The Conservative Political Action Conference is always one of the biggest political events of the year, especially for Republican politicians and activists eager to strut their stuff on the national and conference stages.
Senators, governors, and pundits all get a voice in determining what matters to the conservative party and who has the best shot at running for President next term. But it’s also the place to be for many in the right-wing fringe as they seek to grow their own fan-bases. More than a few times, extreme figures have been invited to speak onstage only to be disinvited later after attracting press attention.
That tradition continued this year at CPAC despite the conference theme of “America Uncanceled” as the conference organizers were forced to disinvite a panel speaker calling himself “Young Pharaoh” after he was exposed for advocating anti-semitic conspiracy theories online by the progressive group Media Matters.
Among many other things, Young Pharaoh has claimed that there was “no historical or scientific evidence” that proved Jews existed but also that Jews control “Big Tech.” He’s also promoted conspiracy claims about QAnon, vaccines, and Pizzagate.
Hours after the Media Matters report was released on Monday, the American Jewish Committee tweeted that “CPAC leadership must denounce his antisemitic conspiracy theories and act to ensure that Jew-hatred has no place at the conference.” Shortly thereafter, Young Pharaoh was disinvited as a speaker by the American Conservative Union, the organization that sponsors CPAC. His Twitter account was also suspended.
While the Young Pharaoh kerfuffle faded away relatively quickly as other CPAC speakers provoked their own controversies (such as Sen. Ted Cruz scream-quoting the “Freedom!” line from “Braveheart”), it’s worth examining the online subculture that the ousted panelist represents, the Hotep movement.
The term Hotep originates from ancient Egyptian and is often translated as “to be at peace.” It was commonly used as a suffix in the ancient Egyptian names and sometimes in the present day. Online, however, the term has taken on a very different meaning after being adopted by a group of Black men who are trying to put a different spin on the Afrocentrism, the idea of encouraging people of African descent to re-connect with the heritages their ancestors lost due to the slave trade.
While the question of whether the Pharaohs were actually Black is one that scientists are still digging into, that reverence for Egyptian history permeates much of Hotep discourse; offering a lost nation to turn to as an example of what an ideal Black culture may have looked like, which apparently doesn’t include gays, lesbians, or trans people.
“The Hotep movement is a testament to the uniquely painful and complicated history of African Americans” writes Miranda Lovett, a graduate student and anthropologist at the University of Arizona. “It is anchored in a long tradition of looking to Africa for points of needed pride. Yet it also risks propagating false histories and conventions, and, ironically, disparaging Black women and those who are LGBTQ in the service of elevating Black identity.”
Conspiracy theories are also very prominent in Hotep thought, which may explain why a group that started off as anti-White has been evolving into a Black fan club for former president Trump using many of the same recycled ideas about medical research concocted by Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
While Black Americans were indeed targeted by the federal government for medical experimentation in the past, Hoteps take this suspicion to an entirely different level, especially in regards to scientific measures designed to treat and prevent the spread of the SARS2 coronavirus.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Hotep influencers spent a significant amount of time spreading their own variation of COVID-19 skepticism through Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Like many MAGA social media stars, Hotep influencers claimed biological weapon labs, the United Nations and 5G signals as the cause of the outbreak. Many of these theories centered on blaming White people or various Jewish families. Somehow, the White former president Trump escaped blame.
Other Hoteps have propagated false ideas about Black women’s menstrual cycles being created by White people or that eating meat is a giant conspiracy.
“Hotep looks like black Alex Jones,” Daryl Lamont Jenkins, an activist and writer who has written extensively about the U.S. far-right, told Flux.
It’s difficult to pin down the specific origin of the Hotep movement, as it appears to have risen out of a sort of Afrocentrism influenced by 4chan trollery. But two figures have stood out and gotten the most attention; Young Pharaoh and Bryan Sharpe. Sharpe is currently the most prominent proponent of the Hotep movement and has offered a platform to Young Pharaoh several times.
Better known by his online name “HotepJesus,” Sharpe briefly attained internet fame in April 2018 after he was able to convince Starbucks employees to give him free coffee as “reparations” for slavery after the coffee chain closed its stores for a day to offer a racial bias education program to employees.
Sharpe’s clip went viral in right-wing social media circles where mocking Starbucks for trying to teach employees not to mistreat Black customers was all the rage. His trolling eventually earned him a glowing article on the conspiracy site Gateway Pundit, an interview on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, and a segment on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Infowars even gave Sharpe an interview in which he proclaimed that Alex Jones had been a large influence.
What stands out about Sharpe is his attempt to present Hoteps as anything but a derisive movement. While a Q+A on his old website claims that Hoteps are not opposed to the LGBT community or to women, his interviews have often implied otherwise. Sharpe has stated in an interview with a White nationalist podcast that Jews were the ones who inspired the idea that White supremacy was a thing, and that the LGBT community and Jews are the rulers of the United States rather than White people.
Despite Sharpe’s occasional interactions with racist activists, praise from far-right media, and Young Pharaoh’s CPAC speaking slot offer, it’s not clear if Hoteps are a significant influence on far-right thought.
According to Jenkins—who has documented the emergence of Black, Hispanic, and Asian activists in traditionally White nationalist spaces—Young Pharaoh seems to have had little impact spreading his beliefs to Black Americans.
“Young Pharaoh seems to be better known among conservative circles than he is among the hip-hop circles,” Jenkins said. And that facet makes Jenkins far more skeptical of Pharaoh’s actual influence. In fact, it’s difficult to track down who Young Pharaoh is. Nobody has been able to determine the man’s real name, or even where he lives.
Nonetheless, he did seem to earn some support from the established right after being disinvited by CPAC. Conservative website RedState portrayed the antisemitism controversy as a matter of disagreement. “This is one of those issues that isn’t exactly easy to judge,” blogger Jeff Charles wrote. “People on both sides make valid points.”
Despite Young Pharaoh getting ejected, CPAC is still making sure far-right Black Americans feel represented. Angela Stanton King, a former Republican congressional candidate from Georgia who has spouted conspiracy theories about vaccines and LGBT people is scheduled to appear on the panel that Young Pharaoh was originally slotted for.