They are frequently labeled a “far right” group by the press despite their founder’s explicit rejection of the so-called alt-right movement. They’ve been banned from social media. And now the FBI has branded Gavin McInnes’s Proud Boys “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” An examination of the organization’s actual professed beliefs, however, reveals its members more at home with run-of-the-mill libertarians and civic nationalists than feverish neo-Nazis.
A document obtained from Washington State law enforcement and posted on the Property of the People website details the firing of a female probationary deputy sheriff in July. Erin Willey was let go after it was discovered that she was a member of the Proud Boys’ Girls group. The document explained that the FBI “categorizes” the Proud Boys as an extremist organization.
It’s a strange and frightening characterization for a federal policing agency to make, given the publicly stated beliefs of McInnes and his group, which labels itself first and foremost as a masculine “drinking club.” On their website, the Proud Boys’ listed “values” read more like a benign nod to civic nationalism than a call for a Fourth Reich. Tenets like “Minimal Government” and “Maximum Freedom” are straight out of Libertarianism 101, while slightly more edgy listings such as “Anti-Political Correctness” and “Anti-Racial Guilt” are accompanied by an explicit “Anti-Racism” precept.
In August 2017, shortly after the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville Va., McInnes stridently disavowed any ties between the Proud Boys and the alt-right. “The two big differences we have with them is the “JQ” [Jewish Question] and racial identity politics,” McInnes wrote. “They think the Jews are responsible for America’s problems and they think ‘Western’ is inseparable from ‘white.’ They don’t see a future for non-whites in America. F*CK THAT. We reject all of those things.”
The Proud Boys see themselves as “Western Chauvinists,” a rather broad term that basically breaks down to a belief that “the West is the Best.” Any male who can accept that slogan is welcome in the organization. “There are NO racial requirements to be in the Proud Boys,” McInnes wrote. “There are no special rules for black Proud Boys… or any other non-white PBs. We don’t care what your sexual preference is and that includes guys dating trans.”
“That’s the closest I’ve seen to a plausible anarchist goal in America – ever.”
“The West is about you doing it your own way and not being hindered by rules,” McInnes told Wisconsin Public Radio later in 2017.
The group has developed a reputation for a willingness to fight Antifa protesters in the streets, but McInnes asserts any violence is defensive in nature. “We are not a violent group,” he wrote in his alt-right disavowal post. “We don’t start fights but we will finish them. The violence you see in the media is us defending ourselves from lunatics who want us dead for no discernible reason.”
It goes without saying that none of this sounds very much like terroristic hate-mongering. Above all, McInnes comes across as a more vulgar, shock-jock version of John Stossel than a dangerous radical. And in fact, he has long admired the libertarian television journalist. In 2010 McInnes referenced his anarchist punk days as crucial to developing his sense of distrust for big government. “This is why, as an adult, I’m drawn to libertarians like John Stossel,” he wrote in a column at Taki’s Magazine.
“During each episode [of Stossel’s now-discontinued cable television show] he holds up a tiny book that’s about half the size of the communist manifesto and explains this is the bill of rights and the constitution combined,” McInnes continued. “Then he shows us the endless piles of documentation the government uses for even the most insignificant rule. ‘This is all we need,’ he says holding up the small book. That’s the closest I’ve seen to a plausible anarchist goal in America – ever.”
But McInnes is about more than pocket Constitutions. He admittedly enjoys riling the hornet’s nest of the PC left.
In an appearance on Stossel’s show, McInnes once told the host, “I like offending people if I’m right. I like hate facts. When you say something correct like ‘a lot of women would be happier as housewives’ and that makes steam come out of people’s ear, that’s fun. Saying a hate fact is fun, and it’s pretty easy to do in today’s day and age.”
McInnes’s nod to traditional Western values now seen as outdated in modern society combined with edgy anti-PC jargon has attracted young people who do not want to be considered racist, but at the same time, are tired of being put on the defensive by the culture of victimhood prevalent in America today.
A young Proud Boys member by the name of Brad shared his sentiments on the subject with Wisconsin Public Radio.
“None of us ever knew anybody that owned a slave,” Brad said. “Personally, my family didn’t emigrate here until the first World War. I share no white guilt. I’m not guilty about any of the things that happened here 200 years ago. I wasn’t here. My relatives weren’t here. We didn’t move here until way after the Civil War. So I’m done being villainized as the white devil. I’m not him.”
Is this what led the FBI to label a libertarian-leaning, Western-themed male movement as extremist? Is the mere fact they reject the Victimhood Mantra that dominates our culture today reason enough to be placed on a government Hate Watch list? If so, the implications for us all are terrifying.