Pride and Passion Part II: A Proud History
First, let me declare here and now this is not meant to be a date-by-date history of the Proud Boys. All that information has been cataloged by many other journalists and resources, and all of it is out there for review by any readers here. This is an opinion piece in relation to whether or not a group such as the Proud Boys should be reached out to for an ‘Alliance’. I am giving a history of the Proud Boys more for a framework for the uninformed reader, but I advocate that anyone interested feel free to research at your leisure; there is an excess of materials available to read. Indeed, nearly 10 days of research for this piece and I only managed to get through their first 2 years, and barely into their 3rd (2018) before my eyeballs began to bleed at the mere sight of a Black and Yellow Banner.
The discussion above might seem out of place, but perhaps through a closer examination of the Proud Boys we can see the parallel I detected in my research. First let me state for the record that in my personal opinion only, the Proud Boys are rife with border-line racist rhetoric and behaviors. They maintain repeatedly over and over and over again that they are not racist and have no racist agenda, but in researching this article not only do they have to commit to monthly, if not weekly, purges to get rid of alt-right members, racists, and Nat-Socs, but key members of their leadership have said things that if taken for their word would be indictments against key racial groups as a danger to society. They walk right up to that line of ‘racist/not-racist’ and tap-dance along it. I have to state this as an opinion only because I just find it to be ironic that a movement that advertises itself as fundamentally anti-racist and pro-feminism can be found saying and doing things that nearly directly contradict those statements just to moments later be forced to purge their movement to prove it. And indeed, Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys/Alt-Knights were all-too-willing to ally themselves with the Alt-Right and White Nationalists/Aryan Resistance movement when it was convenient for them to do so. Charlottesville was the apparent end of that formal relationship, though the Alt-Right contends that McInnes and the Proud Boys were well aware of the violent intents of the AR/WN going there.
Now that my bias has clearly been stated, let me start with a brief, neutral, history of the Proud Boys.
It is not under contention that the Proud Boys began out of a group of very dedicated associates and fans of Gavin McInnes and the media companies he has founded. After a while Gavin McInnes apparently signed off on the idea of creating not necessarily a fan club, but rather a private men’s fraternity. It has also been described by McInnes as a ‘social club’ and ‘masculine drinking society’ and other such terms. Indeed, it really is hard to get a formal declaration of what he wants the Proud Boys to be considered. Perhaps because their functionality has increased beyond the original purview he was willing to grant them, but is not dissatisfied with their current evolution.
Over time McInnes embraced this club and took ownership of it. He wrote out rules for them, including one of the most sinister devices a ‘social club leader’ could employ, namely a doctrine governing their right to sexual pleasures/reproduction. Yes, they have an anti-masturbation clause and advocate for going for internal help from other Proud Boys if you fall off the no-fap wagon. As a person raised in a religious cult, I cannot emphasize to you enough how truly psychologically powerful these two concepts are in creating an in-group indoctrination. Almost all Western religions, cults, and even some Eastern ones use some form of genital control over their followers. Mutilation, deprivation, defilement as unclean, etc. The quickest way to controlling a male’s thought process is through reproductive functions and desires, there is a reason why every religion from ancient Egypt to Western Christian Theologies has used some form of this in its functions. But I digress…
The true galvanizing moment I would say for the Proud Boys, and in fact can be historically traced back to, was the Election and Inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. It was on the day of inauguration that the ‘punch that will live in infamy’ as I declare it, would be thrown. (Or rather ‘the slap seen round the cringe-circle’ more realistically) It was a moment that to me defines what McInnes stands for, and what he wants to Proud Boys to stand for. While leaving the bar they were assembling at, and after reading from a passage of the Proud Boy’s unofficial bible (‘Death of The West’ by Pat Buchanan), McInnes instructed this ‘social club’ to ‘get in formation… Ladies in the center, for protection!’. Upon marching out of the bar and onto the street, it was only a few moments before an Anti-Fa protester, masked and holding a flag, crossed their path. And I do mean, literally crossed their path. In the video released by McInnes ‘documenting’ the incident, he and the protester disappear off frame for a moment, during which time McInnes leads us to believe the Anti-Fa protester struck him or ‘bumped’ into him. In fact he changes his story on his own vlog/podcast twice. We are then persuaded to believe that in ‘self-defense’ Mr. McInnes ‘finished the fight’ by striking the Anti-Fa Protester twice in the face. When the camera refocuses on the subjects, the Anti-Fa member is up against a wall, several feet from McInnes declaring ‘wtf man I was just walking to the other side’, of which McInnes hurls several obscenities at the man who stands by defeated, being crowded by McInnes ‘formation’ of Proud Boys. But rather than keep the full-defensive narrative, later McInnes can be seen and heard relating the incident to a larger group of Proud Boys, bragging about how he hit him so hard the man’s teeth opened his flesh and now he was going to get ‘Loser AIDS’ from the altercation. The Proud Boys present were apparently laughing and cheering on this narrative.
My reason for including this story is to show… Social club is a nice enough narrative, but tell me the last time a member of the White’s Gentleman’s Club located in St. James went crowding the street looking for fist-fights?
