In the world of consumer-facing VR, there is arguably no bigger name than Palmer Luckey, the Oculus founder who famously built his first pair of VR goggles in his parents’ garage, before later debuting a version of them in Sundance’s Frontiers section in 2012. The goggles — and Luckey — were a smash hit, and the VR visionary soon launched a Kickstarter campaign for his so-called “Rift” that pulled in a stunning $2.4 million. In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus from the then-twenty-one-year-old for $2 billion. In short, Luckey is a very smart man, a rich man and one of the most important names in VR.
He’s also, according to a new report, the money behind a pro-Donald Trump political organization that is at least partially dedicated to spreading malicious memes against Hillary Clinton on the internet.
According to an eye-popping new report from The Daily Beast, Luckey has been funding the alt-right group known as Nimble America, which describes itself as a “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit” that uses the web to show that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real” (per an official introductory statement shared by The Daily Beast). Despite its roots on Reddit in particular, the organization has spread out to the physical world, and recently took credit “for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton’s face alongside the words ‘Too Big to Jail.'”
Luckey, who is listed as the organization’s vice president on their website, told The Daily Beast he is simply a money man for the group, one who seems to find its aims more amusing than anything else. “I’ve got plenty of money,” Luckey told the outlet. “Money is not my issue. I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time.”
But the outlet dug deeper, finding Reddit posts — many of which were deleted, or were seemingly in the process of being deleted at the time of their writing — under Luckey’s Reddit nickname that indicate something else might be at play: “The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals,” he wrote this weekend.
Luckey later confirmed to the outlet that he was behind the post, telling them, “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.”
The Daily Beast piece goes on to investigate Luckey’s involvement further — including the bizarre way the VR visionary got involved with the group to begin with and what this may mean for Facebook, a company that Luckey is still tied to — and dives deeper into a story that only gets more strange as it winds on. Read it here.
Update: Luckey has issued the following statement via his Facebook page:
I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views.
Here’s more background: I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well.
I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the “NimbleRichMan” posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.
Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community.