Their founder says they’re just a men’s club. The facts say otherwise.
First published in Daily Maverick 168
US President Donald Trump is under fire for emboldening a white supremacist group called the Proud Boys. The founder, however, says don’t call them racist; sexist yes, racist no: “We are a men’s club that meets about once a month to drink beer … ”
By now, possibly the whole world has heard of the Proud Boys, the white supremacist group seemingly encouraged by Trump during the first US presidential debate on Tuesday 29 September.
The group — “a men’s organisation for Western chauvinists” — was started in 2016 in New York by Canadian Gavin McInnes, who had immigrated to the US.
In an article, he writes: “We are a fraternal organisation like the Elk’s Lodge. 100% of us are Western chauvinists, which simply means we all believe the West is the Best … There are NO racial requirements to be in the Proud Boys.” Although there are apparently no race restrictions, there is a sex restriction – to become a member, one must be a man, i.e. be born with a member of one’s own: “You have to be born male, by the way,” says McInnes in one of his talks.
Possibly to prove that all races are welcome, McInnes signs off the 2017 article mentioned above as follows: Uhuru, Gavin McInnes The Prophet (peace be upon me). And, yes, as indicated by the reference to the Prophet, he hates Muslims. McInnes is on record – in interviews and in his own writings – as being an Islamophobe.
Possibly the only thing he hates more than Muslims is teamwork. In 2014 he was invited to a TEDx Talk where he was interrupted by what appeared to be an organiser at the start of his speech, apparently to be told what the topic was after starting by saying that he thought TED was gay.
On being informed that the topic he had been invited to talk about was teamwork, McInnes turned to the audience, visibly disappointed, and said: “This whole seminar is about teamwork?… Jesus Christ, teamwork! … The whole reason I emigrated here from Canada was to get away from collectivism and the team! Fu%^ the team!!! Half my fu%$ing job is placating idiots because they’re part of the team… That’s that Obama bullshit… unless we’re playing football get away from me!” You get the picture.
It may be pertinent to add that during that TEDx Talk he also said: “I’m not a smart guy.”
The day after Tuesday’s US presidential debate, a chapter of the Proud Boys in Salt Lake City, Utah, held a joint media briefing with a local – black, female – Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader.
“I don’t care what colour your skin is, we are all Americans, and we need to come together instead of trying to divide,” said one.
After the now infamous comment made by Trump during the presidential debate – “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by…” – the group immediately jumped into action and started producing merchandise saying exactly that, some chapters even reworking the logo to make the “Stand Back and Stand By” stand out. They took to the streets on Wednesday 30 September displaying this “motto” and “Proud Boys standing by”.
Also on Wednesday, Trump tried to adapt his comments, but he is no Missy Elliott, and could neither flip nor reverse it: “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are … I really don’t know who they are, I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work … again, I don’t know who the Proud Boys are … ”
The group is known for joining right-wing protests and fighting counterprotesters. They are staunch Trump supporters who The New York Times reports have been known to offer security for “Republican activist” events.
Trump can say he does not know who the Proud Boys are but he must be aware of them after the FBI in 2018 classified them as an extremist group. Among the stated values of the Proud Boys are “Glorifying the Entrepreneur” and “Venerating the Housewife”. DM168
An Wentzel is Night Editor and specialist reporter at Daily Maverick. She went to the USA to visit family as the pandemic struck and is marooned in the land of the “free”.