NEW YORK — The 29 “anti-sharia” rallies across the United States last week attracted a variety of participants, from the “alt-right” Identity Evropa to middle-aged supporters of President Donald Trump. But one new organization that provided “security” at the events stood out. Spotted at rallies in New York, Austin, San Bernadino, Phoenix and Orlando, Proud Boys is an all-male outfit that claims admiration for Western civilization — but its preparations for street fighting with leftist rivals are worrying rights groups.
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PawL BaZiLe, the production director of the group’s Proud Boy magazine, was one of the more charismatic figures at the anti-Muslim event in New York. “Proud Boys are Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” he told Haaretz. “It’s a men’s fraternal organization. We’re a fun-loving, patriotic type of guys. Most of us are Trump supporters, some of us are not.” BaZiLe says he fervently believes in the West. “I look around at the buildings in New York and I say, ‘This is something worth protecting.’”
Proud Boys was founded about a year ago by Gavin McInnes, the founder of Vice Magazine (he left the journal 10 years ago). In recent months, Proud Boys members have been spotted at rallies across the United States providing support to right-wing speakers, protecting right-wing women (one of their mottoes is “We venerate the housewife”), and gearing up for more altercations with Antifa, a far-left anti-fascist group.
McInnes, who has contributed to far-right magazines such as VDARE and American Renaissance, is known for videos against feminists, liberals and Black Lives Matter. During a visit to Israel this year, he posted a video called “10 Things I Hate About Jews” (later changed to “10 Things I Hate About Israel”). McInnes called Hebrew “spit talk ... the whole language is clearing your throat .... It’s like Gaza, they’re launching little tiny missiles from their mouth onto your shirt.”
He also complained that Israelis have a “whiny paranoid fear of Nazis” and said the tour guide a the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum wasn’t grateful to “the Western world” for defeating Nazi Germany. “Sorry we didn’t do it in time, but we still saved you. It’s like a black guy going ‘yeah white people did slavery’ .... Well, they didn’t start it but they ended it, so maybe be a little more positive about it?”
Pat Buchanan a favorite
According to BaZiLe, there are thousands of Proud Boys in New York. “We have meet-ups, we go drinking; we usually watch a mixed-martial-arts match. I personally don’t drink, but the other boys like drinking, and I watch and sometimes I smoke a pipe or cigar. We just shoot the shit — we talk about women, we talk about our jobs, new ventures .... We talk about the news of the day,” he says.
“We read pages from books that we like and we talk about them,” he adds, mentioning Pat Buchanan’s “The Death of the West. “We’ll read passages from the book and say ‘what do you think about it?’ And we’ll talk about it. It’s basically Oprah Winfrey’s book club for men, but more fun than anything Oprah has ever done.”
Buchanan, the political columnist who worked for presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and later made a bid for the White House himself, was accused of denying the Holocaust when he argued that Treblinka was a transit camp, not a death camp. He even got into a feud with Eli Wiesel.
Also, Buchanan has frequently argued against what he considers Jewish influence, saying “Capitol Hill is Israeli-occupied territory.” When President Barack Obama appointed Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court in 2010, Buchanan wrote, “If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this Democrats’ idea of diversity?”’
For cinephiles, Proud Boys offers a film club and recommends Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” for its portrayal of Bill the Butcher (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). “What was supposed to come off as an evil anti-immigration villain, ends up coming off as a bad ass hard nosed New Yorker, jealously defending the land his father died for from a culture he saw as invasive and incompatible at the time,” says an article on the Proud Boys website.
No Nazis allowed
For all their anti-immigrant sentiment, the group devotes a lot of its online activity to arguing that it’s not a white-supremacist outfit. McInnes has posted a video called “Why We Don’t Let Nazis in Proud Boys,” but the arguments can be unconvincing. For example, McInnes starts by saying "I would like to make it clear that the Nazis don’t exist. The KKK is not storming through your campus calling people the N-word, the noose on your professor’s door was not put there by a Nazi . All those hate crimes you see are hoaxes .... Even the smoking guns you have, like that Sieg Heil they did [for Trump in November], you know those people were kidding, right?”
As BaZiLe puts it, “We are not racially anything; the fact that we’re even talking about race right now bores me.” Referring to avowed white supremacists, he says, “If they were to say something anti-Semitic to me, I have no problem defending gays, or Jews, or blacks, or anyone else for that matter who is just minding their damn business. Some people call us alt-light because we are not racist.”
But the Proud Boys’ arguments don’t convince organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which considers it “alt-right.” After all, Kyle Chapman, a Proud Boy who clashed with Antifa in Berkeley, California, announced he was forming a “defensive arm” of the organization called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights.
The law center has warned that “a new fight-club ‘fraternity’ of young white, pro-Trump men is being formed” — it also warned before the anti-sharia protests that “with the recruitment of anti-government groups and the far-right Proud Boys, the potential for violence increases.”
Asked how the Proud Boys provided security at the event, BaZiLe says “we have a lot of ex-military and ex-cops. We’re not violent but we will defend ourselves when necessary, as anyone would. As Israel does.”