The Proud Boys are a pro-gay, anti-masturbation, self-described “pro-West fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
Oh, and their name comes from an Aladdin song.
Proud Boys was founded in 2016 during President Donald Trump’s election campaign by Gavin McInnes, a Canadian who co-founded Vice Media. He left Vice Media in 2008.
“He has made a second career as a right-wing provocateur … or prankster,” said Will Sommer, a journalist in Washington, D.C., who has followed the small movement.
“You hear that a lot as a young man: that masculinity is gross and the West is evil, and you start to believe it,” McInnes said. “(The West) doesn’t deserve any of the abuse it’s getting.”
According to McInnes, there is one fundamental tenet of the Proud Boys: upholding “western chauvinism.” The organization exists almost as a second coming of the Men’s Rights Movement and an expression of neo-masculine traditions and toxic masculinity. Proud Boys say they want to “venerate the housewife” and return to the gender roles of the early 20th century.
“They are definitely worth keeping an eye on,” Sommer says. “They tell themselves it’s like the Elks Lodge or the Knights of Columbus, but there’s this political element, and the prankishness has allowed them to say they’re just kidding around … There is a violent aspect to it, though they say it’s all in self-defense.”
The Proud Boy Facebook group, which has over 20,000 followers, stipulates values that also include being pro-life, advocating for free speech, supporting gay rights and the Trump administration. The group also claims to stand against Islam, Nazism and feminism.
The Proud Boys’ libertarian code also includes: advocating for the closure of all prisons; giving everyone a gun; legalizing drugs; ending welfare; closing the borders to immigrants; outlawing censorship; glorifying entrepreneurs; recognizing “the West is the best;” and “shutting down the government.”
Several media outlets have asserted the view that the group is racist or homophobic, something McInnes has rejected. Non-white and gay members are welcome, although they must adhere to the belief that “white men are not the problem.”
The organization’s name was actually adopted from a song that was featured in the 2011 Disney musical version of Aladdin. In the song, entitled “Proud of Your Boy,” the character of Aladdin seeks his mother’s forgiveness for his misbehavior.
McInnes claims to have first heard the song at a school’s talent show in late 2015 and made a running joke of the character’s apologetic self-contempt on his podcast. The organization’s name stemmed from an ironic take on the song name.
To join the Proud Boys, wannabe members must go through a four-degree initiation process. The first requires publicly outing oneself as a Proud Boy. The second involves taking a beating from other members until the pledge can name five kinds of breakfast cereal. This initiation step also requires a vow to abstain from masturbation. To complete the third degree, the new member must get a Proud Boy tattoo.
McInnes said the masturbation clause started off as a joke. But in the process of abstaining, he said he started thinking about how better he felt, and how pornography has had a detrimental affect on the institution of marriage.
The fourth and final degree was added much later by McInnes and is a clear step away from the prankishness of the other rites. The fourth initiation requires that a prospective Proud Boy serve the “cause,” as McInnes suggested, by engaging in a physical brawl with members of “antifa,” the far-left and anarchist anti-fascist movement.
Even though that is a step, McInnes suggests that the organization is anti-violent. He said the group has been forced to take steps to protect their members at rallies where brawls with anti-fascist protesters have become common.
McInnes said: “We get attacked every day just for wearing (Make America Great Again) hats.”
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