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The Proud Boys’ Lesson

The brawl between the Proud Boys and the Antifa in New York on October 12.

1,275 words

The Proud Boys could only have arisen in the Trump era. A multi-racial fraternity dedicated to “Western chauvinism” and brawling with the Antifa is not something the Tea Party could have produced.

There’s always been an element of the ridiculous in the Proud Boys. They have a distinctive uniform consisting of a black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirt with a MAGA hat. Their initiation rite requires potential members to take a beating until they can name five brands of cereal. And even though “Western chauvinist” sounds like a more polite way of saying white supremacist, the Proud Boys boast more racial diversity than the Antifa. And the music video for the group is . . . something else:

The Proud Boys represents the absurdity that is “Trumpism” shorn of racialism. The group’s ideology is amorphous, and often resembles libertarian talking points – for example, “glorifying the entrepreneur.” The Proud Boys’ only two clear principles are support for Trump and a desire to fight the Antifa. That appeared to be enough to attract members, but that second quality has proven to be the group’s undoing.

One fight in New York City led to criminal charges for several members and a leadership crisis within the group. Gavin McInnes resigned as leader following reports (that turned out to be inaccurate) that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group. Milo Yiannopoulos followed suit and publicly disassociated himself from the group. A new chief, Jason Lee Van Dyke, was selected, and then quickly departed, adding to the group’s turmoil. On top of all this, the group has been kicked off nearly every social media platform and payment processor due to its numerous brawls.

McInnes is now suing the Southern Poverty Law Center over its designation of the Proud Boys as a hate group. McInnes claims in his lawsuit that the designation has cost him business and amounted to “tortious interference.” This Alt Lite figure also wants the SPLC to stop connecting him to hate groups, while also wanting the “anti-hate” smear operation to cease which claims that the Proud Boys are violent. It’s unclear whether this lawsuit will succeed or not. What is clear is that it shows the present disarray of the group and how it’s trying to clean up its image.

A lot of folks on the Dissident Right have reveled in the Proud Boys’ misery because of the group’s cuckery. Some have even argued that their cucking is why the group is in decline. If only they had stood by White Nationalists and not insisted on their opposition to the Alt Right, the argument goes, they would be in better shape right now.

That’s a silly argument. The real reason the Proud Boys are in decline is because of their dedication to street violence – the quality which both attracted support as well as the attention of law enforcement. Of course, much of their violence was in self-defense against the Antifa’s aggression and wouldn’t be prosecuted by a sane system. But nevertheless, it was a group primarily based on violence, which is hazardous for the Right. Every group dedicated to violence will face law enforcement scrutiny and brutal coverage from the press. The Proud Boys seemed unable to overcome those challenges.

The Antifa can engage in political violence at will thanks to the support of the media and cultural elites, as well as deep-pocketed legal defense funds. The Right cannot hope for such support at present. Many normie conservatives loved to watch videos of the Proud Boys knocking out the Antifa, but that is in no way comparable to the Left’s moral imperative to “punch Nazis.” Major outlets such as CNN have run glowing profiles of the Antifa and their commitment to “civil rights.” Even the Antifa’s numerous attacks on journalists have not convinced the cultural elites to drop their admiration for the black-clad anarchists. This is a double standard that is unjust, and yet we cannot change it.

Meanwhile, Right-wing groups that engage in violence can expect to face the full force of the law and media condemnation. The Proud Boys’ brawl in New York City last October well illustrates this point. Ten Proud Boys were charged in connection with a fight that broke out following a speech by Gavin McInnes. Two Proud Boys approached a group of Antifa demonstrators, which prompted one of the anarchists to throw a water bottle at the Trump supporters. A brawl ensued, and the Proud Boys emerged victorious.

But footage of the fight went viral on the Internet and the media demanded harsh justice. As a result, the victorious Proud Boys were rounded up and charged with rioting and attempted assault. The members face stiff sentences if found guilty. Interestingly, authorities are prosecuting these Proud Boys without the cooperation of their supposed victims, who refuse to identify themselves to police. The state wants punishment more than the Antifa does.

