Nick Adams rose to prominence shortly after the Trump ascendancy in 2016, right alongside a slew of other like-minded charlatans who hit the lottery after Michigan flipped red (Candace Owens, Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, and so on). Adams is Australian by birth, and leveraged the mildly exotic nature of his origins into becoming the Republican Party’s favorite émigré, racking up nearly 500,000 Twitter followers with his offshore reverence for Trump’s threadbare Americana. Adams published a ton of conspicuously slender books that all seem to be situated at the exact textual intersection of Cracker Barrel–style patriotism and the latest tedious front of the culture war. (Some sample titles: Green Card Warrior: My Quest for Legal Immigration in an Illegals’ System; Class Dismissed: Why College Isn’t the Answer.) He earned a couple of lukewarm public acknowledgements from the former president himself, with the most significant coming in 2020, when Trump delegated Adams to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Smithsonian during the death rattle of his one and only term. Of course, that aureate distinction hasn’t kept Adams from making himself available to be booked on Cameo, where he will toast your bachelor party, and roast the Woke Mob, for a $100 fee. Say what you like about Adams, but he struck when the iron was hot.
You have heard plenty of stories like this before. The delirious celebrity-political diffusion of the MAGA era has allowed an untold number of C-tier influencers to pivot toward grievance in pursuit of the pageviews at the end of the rainbow. But lately, something weird has been happening to Nick Adams. In the past couple of months, I and a great number of other people outside of his target demographic have noticed a fascinating shift in Adams’ Twitter verbiage—one that reveals the faintest hint that maybe, just maybe, this has all been a bit. Why do we have that hunch? Let me walk you through the cracks in the facade.
Exhibit A: Nick Adams on Hooters, a topic he returns to so often, literary scholars would call it a leitmotif:
Exhibit B: Nick Adams on his gym routine, in a few tweets seemingly intended to mock women making TikToks about their own gym gawkers that spiraled into something baroque and strange:
Exhibit C: Nick Adams on having, in his words, a “foursome with the boys”:
Exhibit D: Nick Adams on having a “foursome with the boys” and then going to Hooters, on Valentine’s Day, no less:
And so on, and so forth. Yes, you can still find the occasional embittered Boebert-quality politics-first chyron in his timeline—the random spats of election denial, the conniptions over drag brunches, the hatred of LeBron James—but for the most part, Adams is re-creating himself as an uncanny, psychedelic, self-parodying avatar of the gestalt of late-MAGAdom, as if he’s determined to head Kimmel off at the pass and write the jokes himself.
Case in point: Adams added a parenthetical addendum to his Twitter name last year.
Today it reads “Nick Adams (Alpha Male),” and his website directs you to a wide catalog of Adams-designed merchandise that stays on theme. If you are interested in purchasing a black tank top emblazoned with the words “Alpha Male”—in the Female Body Inspector font, no less—it’ll set you back only $22. (The same goes for ball caps, coffee mugs, and the sort of drawstring beach bags you most frequently see dotting the crowd at Coachella.)
Adams, it must be said, is a husky guy who dresses like a substitute teacher. He does not possess the prescribed silhouette of the Übermensch. But that might just be another element of his quest to become the Andy Kaufman of political grifting. After all, in December, Adams tweeted, with wonderfully paradoxical candor: “If you have to say you’re an alpha male, you aren’t an alpha male.”
Adams pops up in my feed pretty regularly, which is rare for influencers of his ilk. You won’t be surprised to hear that the people I follow are usually coastal, left-leaning media professionals—the swamp, if you will—which is to say that they aren’t signal-boosting Ben Shapiro’s tweets with any regularity. They are also left cold by the anonymous @catturd2, an insurgent MAGA influencer who has recently been boosted by interactions with Elon Musk, and who produces mediocre right-wing shitposting riffs of a much more cranky, Facebook-rant variety. Adams, on the other hand, is the first crossover MAGA star since Donald Trump himself, because even the staunchest leftists can’t help but savor his trademark mind-boggling posts. If you can resist the urge to smash the quote-tweet button when Adams renames Valentine’s Day “Alphatine’s Day” in a tweet complete with a viscerally disorienting image of a heart-shaped box that’s been filled with Buffalo wings, then you are a stronger person than I.
