Other Group

Proud Boys

Type:

Far-Right Group

Founder:

Gavin McInnes

Proud Boys is a far-right and occasionally violent movement created by Gavin McInnes, a former journalist and political commentator best known as a co-founder of Vice Media[1] with a history of making anti-Semitic statements critical of the state of Israel and Jews. [2] McInnes, who has stated that he was never the group’s official “leader,” left the Proud Boys in November 2018 following criminal charges that were leveled against multiple Proud Boys members. In his statement, McInnes said he was reluctant to leave the organization, strongly denying that the group supports “white nationalists,” but did so after his “legal team and law enforcement [told him] that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing.” [3] [4]

Observers on the political Left[5] and the Right have characterized the Proud Boys as extremist. [6] A number of members, former members, or people claiming to be members have been involved in white supremacist activities or associated with explicit white supremacists. [7] The group officially claims to oppose racism and admits non-white members (as an all-male organization, it bars women from joining). Proud Boys founder McInnes has asserted that “[w]e are not an extremist group and do not have ties with white nationalists.” [8] The Proud Boys openly professes “Western chauvinism,” which it defines as “includ[ing] all races, religions, and sexual preferences,” arguing that “the West is the best [civilization].” [9] [10]

The organization participates in street violence and its hazing rituals are notorious for their brutality. [11] A number of members were arrested after a brawl with Antifa protesters in New York City in October 2018. [12] Due to Proud Boys’ extremist views, penchant for street violence, and use of intimidation tactics, local Republican Party organizations which have associated with the group have faced criticism from conservatives and liberals alike. [13]

Background

Proud Boys is a self-described “far-right”[14] group announced in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the controversial ousted co-founder of Vice Media. McInnes’s manifesto, “Introducing the Proud Boys,” was published at the website of Greek shipping heir and paleo-conservative commentator Taki Theodoracopulos, himself notable for appearing to praise Nazi German soldiers who fought Americans and for claiming Jews were “trafficking in the Holocaust,” among other anti-Semitic and racialist statements. [15]

The group purports to be a legitimate all-male social organization. [16] Critics have characterized Proud Boys as one of a number of “alt-lite” nationalist groups which do not explicitly proclaim white supremacy. [17] The group officially denies that it’s “alt-Right” and it has non-white members and leaders. [18] For example, Enrique Tarrio, who identifies as Afro-Cuban, is president of the Miami chapter. [19]

Race and Ethnicity

McInnes’s manifesto outlined the “first degree” of membership as “mak[ing] your Western chauvinism public.” [20] While McInnes has insisted that “Western chauvinism” does not imply white supremacism, left-leaning critics argue that the group’s beliefs are “not such a big jump over to ‘white people are the best.’”[21]

For his part, McInnes has said that he was inspired by Patrick Buchanan’s 2002 book Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. [22] When that book was published, conservative writer Jonah Goldberg condemned it for what he claimed was its duplicitous rhetorical support for white supremacism. [23]

McInnes himself has said that Proud Boys’ ideology is “sort of like the alt-right without the racism.” [24] He has also made statements implying white males are deserving of special “respect” by virtue of their sex and ethnicity:[25]

I’m a Western chauvinist. I’m all about the culture. Now, part of that is recognizing that white males seem to be the ones who made it and respecting that, but it doesn’t mean you’re not invited to the party.

McInnes has said, “I’m becoming anti-Semitic”[26] after a trip to Israel. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, McInnes said:[27]

I think a lot of accusations about me are inaccurate, but to call me a xenophobe is an accurate criticism. I don’t even see it as disputable that any other culture is in the same league as the West – that’s why everyone wants to emigrate here, because we’re simply better.

