When President Donald Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” during Tuesday’s presidential debate, Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio integrated the command into its logo within hours and ran T-shirts off the presses, thrilled that his group was getting a direct order from its true leader.
Oklahomans should know that a Proud Boys chapter is standing by in our state. Given our history as a place where reactionaries operated in the open, had streets named after them and even declared war on Tulsa’s black business district 99 years ago, this should not be surprising. Since 1972, residents of an eastern Oklahoma enclave of Christian Identity white separatists called Elohim City still spend their days clear-cutting timber along the Arkansas Border, waiting for the coming race war.
Opinion by George D. Lang
Current alt-right, Nativist and Christian Identity groups such as Proud Boys of Oklahoma, American Identity Movement (formerly Identity Evropa) and the so-called Boogaloo Bois are raging in plain sight. In the case of American Identity Movement, the group began an aggressive stickering campaign throughout the country in late 2018, posting stickers and flyers on light poles and utility boxes in areas like Deep Deuce, Midtown, Bricktown and near college campuses, then posting them on social media.
But right now, Proud Boys has our attention.
Canadian Gavin McInnes founded Proud Boys in 2016, eight years after leaving Vice Media, the company he founded in 1994 with Suroosh Alvi and Shane Smith. Ever the demurring wallflower, he announced his split with Alvi and Smith with a testosterone-soaked 2008 statement promising a number of new projects.
“It’s a long story but we’ve all agreed to leave it at ‘creative differences,’ so please don’t ask me about it,” McInnes said in the statement, later promising a “ton of other projects in the works, including books, a movie, comics, TV shit, etc and I’ll announce them on the site as they blossom into fruition like a hundred humid vaginas in the presence of God’s boner.” I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice.
McInnes started a blog called Street Carnage that was powered by seething misogyny and softcore pics and helmed an advertising agency called Rooster, but his most high-profile creation after his old Vice co-founders grew up and away from him is Proud Boys.
McInnes’ group claims to be anti-racism, but the key tenets listed on Proud Boys’ website includes “reinstating a spirit of Western Chauvinism.” This is, of course, a kind of end-run around admitting to racism, and I’m certain Trump loves this tactic.
Chauvinism is often viewed reductively as men feeling superior to women, but it is so much more than that. Nicolas Chauvin was a soldier in Napoleon Bonaparte’s imperial army who may or may not have actually existed, but his allegedly undying and pugnacious belief in French superiority over all other peoples far outlived not just the Napoleonic Wars, but Bonapartism itself. Chauvin sounds like a semi-historic pain in the ass, but Chauvinism gave rise to more awful and truly historic ones, like Adolf Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Vladimir Putin, and obviously the list goes on.
Western Chauvinism is the belief that the culture of Europe — its politics, its systems of government, its religion, its art, its family structures and even its food — is superior to all others. This way, you do not hate someone for the color of their skin. You hate them because they are not Christians and they wear weird clothes and they look different and eat weird food and they do not believe in a top-down patriarchy and, in the case of liberals, ecumenically support all those things as a basic value.
One such product of Chauvinism is American Exceptionalism, which is one of Trump’s favorite things. American Exceptionalism is all-good for the Proud Boys, except it leaves out a select group of non-Americans of European descent who had dissenters thrown out of helicopters and killed 6 million Jews and rigged elections until they so deadened the spirit of their people that they were made rulers for life.
So hell yes, Trump loves the Proud Boys, and they love him back. Trump supports anyone who supports him. Trump’s felon henchman Roger Stone is so tight with McInnes and Tarrio that the Proud Boys served as his security detail at a Republican conference in 2018. Trump can claim ignorance about the Proud Boys, but when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., I’m sure that Trump had Proud Boys in mind.
After all, Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler is a former Proud Boy who was kicked out of the gang for being too Hitleresque. McInnes does not like in-your-face racism, but Western Chauvinism is a damn big loophole that allows Proud Boys to avoid the term “racism” while finding other exciting ways to hate the same people for more specific reasons.
Currently, Trump is refusing to denounce white supremacy. So far, he and McEnamy refuse to say the word. Even Fox News’ John Roberts nearly lost it over McEnamy’s verbal gymnastics.
Trump is a racist, and like most racists who are not explicitly in the business of racism, he denies being one. But Trump would rather be asked about white supremacy for the next month until Election Day instead of being forced to address the multifarious criminality of the Trump Organization.
He could choose to be called a racist, or he could choose to be called a businessman who cheated for years on his federal taxes while losing his ass in real estate and racking up $421 million in debts. He is probably both, but Trump will take being called a racist every time over the alternative.