But a parallel does exist between the Proud Boys and ‘Liberalists’. Both are heavily influenced by prominent, online, alternative media personalities. In fact both can trace their origins and names from those same personalities. I think the difference can be found in what both movements have come to represent. But whereas the Liberalists have formed via a grass-roots political movement seeking like-minded people to create a better political discourse, the other has a more violent intention.
Indeed, look no further than the steps to become a Proud Boy. These steps are published, and approved, by Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys. The first is to be ‘out and proud’, declaring it with an oath before other confirmed members. The second step is to get a tattoo declaring yourself as a Proud Boy. The third is to submit to a public beating from other members while naming ‘5 types of cereal’. And the fourth, and possibly the most sinister and controversial of them is to engage directly with Anti-Fa. The controversy can come from none other than McInnes himself… He has changed the scope of this engagement with Anti-Fa at least once.
“Fourth degree – The Final step involves “a major fight for the cause,” McInnes said. “You get beat up, kick the crap out of Antifa” and possibly get arrested.”
When faced with the reality that this form of directive is a direct call for violence and illegal activity, Mr. McInnes back-tracked nearly 100% to assume a defensive roll for the Proud Boys, fitting with the public narrative that Proud Boys are never the aggressors in the political violence.
“The 4th degree is for someone who has “endured a major conflict related to the cause.” In the past I’ve joked about “kicking the crap out of antifa” This obviously doesn’t mean you go to someone’s house or even pick a fight with one at a rally. If you do such a thing, that’s 100% on you and has nothing to do with the groups tenets. It’s about defending yourself. We don’t start fights, we finish them. 4th degree is a consolation prize for being thrust into a shitty situation and surviving.”
Again, being ‘thrust’ into these situations seems like a clear decision to change the decisions of these members to join the Proud Boys into an inevitability. To arrive at these protests intentionally, yet declare they were thrust into shitty situations? This seems to deny any agency or responsibility for the action of their decision to show up en masse to a protest where Anti-fa has gathered, let alone the justification of using force to counteract force. Obviously self-defence is necessary at times, but the motivation put forward by McInnes and the Proud Boys seems to stem beyond just defending one’s self.
And this does come to the crux of my personal issues with the Proud Boys… They continually seek to normalize political violence, whilst simultaneously decrying the practice by anyone else that takes it as a course of action.
As a final, flimsy note, in my research for this article, everyone mentions… The Shirts. The Proud boys have an ‘official’ default uniform. A black Polo with yellow-stripe piping on the collar and sleeves. A colleague and work-mate on liberalist projects who is experienced with colour theory in relation to flags and uniforms… ‘Wait… The two most fascistic colors one can select?’ Much to my amazement, I had never connected it before. Almost every military in the world, even if the uniforms are relatively free of the colors of black and yellow, it does almost always reduce down to Black and Yellow/Gold on official insignia. They seem to be the ‘authority’ colors. Medals, epaulets, chevrons for non-commission officers, official ensigns, etc. Almost every military faction from the 1500s on-wards has used these colors to denote military, or fascistic, authority. And even some of them before that.
Seem a bit flimsy? Sure. But combine it with the Fred Perry Logo, of which the Fred Perry brand has nearly demanded to stop being associated with them, asking them not to wear their clothing or declaring it their official garb, is a Laurel Wreath. A long-standing symbol of Roman authority, and military prowess. It does go one step further that the Proud Boys have adopted the Laurel Wreath as a key piece of symbolism. (But people did call me paranoid for pointing that out.)
Another common element seems to be direct language policing. It wasn’t that clear to me until a video of an initiation of a Proud Boy where despite their namesake of ‘Proud’, he was nearly forbidden from stating the word ‘pride’ in his ‘out and proud’ oath. A curious twist. The reason given by the senior member present was that saying ‘proud’ or ‘pride’ in the same sentence as ‘chauvinist’ was redundant… But it took him nearly 30 seconds to verbalize that? Curious. To me the parallel was obvious. ‘Pride’ in oaths is a very dangerous proposition if your movement has ties and alliances with certain levels of the Alt-Right, nationalistic pride can quickly transform into pure racist pride. Indeed, as a Liberalist I would have made the clear distinction then and there. ‘We are proud of being Western Chauvinists, but that is why proud is in the name. Don’t conflate western pride with white pride.’ A simple distinction, but the hesitation seemed to be a direct effort to NOT isolate them from any Alt-Right members watching or listening to the video. All of this shortly before the cereal beat-downs that are either cringe, or creepy, depending on your knowledge level of religious and criminal indoctrination.
So the origins of the Proud Boys seemed steeped in a mythology that is difficult to pin down, even from the man that founded them as he is prone to change his story or directives when encountering clear criticism of his ‘social club’. A group that claims to be feminist, but asks female reporters asking for interviews ‘should they all bring condoms’? A group that claims to not be racist, but borders on religious intolerance that would be very close to racism if not for a very careful ballet of words? The stories have changed, their values and priorities seem to change, but what form have they taken over the past 2-3 years of their existence?