KJ-1. It is highly likely that the Proud Boys will become energized and experience increased membership because of the recent negative media attention the group has received from partisan news outlets and journalists.
KJ-2. It is highly likely the Proud Boys will continue to be a counter element at political protests. Although the group does organize its own rallies, most of its activism is as an answer to adversarial groups like ANTIFA. It is almost certain that civil unrest in the U.S. will continue to rise in months leading to and following the presidential election. This will increase the likelihood of violence among opposing groups.
KJ-3. Despite media reporting, it is highly likely that the Proud Boys will not be designated as a criminal organization anytime soon, although the FBI has clarified that the group may have been tied to extreme acts. This will likely change if Joe Biden is to be elected president: President Trump recently declared ANTIFA a terrorist organization, and it is likely that the Proud Boys will receive that same treatment as a political move.
If you have followed what has been going on in American politics or society over the past few years, there is a chance you may have found yourself wondering if the quote “abandon hope all ye who enter” from Dante’s Inferno should be placed in the arrivals entrance of every U.S. international airport terminal, just as it is placed over the fictionalized gates of hell. Tribalism has set in, and a diverse selection of factions have found themselves locked in battle in domestic political and social protests.
Since the 2016 presidential election, protests and direct activism in the United States have generally been steered by an energized public sphere. Various political and social groups have been formed, strengthened, and locked in a kinetic battle over the superiority of their ideas.
The fringe groups on the traditional “x-axis” model of the political spectrum have managed to gather significant media attention. The unfortunate reality of that is the hyper-partisan nature of journalistic coverage. It happens on both sides, with groups like “ANTIFA movement” on the left being used as political pawns for the right, and the “Boogaloo movement” on the right being used as a political pawn for the left. This hyper-partisanship makes it difficult to separate truth from falsehoods and analyze these groups objectively.
In the Swahili language, Uhuru is a word for freedom, liberation, and autonomy. In the West, the term has ironically been appropriated as the “battle-cry” of the Proud Boys, one of the strangest contemporary political groups to emerge in the U.S. Chances are, if you encounter the Proud Boys in the wild, you will hear Uhuru chanted in unison among its members.
On September 25th, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency. Prior to that announcement, Oregon had endured months of hardship. Recent wildfires had wreaked havoc across the state, destroying homes and forcing families to evacuate. In the city of Portland, protests for law enforcement reforms resulted in almost nightly riots, violence, and destruction, caused by primarily left-wing groups like ANTIFA and their allies.
On that day, however, the reason for the declared emergency was different. The Proud Boys were set to march in Portland the following day, and it was expected that their presence alone would spark civil unrest. The reason given for their march was to seek some sort of vigilante justice against the adversarial groups causing destruction in the city.
The rally was rather uneventful. At least in the sense that it remained relatively peaceful. In national media, however, the Proud Boys once again became the target of conversation and media talking points.
Seventy-two hours later, on the evening of the 29th, the U.S. public was graciously treated to the first presidential debate, between candidates Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. During the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked the President: “Are you willing tonight, to condemn white supremacist and militia groups, and, to say, that they need to stand down, and not add to the violence at a number of these cities?” The President hesitated to directly condemn any groups. He asked for clarification on which groups Wallace meant. Biden suggested the Proud Boys, to which the President replied, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
The Fallout: Although the President publicly denounced the group a few days later, let us just say, the partisan media were given a gift.
“Proud of Your Boy”
Gavin McInnes first heard the song “Proud of your boy” at his daughter’s school production of Aladdin. The song itself was cut from Disney’s 1992 animated classic, and according to McInnes is “the most annoying song in the world.” That conclusion was not based on its musical composition but on its lyrics. According to McInnes, “if there’s one song that would make a father totally devoid of pride, it would be this ‘Proud of Your Boy’.” The core message of the song involves Aladdin apologizing to his mother for what McInnes would consider a boy acting “like [sic] boys do.”
