By Emma Campbell
“Proud boys, stand back and stand by,” President Donald Trump said at the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 after moderator Chris Wallace asked him if he would condemn white supremacy.
The Proud Boys are a far-right organization self-described as “western chauvinists” who engage in political violence in the United States and Canada. Their agenda is one of “anti-political-correctness” and “anti-white-guilt,” according to their founder Gavin McInnes.
The all-male organization was established during the 2016 presidential election.
It is unsurprising that the group has pledged their support to Trump, who has displayed a pattern of white supremacist ideology since the 1970s when the U.S. Department of Justice sued him for racial discrimination.
White supremacy, which is the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially Black people, is more prolific in the U.S. than many realize. Multiple US Agencies have labelled Proud Boys as a white supremacist group that will “continue attacking members of the community who threaten their belief of Caucasian superiority,” according to The Colorado Information Analysis Center.
Though the group has been banned from staple social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they’ve still managed to collect hundreds of ardent supporters who bond over shared Islamophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.
“Maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb,” McInnes said on The Gavin McInnes Show in 2017. “No, I’m just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas — like writing.”
It is important to note that McInnes — who has published titles like “How to Piss in Public,” “Street Boners,” and “10 Things I Like About White Guys” — may not be the court authority on quality writing. It’s also safe to assume that McInnes knows little to nothing about women and the areas in which they thrive.
McInnes officially disassociated from the white supremacist group in 2018 in a video posted online. The video was posted in wake of a violent confrontation between members of the Proud Boys and the anti-fascist group Antifa that occurred in Minneapolis, Minn. The conflict resulted in criminal charges for 10 of the Proud Boys who were involved.
“I’m told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture will help alleviate their sentencing,” McInnes said in the video. “We are not an extremist group and we do not have ties with white nationalists.”
To debunk McInnes’s firm claim that the Proud Boys are not extremist, look no further than the organization’s online glee over Trump advising them to “stand by” at the presidential debate.
On the social media app Telegram, one Proud Boys’ account made the president’s gauntlet part of their logo, while another posted that they were “Standing back and standing by, sir” — appearing to interpret Trump’s statement as a chilling call to arms.
Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who specializes in tracking online extremism, spoke to NBC News about how Trump’s comment has inspired the group to mobilize.
“To say Proud Boys are energized by this is an understatement,” Squire said. “They were pro-Trump before this shoutout, and they are absolutely over the moon now. Their fantasy is to fight Antifa in his defense, and he apparently just asked them to do just that.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Proud Boys are considered violent and dangerous. They were part of the throngs of white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 at the Unite the Right rally that resulted in the death of counter protestor Heather Heyer.
Trump’s virtual endorsement of the extremist group might have galvanized them enough to perpetuate more death, violence, and heartbreak.
“He legitimized them in a way that nobody in the community expected,” Rita Katz, executive director of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Intelligence Group, said in The Washington Post. “It’s unbelievable. The celebration is incredible. In my 20 years of tracking terrorism and extremism, I never thought I’d see anything like this from a U.S. president.”
The Proud Boys are not only dangerous because they’re armed with assault rifles — but because they believe in a country submerged in hatred and bloodshed.
They’re standing by. And with the slightest indication from Trump, they will act.
Featured Photo caption: Extremist Trump supporters are celebrating after the president told white supremacist organization known as the “Proud Boys” to “stand by” during the first presidential debate. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.