Turning Point Efforts to Export Drag Queen Attacks and ‘Take Back Universities’ Marred by Fringe Associations and Farcical Missteps

Image: TPUK/Instagram

Bullhorns and chants fill the air. Conservatives are gathered to protest a drag show. Mothers and fathers are walking with signs saying “Groomer Free Zone.” Some hold babies while others push their children through a narrowed street. The group is largely outnumbered by a counter-protest calling them fascists from the sidewalk. Police in bright yellow jackets mill about to keep the peace. 

This could have taken place in Texas or New York City, but the scene described took place on March 25 in South London, England. The organizer, Turning Point UK—an offshoot of TPUSA—was engaging in a third protest of a local drag show. The same group protested a similar show in February. 

“Drag Is New Front in Culture Wars,” read a recent The Times of London headline. On GBN, the so-called British “Fox News,” the leader of TPUK called Drag Queen Story Time “filth.” Just today, in fact, Turning Point UK announced another protest on its Instagram page, to “protect our children from age-inappropriate drag queen events.”

Yet, while Britain has conservatives and liberals and a divided electorate just like the US, Turning Point UK has struggled to translate its American cousin’s vision into the Queen’s English and the commonwealth’s politics. 

In addition to this UK effort, Turning Point USA has tried to go international in Canada and Australia. The former closed its doors almost as soon as it began back in 2017; the only current online evidence of that now defunct group is its dormant Twitter and Facebook pages. Co-founders Wayd Miller and Charlie Beldman don’t even list Turning Point Canada on their resumes. 

Turning Point leaders in the UK and Australia are young, politically interested men like Kirk, but (if such a thing is possible) they’ve adopted an even more brash rhetorical style than Kirk. One was arrested at a rally while another says he wants to give a “middle finger” to woke-ism and called the “far left” “Godless scum.” 

But only one group appears to have gotten TPUSA money. Tax records from TPUSA reveal that it gave “foreign organizations” in the UK more than $80,000 between 2019 and 2020 (TPUK was launched in 2019). 

But if they did receive any, that early seed money appears to have stopped, according to a 2020-2021 tax document seeking TPUSA tax exemption. TPUK is clearly scrambling for funds as it’s running four separate crowdfunding campaigns, one of which is titled “Turning Point UK Emergency Fundraiser.” More than 18 months into the effort it has raised less than a quarter of its goal. Even with its fundraising woes, in its fifth year of existence TPUK continues to find some support for its brand of British Christian Nationalism that echoes TPUSA and Kirk’s culture war rhetoric.

Yet, as some offshoots have enjoyed modest growth, the question is whether any of these international efforts will finally give Kirk and TPUSA the international success they’ve long sought. The current picture in Australia is bleak, though its leaders are pursuing evangelical support like Kirk has in the U.S.  

From the moment of its founding in 2020, Turning Point Australia has had a name problem: in Australia “Turning Point” is associated with its leading national addiction treatment organization. And, much like its UK cousin, TP Australia has a resource problem. Its website is all of two pages—a contact information page and a homepage that makes claims about its 2022 election efforts in Victoria, which is home to Melbourne, the country’s most populous city

Despite a lack of chapters, Turning Point Australia has become an “increasingly common” fixture on “the fringes of Australia’s conservative movement,” according to Crikey, an independent news site. Conservatives lost in 2022 national elections and were ousted from nearly a decade-long rule. 

Like its American and now UK counterparts, Turning Point Australia is fixated on drag queens. A March Facebook post mocking them includes an emoji-based comment: ✝️ > 🏳️‍🌈. And, like its U.S. counterpart, TPA is seeking to build relationships with Christian political organizations. Joel Jammal, Turning Point Australia’s leader—as well as self-described journalist and conservative commentator—was featured on a panel about political transformations at a Church and State Summit in March. 

Jammal, whose biography says he’s using Turning Point Australia to “[take] back universities,” was a key misinformation spreader in Australia who helped organize “anti-lockdown” protests in July 2021 where more than 60 were arrested, including Jammal himself. 

The group has exactly one Facebook page, which it created in February and is dedicated to its campus chapter at Macquarie University in Sydney. The president of that chapter, Samraat Joshua Grewal, posted the next day that he had just started university and was already “abused by Marxist groups on campus.”

