“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups?” asked Chris Wallace.
“Proud Boys?” replied Donald Trump….“Stand back and stand by.”
That was the defining moment from a Presidential debate that CNN’s Dana Bash called on-air — “a shitshow.”
Yesterday, all kinds of articles explained who the Proud Boys are: America’s #1 anti-immigrant, all-male, all-white, right-wing group who live for violent political confrontations. BBC online described their ‘platform’ as Trumpian ideas (“glorify the entrepreneur”, “close the border”), libertarianism (“give everyone a gun”, “end welfare”), and traditional gender roles (“venerate the housewife”). Even the FBI claims they are a white supremacist hate group.
What’s not so well known is that the Proud Boys were founded by a Canadian.
Gavin McInnes, now 50, immigrated from England with his Scottish parents to Ottawa where he studied politics at Carleton University, helped start the Vice media empire in Montreal, then moved with it to New York, and found himself on the street when it grew big there. In 2011, The Walrus published a scathing profile of McInnes in those early days. Its title, Giving Offence, could stand as the motto both for Proud Boys and the President who granted them instant fame on Tuesday night.
Proud Boys started as a joke in 2016 in an article McInnes wrote in the far-right Taki’s Magazine. It took its name from the song “Proud of Your Boy” from the Disney musical Aladdin and became part of the Alt-Right movement that arose when Trump first ran for President in 2016.
But a year later, McInnes started to distance himself from the alt-right, claiming that their issue is race while his is “Western values” which seem to involve something called paleoconservatism.
If this feels hard to follow, just hum along for the next parts. By February of 2019, even though McInnes claims to have broken ties with Proud Boys, he sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for defamation which called them a hate group, claiming “it was untrue and had damaged his career.”
It’s also hard to believe the Proud Boys don’t glorify political violence against leftists when its founder has said: “I want violence, I want punching in the face. I’m disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough.”
By this year, McInnes was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for promoting hate speech and extremist groups – and we know just how hard it is to get slapped by even one of these social media platforms.
So the only person who seems confused about whether this American immigrant created a hate group is McInnes himself. As CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted yesterday: “Proud Boys founder McInnes ‘“went on an anti-Semitic rant in 2017, in which he defended Holocaust denial and repeated anti-Semitic stereotypes. The rant came in a video he originally titled ‘10 things I hate about the Jews.’”
Given this, what may also be confusing is McInnes’ choice of a life partner. For the past 15 years, he’s been married to New York publicist Emily Jendrisak, a Native American, and the daughter of activist Christine Whiterabbit Jendrisak, who fought for the rights of Native Americans.
Speaking on this subject, McInnes has said: “I’ve made my views on Indians very clear. I like them. I actually like them so much, I made three.”
McInnes resides in the US on a green card and the McInnes family lives in Larchmont, New York, which is the 15th richest community in America.