Proud Boys: Conspirators or Loud-Mouthed Opportunists?

Ideas and Issues

February 5, 2021

            New Orleans      There’s no question about it, the Proud Boys and their ilk are a bad bunch that have to be cordoned off from the regular crowd of disappointed Trumpsters as extremists, gunsels, wild whacks, and bad hombres in general. The are racists, misogynists, far-right, anti-Semitic, and neo-fascists as verified by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Canada has now labeled them a terrorist group subject to asset seizure and the penalties attributed to a terrorist for any crime any of their members might commit. They need to be watched, and we all need to be wary of them and their imitators.

Saying that, I have to add two things.

First, that it’s a climb for me to understand how such a group could take its name from a song “Proud of Your Boy” from the 2011 Disney musical Aladdin. It’s a strain for me to take seriously a group whose roots are so, excuse me for saying, Mickey Mouse.

Secondly, I can’t stop reading about the ins and outs of how this unruly, disorganized crowd coming from the Trump rally a mile and a half away, managed to take over the Capitol.

I keep getting stuck in coming to a conclusion about the Proud Boys and others on the issue of whether they were really conspirators or just loud-mouthed opportunists who took advantage of openings that allowed them to live their radical fantasies? For the life of me, none of these folks at this particular demonstration seem like “a man with a plan.”

Real organizers with a real plan to break into the Capitol would have operated differently with more precision and silence. They also would have been there early and in position. These boys strolled up together relatively late, after a large crowd had already broken through the barricades and was literally at the door.

Reportedly when they got there, one of their number talked to another one who later was up front and seen helping break a window to get into the Capitol. These guys charged with conspiracy walked inside, not in the first wave, but once the Capitol was breeched. Yes, they were glad to get inside and happy about it, but if points were rewarded for their role making it happen, they still seem late to the game.

For the life of me, all of them seemed surprised to find themselves in the Capitol. Some might have had a fever dream, imagining it possible, but I have trouble believing they had a real, executable plan of any kind to do so. They got lucky. It happens sometimes in an action. In fact, if you’ve been on lots of actions, you look for the openings to exploit and then take advantage of them. That’s a trait of good organizing, not good planning even, and certainly not a conspiracy.

The Proud Boys have to be stopped. They are a domestic threat, because they might act on their wild talk.         Any and all who were in the Capitol need to be charged for whatever they did, be it trespass, vandalism, or injury to police and others. On the other hand, conspiracy? I don’t see it.

I also think it’s a bad precedent. The Capitol police and others were not prepared for the crowd, its numbers, or its rage. Some seem to have even abetted the crowd. Their systemic laxness, unaccountability, and leadership incompetence, despite the heroism and sacrifice of some of their members, allowed a disorganized, angry, hopped-up mob to achieve something that should have been impossible at the spur of the moment.         Bad actors took advantage of the opportunity. There are lessons to be learned, but frankly, that’s different than an organized conspiracy.         These charges are more meant to be chilling than to be held up in court. I’m sure the Proud Boys are getting the message, but there are others involved in peaceful demonstrations and protests, that are also seeing the signals, too, and we should all find them worrisome.