|“||Stand back and stand by.||„|
|~ A Proud Boys slogan since October 2020; taken from a comment made by President Donald Trump during a presidential debate.|
The Proud Boys are a male-only Alt-Right organization that promotes political violence. The group has neo-fascist and white nationalist beliefs; they see men – especially white men – and Western culture as under siege; their views have elements of white genocide conspiracy theory. While the group officially claims it does not support white supremacist views, its members often participate in racist rallies, events, and organizations. The organization glorifies violence, and members engage in violence at events it attends. They also maintain a paramilitary wing, the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights.
The organization has been described as a hate group by NPR's The Takeaway and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their founder and former leader is right-wing commentator and Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. The group's name comes from the song "Proud of Your Boy", from the Broadway musical Aladdin, poking fun at the song’s message.
Gavin McInnes co-founded Vice Magazine in 1994 but was pushed out in 2008 after several years of turmoil following a New York Times interview in which he talked about his pride in being white. After leaving, he began "doggedly hacking a jagged but unrelenting path to the far-right fringes of American culture", according to a 2017 profile in The Globe and Mail.
The Proud Boys organization was launched in September 2016, on the website of Taki's Magazine, a far-right publication for which Richard Spencer was executive editor. It existed informally before then as something like a McInnes fan club, and the first gathering of the Brooklyn chapter in July 2016 resulted in a brawl in the bar where they met. The name mocks the song "Proud of Your Boy" from the soundtrack for the film Aladdin, which had become a running theme on McInnes' podcast hosted by Anthony Cumia's Compound Media. McInnes had heard the song at his daughter's school performance in December 2015 and took immediate dislike to the perceived "fake, humble, and self-serving" nature of the lyrics.
The organization has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and NPR's The Takeaway, and Spencer, McInnes, and the Proud Boys have been described as "hipster racists" by Vox and Media Matters for America. McInnes says victim mentality of women and other historically oppressed groups is unhealthy: "There is an incentive to be a victim. It is cool to be a victim." He sees white men and Western culture as "under siege" and described criticism of his ideas as "victim blaming". Their views have elements of white genocide conspiracy theory.
In early 2017, McInnes began distancing himself from the alt-right, saying their focus is race and his focus is what he calls "Western values"; the rebranding effort intensified after the Unite the Right rally. In 2018, McInnes was saying that the Proud Boys were part of the "new right".
The organization glorifies political violence against leftists, re-enacting political assassinations, wearing shirts that praise Augusto Pinochet's murders of leftists, and participating directly in political violence. McInnes has said "I want violence, I want punching in the face. I'm disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough." He stated, "We don't start fights [...] but we will finish them." Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that this form of intentional aggression was not common among far-right groups in the past; she said: "'We're going to show up and we're intending to get in fights,' that's a new thing." In August 2018, Twitter shut down the official account for the group, as well as McInnes' account, under its policy prohibiting violent extremist groups; at the time, the group's profile photo was a member punching a counter-protester. In late November 2018, it was reported, based on an internal memo of the Clark County, Washington Sheriff's Office, that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism. Two weeks later, however, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Oregon office denied that the FBI made such designations, ascribing the error by the Sheriff's Office to a confusion over the FBI designating the group as such, as a designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other outside agencies.
The organization is opposed to feminism and promotes gender stereotypes in which women are subservient to men. The organization has a female-member-only auxiliary wing named "Proud Boys' Girls" that supports the same ideology.
Some men who are not white have joined the Proud Boys, drawn by the organization's advocacy for men, anti-immigrant stance, and embrace of violence.
The Proud Boys say they have an initiation process that has four stages and includes hazing. The first stage is a loyalty oath, on the order of "I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world"; the second is getting punched until the person recites pop culture trivia, such as the names of five breakfast cereals; the third is getting a tattoo and agreeing to not masturbate; and the fourth is getting into a major fight "for the cause".