Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Featured, Technology
The Proud Boys, a paleoconservative and pro-Trump street gang, has for months been using the social media app Telegram to mobilize its members and supporters to mass report journalists and antifascist accounts on Twitter who are critical of the far-Right, Alt-Right, white nationalist, and increasingly, paramilitary neo-Nazi organizations such as The Base and the Atomwaffen Division.
Recently, the Proud Boys have even taken credit for kicking off both a journalist as well as the online magazine, Jewish Worker, for releasing information related to the Iron March neo-Nazi forums, from which the Atomwaffen Division grew out of. These mass reporting campaigns are happening at a time when the Proud Boys are engaged in multiple legal battles, are coming under increasing media scrutiny, and the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio is also launching a run for a congressional seat in Florida.
In Jail With Your Boy
The Proud Boys were launched by millionaire and VICE co-founder Gavin McInnes, on the paleoconservative website, Taki’s Magazine. McInes had been given the job by the infamous white nationalist, Richard Spencer, who once edited the publication after leaving The American Conservative. McInnes, who had once done a show exploring different subcultures, wanted to create a pro-Trump street fighting force that he described as a “gang.” Within the organization, members rose in the ranks by proving their loyalty to the group and ultimately, engaging in violent confrontations and fights to advance its goals. During the spring of 2017, Proud Boys, alongside militia members, Trump supporters, and neo-Nazis, fought against antifascists in various street confrontations. Soon, a military wing of the Proud Boys was formed: the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which was headed by Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman and Augustus Invictus, a attorney and white nationalist.
By the summer of 2017, tensions were growing between white nationalists in the Alt-Right and the paleoconservatives in the Alt-Lite. This tension came to a head after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which was spearheaded by a white nationalist and a Proud Boy, Jason Kessler. A member of the Proud Boys, Alex Michael Ramos, was arrested and later sent to prison for six years for his part in the savage beating of DeAndre Harris in a parking lot. Numerous Proud Boys and FOAK members were also photographed in the middle of the street fighting, while FOAK and Proud Boy leader Augustus Invictus, who only a few days before had helped Richard Spencer pen an Alt-Right manifesto, was one of the set speakers. Lastly, future Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio also attended the rally, wearing FOAK patches and full tactical garb.
Former Proud Boy leader Chris White was kicked out of the Proud Boys and is now posting photos of members giving Nazi salutes. The Proud Boys are led by Enrique Tarrio who attended Unite the Right and currently is the Florida Director of Latinos for Trump. pic.twitter.com/z35Zzulpxg
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) October 27, 2019
Following the Unite the Right rally, McInnes worked to distance his group from the Alt-Right and expelled Jason Kessler from the organization, however numerous members of the Proud Boys continued to embrace white nationalist and even neo-Nazi ideas. Many more simply saw white nationalists and neo-Nazis as fellow travelers in a common struggle against “the Left.” Leading LA Proud Boy Levi Romero stated that neo-Nazis just “want nationalism, what’s wrong with that? That want to introduce…good shit for America.”
The reason for this "big tent" is to create a street fighting force. This is best summed up by Proud Boy Levi Romero who stated: “Nazis are my best friends, all they want is nationalism, what’s wrong with that? They want to introduce, fuckin’, good shit for America.” pic.twitter.com/DhTBug080U
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 2, 2018
By 2019 however, the Proud Boys have been rocked by a string of court cases. From Tiny Toese and Donovon Flippo facing charges for beating random members of the public in the Portland area, to two Proud Boys in New York being sentenced to four years for attacking antifascists on the streets of New York, to “Trigger” Tom, a white nationalist and Proud Boy leader being sentenced to three years for slashing someone’s face at a Dropkick Murphy’s show in Chicago – the Proud Boys were facing a barrage of legal challenges.
"Trigger" Tom Christensen, so named after bragging he paralyzed a Portland anti-fascist comrade years ago, & president of #Chicago #proudboys, sentenced to 3 years in prison after knife-slashing fellow concertgoer & anti-racist at a Dropkicks show in 2017https://t.co/JxUDg2dTJm
— Panic! in the Discord (@discord__panic) November 19, 2019
These court cases, combined with lingering lawsuits from Unite the Right which are aimed at FOAK, have also been coupled with numerous investigations which have exposed the culture of violence and authoritarianism at the heart of the Proud Boys cult. This pressure, matched by continuing mobilization and grassroots antifascist organizing, has resulted in decreased numbers at their demonstrations. While this is in itself is a positive development, upon retreating back to online spaces, the Proud Boys have found new ways to gang up on their enemies in order to silence anyone they disagree with.
The Proud Boys Weaponize Telegram
While in the past, Proud Boy intimidation against the gang’s critics and antifascists has taken the form of physical home visits and harassment, increasingly the Proud Boys have utilized the tactic of mass reporting accounts on platforms like Twitter in order to silence anyone who criticizes the group or attempts to shine a light onto far-Right, white nationalist, and neo-Nazi organizations.
In recent weeks, the Proud Boys have set their sights on (among many others) the journalist Elizabeth King and the Jewish Worker account, which has been instrumental in helping to spread information about the leaks from the so-called “Iron March” forums, from which a variety of neo-Nazi groups have grown out of, namely the Atomwaffen Division.
