Who Are The Proud Boys & Why Did Trump Tell Them to “Stand Back & Standby” at the Presidential Debate?

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USA’s Presidential Debate between Donald Trump & Joe Biden (source: Wall Street Journal)

After more than a year of head-butting on just about everything, Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden finally met on the presidential debate stage that was broadcasted worldwide on Wednesday.

The first debate between the duo deteriorated into bitter taunts and near chaos as Trump repeatedly interrupted his opponent (and the moderator) with angry jabs and at one point, attacked the reputation of one of Biden’s sons who passed away from brain cancer. Though he was trying to keep his cool, Biden did not mince his words either – this is the first time the question “Will you shut up, man?” has ever been posed on a presidential debate.

It was so bad that netizens agreed it was hard to hear either of the candidates speak, heck, even the moderator was struggling to keep both in check.

As it was broadcasted, the chaotic debate saw many share sarcastic memes and jokes about the experience of watching the debate – even folks in Malaysia.

Although some moments were amusing, what is not is the fact that Trump seemed reluctant, even afraid to denounce the neo-fascist group, Proud Boys, in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacy and militia groups.

Instead of condemning it was more commanding when Trump said, “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by”.

Take a look: 

But for people who are not from the USA, you might wonder – who and what is the Proud Boys? So, here are some facts you should know…

According to The Guardian, the Proud Boys was created by the Canadian-British far-right activist and VICE magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes in 2016 in the lead-up to Trump’s election as president.

The male-only group, which only allows men to join, was classified in 2018 by the FBI as an extremist group (though it was later explained by the FBI that they were only targeting certain members of the group), while research and advocacy organisation Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists it as a hate group.

The Anti-Defamation League describes the group as misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration. Fuh… minus one trait and it sounds like some well-known groups right here in Malaysia.

(source: FT)

With a history of street violence against leftwing activists and protest movements, the group’s name is a reference to a song from the musical version of the Disney film Aladdin. Members often wear black and yellow polo shirts (Fred Perry has strongly condemned them) along with red “Make America Great Again” caps.

Mind you, they’re not exclusively white – but for some reason, the very limited people-of-colour in the group are often put in the forefront – probably to show that they’re not “racists”.

A Proud Boy must declare that he is a “Western chauvinist” who “refuses to apologise for creating the modern world”. Their platform, such as it is, includes Trumpian ideas (“glorify the entrepreneur”, “close the border”), libertarianism (“give everyone a gun”, “end welfare”) and traditional gender roles (“venerate the housewife”).

Whatever it is, they have become notorious for their political confrontations.

One instance was when former Proud Boys member, Jason Kessler brought together the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 that included members of the Ku Klux Klan and a number of neo-Nazi groups, with many wearing body armour, far-right symbols and sporting guns and other weapons.

Unite The Right Rally (source: Wikipedia)

They have faced off against Antifa in a number of violent street rallies in the last two years, most notably in Oregon, Washington and New York. In recent months, however, they have repeatedly turned up to oppose Black Lives Matter marches or any demonstrations that oppose their far right views including those supporting feminism and the LGBT community.

The only reason why you rarely see them on common social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube is because the group has been banned, while members and official chapters have been largely sidelined towards less-popular networks.

So why didn’t Trump want to denounce them at the debate?

Political analysts have claimed that Trump’s winning campaign in the past capitalised mainly on ire of disenfranchised white males and working class America. With the Proud Boys, Trump not only has his own unofficial fanclub of thugs to intimidate others–from Muslim neighbourhoods to peaceful protestors, but also a loudspeaker to amplify his message to a larger group of discontent men.

Now that you know this information – do whatever you can with it.