McInnes has also defended Richard Spencer,[28] an avowed white supremacist who became infamous when he greeted the election of President Donald Trump with the call “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” (“hail victory” is the literal translation of the Nazi regime slogan Sieg Heil), which his supporters responded to with Nazi-style salutes. [29] Referring to Spencer’s openly expressed desire for ethnic cleansing[30] (ethnic cleansing is recognized by the U.S. Helsinki Commission, a joint Congressional-Executive body protecting international human rights, as a crime against humanity[31]), McInnes wrote:[32]

I’ve known alt-right pioneer Richard Spencer since he got me the job at this magazine and even he, the head of the snake, comes across as perfectly reasonable in conversation. He doesn’t think nonwhites can be included in a harmonious America, but everything else on his plate is relatively civil. […] When the argument is presented with a modicum of rigor as Spencer does, it seems, if not reasonable, then certainly worthy of inclusion in the public discourse.

The left-leaning Anti-Defamation League asserts that McInnes has routinely used racial slurs on his talk shows and made Nazi-style salutes. [33]

Sexual Ideology and Practices

Central to the Proud Boys is a set of unconventional sexual practices and ideologies. Admission to the “second degree” of membership, as described by McInnes in his manifesto, requires engaging in the practice of partial abstention from masturbation. [34] McInnes derived the so-called principle of “no-wanks” (in fact, the organization allows limited masturbation) from the relationship advice of Dante Nero, a former male adult performer turned comedian and podcaster. [35] (As of October 2018, Nero has repudiated McInnes and the Proud Boys.)

McInnes allegedly supported the abstentionist practice to encourage Proud Boys to “talk to women, and then marry them, procreate, be strong American family men, help restore the natural order of things that had been knocked out of whack by feminism.” [36]

Socially conservative writer Joy Pullman, a critic of Proud Boys, noted, however, that “For [Dante] Nero, the purpose of swearing off porn seems to be getting in bed with more women, not necessarily making a commitment to anyone. It’s unclear which way the Proud Boys themselves lean.” Further, Pullman warned, “There’s a grave danger, however, in nursing rather than resolving and channeling [male] resentment. It risks turning these men into what they hate.” [37]

Violent Conduct

Initiation Rituals

Disorganized street violence is closely connected to the Proud Boys’ ideology. McInnes has said, “You’re not a man until you’ve had the crap beaten out of you [and] beaten the crap out of someone” and further that “fighting solves everything.” [38]

The group’s initiation rituals, described in a manifesto published by McInnes at the far-right paleoconservative website Taki’s Magazine, include the following: “You must get the crap beat out of you by at least five guys until you can name five breakfast cereals.” [39] The highest “level” of membership is reportedly reserved for members who have been involved in violent incidents. [40]

Like its left-wing street violence counterpart Antifa, Proud Boys has asserted that it only engages in defensive violence. [41] Observers have found this claim not to be credible,[42] and a number of Proud Boys have been arrested for their involvement in street violence. [43]

Involvement in Charlottesville Riot (2017)

Observers have identified suspected members of the Proud Boys as being involved in the 2017 riotous assemblies by white supremacists and far-left Antifa in Charlottesville. [44] The organizer of the initial white supremacist demonstration, Jason Kessler, was reportedly a member of Proud Boys who was expelled from the group. It is unclear if he was expelled before[45] or after the rally, which devolved into a riot punctuated by a fatal vehicle ramming attack by a white supremacist. [46]

Metropolitan Republican Club Incident

In October 2018, the Metropolitan Republican Club of New York invited McInnes to speak at the organization’s Manhattan headquarters. Prior to McInnes’s speech, the Club was vandalized by apparent anarchists, who left graffiti on the Club’s doors and threw a brick through the building’s windows. [47]

McInnes later delivered the scheduled speech, but a violent brawl ensued between Proud Boys supporters and left-wing counter-demonstrators. As a result of the fracas, nine Proud Boys and six Antifa protesters were arrested for their involvement. [48]

Shalala Headquarters Demonstration

In late 2018, Proud Boys demonstrators with the support of Miami-Dade County Republican Party chairman Nelson Diaz shouted down House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) at an event at the campaign headquarters of candidate Donna Shalala (D-Florida). The threatening incident, which involved demonstrators banging on the locked door of the office, was condemned by House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), who was injured in a 2017 assassination attempt, and a number of other Republican officeholders. [49] Diaz later apologized for the door-banging incident and denied willfully associating with Proud Boys. [50]

