Over the last few years, Florida has made a name for itself as the home of anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ+, and all-around white grievance politics. Now one of the leaders of a neo-Nazi group based in Florida has attributed a spike in recruitment to the anti-drag hysteria stoked by politicians like Gov Ron DeSantis.
Josh Nunes, leader of National Socialist Florida, recently spoke to an NPR reporter about the membership gains the neo-Nazi group has made in the sunshine state. “What we have seen is certain types of activism definitely gets interest and recruitment up,” said Nunes. “And that’s where like the drag queen shit — like everybody wants to be a part of the team shutting that down.”
Referring to National Socialist Florida as a Nazi group is not just an opinion. Their name is a direct reference to Hitler’s National Socialist Party, the origin of the term “Nazi.” Additionally, the group describes themselves as “regular working-class white people that are racially aware,” and they proudly obsess over tracing their European ancestry.
Nunes was interviewed by the reporter while he was projecting a five-story laser image onto the side of a building, that of a swastika intertwined with the Christian cross. The group pulls these kinds of stunts regularly, starting last year by projecting the message “Kanye is right about the Jews!” onto a college stadium. This was in reference to an anti-semetic rant that Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, went on during an appearance on The Alex Jones Show.
The group has also projected laser hate messages targeting the LGBTQ+ community. One such message read, “Why are child-friendly drag shows legal? @ Ron DeSantis.” In fact, Gov DeSantis has been a leading figure at advancing far right rhetoric against his queer constituents, including targeting drag queens. Fellow Florida politician Rep Maxwell Frost recently went as far as to call DeSantis out as a fascist.
For National Socialist Florida, such anti-drag rhetoric has played a huge role in mainstreaming the white nationalist movement. “We’ve just seen the largest upticks in recruitment from the drag stuff,” Nunes explained. To demonstrate this, he explained that when they started protesting drag shows last year, they only had a few supporters. Now they protest drag shows on a monthly basis. ”It’s not uncommon to show up with 20 dudes now,” said Nunes. “We’re hoping by the end of this year maybe we got 30 or 40 guys.”
Recently, Tennessee became the first state to criminalize public drag performances, showing just how mainstream the far right’s agenda has become. Anonymously projecting these laser images is one of the ways the group normalizes these messages. Said Nunes, “What we’re really going for is people putting it on social media and spreading it around and pushing the conversation in the public arena.”