[Marxism] Proud Boys Founder: How He Went From Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 17 09:11:35 MDT 2018


NY Times, Oct. 17, 2018
Proud Boys Founder: How He Went From Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right
By Alan Feuer

For an hour or so, he railed about socialism and political correctness 
to an audience of New York establishment Republicans. As he often does, 
he took ugly swipes at Ivy Leaguers, left-wing snobs and lesbians with 
“geriatric crew cuts.”

Then, when his speech was over, Gavin McInnes stepped outside of the 
Metropolitan Republican Club, protected by the police. Just before a 
brawl broke out between his allies and a crowd of shouting protesters, 
he waved a plastic sword in the air, slipped into a car and sped away.

There was an uproar this weekend when anti-fascist demonstrators clashed 
with members of the far-right group Proud Boys, reprising on the streets 
of New York City the kind of violent rumbles that occurred across the 
country last year in places like New Orleans and Berkeley, Calif.

But at the center of the fray on Friday night was Mr. McInnes, the 
founder of the Proud Boys and a former Brooklyn hipster turned far-right 
provocateur.

With his egghead glasses, pocket-protector and heavy-drinking, 
angry-nerd aesthetic, Mr. McInnes has in recent years set himself apart 
from the current crop of professionally outraged right-wing pundits, not 
only for being able to spout aggressive rhetoric, but also for being 
willing to get physical at times.

His obsessions seem to be more cultural than political. Mr. McInnes, a 
fiscal conservative and libertarian, calls himself a champion of Western 
values and reserves a burning ire for the political correctness of 
people on the left whom he describes as busybodies who have lost their 
sense of humor.

“This movement is normal people trying to live their lives getting 
attacked by mentally ill lunatics,” he said.

But his views are darker when it comes to gender roles and immigration. 
Mr. McInnes admits that he may be Islamaphobic (“It’s seen as xenophobic 
to be worried about Islam, but they appear to disproportionately allow 
intolerance to blossom in their communities,” he said.) He also 
acknowledged being something of a sexist. (“I’m an Archie Bunker 
sexist,” he said. “I don’t like Gloria Steinem, but I’d take a bullet 
for Edith.”)

Though he has repudiated racism and anti-Semitism in some of his 
writings and speeches, he has also made statements that have openly 
denigrated nonwhite cultures. Last year, he wrote of white men: “We 
brought roads and infrastructure to India and they are still using them 
as toilets. Our criminals built nice roads in Australia but Aboriginals 
keep using them as a bed.”

His critics say rhetoric like this echoes strands of white-nationalist 
philosophy, and that some of his followers have crossed the line at times.

“Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions,” the Southern 
Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks extremist 
groups, wrote in an online memo labeling the Proud Boys as a hate group. 
“Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist 
memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known 
for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder of One People Project, an anti-racist 
organization, said Mr. McInnes has been allowed to tread a fine line, 
appearing as a political commentator on mainstream outlets like Fox News 
while being the founder of a group involved in violent clashes.

“They’ve utilized subterfuge and lies to keep that hate group tag from 
being applied to them,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Every time their members are 
seen doing things they’re not supposed to be doing, like showing up at 
Unite the Right, they claim that person left the Proud Boys.”

On television and on frequent speaking tours, Mr. McInnes, who is 48, 
can often sound like a younger and more foul-mouthed President Trump, 
bashing feminists, mocking Black Lives Matter and deriding deep-state 
plotters. And like the president, he tends to publicly disavow all 
violence while winkingly insisting that he — and the Proud Boys — will 
never back down during a scrape.

“We don’t start fights,” he wrote in an article last year, “but we will 
finish them.”

In an interview this week, Mr. McInnes said he gave his speech this 
weekend after he called officials at the Metropolitan Republican Club 
and asked for permission to appear there.

He arrived at the club’s headquarters on East 83rd Street on Friday 
night with a small contingent of Proud Boys who he said were there to 
“do security.” Deborah Coughlin, the president of the club, said that 
she welcomed Mr. McInnes because there had been no trouble when he spoke 
at the club last year. Ms. Coughlin explained that the club considered 
Mr. McInnes’ political views to be on the spectrum of conservative 
“civil discourse.” She also noted that during the event, his followers 
were quiet and respectful.

But according to the police, skirmishes erupted as soon as the evening’s 
program ended and Mr. McInnes’s supporters confronted a group of masked 
left-wing protesters that had left the event and walked down Lexington 
Avenue to catch them. The opposing forces came face-to-face on East 82nd 
Street, yelling at each other as they met. A protester hurled a plastic 
bottle at the Proud Boys, and that, the police said, was when the 
punches started flying.

It was not the first time that the city’s anarchists and anti-fascists 
have clashed with Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys, who have often served 
as a private fight club ready to protect him.

