The Proud Boys and the Normalization of Fascism Must be Stopped

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Paige Baines

In the first 2020 presidential debate that took place on Sept. 29, President Trump told Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

By Gabriella Luong, La Salle Catholic Preparatory High School

Fascism has become a topic that has suddenly wedged itself into our everyday lives. 

As an example of this, over the past few months, I have noticed many Americans are becoming increasingly aware of fascism’s presence in our communities. This ideology has been present in our country throughout its entire history, and this is becoming abundantly clear as of late.

It is imperative that we stomp out fascist ideas from our communities to protect each other and maintain a livable, free society.

Many are still unsure as to what fascism may entail and how dangerous allowing these ideas to spread actually is. So what exactly is fascism?

Fascism is an idea one subscribes to when they believe that they, and others who are like them, share an absolute superiority over all others. This leads to the idea that these people should be granted the authority to rule over those they deem to be “less than” in an oppressive manner. Prime examples of fascism in the modern world are religious superiority, political party superiority, and racism.

America has a long-standing history of racism, specifically against Black people, as this country was built upon the labor of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Even after the official abolition of slavery, racism in the United States persists. While America has made great strides towards eliminating racism within the last few decades, racism continues to present itself through corrupt systems, microaggressions, and violent hate groups, one of the most notable being the Proud Boys.

The Proud Boys are a self-proclaimed “Western chauvinist,” or aggressively patriotic group of cisgender men with international participants. Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes founded the group in 2016 prior to the U.S. presidential election. With Donald Trump’s election, the Proud Boys were given newfound popularity and had over 20,000 Facebook members by the end of 2017.

After looking at the history and actions of the Proud Boys, including stumbling upon an active group chat these men have, it is clear that the Proud Boys are a hateful, fascist group who believe strongly in discriminatory rules. They are white supremacists, even if they claim otherwise.

With anti-hate organizations stating the dangerous nature of the Proud Boys, but the members themselves asserting that they are an innocuous association, it has been challenging to decide which of these different claims are truthful. To take both arguments into account, one needs to look at actions alongside words. The Proud Boys may claim that they are not a discriminatory supremacist group, yet their history of violence and connections with white supremacist groups have betrayed their words time and time again.

“Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” the Southern Poverty Law Center describes. “They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.” 

This stance is supported by the Anti-Defamation League, with their website saying the Proud Boys are “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies and engage with white supremacist groups.” 

While many experts maintain that the Proud Boys are a discriminatory group, the Proud Boys actively disagree with those claims, saying, “we do not discriminate based upon race or sexual orientation/preference. We are not an ‘ism,’ ‘ist,’ or ‘phobic’ that fits the Left’s narrative. We truly believe that the West Is The Best and welcome those who believe in the same tenets as us.” 

The Proud Boys claim that they are not a provocative group; rather, they uphold the idea that the group of men is “anti-political correctness,” “anti-racial guilt,” and strongly in favor of traditionalist beliefs. I have found that this is not the case.

The Proud Boys were founded by admitted Islamophobe Gavin McInnes, who has strong connections to white supremacists, has exhibited sexist behavior, and has published work relating to the claimed intellectual superiority of some races over others.

One example of this is his work in the article “America in 2034,” which McInnes wrote in collaboration with several other men who have ties to white supremacy. McInnes and his colleagues wrote, “When blacks are forced into schools they aren’t qualified for they have no choice but to drop out. Instead of going back a step to a school they can handle, they tend to give up on higher education entirely… This ‘mismatch’ leaves blacks less educated than they would have been had they been left to their own devices.”

The group has been associated with fascist alt-right white supremacist groups as recently as 2018, and they actively oppose groups fighting against racism and fascism. Despite consistently stating that the group has no affiliation with the alt-right, Proud Boy Jason Kessler was partially responsible for forming the “Unite the Right” rally in 2018, the public gathering with neo-nazis, Klansmen, and Proud Boys alike. 

Shortly after the rally was revealed to be an alt-right meetup, higher-ups within the Proud Boys denied connection to the rally. They terminated Kessler’s membership under the guise that he was not a “real Proud Boy,” yet they never denounced Kessler’s actions, only his views.

If this evidence is not condemning enough, I came upon an active chat forum of the Proud Boys during my research, and I was able to collect evidence of deeply bigoted beliefs and actions. I came across the mocking of a man’s death at the hands of the police, excessive usage of harmful slurs, constant “jokes” about killing their opposition, general delusion, and other vile actions.

The Proud Boys, with their violent and destructive past, are still deemed socially acceptable to many. This may be the case because of the general distrust of the media; another is because such hateful beliefs are not as uncommon as they may seem. The most probable explanation for their acceptance in society is that the Proud Boys regularly display themselves as innocuous and downplay their actions. 

Unconventional initiation practices and outlandish beliefs regarding sexuality help paint the Proud Boys’ picture of being nothing more than a tight-knit fraternity or a men’s drinking club, as many entries in the forum said. This “watering down” of beliefs and actions by fascist groups has historical backing as well, with the Ku Klux Klan using the title of “Grand Wizard” or “Imperial Wizards” for their leaders, leading them to be regarded as a joke by the general public, only to enact an extremely violent, racist agenda. 

The historical precedent of making an organization’s beliefs seem less extremist than they are poses a particular danger to society. These fascist groups pose as innocent and moderate to attract new members and grow their ideology.

With more and more people being led to believe that such groups are harmless and joining said groups, the normalization of fascism grows within American society. Just recently, after the first Presidential debate, membership to three Proud Boys’ Facebook groups grew by ten percent. 

Alongside the normalization of fascism, ideas of supremacy emerge with the growth of discriminatory groups like the Proud Boys. This poses a significant threat to the minorities of our community, putting their lives in danger. This is an issue that is ultimately greater than one group like the Proud Boys; the normalization of fascism in American society would jeopardize our way of life. 

Our friends, family, and other community members will suffer tremendously under the supremacist fascist rule. Our democracy will be put at risk if groups like the Proud Boys are successful in their mission.

For people to help stop the spread of fascist ideas, the most effective actions to take would be spreading awareness and fighting misinformation. Keeping an eye out for fascist talking points in your social circles stops the spread of fascism in its tracks. Prioritizing accuracy is essential because fascist groups, as proven with the Proud Boys, use misinformation to recruit new members. Promoting ideas like equality and civil rights is also another important element in combating fascism.

To live and progress as an equal society, we must eliminate these fascist ideologies by banding together and standing up for what is right.

This story was originally published on The La Salle Falconer on November 4, 2020.