Response

In addition to states filing charges against a number of Proud Boys members involved in street fighting, technology companies have banned the group from their platforms, saying the group promotes political violence. Facebook (which also owns Instagram) kicked McInnes and a number of Proud Boys-related groups off its service after the 2018 Metropolitan Republican Club incident,[51] and PayPal banned the group alongside a number of Antifa organizations. [52]

Leadership

Gavin McInnes

Gavin McInnes is the founder and figurehead of the Proud Boys until November 2018, when he left the organization. He rose to prominence as a co-founder of Vice Media, but he was ousted from the company in 2008 after a number of controversial comments;[53] in a 2003 New York Times interview, he said:[54]

I love being white and I think it’s something to be very proud of […] I don’t want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.

Since departing Vice Media, McInnes has courted numerous race-relations[55] and sex-relations controversies, including during a period as a contributor to opinion programming on Fox News. [56]

McInnes left the Proud Boys in November 2018 following criminal charges that were leveled against multiple Proud Boys members. In his statement, McInnes said he was reluctant to leave the organization, strongly denying that the group supports “white nationalists,” but did so after his “legal team and law enforcement [told him] that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing.” [57] [58]

References

  1. Benson, Richard. “How Terry Richardson Created Porn ‘chic’ and Moulded the Look of an Era.” The Guardian. October 28, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/28/terry-richardson-porn-chic-moulded-look-era-fashion-industry-photographer. ^
  2. “Ex-Vice Founder: Israelis Have ‘whiny Paranoid Fear of Nazis’.” The Times of Israel. March 16, 2017. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.timesofisrael.com/alt-right-star-says-israelis-have-whiny-paranoid-fear-of-nazis/. ^
  3. Jason Wilson. “Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Quits ‘Extremist’ Far-Right Group.” The Guardian. November 22, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/proud-boys-founder-gavin-mcinnes-quits-far-right-group ^
  4. “Gavin McInnes Quits the Proud Boys.” YouTube. November 21, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://youtu.be/DGrPjx2V_TA ^
  5. “From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate.” Anti-Defamation League. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/from-alt-right-to-alt-lite-naming-the-hate. ^
  6. Rothman, Noah. “The Right Shouldn’t Legitimize Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys.” Commentary Magazine. October 16, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/politics-ideas/rights-reckless-racial-agitators-proud-boys/. ^
  7. Wicentowski, Danny. “Inside St. Louis’ Proud Boys, the Far-Right Frat Accused of Fascism.” Riverfront Times. September 26, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://m.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/inside-st-louis-proud-boys-the-far-right-frat-accused-of-fascism/Content?oid=24876365&showFullText=true. ^
  8. Jason Wilson. “Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Quits ‘Extremist’ Far-Right Group.” The Guardian. November 22, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/proud-boys-founder-gavin-mcinnes-quits-far-right-group ^
  9. Disser, Nicole. “Gavin McInnes and His ‘Proud Boys’ Want to Make Men Great Again.” Bedford Bowery. July 28, 2016. Accessed November 09, 2018. http://bedfordandbowery.com/2016/07/gavin-mcinnes-and-his-proud-boys-want-to-make-white-men-great-again/. ^
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  11. Lowry, Rich. “The Poisonous Allure of Right-Wing Violence.” National Review. October 19, 2018. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/gavin-mcinnes-proud-boys-poisonous-violence/. ^
  12. Offenhartz, Jake. “NYPD Arrests Another Proud Boy On Misdemeanor Riot & Assault Charges.” Gothamist. October 26, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. http://gothamist.com/2018/10/26/proud_boy_arrest_kuriakose.php. ^
  13. Vassolo, Martin. “Miami-Dade GOP Chair Apologizes for ‘unbecoming’ Behavior during Shalala Protest.” Miamiherald. October 20, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article220381935.html. ^
