A far-right armed group called the Proud Boys got a mention by the US President, but what do we really know about the group?
“Stand back and stand by,” that was the advice US President Donald Trump had for a far-right group known as the Proud Boys at the first presidential debate.
Trump was asked to explicitly condemn far-right groups who are propagating white supremacist ideas, however, he chose instead to blame far-left groups like Antifa.
"Somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem," he said on national television as millions of American watched.
Trump is acutely aware that some of his most diehard supporters lean towards radical and extremist views on immigration, Muslims and guns.
Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down..."— Axios (@axios) September 30, 2020
Trump: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left." pic.twitter.com/4vrPocKzcu
But for most viewers watching last night's debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the mention of Proud Boys by the president, would have sent many to their search engines to find out who they are exactly.
The founder of the group, Gavin McInnes, is also one of the co-founders of Vice Media, a media organisation better known for focusing on hipster subculture than fostering neo-fascist views.
McInnes left Vice Media in 2008, however, since then his notoriety has only increased.
A Candian-Brit, McInnes, founded the Proud Boys, the neo-fascist and far-right group in 2018. The all-male group is mainly focused on the US but it also has a presence in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The group’s name is derived from the Aladdin soundtrack “Proud of Your Boy” and the name has been used ironically. The uniform of the members is black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirt, which now the clothing maker has withdrawn in North America due to its association with the far-right group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a human rights organisation in the US, has called the group an “alt-right fight club,” who often show up at Trump rallies seeking to fight with counter-protestors.
The Proud Boys are also known to attend rallies in paramilitary uniforms and openly carrying guns as a means of intimidating opposition protesters.
McInnes has argued that the Proud Boys are nothing more than a “pro-West fraternal organization,” who believe that white western countries have lost their way and their masculinity.
The group and its founders are part of a wider alt-right ecosystem that has grown in recent years and become emboldened by Trump’s refusal to condemn them.
Proud Boys claim that the group is not about race but many of their ideas also align with Trump’s political platform like closing the border; supporting gun rights; ending welfare and venerating normative gender roles.
Proud Boy rituals
When a new member joins the group they must declare “I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
The idea is that white men are increasingly being victimised by the left into feeling ashamed about the past behaviour of European colonial empires. However, critics would argue that the current social upheavals in the US are about correcting historic injustices that were never resolved.
Other bizarre and strange practices that the men who join must follow include: getting a tattoo, abstaining from masturbation, hazing and getting into a fight.
The group has been banned from all social media platforms in a bid to stop it from gaining further recruits, however, the US presidential pulpit would have certainly been a useful recruiting tool.
Proud Boys has also engaged in open street fights with far-left activists like Antifa who also proclaim to be fighting against the rise of fascism in the US.
The group has made its presence felt alongside other far-right groups when protests in support of Black Lives Matter have taken place around the country.
While the group is relatively small its propensity for organised violence has meant that it has become an important discussion point in US politics and now part of the election.