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The Proud Boys and their patricians

Proud Boys

It has been over a month since Gavin McInnes spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club and since the latest arrest of a Proud Boys member involved in the street brawl that followed. In the time that’s passed, what has been said about the fight – details on who started it, who ended it and determining exactly who did either of those things – belies the blows to political discourse we have endured since 2016. If there is a willing blindness in the political class, the Metropolitan Club’s choice to receive McInness is a good example  – another instance of how startlingly close the mainstream has moved to its fringe elements.

A dangerous ideology

The Metropolitan Republican Clubprivate club on 83rd St. on the Upper East Side, in many ways embodies the contradictions of the Trump-era GOP. But their most recent speaker goes far beyond the pale of a Manhattan Republican.

We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell. We will kill you.” Gavin McInnis

McInnis, an unapologetic nativist and self-styled “western chauvinist,” founded the Proud Boys on the waves of the 2016 election. Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys embrace the worst of the alt-right – undisguised hatred of Muslims and Jews, fears of immigrants strung along by George Soros, and calls for blatant violence once confined to the dark corners of the internet. But there is nothing remarkable about the Proud Boys, nor any other group animated so singularly by fever dreams of the end of white civilization. They always say the same things,  spreading fears that cut deep in our history and can be metastasized by the right opportunist.

Proud boys

Proud Boys flashing the purported white-power “OK” hand symbol after the lecture. Image via Shay Horse, New York Times

McInnis, a co-founder of VICE Magazine, forfeits any veneer of irony at the helm of the Proud Boys. “We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell. We will kill you,” he once said on his Compound Media show. Spoken by McInnis, the simplicity of the message is especially dangerous. Proud Boys members have been involved in repeated incidents of street violence and rioting across the country. Even before his lecture, law enforcement clashed with the Proud Boys.

October 12, 2018

McInnis’s lecture centered on Otoya Yamaguchi, a teenaged ultra-nationalist who assassinated the leader of Japan’s Socialists on live television in 1960. Yamaguchi was a member of the Great Japan Patriotic Society, which among other things sought to get rid of Western influence and restore Japan’s traditional culture. Besides the familiarity, let the irony sink in. 

Proud Boys

A popular right-wing meme created from a video still of Yamaguchi’s assassination attempt

After watching McInnis brandish a katana before departing from the Metropolitan Club, a handful of AntiFa protesters confronted a Proud Boys member who attended the lecture, the New York Post reported. It would be wrong to call what ensued a fight. After a tense exchange, between 10 and 15 Proud Boys descend upon the protesters, knocking them down and repeatedly beating them. People on the scene also reported hearing the Proud Boys shout homophobic slurs. The criminal complaint filed shortly after offers a blunt summary: This was a gang assault on the Upper East Side. The gang delivering the beating minutes before sat inside the Metropolitan Club.

A violent mission

McInnis ranted against political correctness and the evils of socialism in his speech, according to one source who attended. But the crucial moment was a reenactment of the assassination. It ended with a command from McInnis, “Never let evil take root!” You don’t have to wonder too long to understand. If socialism is an existential threat, like Yamaguchi understood it to be, then even violence is a necessary tool. How fitting that McInnis delivered this message on October 12, 2018, the 58th Anniversary of the murder.

After a spate of crimes, the FBI designated the Proud Boys a violent white nationalist group and has been alerting local law enforcement to their activities. A report from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin provides a telling glimpse into the Proud Boys platform:

Proud Boys

Excerpt from the Clark County Sheriff’s Report

The report also reveals what it is like to be in the Proud Boys. If you want to join you have to endure a physical assault. If you want to attain “4th Level” status, fight AntiFa or get arrested. There must be a lot more ranking members after the McInnis lecture.

Hollow disguises 

It is enough to make you wonder how closely the Met Club looked into their speaker. Ian Reilly, Executive Committee Chair of the Metropolitan, said weeks before that Gavin McInnis is simply another voice of the right. “We would never invite anyone who would incite violence,” he said. Besides the bad omen, his rationale deserves attention.

The gang delivering the beating minutes before sat inside the Metropolitan Club.

Any expression of views that actually endangers others has limits, as the Supreme Court has upheld. If freedom of speech ends in the deliberate descent into violence, McInnis has repeatedly walked to the edge of that line. The Metropolitan Club’s decision to invite him rings hollow after a lecture that glorified the murder of a political opponent; the violence that followed is no surprise.

Gavin McInnis has since resigned from the Proud Boys in the aftermath of the street brawl, eager to do away with any appearance of being at the top of a group mired in criminality. But it won’t be easy walking away from his monster. With the Proud Boys behind him, he is no longer just a talker.




*Cover image via Getty Images file

John Aurelio
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