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Royce White, a Black former pro basketball player who led protests in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd, made his first appearance on "The Alex Jones Show" about two years ago. As he spoke, it became clear that the deep suspicion of government authority that inspired him to march in the summer of 2020 had carried him into Jones' paranoid orbit.

"We all know when the time comes and authoritarianism is at its peak, the police and the troops who just take marching orders are going to be the ones forcibly vaccinating you and your kids," he said.

Jones, a purveyor of conspiracy theories about everything from 9/11 to the murder of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was thrilled by their conversation. "You're awesome, you're dead-on, and we're going to learn a lot from you," he enthused.

In the 2010s, White was known for fighting to get the NBA to accommodate his generalized anxiety disorder, a public stand that won him journalistic admiration even as his athletic career faltered. (The Nation's Dave Zirin called him a "mental health revolutionary" and compared him to Billie Jean King and Muhammad Ali.) Then, in 2020, he was hailed as a rising civil rights activist. "Royce White Towers Above the Minneapolis Protests, and Thousands Are Looking Up to Him," said a Washington Post headline. "If Donald Trump continues to threaten us with the military, this will continue to escalate," White said on CNN, adding that people were "tired of tyranny."

Yet White, distrustful of established power, also chafed under the constraints of what seemed to him like liberal orthodoxy. He was drawn, he told Jones, to "people who the establishment and the corporatocracy tried to silence, whether it be you, whether it be Minister Louis Farrakhan, whether it be a guy now like Robert Malone" — a major anti-vaccine influencer — "or a Steve Bannon."

By 2023, White was not just appearing on Jones' show but also guest-hosting it. Bannon, Trump's first chief strategist, had become a mentor to him, delighting in his unvarnished machismo. "Women have become too mouthy," White said on Bannon's "War Room" podcast. "As the Black man in the room, I'll say that." Elsewhere, White denounced the "Jewish lobby" and the "Jewish elite" and called Israel "the linchpin of the new world order." He described the LGBTQ movement as "Luciferian" and wrote that it's "the brainchild of radical feminists and their cucked men." In 2020, he wrote in Tulsi Gabbard, then a Democratic member of Congress, for president but is now fully behind Trump.

White's evolution might seem familiar to those who've followed the journeys of onetime progressive icons like Naomi Wolf and Russell Brand into what Naomi Klein called, in her great book "Doppelganger," the "mirror world" of the far-right. More than anyone else, though, White demonstrates how that mirror world is consuming the Republican Party, because on Saturday, delegates at Minnesota's Republican convention voted overwhelmingly to endorse him for Senate. Discussing his victory on his podcast, "Please, Call Me Crazy," White thanked Jones and his Infowars website. "A lot of Infowars fans in the Republican Party delegation there on Saturday at the convention," White said.

Even more central to White's triumph was Bannon, who introduced him at the convention via video. After Trump lost the presidency in 2020, Bannon urged his listeners to seize control of the Republican Party by flooding it at the precinct level, and all over the country, they responded in droves.

"Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers," ProPublica reported in 2021. White's endorsement looks like a fruit of that strategy.

"Right now, there's a highly motivated core of Alex Jones, Steve Bannon-esque Republicans" in Minnesota, said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the state Republican Party who despairs of its MAGA transformation. They're the ones who are "showing up on beautiful Saturday afternoons, spending, you know, hundreds and hundreds of dollars to attend these conventions."

On Wednesday evening, I spoke to White for almost an hour and a half. He insisted that he was not antisemitic because his comments were only about Jewish elites, who he said exploited ordinary Jews. He was eager to talk about central banking, the CIA and the growing disillusionment among young Black men with the Democratic Party. It was harder to draw him out on the subject of his political transformation, because he insisted he hasn't changed that much. In 2020, he pointed out, one of the marches he led was to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; he's long seen the Fed as the root of many evils. During the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, he said, a common refrain was that "the whole system is guilty." As he sees it, the MAGA movement represents a similar indictment of the status quo. The "nationalist populist movement that has bubbled up around and with Donald Trump and other individuals like Steve Bannon rejects how corporate America and the corporate elite and the permanent political class has operated for a number of decades," he said.

He bristled when I asked about Jones, whose photograph is on his campaign website. "Why is it that white liberal women in this country are so hellbent on telling Black men in America what we should and shouldn't think?" he said. At other times, he spoke with a sort of pitying condescension about my naiveté. "You may not know as a writer, but I guarantee you that your higher-ups, they know exactly how dangerous I am intellectually," he said. "They know exactly how dangerous I am politically." He continued, invoking Malcolm X, "Anytime a Black man steps up who is competent on the issues philosophically, politically, spiritually, socially, economically, they start to plan how they're going to kill him."

White isn't guaranteed to be the Republican nominee for Senate; he still needs to win the primary in August. But Brodkorb doubts he'll face a serious challenger. "Royce White won with 67% of the vote on Saturday," Brodkorb said. "The party's going to have an obligation in some ways to support the endorsement process." Anyone who takes White on will therefore have to go up against both the establishment and the insurgent wing of the party. And if a challenger succeeds in wresting the nomination from him, that person's reward will be an uphill contest against Amy Klobuchar, who has, according to one recent poll, a 54% approval rating in the state.

If he is the Republican nominee, White will probably be a gift to Democrats this cycle, particularly at a time when Republicans hope to exploit liberal divides over Israel. But while the mainstreaming of figures like White may be useful to Democrats in the short term, in the long term, it's a sign of a collapsed consensus about the nature of reality that bodes ill for liberal democracy.

"When looking at the mirror world, it can seem obvious that millions of people have given themselves over to fantasy, to make-believe, to playacting," wrote Klein. "The trickier thing, the uncanny thing, really, is that's what they see when they look at us."

It's certainly what White sees. "It never dawned on the liberals or the liberal institutions or the staunch base that maybe they're being herded and shepherded into a sort of groupthink," he said. Trumpism once felt to him tyrannical. Now he experiences it as freedom. The trouble is, he's not alone.

Michelle Goldberg became an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times in 2017 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.