About 18 months before a violent video of a fake President Donald Trump superimposed on a violent action movie became national news Monday, a video creator who goes by TheGeekzTeam uploaded a similar video to a rabid pro-Trump community on Reddit, the discussion website.
The video was an edited clip in which Trump’s face is superimposed onto the face of the lead in the 2015 Swedish martial arts action comedy short, “Kung Fury,” with Trump shooting at and fighting off Democratic politicians. The video description sums up Trump’s battle: “With the help of Alex Jones and friends, they destroy the evil Hitlery Clinton and her army of fake news!”
It quickly went viral among Trump’s internet fans on Reddit, with calls for more videos and even offers of financial support.
“Can I donate money to you? You deserve something,” one user wrote.
Over the next few months, TheGeekzTeam would create an account on Patreon, a popular fundraising website for artists, so they could accept donations, promising to make more videos if the account hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. It did. The team then created 20 more videos, almost all of them variations on the same theme of Trump disposing of his media and political foes with lethal violence: Trump as The Punisher, Trump as John Wick, Trump as Thanos. The video creator even took requests, like Trump in the anime Dragon Ball Z.
Now, the creator of those videos — whose identity is not known publicly — is at the center of growing criticism of the Trump administration’s embrace of fringe political internet content that can veer into overt displays of violence. Last weekend, a video created by The GeekzTeam played in a “meme exhibit” at a pro-Trump event that featured the president’s face superimposed onto a character from the movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It was played at a Florida golf resort owned by Trump.
In the modified clip, the Trump character moves down the center aisle of a church, renamed “The Church of Fake News,” executing parishioners whose faces have been replaced by prominent members of the news media, logos of news organizations and critics of Trump.
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Before this national turn, however, TheGeekzTeam had already amassed a sizable following in pro-Trump parts of the internet, which traffic in a variety of Trump-focused digital creations from typical memes to edited videos.
And as those communities have grown, they’ve also found traction with people close to Trump and even the president himself. Trump previously tweeted out a video edited to make it look like he hit Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
As adulation rolled in from the community following the initial videos, TheGeekzTeam racked up almost 3 million views on YouTube. Users voted the account’s posts to the front page of the pro-Trump Reddit community, with one user suggesting TheGeekzTeam submit videos to film festivals.
It's not entirely clear whether TheGeekzTeam is one person or multiple people, though in some internet comments the team has left some autobiographical details hinting that one person is behind the account. A request for comment sent via email was not immediately returned.
By August of 2019, fully established as a staple in the pro-Trump meme-making community, TheGeekzTeam joined Memeworld, an exclusive community of pro-Trump digital creators. Memeworld was created by a person who goes by the online handle Carpe Donktum, a Kansas-based video editor who made similar — albeit nonviolent — mashups that had been tweeted from Trump’s account over the last year.
Donktum, who has become a household name in pro-Trump circles online, met with the president in The White House and was invited to the administration’s “social media summit” in July.
It was in Donktum’s “meme exhibit” where TheGeekzTeam’s video was played as part of a series of Memeworld videos at the American Priority Festival last weekend. In another room at the same festival, Donald Trump Jr. spoke on Friday night, though he has reportedly said he was not aware of the video.
Melissa Ryan, a researcher at the anti-extremism nonprofit Hope Not Hate, said that TheGeekzTeam is a standard example of a meme maker receiving increasing social rewards for exponentially edgier and more violent content in insular online communities.
“How many aspiring meme-makers do you think get the message that if you make this kind of content, you could be invited to the White House?” she said.
In that way, Ryan said, this weekend’s American Priority event, where Reddit memes were displayed in a museum-like exhibit, serve as a rare real-world incentive for meme-makers.
“You’re not just getting positive reinforcement from pro-Trump online communities,” she said. “You’re getting positive reinforcement from entities who would never endorse you otherwise.”
While the videos are generally embraced by Trump supporters, they have received some pushback. At one point, a pro-Trump Reddit user objected to TheGeekzTeam’s videos, saying it was “basically putting lib content in our face under the guise of cleverness.”
“It is what it is, potus shooting buzzfeed isn't even the kind of humor I want to see here.”
TheGeekzTeam called it all a misunderstanding.
“Again you’re misinterpreting what this is. This is all an analogy,” TheGeekzTeam account wrote in response. “Also I’m not a liberal. I hate libs. If you have a problem with me then I’m sorry you feel that way, but continue to comment all you want! cause you are just wasting your air buddy. have a great day though!”
Since dissent is against the rules of Reddit’s r/The_Donald community, the entire conversation was later removed by a moderator.
Ben Collins covers disinformation, extremism and the internet for NBC News.