“We Are Proud Boys” details 4 levels of membership in an extremist group

  • A new book, “We Are Proud Boys”, details the four levels of extremist organization membership.
  • Author Andy Campbell explains the levels involving tattoos, breakfast cereals and banning masturbation.
  • Proud Boy’s top tier requires arrest or “serious violent combat”, according to founder Gavin McInnes.

When Gavin McInnes, the far-right Canadian shock athlete, announced the formation of the Proud Boys in 2016, the stated goal was to champion the historic contributions of white men and their champion, former President Donald Trump.

Its members identify as “Western chauvinists” and see their enemy as “antifa”. Chapter leaders emulate the operational security language of a warring military organization and celebrate violent clashes with leftists in the streets.

For the past six years, the Proud Boys have shown up at Black Lives Matter protests and marched in liberal cities, serving as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the MAGA movement. They were on the front lines of the January 6 insurgency, its leaders collaborating with paramilitary groups such as the Oath Keepers in an effort to prevent certification of the 2020 election, and several have since been charged with offenses ranging of illegal possession of weapons to seditious. conspiracy.

But as journalist Andy Campbell details in his new book, “We Are Proud Boys,” as the group ultimately takes itself very seriously, mimicking the operational security language of a military organization, with tactical units at the lurking for trouble at street protests, it’s essentially a drug-and-drink-fueled brotherhood based on a cult of personality and cultural grievances; still potentially dangerous, as evidenced by his arrest record, but also cringe-worthy.

This is perhaps no clearer than in the rituals required for members to progress through the organization.

How a man becomes a boy

Based on extensive research and information gleaned from a left-leaning insider within the organization, HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Campbell details four levels of membership within the Proud Boys. The first is quite simple: a simple token.

“In the first degree, a new recruit must declare allegiance to the Proud Boys, often and at every opportunity, whether online or in their personal life,” Campbell writes.

The organization is rooted in white supremacy, requiring its members to commit to the belief that European civilization was, is, and always will be superior to all others. “The actions of the Proud Boys,” notes the Southern Poverty Law Center, “bend their disavowals of bigotry: the Proud Boys and rank-and-file leaders regularly launch white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists.”

Unlike similar far-right groups (or its “antifa” enemies), this is also not a group or political leaning that wants its supporters to remain anonymous. In fact, members, including small business owners, have openly bragged about their membership, sometimes managing to garner media coverage that paints them as mere colorblind patriots.

While the Proud Boys are encouraged to brag about their membership, obfuscation is an essential part of belonging to the group. Although some key leaders have been labeled neo-Nazis, the group as a whole tends to avoid overt racism, trumpeting that some of its members are indeed non-white (women, however, are not allowed).

But as Campbell notes, racial supremacy is at the core. You don’t have to be white to be Proud Boy, according to its founder, but you do need to know your place.

“If you’re black or Hispanic, it doesn’t matter, I don’t care,” McInnes said during one of his online broadcasts, as Campbell reported. “I’m all about the culture. Now part of that is acknowledging that white men seem like the ones who did it, and respecting that, but that doesn’t mean you’re not invited to celebration.”

McInnes did not respond to a request for comment sent to his media company.

Western chauvinism as white pride

The future Proud Boys, who will be initiated into the first level of the group, pledge allegiance not to white supremacy per se, but to what is considered white culture: “I am a western chauvinist and I refuse to apologize for ‘creating the modern world.’

As the informant told Campbell, this ceremony can be impromptu, set in the middle of a drunken march through a town, and involves a rookie – who has gained sufficient confidence by attending public events – and a superior within the organization facing each other, raising their right hand, and reciting the oath in a call-and-response manner. With this, a recruit becomes a member.

To gain access to the second tier, a Proud Boy deemed ready by the executives stands in the middle of a circle, surrounded by their executives, who then begin punching him – Campbell’s source suffered a cracked rib – the violence also ending when the man in the middle can recite the names of five breakfast cereals, supposedly to test their freshness under pressure.

“If the embarrassment of the punching ceremony isn’t enough,” writes Campbell, “a second-degree Proud Boy should also underwrite one of the truly weirdest sides of the band. That’s the politics of ‘ no handjob’ described by McInnes: he is only allowed to masturbate once a month, and he can otherwise only ejaculate when he is “within one meter of a woman with her consent”.

From there, things “become permanent,” writes Campbell. The third level: “The recruit must obtain a Proud Boys tattoo or mark”, the first being much more popular.

At this point, initiation at different levels could be confused with rites of brotherhood. But while most of the group’s antics and internal politics are laughable, there is always a danger in groups of drunken and radicalized men who believe they are engaged in a war against an unholy enemy.

The final level: violence

McInnes himself explained the fourth and final tier of Proud Boys members during a 2017 appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast (since deleted by Rogan’s publisher, Spotify): “Fourth Degree,” he said. – he says, “you are arrested or you engage in a violent and serious fight for the cause.”

This violence is supposed to be self-defense. But part of being a proud boy is looking for a fight – and the apparent efforts to get that fourth tier landed some in jail. Outside a Manhattan venue in 2018 where founder McInnes worshiped a far-right Japanese assassin inside, members of the Proud Boys assaulted counter-protesters outside. Two of them were later convicted in state court of “attempted gang violence,” among other charges.

Former official Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was also accused of engaging in a seditious conspiracy on January 6, when pro-Trump insurgencies, members of the Proud Boys front and center, provoked scuffles with the police in an effort to overturn the 2020 elections, their anti-fascist opponents nowhere in sight.

“Our client is eagerly awaiting his trial and showing a full picture of all the evidence the government intends to show,” Tarrio’s attorney, Nayib Hassan, told Insider.

Tarrio was not in DC on the day of the attack but, according to prosecutors, he helped direct the actions of his fellow Proud Boys from afar. He maintained his innocence (another former leader, Jeremy Bertino, recently pleaded guilty).

McInnes, meanwhile, managed to avoid the kind of legal troubles his supporters now face. He ostensibly severed ties with the group he founded in 2018, following arrests on the sidelines of his speech in Manhattan. His alleged ‘arrest’, during a live broadcast in August, turned out to be a publicity stunt: the man who founded a far-right street gang was not in prison, but on vacation in the south of France.

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