He’s become something of a beloved cryptid of the political internet; a mystery that nobody can solve. Adams has his own KnowYourMeme page, which documents the fundamental enigma of his brand: Here is a MAGA guy who enthralled himself so fully to the pickled Fox News outrage machine that he, himself, resembles a vessel of acid satire. I reached out to Adams with hopes that he’d be open to an interview where we could establish—once and for all—the parameters of the bit. He did not respond to my requests, which didn’t surprise me. Andy Kaufman never pulled back the curtain completely, either.
My personal theory? I think Nick Adams is absolutely a far-right crank, but in a rapidly atrophying MAGA environment—when the base is suffering embarrassing losses at the ballot box and Donald Trump is washed up enough to start minting NFTs—perhaps this weird, self-reflexive, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the old spirit of revanchism is the logical next step. The unresolvable contradiction at the heart of the Trump phenomenon is that for all of its rage and spittle, MAGAdom always had a tenuous connection to the material factors that animate a political exigency. Now that the fever has broken and GOP allies are retreating to fight battles on increasingly remote terrain—litter boxes in high schools, banning Toni Morrison books, Marjorie Taylor Greene dressing up as Cruella de Vil at the State of the Union—the leaders of the faction are once again appearing like clown-show weirdos who should be nowhere near the levers of power. Perhaps, in 2023, the only avenue the Republican Party has toward likability among their fellow MAGAs is if they also possess a crucial buffer of unseriousness. Adams, then, is their avatar.
You can see the same dynamic playing out with another bizarre, inscrutable MAGA-aligned Twitter influencer known as “Carnivore Aurelius,” who uses his feed to extol the virtues of raw meat, traditional gender roles, and monogamous sex. Like Adams, Aurelius has cornered the market on both nu-Catholic dead-enders and liberals and leftists who enjoy the spectacle and claim to read between the lines. (One recent tweet: “Little boys are impressed by a big ass, men are impressed by a woman with class.” Whatever you say, dude!) There was a mild fracas late last year when some people alleged that the Carnivore Aurelius Twitter account is run by a woman, a secret that, if true, would confirm that the account’s prescriptive caveman masculinity was fraudulent, notching a liberating I-told-you-so victory for leftists around the world. But last month, BuzzFeed confirmed that the Twitter feed does, indeed, belong to a man, albeit a man who sells vacuum-sealed packets of dehydrated beef liver for $90 a 10-pack on his website. It’s not quite as shameless as Alpha Male T-shirts, but it’s close. (Aurelius also did not respond to my interview requests for this story.)
The best analogue I can think of for the current comedic projects of both Aurelius and Nick Adams might be Stephen Colbert during his prime Comedy Central years. I fell in love with The Colbert Report in a church-attending, Bush-voting household, and as his half-hour soaked up bandwidth on the DVR, my center-right parents were taken by Stephen’s charisma while simultaneously maintaining an enduring distaste for Jon Stewart. I wasn’t surprised. Jon Stewart triangulated his humor for the burgeoning Obama generation, while Colbert was effectively making a Potemkin O’Reilly Factor. My folks didn’t untangle the schematics of Colbert’s worldview until much later, when he started hosting The Late Show—a mecca of boomer-liberal gratification— a transition that neatly correlated with their own moral and political development. (Bush, Bush, McCain, Obama, Clinton, Biden, if you’re curious.) During the mid-2000s ferment, however, Colbert managed to produce a talk show that genuinely appealed to everyone. His bloodthirsty Iraq War support was rendered either a rallying cry or a harsh lampoon, depending on the background vibe of your own media diet. We could all be on the same team, so long as we didn’t ask any follow-up questions.
I would never argue that Adams and Aurelius share the scruples of a comedian like Colbert—or at least the bipartisan Colbert my family all used to love. But I do like to believe that the popularity of these accounts might predict a general humbling of the MAGA masses. It must’ve been gratifying, in 2016 and 2017, for those zealots to believe that the outrageously minoritarian, repellent, and unseemly tenets of the Trump administration could be a big-tent political project. That, somehow, they’d be able to incept outrageously unpopular ideas—like the prohibition of contraception—into the general American consciousness. But that’s not the case anymore, buddy! The grossest excesses of the Republican Party are, once again, a sick joke. Nick Adams wants to be in on it before it’s too late.