From the moment people inside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign started boosting "anonymously" produced, meme-filled, 4chan-style videos promoting creepily fascist themes, DeSantis watchers suspected his campaign was directly responsible for the ads. Well, now we've got the confirmation. The people who put out the anti-LGBTQ+ ad so filled with toxic masculinity that it came off as homoerotic? The people who put out an ad that closed on an actual, no-shit Nazi symbol with DeSantis' head superimposed in the middle of it?
They were all members of the DeSantis campaign staff. They just laundered the far-far-right creepfests through supportive third parties because they knew the videos were too toxic to take credit for. But this is a campaign trick that only works if you don't, you know, completely suck at covering it up afterward, and the DeSantis campaign has been leaking to so many reporters so often that you can only assume a good chunk of his staff is nursing a serious grudge.
Semafor has obtained internal campaign communications that show the online video push was directed by "senior aides" to DeSantis, and that staffers were originally quite proud of the video ad that closed on the Nazi Sonnenrad symbol, marching soldiers, and DeSantis' head. "This belongs in the Smithsonian," gushed now laid-off staffer Kyle Lamb. Also laid off in the recent DeSantis campaign scramble to stay afloat was the man identified as the video's creator, former National Review writer Nate Hochman.
Whether Hochman was fired because he got caught as the video campaign’s creator is unknown, but there's nothing in Semafor's report that suggests it was the gigantic damn Nazi symbol that did him in. Semafor obtained messages proving that other video snippets in the ad were contributed by an assortment of DeSantis staffers.
The most prominent name behind the 4chan-style videos, however? Christina Pushaw. Pushaw is the always-online, meme-infected conspiracy theorist who acts as DeSantis' main defender, an aide and professional shitposter who regularly causes scandal and who has promoted memes from neo-Nazi circles before.
So no, it's not a surprise at all that the DeSantis campaign turned to overt Nazi imagery to boost a campaign premised on trolling and fascism. It is more surprising that the campaign is still self-aware enough to know the videos had to be laundered through a third party. After DeSantis nominated an actual anti-vaxx, anti-mask crank as his state's top public health official, you'd think that all attempts at subtlety had long been wrung out of him and his aides.
That's really the Ron DeSantis story in a nutshell, though. DeSantis was an unremarkable backbencher during his stint as a House Republican, following the party line to the point of dullness. He won his current governorship by sucking up to Donald Trump, at first pantomiming Trump's extremism but then adopting plainly fascist positions that revolved in large part around punishing anyone in Florida who criticized him. He's now gone so far right that the only way his campaign can top that is to go full Online Nazi, so ... that's what they did.
They didn't have to, of course. But they did.
That DeSantis ad that closed on a Nazi symbol? It was created by a campaign staffer
DeSantis War Room posts anti-gay, anti-Trump ad so awful it's got to be self-parody
DeSantis' official Twitter troll uses Nazi meme to disparage drag queens, and that's not all