Right-wing organization Today is America is fueling an extremist network of young conservative influencers
Some influencers affiliated with the organization have connections to far-right movements such as America First and the QAnon conspiracy theory
Update (9/1/22): This piece has been updated with additional details about Today is America co-founder Liam Rafizadeh and founding member Aubrey Moore.
A network of Gen Zers operating under the nonprofit Today is America is working to spread right-wing ideology online, using social media platforms — especially Instagram — with the explicit goal of bringing their peers' politics further to the right.
Media Matters has identified over 70 individuals on Instagram affiliated with Today is America, a social media marketing project and right-wing nonprofit with connections to extreme far-right groups. While their accounts range in following and messaging, many push extreme and far-right rhetoric through their content. Several Today is America affiliates have promoted the false claim that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and other far-right conspiracy theories, while some have connections to white nationalist influencer Nick Fuentes and other extremist groups, including the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
Today is America promotes right-wing content through influencers, ambassadors, and creators on TikTok and Instagram, as well as through other accounts that are “powered by” Today is America. It is run by Influencing America, a conservative digital marketing agency founded by brothers Liam and Cam Rafizadeh in 2021 that “specializes in Gen Z and young Millennial marketing.” According to Influencing America's website, its other projects include work for Turning Point USA, the Leadership Institute, and TikTok account the Republican Hype House.
The Rafizadeh brothers founded Today is America in 2020 with the goal of utilizing conservative influencers “to sell Trump gear and patriotic merchandise,” but it quickly morphed into a nonprofit dedicated to creating a community of right-wing Gen Zers. Many of its influencers were involved in the Republican Hype House, which was banned from TikTok in October 2021 after repeatedly using the social media site to spread misinformation and to provide a platform for far-right influencers. According to an Instagram post from Today is America founding member Aubrey Moore, the Republican Hype House Instagram account was turned into the Today is America account in December 2021.
Today is America supports a network of young right-wing influencers on Instagram and TikTok
Today is America claims to support “over 320 influencers,” a number which is difficult to verify in a sea of conservative personalities with a variety of both disclosed and undisclosed affiliations. Media Matters has identified at least 70 accounts belonging to these influencers, who have a combined total of over 1 million followers.
While it is unclear exactly what financial support Today is America provides to its creators, the group does offer a “Creator Fund” to provide the influencers with equipment, edit their videos, and help them “build brands & unique voices.”
Today is America influencers have posted content containing extreme or false rhetoric, much of which seemingly violate Instagram’s community guidelines:
- Isabella Riley, a Today is America representative, and has over 41,000 followers on Instagram and another 150,000 followers on TikTok. According to her LinkedIn, Riley is affiliated with Turning Point USA, conservative firm Arsenal Media, and PragerU. On Instagram, Riley has claimed that she would “rather have COVID than be fat” and said that “there is no such thing as a trans child” unless the child is “actually being groomed” by an “older influence that is preying” on them.
- Today is America ambassador lucas_the_abstract claimed to their over 13,000 Instagram followers that “President Trump did not loose the election in 2020. The American people elected President Trump twice.” The account has also promoted Dinesh D’Souza’s movie 2000 Mules, which features false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, in a post calling the Biden administration “illegitimate.”
- Instagram user TokenBlackGuyUSA, who also goes by Joël, is an ambassador for both Today is America and Turning Point USA with over 22,000 Instagram followers. Joël has repeatedly promoted 2000 Mules, along with other conspiracy theories. He has also posted a tweet to his Instagram account that claims that women’s reproductive choice occurs when “they open their legs.”
- Instagram user Lance Johnston, who posts on social media as “LanceVideos,” is a Today is America representative. Lance has over 28,000 followers on Instagram and almost 5,000 on TikTok, where he had an audience of over 140,000 on a former account prior to being banned. (The hashtag for Johnston’s old TikTok username has over 118 million views.) According to Johnston’s LinkedIn, he is a productions coordinator for Turning Point USA and is currently “Lead Generation Specialist” at Today is America. He frequently posts hateful rhetoric on Instagram, including sharing a tweet calling the overturning of Roe v. Wade “9/11 for whores,” deadnaming reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, and reposting his own content using ableist slurs, which appears to violate Meta’s hate speech policy.
