck antifa" at Cliford, and eventually she retreated to her car. Her stream shows the group surrounding her car and draping a "F*ck Biden" flag over it. "Culture War Criminal" can be seen filming Cliford trapped in her car, and saying, "Shame on you. You witch. You vile witch."
"If this is how violent it's going to be in Washington DC, then we need full-on, full-on military intervention," Cliford told her followers in her stream. "Because if these people are going to get this violent for their social media, it's not okay.
"If these people are going to act this way in Huntington Beach, these people are going to act this way in Washington DC," she continued. "If this is going to happen in Washington DC, then we are on high alert. Honestly, Washington DC should be closed and no one should be allowed in DC. There should be a complete roadblock of DC. No one should be allowed in the 4th of January…. These are people who are very, very extremist and they're making it so that Trump's not going to be able to win this election…. I am 100 percent for Stop the Steal."
The New Year's Eve confrontation was not the first time Cliford had encountered "Culture War Criminal."
The world of far-right livestreaming is full of shifting alliances and rivalries, streamers often and encounter each other, creating a pool of characters. Conflict and betrayal create compelling narratives that hold the attention of the streamers' followers. The genre thrives on outrageous and extreme statements, amping up racism and misogyny, along with suspense from contrived conflict, to hold eyeballs.
To add to the blurring of fantasy and reality, "super fans" — followers who donate a certain amount of money for the privilege of having their comments appear in a live chat — sometimes show up in real life to assist the streamer in getting out of difficult situations.
On Oct. 15, 2020, Cliford filmed herself speaking with "Culture War Criminal" in the Westwood section of Los Angeles near UCLA. "Culture War Criminal" was with Tim Gionet, a livestreamer better known as Baked Alaska, who marched alongside white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. Gionet would later livestream himself inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. His stream shows him picking up a phone and purporting to make a call in a Senate office and then in another office sitting on a couch and propping his feet up on a table. Gionet, who faces charges of breaching the Capitol and disorderly conduct, can be heard in his video saying, "America First is inevitable. F*ck globalists, let's go."
Cliford would say later of the October 2020 incident Westwood that Gionet and his livestreamer friends surrounded her and "told me women shouldn't vote."
She struck up a banter with "Culture War Criminal," and it quickly turned confrontational.
"Are you a white supremist?" Cliford asked "Culture War Criminal."
"Why do you think that?" he responded, smiling. When asked if white people should have their own country, he acknowledged, "Yeah, if there's people that want to have their own country."
"Culture War Criminal," for his part, went on a tirade about his desire to subjugate women.
"They should cover up," he said, referring to a group of women offscreen. "We need to flee from sexual immorality. We should not allow women to go off the chain like this. It always results in chaos."
Then "Culture War Criminal" told Cliford to "stick to your sphere."
"You should be taking care of a family right now," he said. "Hey, Saturday night, you should be tucking your kids in, getting ready for church. You should be getting ready for church tomorrow morning."
The friction between "Culture War Criminal" and Cliford over women's enfranchisement and overt white supremacy should not be taken to infer that Cliford's views are not also extreme.
During her New Year's Eve livestream, Cliford filmed herself ranting in a fast-food parking lot against COVID lockdowns, and then suddenly veered into a xenophobic tirade.
"If you're not on the side of the US Constitution and you're in the United States of America, get the f*ck out of my country," she said. "I don't care what you look like. I don't care what you have. As a matter of fact, I don't want any foreigners to be able to own land in California or any state. We need to take our country back. And Trumpy Trump, God bless you, peace, you haven't been tough enough."
The feud between Cliford and "Culture War Criminal" suddenly exploded back into view on Wednesday night when they bumped into each other during a show hosted by fellow streamer Ethan Ralph. Host of the "Killstream" podcast, Ralph is best known as an active participant of the harassment campaign against women during the 2014 Gamergate controversy, including allegedly doxing developer Brianna Wu.
Clip from "Killstream," a podcast hosted by Ethan Ralph, on April 21 roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms
"Culture War Criminal" bills himself as a co-host of "Killstream," which is currently on the game-streaming site Trovo. "Culture War Criminal" has also described himself as an "employee," suggesting a contractual arrangement with Ralph. Cliford was a guest on the show on Wednesday, and was simultaneously streaming through her own YouTube channel.