Notably, Jammal and Grewal—just three years apart in age—have a history together. With Jammal’s support, Grewal in 2019 challenged Australia’s socially conservative Christian Democratic Party in what the Sydney Morning Herald called “an unlikely coup.” The pair’s attempt to take down the party’s longtime leader, Rev. Fred Nile, was the focus of a documentary by an Australian news program called The Feed. In the documentary, Grewal shows off his copy of Mein Kempf and The Communist Manifesto

TPUK’s QAnon and Hitler gaffes 

Like its Australian counterpart, TPUK has a name problem due to the presence of a nearly 60-year-old British organization of the same name dedicated to the treatment of drug addiction. 

After initial hype, when TPUK began in 2019, dissension forced some early supporters from aiding the effort, according to Buzzfeed

In addition, there were numerous unforced errors. The first occurred during the visit by Kirk and Candace Owens to Britain in December 2018 to present Turning Point’s ideology and rhetoric to select potential donors. According to The Daily Beast, Owens’ problem with Hitler wasn’t genocide, but rather that he was a “globalist”:

“If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine,” Owens continued, while standing next to Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.

“The problem is he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize, he wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German, everybody to look a different way.”

TPUK’s rollout of its social media accounts three months later—complete with a grim video—“descended into a slapdash farce” after parody Twitter accounts swarmed, according to Wired UK

Then there’s the British hotel owner and QAnon supporter John Mappin who hosted that initial December 2018 Kirk and Owens event. In 2020 Mappin raised a Q flag above his castle months after being spotted at another TPUK fundraiser. By 2022 he was being disavowed by TPUK, just as the group has distanced itself from the 2018 event which is routinely described as its “founding.”

Like its American parent, TPUK does tabling on campus with materials to entice students. But despite its leader claiming back in 2019 that it had chapters at 10 schools, TPUK’s website doesn’t list any, only a note that an update is coming. 

Since 2021 TPUK has been run by a personal trainer with no relevant experience named Nick Tenconi. When he announced his new position on Twitter in November 2021, Tenconi said TPUK was a “conservative think tank” for “students and older ages.” Like Jammal’s uncertain links to Charlie Kirk, it’s unknown how Tenconi got the job as head of TPUK or if he’s ever even met Kirk. 

Tenconi, who describes himself in his Twitter bio as a “Defender of masculinity, Christianity & conservative values,” has advocated for the arrest of a man holding a “queer joy is for all ages” sign; called for a “middle finger up to the woke nonsense;” and his pinned tweet (as of publication) urges followers to “imagine if actual conservatives had the balls to be conservative.”

Tenconi has tried to attach TPUK to American conservative cause célèbres. For example, he’s praised Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who killed two people and wounded a third in Wisconsin in 2020. TPUK’s YouTube page mainly includes clips from The Charlie Kirk Show, though recent videos include its drag show protests.

Tenconi has even copied Kirk’s campus style, conducting interviews with unsuspecting British students. In February he posted a video in which he challenged socialist students to explain why they’re socialist. Later that month, at a TPUK chapter at University of Reading, he asked passersby “whether convicted trans women should be sent to a male or female prison.” 

Like its parent organization, TPUK has turned to a form of Christian nationalism. On its social media accounts, it has posted clips from Rikki Doolan, a Christian musician who lists “journalist” as his occupation on his Twitter bio (which also tags TPUK).

Doolan, who calls himself a pastor in one video, and accuses the “woke” of trying to “re-gender” God, is associated with Spirit Embassy, an international megachurch based in London. 

Doolan, like many associated with the various Turning Point entities, is a Trump supporter. He and the “prophet” of Spirit Assembly visited Trump Tower in 2018 to speak to Trump’s hotel CEO. Three years after he was outed by Vice in 2017 as the man behind “I Am British,” a pro-Trump nationalist campaign, Doolan launched the nationalist group “British Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter.  

During a March 10 drag show protest, Doolan admonished parents who brought their children to “sexualized” events yelling “Shame on you. Shame on you,” and suggested the government should “come down upon” such people.  

The bellicose rhetorical style of Kirk and the broader U.S. Right embraced by Turning Point UK has found its moment in the British culture war. But even as its ideology remains well within a minority in Britain, its defiance may be key to its future. 

TPUK’s confrontational style mirrors Kirk’s, who installed it in the DNA of TPUSA early on. TPUK and its Australian counterpart mimic Kirk likely because his ways have been proven successful in America. And it may turn Kirk’s approving eye across the pond. That approval may in turn provide a desperately needed financial boost, courtesy of the dark money that TPUSA has itself enjoyed. If either survives and manages to reproduce TPUSA’s success, Kirk’s years-long hope will finally come to fruition: beachheads for the international Turning Point brand.