Neo-Fascist, Islamophobic, Misogynistic: The Proud Boys Are on a Trumpian Mission to Crush the Left
Bill Berkowitz / BuzzFlash
(October 12, 2020) — The first presidential debate served up an unpaid political advertisement for the Proud Boys, who are grown men, not boys. The right-wing extremist street gang gained a national platform, upped its recruiting efforts, and is having a merchandizing field day. Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn the Proud Boys, during the debate led to numerous investigations of the nearly all-white group.
Sam Levin’s story in The Guardian was headlined “The far-right Proud Boys … have been linked to assaults on protesters, white supremacist organizing, the spread of Covid misinformation and other threats against Americans.”
At the debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who attempted to moderate, asked Trump about condemning white supremacists. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem,” Trump said.
“Trump basically said to go f**k them up! this makes me so happy,” wrote Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys leader. “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA…well sir! we’re ready!”
“Stand back and stand by” quickly become a best-selling on-line recruiting t-shirt for the group.
Violent, Nationalistic, Islamophobic, Transphobic and Misogynistic
The Anti-Defamation League describe the Proud Boys as “violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic, its members represent a range of ethnic backgrounds, and its leaders vehemently protest any allegations of racism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center classified the organization as an “extremist group.”
A few days after the debate, The New York Times reported that “In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Trump tried to walk (tiptoe) back his support stating; “I’ve said it many times and let me be clear again: I condemn the KKK., I condemn all white supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys.”
Since the debate, the Proud Boys have been in the news more than anytime since their founding in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the Canadian-British right-wing activist, and a VICE Media co-founder who left the company in 2008. McInnes left Proud Boys in 2018. The Proud Boys name is a reference to a song from the musical version of the Disney film Aladdin.
The ADL noted that “VICE magazine built its reputation on publishing juvenile and often offensive material. [McInnes] had been trying to establish himself for years as a professional provocateur, making wildly racist statements and claiming it was all ironic, or tongue-in-cheek. In 2002, he stated, “We seem really racist and homophobic because we hang around with f**s and n*****s so much. It just becomes part of our vernacular.”
According to the BBC’s Mike Wendling, “A Proud Boy must declare that he is ‘a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.’ Their platform, … includes Trumpian ideas (‘glorify the entrepreneur’, ‘close the border’) libertarianism (‘give everyone a gun’, ‘end welfare’) and traditional gender roles (‘venerate the housewife’).
While the group is not “exclusively white” – it has become “notorious for violent political confrontations,” confronting Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Oregon and Washington. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have all banned the group from their platforms, and members and official chapters have been largely shunted towards less-popular network.”
First Vigil: Tracking White Nationalists Criminal Activities
The Guardian’s Sam Levin interviewed Emily Gorcenski, a data scientist who has been tracking far right movements, including the criminal actions of white supremacists for the past several years through the First Vigil website. Gorcenski describes the Proud Boys as “a violent neo-fascist racist street gang. … [that are] allowed to go out and break laws, violate public safety and put people in danger at protest events.”
Gorcenski told Levin that Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn The Proud Boys was an egregious example of “explicit approval of violent white nationalism from the highest reaches of the government.” Gorcenski added: “What this says is the president does not care about the idea of an equitable legal foundation for our country. And these groups see this as tacit permission to not only keep doing what they’re doing, but to ramp it up.”
Since the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally in August 2017, the First Vigil website has been tracking “a number of far-right fascists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis [that] have caught charges for violent crimes. These crimes range from misdemeanors to serious felonies, from state charges to federal charges, and possible penalties can include life in prison or even death.”
Gorcenski began the difficult task of tracking these criminal charges and cases, which “has given anti-fascist and anti-extremist researchers a wealth of information regarding the organizing methods, networks, and objectives of these groups,” according to First Vigil.
According to Levin, “Using court files and other public records,” Gorcenski, who has relocated to Berlin, “has catalogued hundreds of criminal cases, connected the dots of dangerous neo-Nazi networks, and revealed links that journalists and authorities have missed. These days, it can be difficult to keep up. Far-right violence has escalated dramatically under Trump, who has ignored his own government’s domestic terrorism warnings and encouraged vigilante violence against leftists.”
Gorcenski described her methodology: “Like others involved in the sort of counter-white-supremacy game, I was tweeting about these cases and making connections, and eventually decided we can do better than Twitter. So I started a spreadsheet, which turned into First Vigil. I pull court records, and now every weekend, I sit down and go through these cases. At this point, I have a six-month backlog of information to add. And I’ve given up with some protests, because I can’t keep up with every case of some fucking white supremacist who drives his car into a crowd or beats up a Black Lives Matter protester.”
The detailed tracking of white supremacist groups by First Vigil, the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center is critical to our knowledge of the scope and reach of their growing threat that is even now being acknowledged by the FBI. The Proud Boys are the high-profile group de jour, but they are only one of many neo-fascist organizations that have experienced exponential growth since Trump’s 2016 election.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.