Cliford initially appeared to want to broker a truce with "Culture War Criminal" during Wednesday's show. But the conflict quickly escalated to a new level of venom and rage.
"Culture War Criminal" called Cliford a "desiccated corpse" who was "animated purely by thot energy" and a "puppet for degeneracy," using language that strongly invokes fascism.
His supporters immediately erupted in the chats with explicit calls for "violence against women" and disenfranchisement.
Ralph himself leant support for that view, challenging Cliford by saying, "So this is how you decided to prove women should vote — by talking about all the Black babies you were going to have?"
During the nearly one-hour long trash-talk fest, "Culture War Criminal" made comments that suggested he had no desire to dispel Cliford's charge that he pulled strings with the Huntington Beach police to harass her. Her New Year's Eve stream shows an officer stopping her for a license and registration check, and then angrily throwing the paperwork in her lap and telling her to drive away.
"I made a phone call and the boys in blue ran you out of town because it's a sundown town, lady," "Culture War Criminal" said. "We don't like your kind there."
Although Cliford is white, "sundown town" refers to a racial code maintained in towns across the United States where police historically used harassment and violence to ensure that people of color did not linger after dark.
"I guarantee if you show yourself there, you will get kneed on," "Culture War Criminal" told Cliford, in what appears to be a celebratory reference to Derek Chauvin's murder of George Floyd.
And responding to Cliford's accusation that "Culture War Criminal" "tried to have me killed in Huntington Beach on New Year's Eve," he told her: "If I wanted you dead, you wouldn't be here right now."
Cliford appeared to be playing a role of a sexually wanton Jezebel by suggestively plunging a lollipop in and out of her mouth, and at one point spreading her legs before the camera, while also periodically expressing desire to have sex with her male cohorts on the show. She appeared to play the role of the heel as a foil for "Culture War Criminal," whose young, male fans cheered him on as a virtuous enforcer of patriarchy.
The interpersonal drama on shows like "Killstream" helps maintain audience engagement that, aside from its monetary value, can be leveraged to incite racist violence.
Cliford's appearance came one day after the verdict in the Chauvin trial, which was the focus of the show that night.
Before the verdict announced, commenters in the chats were feverishly anticipating acquittal, which they believed would result in rioting by racial justice protesters, in turn justifying a violent racist backlash.
"FIGHT THE POWA (SHOOT N******)," wrote a user named ThatOneGoy. Later, the same user wrote: "STACKING BODIES TIME?"
Several users celebrated the fact that the verdict coincided with Adolph Hitler's birthday, and an unidentified guest on the show sang "Erika," a Nazi military march song.
As the announcement approached, another user wrote: "Please let another 50 Kyle Rittenhouses rise up and kick off the golden age."
Ralph made a racist joke about air-dropping Air Jordans "into these urban communities" to pacify protesters. Users in the comment chats repeatedly used the racist term "chimpout" to describe what they anticipated as the reaction to the verdict.
"Culture War Criminal," incorrectly believing that Chauvin would be acquitted, made a joke that referenced the idea of accelerationism — a hastening towards race war resulting from escalating violence and political polarization — that has been embraced by some sectors of the white power movement. (Not all white supremacists are accelerationists; some take a longer view on their project of racial separation.)
"The jurors took off their suit jackets, and they put their brown shirts on," "Culture War Criminal" said, prompting uproarious laughter from the other guests. "We have accelerationists of color on the jury."
After Ralph's show concluded on Wednesday, Cliford kept her stream running. In her continuing spiel, she suggested that the feud was manufactured, although hinting that it also felt personal.
"It was all a joke," she said. But she added: "That was traumatic, honestly."
Another man, presented on the show as Cliford's male companion, disparaged "Culture War Criminal" and then quickly apologized to Ralph.
"I don't give a f*ck," Ralph responded. "I talk crazy. People talk crazy about me."
The conversation later turned to a previous in-real-life livestream that featuring Cliford and Ralph that was built around their misadventures in an unsuccessful quest to get to Compton, Calif. It had been fun — and lucrative.
"I made like 3 grand that day," Cliford recalled, adding that they were able to garner 30,000 viewers at one point.
"That was an epic stream," Ralph agreed.
"That was fun, and you made me a lot of money," Cliford said. "And it was fun. And dare me to go somewhere else because we might as well do it again."