In the Spring 2018 edition of their Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed some recent changes to their list of hate groups. For starters, they added two new categories: male supremacist and Neo-Völkisch. Much to the chagrin of Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh and Paul Elam, their organizations Return of Kings and A Voice for Men were listed as male supremacist hate groups.
Additionally, a slew of other organizations received hate group designations, among them the Proud Boys, a “New Right” “Western chauvinist” group established in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. News of their hate group status came shortly after one of their Facebook pages was shut down, allegedly for promoting violence against women.
From their inception the organization gained a reputation for violent behavior — its members, who often dress in red MAGA caps and Fred Perry polos, have participated in bloody street brawls with Antifa activists. All the while they’ve steadfastly maintained that any acts of violence on their part were done in self-defense.
And, due to the rhetoric of some of their most prominent members, the Proud Boys have often been lumped in with the overtly white supremacist alt-right. According to the SPLC:
Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.
They also highlighted Gavin McInnes’ history of inflammatory rhetoric, which is often racist, transphobic and misogynistic. For example, last year McInnes said, “Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb. No, I’m just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas — like writing.”
He’s referred to transgender people as “gender niggers,” and in an episode of CRTV’s Get Off My Lawn he called Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) “Sambo” and accused him of “shucking and jiving for the white man.” CRTV subsequently edited out these racist remarks, and filed bogus DMCA claims against Right Wing Watch for reporting on it.
The SPLC wrote:
McInnes plays a duplicitous rhetorical game: rejecting white nationalism and, in particular, the term “alt-right” while espousing some of its central tenets. For example, McInnes has himself said it is fair to call him Islamophobic.
When reached for comment, Pawl Bazile, the Media Relations Manager of Proud Boy Magazine, told me via email that he was “unimpressed” by the SPLC’s decision to classify the Proud Boys as a hate group.
Echoing other critics of the SPLC — among them self-described Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz — he wrote in part:
The SPLC is the biggest hate group in America. It is a shadow of the good work they did in the past helping poor black people fight the klan [sic] and get a fair shake. They believe half the churches in America are hate groups. They labeled Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a atheist form [sic] Muslim woman who escaped Somalia after having her clit cut off “racist” and “islamophobic” for speaking out on her experience.
The SPLC has become a shadow of it’s former self. It is now far leftist activist lawyers who become less relevant with every passing year because they’re [sic] worst fear is people realizing race relations are better now than they’ve ever been. They stir up people who are anti-racist (perhaps for all the right reasons) by making them believe theres a Nazi boogyman behind every corner. They want everyone that would organize and vote against their policy to be painted in this cartoonish, easy to categorize metaphor of 1930s European politics which cheapen what the people who lived through the era actually went through. We are not a hate group. They know that. They just don’t care.
[Emphasis in original.]
And he criticized the Alabama-based civil rights organization for failing to denounce “Marxist hate groups” like Antifa, which “get a pass after openly threatening and participating in street violence.”
Though, as the SPLC points out in its FAQ section, violence “is not a requirement for being listed as a hate group,” and “there are some violent groups that are not hate groups.” In addition, Antifa does not fit their definition of a hate group because they “do not promote hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Bazile informed me that he, Gavin McInnes, and the Proud Boys as a whole are “anti-racist,” and accepting of people regardless of race, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. When asked about some of the hateful statements made by Gavin McInnes, Bazile said it would be “impossible” to “explain the context of every last example of the selected quotes from Gavin.”
But he defended some of McInnes’ language, characterizing many of the SPLC’s quotes as “clearly jokes” or “hyperbole to color in a point.” The people who took issue with his language, he said, were taking it too seriously in order to “paint people like Gavin as a racist.”
“Saying a word like ‘tranny’ isn’t a magic wand that makes someone against trans people,” Bazile said. And as for McInnes’ use of the N-word, he cited a comedy routine by George Carlin to suggest that racial slurs aren’t bad in and of themselves, and that what makes them good or bad is the context in which they’re spoken.
Though in the case of McInnes, the context often remains problematic. Take his puerile essay “Transphobia Is Perfectly Natural” — which was so venomous Thought Catalog decided to pull it. McInnes wrote:
Of course [being transgender is] fucking unusual. We’re all transphobic. We aren’t blind. We see there are no old trannies. They die of drug overdoses and suicide way before they’re 40 and nobody notices because nobody knows them. They are mentally ill gays who need help, and that help doesn’t involve being maimed by physicians. These aren’t women trapped in a man’s body. They are nuts trapped in a crazy person’s body. … To fight against transphobia is to justify trannies. To justify trannies is to allow mentally ill people to mutilate themselves. When your actions are getting people mutilated, you’re at war with them.
McInnes also, as the SPLC noted, published his work on white nationalist websites like American Renaissance, VDARE, and Taki’s Magazine.
And while it doesn’t mention his hobnobbing with professional racists like Jared Taylor on his old Compound Media show, it does bring up the fact that, for a group that so openly despises the alt-right, white nationalists have been oddly attracted to the Proud Boys.
In an August 10, 2017 article, the SPLC’s Hatewatch staff revealed that several Proud Boys maintained white supremacist beliefs or had ties to Neo-Nazi and other racist groups. For example, Gabriel Brown and Brien James. Even alt-right hatemonger Jason Kessler was filmed being initiated into the the group — prior to the “Unite the Right” disaster, that is.
McInnes has yet to release a statement on the Proud Boys’ hate group designation, but when asked if McInnes planned on doing so Bazile directed me an “SPLC rebuttal” from August 2017.
In it, McInnes mocked the SPLC for ignoring the “real-life threats right before [their] eyes” in favor of “shutting down the new Elk’s Lodge based on some random fear of a men’s club morphing into an evil army that murders everyone who isn’t like them.”
[Pawl Bazile has since posted a full article about the Proud Boys’ designation as a hate group which reiterates much of what he told me.]
Update: Following the publication of this piece, Pawl Bazile of Proud Boy Magazine informed me that the Facebook page that was suspended was not their “official” page, and that several Proud Boy Facebook pages exist. I’ve since corrected the article.