A Facebook page run by the verified account of multimillionaire businessman and former politician Clive Palmer is currently generating a plethora of racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic memes.
Increasingly problematic images have flooded the "Palmy Army" Facebook group, which was set up by someone running Palmer's official account last week, encouraging the mantra "fuck off we're full" and including photoshop efforts that show the 63-year-old depicted in Schutzstaffel Nazi uniform while his political opponents sit in a gas chamber, among countless others.
BuzzFeed News is not suggesting Clive Palmer endorses any of the images within the group.
While the group's members have been uploading the images, Palmer's main account has been posting within the group.
The 8,000-member group, which was started by Palmer's Facebook account on 22 February, was initially used as a meme farm, collecting images that would then be shared across to the official page.
BuzzFeed News notes that it has never been confirmed if it is Palmer himself running the accounts or if someone else is paid to do it.
Palmer recently announced he would be seeking election again, having shut down his Palmer United Party in 2017 after a three-year stint as the lower house MP for Fairfax.
The new Facebook group could represent an attempt to replicate the large online presence Donald Trump capitalised on during his campaign to become US president. In the 2016 US election, Trump memes, Pepe the frog, and propaganda reigned supreme as Trump’s vocal online supporters swamped opposition.
Palmer has used social media as a way to mobilise his troops, pushing them towards swarming other politicians' Facebook pages and urging the creation of meme propaganda that focusses less on the policies of his party and more on the populist angle that the mining magnate is the superior option to run the country.
For over a year Palmer's social media accounts have transitioned from standard political messaging to increasingly dank meme pages that take aim at the media and Australian politics, and encourage the creation of a new image of the Palmer United Party that's less about politics and more about his love for Tim Tams, memes, and his dog, Grog Dog (the dog that’s on the grog).
Much has been written about this transition. In 2017, BuzzFeed News asked multiple high-profile media figures for their thoughts on Palmer's bizarre dogleg towards tweets about his dieting and poetry. Hedley Thomas, the Australian’s national chief correspondent, raised concerns about Palmer’s posts, saying: “There’s a demographic that isn’t really following or keeping up with the serious difficulties that Clive causes.”
Now the full force of Palmer’s meme army–potential has been demonstrated.
Last week, Palmer's account wrote to his 100,000-plus Facebook followers that he would be recruiting to the “Palmy Army". A Facebook group was created – and linked to Palmer’s verified personal account – that outlined what he was looking for in members.
“Bring your pies, bring your sausage rolls, bring your Yowies, bring your memes," wrote Palmer's account, "but DO NOT bring the Greens."
For a day, the page was flooded with the same memes already seen on Palmer’s multiple social accounts.
After a few days of meme creation, the group staged its first public attack on another politician’s Facebook, with Palmer's account commanding the Palmy Army to launch “Operation Turnbull Turnip" against prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“All PALMY ARMY members go to turnbull page and call him a Turnip! Yes Turnip. Turnip memes Turnip jokes turnips anything… we are going to make this a meme. We will get this all across Facebook and media. Let operation turnbull Turnip begin!! The force is with us," wrote Palmer's account.
Palmer’s Palmy Army listened and rushed to the Australian prime minister’s Facebook page. Soon, it was littered with comments about Turnbull and turnips. This first act of public swarming drew further attention to Palmer’s group – which Palmer's account continued to comment in and about, encouraging further “meme wars".
The raid invited all sorts of attention – including from those more into the idea of a politician-backed troll army than a simple meme forum. The audience within the Palmy Army began to change. Users on the notorious basement of the internet, 4chan, drew attention to Palmer’s raids and declared him to be possibly the next Trump.
Further still, trolls on Facebook seeking a good time causing chaos were also drawn to the page. The Palmy Army Facebook group was never hard to get into – it’s linked to at the top of Palmer’s Facebook page – and only requires you to submit a request to join that can be approved by a mutual friend who is also in the group.
Suddenly, the original members of the Palmy Army were asking what had happened and why their feed was full of xenophobic, anti-Semitic memes. Users began orchestrating their own Palmy Army raids, urging other members to swarm to news articles about Palmer as well.
Images of Palmer photoshopped as fighting a horde of baboons, with the caption “Clive heroically fights back against the Apex Gang after taking a wrong turn in Melbourne”; posts accusing Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg of using the terrible atrocity to become famous; and memes mocking the desire for an Australia Day apology were all found on the page.
Bizarrely, Palmer's account declared a man named Caleb J. Stanton his “meme commander” on Monday. Stanton’s Facebook and Twitter accounts include content from Donald Trump, Russia, and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan “vowing to massacre the Kurds in a revenge act for the Kurds killing seven Turkish Soldiers.” BuzzFeed News has attempted to contact Stanton on both social media platforms – we were blocked on Twitter and did not receive a response on Facebook.
At 12:35am on Tuesday morning, Palmer's account posted what is currently its last message on the group: “Goodnight memesters it’s been a long day!”
Most of Tuesday has seen the group slowly devolve into further chaos. Fights over the purpose of the group have broken out, with supporters of Palmer arguing the rampant racism and problematic memes could cause controversy that would damage Palmer’s reputation. Most of these arguments are met with vitriol from the newer, more aggressive divisions of the group. Elsewhere on the page, some users complained their friends were being banned and could no longer join the group.
“Joins a group designed to force emulation of US populism,” wrote one member. “Whine when group emulates those responsible for the US populist movement.”
Clive Palmer has been contacted for comment.