  14. Wicentowski, Danny. “Inside St. Louis’ Proud Boys, the Far-Right Frat Accused of Fascism.” Riverfront Times. September 26, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://m.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/inside-st-louis-proud-boys-the-far-right-frat-accused-of-fascism/Content?oid=24876365&showFullText=true. ^
  15. JTA. “Respected British Magazine Publishes Defense of Nazi German Troops.” The Times of Israel. May 18, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.timesofisrael.com/respected-british-magazine-publishes-defense-of-nazi-german-troops/. ^
  16. Disser, Nicole. “Gavin McInnes and His ‘Proud Boys’ Want to Make Men Great Again.” Bedford Bowery. July 28, 2016. Accessed November 12, 2018. http://bedfordandbowery.com/2016/07/gavin-mcinnes-and-his-proud-boys-want-to-make-white-men-great-again/. ^
  17. “From Alt Right to Alt Lite: Naming the Hate.” Anti-Defamation League. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/from-alt-right-to-alt-lite-naming-the-hate. ^
  18. Proud Boys Website. Accessed November 1, 2019. http://proudboysusa.com/ ^
  19. Gupta, Aron. “Why Young Men of Color Are Joining White-Supremacist Groups.” The Daily Beast. September 6, 2018. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-young-men-of-color-are-joining-white-supremacist-groups ^
  20. McInnes, Gavin. “Introducing: The Proud Boys.” Taki’s Magazine. September 15, 2016. Archived from the original 12 November 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20181112143936/http://takimag.com/article/introducing_the_proud_boys_gavin_mcinnes/2/ ^
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  23. Goldberg, Jonah. “Killing Whitey.” National Review. February 25, 2002. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.nationalreview.com/2002/02/killing-whitey-jonah-goldberg/. ^
  24. Quoted in “626: White Haze.” This American Life. December 14, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/626/transcript. ^
  25. Quoted in “626: White Haze.” This American Life. December 14, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/626/transcript. ^
  26. “Ex-Vice Founder: Israelis Have ‘whiny Paranoid Fear of Nazis’.” The Times of Israel. March 16, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.timesofisrael.com/alt-right-star-says-israelis-have-whiny-paranoid-fear-of-nazis/. ^
  27. Quoted in Houpt, Simon. “Vice Co-founder Gavin McInnes’s Path to the Far-right Frontier.” The Globe and Mail. November 12, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/gavin-mcinnes-path-to-the-far-rightfrontier/article36024918/. ^
  28. McInnes, Gavin. “Love Your Fellow Hater.” Taki’s Magazine. October 06, 2016. Archived from the original September 30, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20180930014005/http://takimag.com/article/love_your_fellow_hater_gavin_mcinnes/. ^
  29. Goldstein, Joseph. “Alt-Right Gathering Exults in Trump Election With Nazi-Era Salute.” The New York Times. November 20, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html. ^
  30. Farber, Madeline. “Richard Spencer Speaks at University of Florida: What to Know.” Fox News. October 19, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.foxnews.com/us/richard-spencer-speaks-at-university-of-florida-what-to-know. ^
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  33. “Proud Boys.” Anti-Defamation League. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/proud-boys. ^
  34. McInnes, Gavin. “Introducing: The Proud Boys.” Taki’s Magazine. September 15, 2016. Archived from the original 18 October 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20181018224830/http://takimag.com/article/introducing_the_proud_boys_gavin_mcinnes/. ^
  35. “626: White Haze.” This American Life. December 14, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/626/transcript. ^
  36. “626: White Haze.” This American Life. December 14, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/626/transcript. ^
  37. Pullman, Joy. “The Proud Boys Are Boys In A Sexual Wasteland Trying To Become Men.” The Federalist. October 11, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. http://thefederalist.com/2017/10/06/proud-boys-and-porn/. ^
  38. Wilson, Jason. “Who Are the Proud Boys, ‘western Chauvinists’ Involved in Political Violence?” The Guardian. July 14, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/14/proud-boys-far-right-portland-oregon. ^
  39. McInnes, Gavin. “Introducing: The Proud Boys.” Taki’s Magazine. September 15, 2016. Archived from the original 18 October 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20181018224830/http://takimag.com/article/introducing_the_proud_boys_gavin_mcinnes/. ^
