Founded: In 2016 by Gavin McInnes, who previously helped launch Vice Media. “Proud Boys started as a street-fighter group that wanted to be real-life shitposters,” says Kriner. “They wanted to be those edgelords on the street.”
Core beliefs: The Proud Boys declare themselves to be “Western chauvinists,” which is “a fancy way of saying white supremacists or white nationalists,” Kriner argues. Despite surface denials of bigotry, the Proud Boys have acted as a gateway to the alt-right. Kriner describes them as a “vessel to deepen the red redpilling” of disaffected men. They have a hipster aesthetic, testosterone-fetishizing mores (eschewing masturbation, for example), and initiation rituals that make light of violence — e.g., enduring punches until initiates can name five sugar cereals.
The Proud Boys rage against
“the left,” which they blame for undermining Western society. The Proud Boys take metaphorical culture wars and make them literal: They are street brawlers, often showing up to clash with antifascist counterprotesters — particularly in cities in the Pacific Northwest. Differing from militia movements, says Alex Friedfeld, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Cen
ter on Extremism, “they’re more focused on opposing the left than the federal government.”
Approach to violence: Unlike the Oath Keepers and other militias, the Proud Boys don’t tie themselves in knots looking for moral or legalistic justifications of violence. “They’re fascists,” says Kriner. “They’re not adhering to a constitutional structure. They’re saying, ‘We’re here to fuck shit up.’ ”
Key moments: Top Proud Boys face federal charges for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. Earlier, a prominent Proud Boy, Jason Kessler, helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. (Kessler was belatedly kicked out of the Proud Boys.) In a 2020 debate, thenPresident Trump was asked by Joe Biden to disown the Proud Boys. Trump instead told the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by,” because “somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left.”