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Illusrated by Dhabi AlMansoori.

Proud Boys: Yet Another Right-Wing Extremist Group

The Proud Boys, mentioned by Donald Trump in the first presidential debate, are a new manifestation of the deep rooted issues regarding white supremacy in America

In the week preceding the U.S. elections, political tensions in the U.S. are sky-high. While many controversies are coming up from both the Democrat and Republican sides, one group is getting more and more traction as the election days are numbered off. Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed neo-fascist white supremacist male-only group, are now a regular occurrence at Donald Trump’s rallies, proving — yet again — that white supremacy and fascism are not dead in the U.S.
White supremacy is nothing new in the U.S., or in the world, as illustrated by the still-active infamous Ku Klux Klan. However, it is important to pay attention to new manifestations of the same problem in order to see how groups that threaten societal peace and safety gain members and popularity, as well as show why these groups seemingly come up from nowhere.
Although Donald Trump has renounced white supremacy and neo-fascist ideas many times in the past, when asked to do the same thing at the first presidential debate, Trump condemned movements such as Antifa, and the left in general, while refusing to outrightly condemn white supremacy. Instead, Trump called on Proud Boys and told them to “stand back and stand by.” .This rhetoric was celebrated by the Proud Boys, with memes circulating about how the president supports Proud Boys. Enrique Tarrio, the current Proud Boys leader, has interpreted Trump’s words to mean that the group should continue to do what they are doing. Considering that this part of the debate was one of the most important ones, and Proud Boys’ name was heard on TV screens all over the U.S. and internationally, it is imperative to take a deeper look into the extremist group.
Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group created in 2016 with chapters both located in the U.S. and around the world, with around 3,000 active members. The founder, Gavin McInnes, has been described as “more or less the Men’s Rights subreddit manifested in human form”, and he is the co-founder of Vice News as well as the author of “The Death of Cool,” a memoir endorsed by public figures such as comedian Nikki Glasser and actor Justin Theroux. When McInnes introduced Proud Boys to the general public in September 2016, he stated that being proud of Western culture today is the same as being a “crippled, black, lesbian communist in 1953.”
This is the reason why Proud Boys have been given this name — the members of this group are proud of being white, Western and male, claiming that globalization and immigration, as well as multiculturalism and feminism, have “crumbled” the values of Western civilization. Although they are commonly construed as a “stepping stone” for other more extreme alt-right groups, Proud Boys have employed themselves as bodyguards for multiple demonstrations such as the Charlottesville Rally and are distinguished from other alt-right groups because of their tech savviness and large online presence. For example, they are known for recruiting members online through memes.
That said, it is important to mention that similar alt-right extremist groups that are online are not a recent phenomenon. The digital space has been frequently used to spew hate speech, and platforms such as 4chan and Reddit have allowed their users to remain anonymous and provide media creation services such as texts, videos, pictures and gifs, causing an even more severe wave of hateful ideologies online.
Ultimately, the existence of modern extremist groups and ideologies such as Proud Boys is due to a response to the rapidly changing world that we have today. Globalization and immigration, as well as the increasing connectivity because of the internet, have allowed for the so-called “silent revolution” that spreads more liberal values among the younger generations of Millennials and Gen Z. The silent revolution caused traditional views on the role of women, fear from outsiders and the subordination of ethnic and racial minorities to become dated and not widely accepted among the general public. The response is a cultural backlash from the side of social conservatives with authoritarian values that garner resentment toward the shifting world; a condensed, extreme example of this is the Proud Boys.
The erosion of traditional power structures, the feeling that the modern world no longer has space for white men that was promised by their fathers and grandfathers, as well as the perception that white men are left behind in a rapidly changing world, have been the bedrock of the Proud Boys movement. The action that they propose is a return to values from a “better” time period, and “dominant” groups need to grab the steering wheel in order to shift away from complete destruction of Western civilization that is “superior” and “created by white men.” Thus, it is no surprise that the sentiment “Make America Great Again” has caused Proud Boys to populate Trump rallies since their creation.
Proud Boys, currently, is a considerably smaller group when compared to other extremist groups and ideologies. However, Trump’s rhetoric at the first presidential debate has caused them to be pushed even more into the mainstream and gain international attention. Later after the debate, Trump told reporters that he “does not know who the Proud Boys are” and that “they have to stand down, and let law enforcement do their work.” Even with his later remarks, Trump’s wording in the debate is likely going to cause even more members to join the ranks, as is noted in their recent increasing presence as “bodyguards” at Trump’s rallies.
This extremist white supremacist group is not a new or original phenomenon. Proud Boys are ultimately a new replica of the same ideology that has been long perpetuated through the generations at least on U.S. soil. Hence, it is important to place them in the social and political context from which they originated, and realize that they are only the manifestation of something much deeper than their ideology at face value.
Andrijana Pejchinovska is Opinion Editor. Email her at
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