The pro-Trump ‘meme team’ behind video referencing ‘Reich’

A still from the video shown on a phone
A still from the video which referenced a 'unified Reich' in a mock headline [Getty]

A video posted on Donald Trump’s Truth Social account this week included a reference to the creation of a “unified Reich”, provoking outrage from Democrats, with the Trump campaign later deleting the post.

The campaign attributed its creation to a “random account” and said the staffer who posted it did not notice the words, but its real origin was a trollish collective of online influencers called the Dilley Meme Team.

They are a dedicated, mostly pseudonymous group that produces a slew of pro-Trump videos and images, many of them crude, offensive, satirical or conspiratorial – while others are more traditional and religious-themed.

The Dilley Meme Team boasts of its ties to the Trump campaign, which has given it an unusual status among a host of accounts and loose organisations dedicated to online battles.

Underlining the importance of the digital fight in this election campaign, the Biden campaign recently put out an advertisement for a "Content and Meme Pages Partner Manager".

‘Unified Reich’

The 30-second clip posted to Mr Trump’s Truth Social account on Monday outlined a vision of the US if he returns to the White House.

The video carried mock newspaper headlines portraying a hypothetical Trump victory.

One mentioned the “creation of a unified Reich”, a term now often associated with Nazi Germany. The text appeared to draw on a historical reference to Germany’s unification into a single empire, or Reich, in 1871.

The video caused a wave of coverage and controversy and was later deleted – but it was just one of dozens of Dilley Meme Team videos and images which have been shared by official Trump accounts in recent months.

Some of the videos and memes created by the team – which consists of around two dozen accounts – are crude and insulting parodies of music videos or other content.

Some of their clips have depicted Nikki Haley as a prostitute, Ron DeSantis’s wife Casey DeSantis as a pornographic actress, and President Biden as a paedophile. Others allude to conspiracy theories about the “deep state”, federal agents and vaccines.

A still from a Dilley Meme Team video mocking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, with the governor's face crudely photoshopped onto a child's body
A still from a Dilley Meme Team video mocking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis [Dilley Meme Team]

Mr Trump’s accounts prefer to repost some of the less aggressive content that the team produces - for instance a video called “God Made Trump” that went viral in Maga (Make America Great Again) circles prior to the Iowa caucuses which kicked off the Republican nomination race.

Adapted from an old speech by a radio host, the clip portrayed Mr Trump as hard-working, selfless, and sent directly from heaven to fulfil God’s mission. It enthused many Trump supporters at the same time as it enraged some Christians.

Other Dilley Meme Team videos – for instance, a compilation of clips of Joe Biden stumbling – have been played at Trump campaign events.

Team leader

Most of the members of the collective go by fake names, but the group’s founder and namesake Brenden Dilley, posts and hosts a podcast under his own name.

Mr Dilley bills himself as an entrepreneur, life coach, self-help author and fitness expert.

He frequently makes expletive-filled rants about Mr Trump’s opponents and has used anti-gay slurs on his online show and podcast. Mr Dilley responded to a request for comment with several insults and expletives.

Brenden Dilley seen in one of his online videos, wearing a white baseball cap and staring at the camera with a big "MAGA" sign on the wall next to him
Brenden Dilley attacks Mr Trump's opponents in online videos and a podcast [The Dilley Show]

In 2018 he ran for Congress in a district in Arizona, and finished 11th in the Republican primary with just over 1% of the vote.

There’s no indication that the Dilley Meme Team is funded by the Trump campaign – in fact, the money is flowing in the opposite direction. Mr Dilley and his company have given at least $7,000 to Mr Trump’s campaign, Trump-associated political action committees and the Republican National Committee, according to Federal Election Commission records.

And Mr Dilley and his meme makers have boasted of their access to the campaign, saying that they have received Trump-themed gifts, press passes to rallies, and invitations to Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The New York Times reported in December that Mr Trump suggested edits to one Dilley Meme Team video, which were eagerly incorporated.

After media coverage of the “Reich” video, Mr Dilley alluded on his podcast to things that he “can’t talk about publicly.”

“I can’t discuss any of it,” he said. “They’re slandering me in media.”

The Trump campaign has been contacted for comment.

Mr Dilley’s group professes absolute loyalty towards Mr Trump and some of its crudest and most scathing attacks have been directed at his Republican rivals.

On X earlier this week, he posted: "I've got five months left to play my part in getting President Trump elected, and then I'm getting back to running my other businesses."

Kayla Gogarty, research director at Media Matters for America, a left-wing organisation that monitors conservative and far-right output, said that Mr Trump began sharing videos from the Dilley Meme Team around the time of the 2022 midterm elections.

“His rhetoric is particularly shocking, considering that he has strong ties with the [Trump] campaign and with mainstream Republicans,” she said.

Tactical error?

The group’s aggressive approach that has been celebrated by some of Mr Trump’s biggest supporters.

“Thank you to the Dilley Meme Team!” exclaimed Trump loyalist Kari Lake, after one member of the team created a video highlight reel for the Arizona Republican Senate candidate.

Another conservative influencer tweeted about the Biden campaign job advert: “They're not going to be able to combat the Dilley Meme Team, because their Warlord Brenden doesn't play games!

However, other Trump supporters think that the furore over the “unified Reich” video shows the errors and drawbacks of scorched-earth meme warfare.

“They exist to attack, insult, smear, and it’s all ad hominem,” said John Cardillo, a former New York Police Department officer turned conservative commentator. “None of their attacks are policy based.”

Mr Cardillo is a long-time fan of Mr Trump who still supports the former president but backed Mr DeSantis in the early stages of the Republican primary.

He said the group is making a big mistake in attacking conservatives who dare to offer up differing opinions, and that their tactics are backfiring. He argued that the controversy about the Reich video was overblown, but a gift to Democrats and that the Dilley Meme Team was doing “an incredible disservice” to the Trump campaign.

“The blowback has been huge,” he said. “Team Biden, who I don’t think I’ve ever said a positive word about, turned this into a very effective campaign ad.”