McInnes is no stranger to controversy. In 1994 he co-founded Vice Media which he left it in 2008 due to “creative differences.” Since then he has been involved with multiple right-wing and alternative news sites. His activities have ranged from being a commentator on Fox News to having his own internet show on various independent networks.
Many media outlets and journalists consider him to be some sort of “racist hipster,” likely due to his profane and unfiltered nature and punk rock attitude towards politics and culture. McInnes has written guest columns in white nationalist affiliated websites such as VDARE, American Renaissance, and Takis Magazine.
Furthermore, McInnes has openly given a platform and even praise towards prominent white supremacists like Jared Taylor, Augustus Invictus, and Richard Spencer. Despite being documented using racist and sexist language, McInnes vocally claims that he or his Proud Boys are not white nationalists or racist in any way. Media outlets think differently, and they commonly label both parties as allies of the white nationalist movement.
Ideology, Unit Composition, Tactics, Techniques, Procedures, and All the Other Good Stuff.
The group’s official website claims that the Proud Boys are a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.” Although only men can be part of the organization, women have their own supportive sub-group called “Proud Boy’s Girls” that is officially recognized by Proud Boys.
- Ideology. The Proud Boys state their values as: “Minimal government, maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-drug war, closed borders, anti-racial guilt, anti-racism, pro-free speech, pro-gun rights, glorifying the entrepreneur, venerating the housewife, and reinstating a spirit of western chauvinism.” Despite being labeled as a white nationalist group, the Proud Boys claim to be open to all races and their membership corroborates that. Nonetheless, there have been ties between some Proud Boys’ members and proclaimed white nationalist groups, as well as appearances at affiliated rallies. The group has publicly decried those members and separates them from its base.
- Command Structure. Unlike the ANTIFA and Boogaloo ideological movements, the Proud Boys have some semblance of a command structure. At the top is the Chairman, followed by an Elder Chapter consisting of seven other members. Outside of the centralized command, various small local chapters make up the bulk of the group’s composition. The current Chairman is a man named Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio is a Cuban-American. This complicates the claims that the Proud Boys are a white nationalist group.
- Uniforms & Appearance. Black and yellow are the group’s official colors and, until recently, a similarly colored Fred Perry polo shirt. Proud Boys commonly sport those colors on various items, although some members dress casually. Caveat: no cargo shorts allowed.
- Membership & Initiation. There are a total of four degrees within the membership system:
First Degree: A prospective member openly declares: “I am a western chauvinist, and I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
Second Degree: Firstly, a first degree Proud Boy must be “jumped in” by receiving a physical beating by established members while loudly reciting the names of five breakfast cereals. Secondly, the Proud Boy must take a personal vow to give up masturbation thereby increasing testosterone and having increased sexual encounters (I am not making this up).
Thirds Degree: A second degree Proud Boy must get a Proud Boys tattoo (size, shape, etc subjective to each individual member).
Fourth Degree: The fourth degree is more of an “addition” to the primary three. This degree is awarded to a Proud Boy who has “endured a major conflict related to the cause.” McInnes himself wrote an article on the official group’s website clarifying what that means after controversy over the degree’s adversarial and violent tone.
- Protests/Counter-protests: Proud Boys’ participation in political and social protests is what ultimately turned them into a topic of national conversation. Some view them as the right-wing answer to the ANTIFA movement. Nevertheless, they have been documented, both journalistically and judicially, as being at times an aggressive and violent force in some of the most contested recent protests in the U.S.
The New Normal
The Proud Boys are not going anywhere, and their recent media coverage has only energized them more. The central threat they present is of violent political and social protests, although they are not known to attack or harass civilians. At grassroots rallies, they organize in support of their causes. The direction that the group will take in the coming months is unknown, but the conditions are set for ample opportunities to demonstrate its growing activism and membership. Media coverage is likely to inspire more people to join the group in protest of the media and groups like ANTIFA who are in direct opposition to the Proud Boys’ ideology.
This article was written by Michael Ellmer and originally published on Grey Dynamics.