Influencers associated with Today is America also post extreme content on TikTok:
- Kandis Esposito, who is a Today is America ambassador according to her Instagram bio, has posted on TikTok claiming that the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol was carried out by people who “came to fight for our country” and that “it was beautiful.”
Today is America's co-founder and one of its founding members have also used their social media platforms to post extreme content. Co-founder Liam Rafizadeh, who claims to be on the verge of getting banned from his Instagram account, has used Twitter to promote baseless voter fraud rhetoric about the 2020 presidential election. He also claimed in an Instagram Live to have “stacks” of fake vaccine cards with “real lot numbers.”
Aubrey Moore, who is also affiliated with Turning Point USA according to her Instagram bio, has used the QAnon hashtag “wwg1wga” (short for “where we go one we go all”) in several of her Instagram posts promoting Today is America. In the “Today is America” highlight on her account, Moore showcases a Today is America mask emblazoned with “wwg1wga”.
Today is America also “powers” several niche right-wing Instagram accounts
In addition to the network of Today is America influencer accounts, Media Matters has identified at least 7 accounts that are “powered” by Today is America, along with at least 3 that are connected to the organization despite not clearly stating so. These accounts powered by Today is America include:
- The Instagram account Basic Facts Matter is hosted by Today is America President Xaviaer DuRousseau, who is also affiliated with PragerU, Turning Point USA, Blexit, and the Alameda County Republican Party. The Basic Facts Matter account has over 13,000 followers and appears to mimic the Black Lives Matter organization’s account while claiming to be “highlighting truths that media hides” from an “anti-victimhood” and “anti-excuses” perspective. The account has smeared victims of police violence, such as Breonna Taylor, and spread racist anti-abortion talking points.
- Tusk News is also a Today is America-powered Instagram account, which has over 13,000 followers and primarily reposts headlines from right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Wire attacking Democratic politicians and pushing conservative talking points.
- Lbrtyusa, an account powered by Today is America, appears to have formerly been the Instagram account of the Republican Girls -- a part of the Republican Hype House TikTok collective. The account is centered around right-wing women and posts images with anti-abortion slogans and memes along with anti-lockdown content and other conservative narratives. This account has over 40,000 followers.
- Memelotics is another account “powered by” Today is America; it posts right-wing memes and has nearly 16,000 followers.
On Instagram, Today is America influencers and Today is America-powered accounts have earned over 3.2 million combined interactions so far this year according to data obtained from CrowdTangle that excludes Reels.
Today is America has deep connections with other right-wing groups and far-right extremists
Many of the Today is America influencers also work with other right-wing ambassador programs, such as PragerU and Turning Point USA. According to a January 5 report in The Verge, former Turning Point USA ambassador and current Today is America director of political strategy Joe Basrawi indicated that there is no formal partnership between the two groups, though they regularly support each other’s content. Turning Point USA has a history of violating platform policy with influencer campaigns that have been likened to a “troll farm.”
Additionally, several of Today is America’s advisers have connections to right-wing organizations, including Project Veritas Director John Garvey; actress Samaire Armstrong, who has starred in content for the right-wing groups The Daily Wire and PragerU; and right-wing influencer Lindsey Graham, who recently praised violent far-right group the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters militia group on Alex Jones’ Infowars.
Today is America also has links to figures involved with the America First movement -- a white supremacist and Christian nationalist group led by Nick Fuentes, who attended the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally and has been a vocal supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement. During his recent America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Fuentes praised German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Today is America representative Lance Johnston reportedly appeared at AFPAC in 2021. Kai Schwemmer, a known affiliate of Fuentes who also attended AFPAC and has promoted the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, was previously a member of the Republican Hype House and appeared at a 2021 Turning Point event as a part of the Today is America “team.” Today is America content host Blake Kresses, who was also a member of the Republican Hype House and a Turning Point USA ambassador, was scheduled to speak along with Schwemmer at 76Fest -- a right-wing youth retreat that was supposed to take place in August 2021 but was ultimately canceled. Kresses now hosts a YouTube show along with Today is America members Kaden Lopez and Gabe Victal, which has featured Schwemmer as a “favorite, good friend” and promoted his streaming content on Fuentes’ website.
In October 2021, Liam Rafizadeh commented on an Instagram post from Matt Evans, another associate of Fuentes. In the caption of the post Evans states, “petition to make me a TIA ambassador,” to which Rafizadeh replied, “If I get to become an AF ambassador.”