In February 2017, the Proud Boys were present when anti-fascists swarmed 
their leader as he showed up at New York University to speak to the 
College Republicans there. Mr. McInnes claimed that he was doused with 
pepper spray during the brawl that unfolded on the Greenwich Village 
campus. Eleven people were eventually arrested.

Born in England and raised in Canada, Mr. McInnes has been a 
controversial figure in the news media for nearly 20 years. In 1994, 
after emerging from the punk-rock music scene, he co-founded Vice, the 
Montreal-based hipster magazine that later moved to Brooklyn and 
delighted audiences from the start with its graphic articles on subjects 
such as drug-abusing models and decomposing pigeons.

While working for the magazine, he moved to Brooklyn, taking up 
residence in a Williamsburg apartment. He now resides in the suburbs.

After leaving Vice in 2008 because of creative differences with his 
partners, Mr. McInnes went on to write a series of books, like “How to 
Piss in Public,” and articles for right-wing websites, like Taki’s 
Magazine and VDARE.

Even in his earliest work, Mr. McInnes often took an adolescent pleasure 
in offending liberals, women, “beta male culture” and transgender 
people, writing in a voice inflected with a crass, contrarian bigotry 
that left him just enough room to declare it all a joke.

In 2016, Mr. McInnes founded the first official chapter of the Proud 
Boys in New York after, he said, he realized that fans of his former 
television program, “The Gavin McInnes Show,” liked to spend time in his 
studio, drinking beer with him and telling private jokes.

He has described the group, which has since spread to dozens of cities 
and to countries, like Australia and Japan, as an ordinary men’s club, 
like the Shriners or the Elks. It serves as a sort of safe space for him 
and what he calls his fellow “Western chauvinists.”

In its guise as a fraternal organization, the Proud Boys get together in 
New York and other cities once a month at beery meet-ups that can draw 
as many as a few hundred participants. Women are not allowed at the 
group’s formal gatherings (though they are permitted at the “warm up” 
sessions, Mr. McInnes has written). As a character-building exercise, 
the Proud Boys forbid both masturbation and the watching of pornography. 
The group’s initiation rituals include reciting the names of five 
breakfast cereals while being slugged by other members.

The monthly meet-ups are largely “social events where people have fun 
and laugh and drink and share stories about their kids and businesses 
and stuff like that,” said Pawl Bazile, the editor of Proud Boy 
magazine. “It’s a celebration of the West, of America and of freedom and 
liberty.”

But in the last two years, members of the group have also had a second 
preoccupation, taking part in a string of violent street fights with 
their anti-fascist rivals in cities like Berkeley, Los Angeles and 
Portland, Ore.

Sometimes accompanied by skinheads, neo-Nazis, modern-day Confederates 
and outfits like the Oath Keepers, an association of law-enforcement 
officers and military veterans, the Proud Boys have scuffled with the 
left at May Day rallies, so-called free-speech protests and at marches 
in support of President Trump.

While the Proud Boys accept minority members, they have at times joined 
forces with overtly racist organizations. Jason Kessler, who once 
attended Proud Boy meetings in Virginia, organized the violent rallies 
in Charlottesville, Va., last year that attracted neo-Nazi groups.

One former Proud Boy, Rich Black, was among the planners of two violent 
rallies in Berkeley in 2017 that were attended by white supremacist groups.

Mr. McInnes did not go to Charlottesville and explicitly forbade the 
Proud Boys from attending. “To be clear, all white 
nationalists/anti-Semites are banned from Proud Boys even if they never 
bring up said topics,” he wrote in an article shortly after the violence 
in Virginia.

And yet, among those who attended his event on Friday night were a few 
alleged members of a local skinhead group, the 211 Boot Boys, and the 
founder of a record label called United Riot that releases albums from 
local skinhead punk bands. United Riot organized a fund-raiser last year 
for Andrew Kuklis, a Long Island member of the 211 Boot Boys who was 
arrested in January 2017 on firearms charges.

In a text message on Monday, Mr. McInnes denied he had connections with 
the 211 Boot Boys, saying, “I don’t represent them and I have no idea 
who they all are and what they stand for.”

He also said on Monday on his show “Get Off My Lawn,” on the CRTV 
streaming network, that he could not understand why the Proud Boys had 
been blamed for the rioting last week when Antifa had started the 
conflict, placing threatening phone calls to the Metropolitan Republican 
Club and vandalizing its property.

“Article after article has this narrative where they took a fight that 
happened for maybe five seconds, and they ignored the previous three 
days of extremist, leftist violence,” he said.

Mr. McInnes’s confusion did little to win over Republicans like William 
F. B. O’Reilly, who was president of the club from 1998 to 2002.

“The Republican brand doesn’t need this,” Mr. O’Reilly said of Mr. 
McInnes and the Proud Boys. “It’s already got enough problems.”

He added, “There was no reason to invite that ilk to the Silk Stocking 
district in New York.”

Ali Winston, Shane Goldmacher and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.



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