As a side note, a fact from the case that highlights the non-racialist character of the Proud Boys is that one of their members who was charged is a Latino skinhead. Another one is a white man who is married to a black woman. That man was – hilariously – labelled a white supremacist in the press.

All of this hoopla is over one single Saturday night fight. Additionally, the Proud Boys are having trouble getting the funds together to pay for the legal defense of their indicted brothers. The Antifa would never have this problem, as they have the National Lawyers Guild on their side and ready to help them in their legal troubles.

The lesson from all this is that it’s foolhardy for Right-wing groups to dedicate themselves to political violence. The Proud Boys are trying to learn from this lesson, and no longer encourage their members to participate in street brawls. But the damage to the group is already done and it’s unlikely it will recover from its present troubles.

Violence committed by the Left will either be ignored or justified by the media, as well as all “respectable” liberals. At the same time, violence committed by the Right will be condemned by everyone, including by most Right-wingers. Liberals have the power to wield the state against the Right, and violence gives them the pretext to do so. As seen by the Department of Justice’s inaction on the Antifa, conservatives are incapable of forcing the state to do the same against violent Leftists.

The Proud Boys managed to get a wide range of support for their brawls that White Nationalists could never receive, and yet that goodwill has not enabled them to raise sufficient legal funds nor get the charges against them dismissed. Yes, Right-wingers will always get the blame for street brawls, regardless of who started it. But actively seeking such brawls is just asking to get your group deplatformed and sent to jail. Every Right-wing group will suffer censorship, attacks, and press scrutiny. It’s just part of the deal.

The thirst for violence adds state pressure to the list of troubles. The Proud Boys could stand up to press smears, but withered under pressure from law enforcement. As most groups would. Very few people will stick around while your group is being swarmed by feds, and only a fraction are willing to go to jail for the cause. It’s hard enough for Right-wing groups to attract support without the possibility of jail time.

Self-defense is never wrong, but that’s different from basing your group’s entire existence upon brawling with the Antifa. In America’s current climate, the Right only stands to lose if it embraces political violence.

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  1. Dissident White
    Posted February 15, 2019 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    “Right-wingers will always get the blame for street brawls, regardless of who started it. But actively seeking such brawls is just asking to get your group deplatformed and sent to jail.”

  2. Max Edge
    Posted February 16, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    > much of their violence was in self-defense
    > it was a group primarily based on violence
    Which is it?

    • Marshall
      Posted February 16, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s both.
      The Proud Boys’ modus operandi is to bait antifa into initiating violence so that they can respond in kind.

  3. Samuel Nock
    Posted February 18, 2019 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    The Mencius Moldbug article I find occasion to quote most frequently is “Right-wing terrorism as folk activism”.

    As he described nearly ten years ago, Right-wing political violence in the West is functionally a cargo cult: They see it being done on the Left, so they assume they may do the same and get the same results without consequences.

    They need to read their Carl Schmitt (as well as their Moldbug):

    “Why does left-wing terrorism work, and right-wing terrorism not? As Carl Schmitt explained in Theory of the Partisan, terrorist, guerrilla or partisan warfare is never effective on its own. While an effective military strategy, it is only effective as one fork of a pincer attack. The terrorist succeeds when, and only when, he is allied to what Schmitt called an interested third party—either a military or political force.

    “Left-wing terrorism succeeds as the violent arm of a political assault that would probably be overwhelming in any case. In every case, the terrorist plays Mutt in a Mutt-and-Jeff act. Right-wing terrorism in the modern world is cargo-cult terrorism: Mutt without Jeff. Indeed, in historical cases where right-wing terrorism has been successful, in every case we see it aligned with powerful forces within the state.”

    And I know the Proud Boys are not “terrorists”. But the point holds, as Hampton makes clear in this article.

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