  40. Wicentowski, Danny. “Inside St. Louis’ Proud Boys, the Far-Right Frat Accused of Fascism.” Riverfront Times. September 26, 2018. Accessed November 09, 2018. https://m.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/inside-st-louis-proud-boys-the-far-right-frat-accused-of-fascism/Content?oid=24876365&showFullText=true. ^
  41. Sundaresh, Jaya. “Are Proud Boys a Hate Group? Experts Weigh In.” The Alt. July 19, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. http://thealt.com/2017/07/19/proud-boys-hate-group-experts-say-not-yet/. ^
  42. Marcotte, Amanda. “Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys: Defending Themselves, or Spoiling for a Fight?” Salon. October 17, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.salon.com/2018/10/16/gavin-mcinnes-and-the-proud-boys-defending-themselves-or-spoiling-for-a-fight/. ^
  43. Rosenberg, Rebecca. “Proud Boys Member Gets Makeover for Court Appearance.” New York Post. October 25, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/10/25/proud-boys-member-gets-makeover-for-court-appearance/. ^
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  45. Keneally, Meghan. “The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers: 2 Controversial Groups Involved in Major Protests.” ABC News. July 19, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://abcnews.go.com/US/proud-boys-oath-keepers-controversial-groups-involved-major/story?id=56687836. ^
  46. Burch, Sean. “Twitter Suspends Proud Boys and Gavin McInnes Before ‘Unite the Right’ Rally Begins.” TheWrap. August 11, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.thewrap.com/twitter-suspends-proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes/. ^
  47. Lavacca, Katherine, Larry Celona, and Ben Feuerherd. “Republican Club on Upper East Side Vandalized.” New York Post. October 12, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/10/12/republican-club-on-upper-east-side-vandalized/. ^
  48. Moore, Tina, and Ben Feuerherd. “NYPD to Arrest 9 Members of Far-right Proud Boys Involved in Brawl.” New York Post. October 15, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/10/15/nypd-to-arrest-9-members-of-far-right-proud-boys-involved-in-brawl/. ^
  49. Rosenberg, Eli. “Hecklers Curse and Call Nancy Pelosi a ‘communist’ as Far Right Disrupts a Political Event.” The Washington Post. October 19, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/20/hecklers-curse-call-nancy-pelosi-communist-far-right-disrupts-political-event/?utm_term=.a07fc076e378. ^
  50. Vassolo, Martin. “Miami-Dade GOP Chair Apologizes for ‘unbecoming’ Behavior during Shalala Protest.” Miamiherald. October 20, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article220381935.html. ^
  51. Caralle, Katelyn. “Proud Boys Groups, Founder Banned from Facebook, Instagram.” Washington Examiner. October 31, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/proud-boys-groups-founder-banned-from-facebook-instagram. ^
  52. Blake, Andrew. “PayPal Punts Proud Boys, Antifa Groups for Discrimination.” The Washington Times. November 10, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018.  https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/nov/10/paypal-punts-proud-boys-antifa-groups-discriminati/. ^
  53. Martin, Peter. “Vice Media Was Built on a Bluff. What Happens When It Gets Called?” Daily Intelligencer. June 11, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/06/inside-vice-media-shane-smith.html. ^
  54. Quoted in Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “The Edge of Hip: Vice, the Brand.” The New York Times, September 28, 2003. Accessed November 13, 2018. ^
  55. France, Lisa Respers. “Exploring Two Sides of Privilege with #TakeUsDown.” CNN. July 01, 2015. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2015/07/01/living/take-us-down-hashtag-feat/index.html. ^
  56. McDermott, Emmet. “Vice Co-Founder Gavin McInnes on Trolling Feminists: I’m Not Andy Kaufman; This Isn’t a Joke.” The Hollywood Reporter. May 19, 2015. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/gavin-mcinnes-interview-im-not-796177. ^
  57. Jason Wilson. “Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Quits ‘Extremist’ Far-Right Group.” The Guardian. November 22, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/proud-boys-founder-gavin-mcinnes-quits-far-right-group ^
  58. “Gavin McInnes Quits the Proud Boys.” YouTube. November 21, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2019. https://youtu.be/DGrPjx2V_TA ^
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