The way these mass reporting campaigns work is quite simple, on the Proud Boys Telegram thread for “Mass Reporting,” the admins post up a tweet or an account to target and encourage their troops to report it for supposed terms of service violations. Even if accounts are found to have not violated the platforms rules, generally a large number of reports will trigger the platform to shut the targeted account down.
It’s Going Down reached out to Elizabeth King over Twitter to learn more about their case. They stated:
“I’ve had two accounts “permanently suspended” by Twitter following far-Right harassment campaigns. One evidently coordinated or at least boosted by the Proud Boys via their mass report Telegram channel; another apparently instigated by neo-Nazis following a separate campaign against another Twitter account, which I had to fire up after the Proud Boys first got my original account banned.”
Even though it was clear that King was the target of a mass reporting campaign and she reached out to Twitter support multiple times to resolve the problem, they never responded. “Twitter never replied beyond form emails to my appeals over suspensions of my accounts,” King wrote.
Here's the Proud Boys' mass report channel trying to mobilize its Twitter activists in defense of one of the people outed in the IronMarch nazi forum leaks, a guy who goes by "OvenEngineer."
Tell me again how the Proud Boys aren't nazis? pic.twitter.com/eCWRuHWAQX
— Gwen Snyder is uncivil (@gwensnyderPHL) November 9, 2019
Only after King “reached out to Twitter for comment for an article” did Twitter finally un-suspend her accounts. Unsurprisingly she added, “After my back-up account was restored, the Proud Boys-via the same Telegram channel-attempted to get it suspended again.”
But King has hardly been the only recent target. The Proud Boys also set their sites on the Jewish Worker account, which has been organizing and releasing information on the Iron March forum leaks, which have helped to expose members of the Atomwaffen Divsion and the Base; paramilitary neo-Nazi formations linked to multiple murders, multiple attempted bombings and mass shootings, and racist and anti-Semitic attacks.
.@JewishWorker is being targeted by another hate group, the Proud Boys, who claims they're not white supremacists, but they sure do stick up for armed neo-Nazis quite a bit.
— AntiFash Gordon (@AntiFashGordon) November 15, 2019
Writing on their website, Jewish Worker wrote:
Earlier this month, The Jewish Worker unveiled Iron March Exposed, an investigative tool that helps journalists and anti-extremism researchers dig through the leaked database of the Iron March neo-Nazi web forum, where the now infamous Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to at least five murders, was formed. The forum’s posts contain a treasure trove of information linking individuals to violent plots targeting Jewish and other minority groups’ institutions and houses of worship. Since its launch, Iron March Exposed has played a significant role in aiding investigative journalists researching Atomwaffen’s activities, including uncovering the identities of active duty members of police and military forces around the globe who participated in the hate forum.
Concerned that their allies’ identities were being exposed, members of the white supremacist group Proud Boys shared tweets and Facebook posts by The Jewish Worker containing links to Iron March Exposed in a “Mass Report and Retweet thread” on their Telegram channel, encouraging others to report the posts for “privacy violations” and “harassment.” On Tuesday of last week, one day after the Proud Boys began targeting The Jewish Worker, the publication received a 12 hour suspension for a tweet linking to the database. By Friday, @JewishWorker had been permanently banned from Twitter and the Proud Boys had claimed victory.
The Proud Boys were even joined by a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Joel Griffith, who also pushed for the Jewish Worker to be shut down:
Joel Griffith, chair of the Young Jewish Conservatives and a research fellow at the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, shared a tweet celebrating The Jewish Worker‘s suspension and calling for the Jewish anti-occupation group IfNotNow to meet the same end. “Thanks to Twitter for suspending one of the most anti-Israel, anti-American accounts this weekend—@JewishWorker,” Griffith wrote. “Let’s hope @IfNotNowOrg is next for promoting uncivil, anti-Israel bigotry.”
Proud Boys take credit for mass reporting Elizabeth King and Jewish Worker
Commenting on the bans of King and Jewish Worker, the admin on the official Proud Boys Telegram channel wrote:
Behold the fruits of your labour my friends, feels good to get them on their home turf. Since we’re all already kicked off there’s nothing they can do about it.
As Left Coast Right Watch noted, soon the Proud Boys went on to call for the Jewish Worker to be mass reported on Facebook as well.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio posting on the Proud Boys official Telegram channel
In several instances, Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio, who also serves as the Florida director of Latinos for Trump, has posted as the admin on the official Proud Boys Telegram channel. This same channel also often boosts posts from the Proud Boys’ “Mass Report” thread. This means that in all actuality, Enrique Tarrio is currently running, or at least helping to run, the Proud Boys main account and also boosting posts from the Mass Report thread. This means that Enrique Tarrio is at least aware of, if not flat out directing his organization to help support paramilitary neo-Nazi groups such as the Base and the Atomwaffen Division.
As it turns out, Enrique Tarrio is also currently running for congressional office in Florida.
Proud Boys Leader to Run for Florida Congressional Seat
On November 1st, the Miami New Times announced that Enrique Tarrio was running for office. They wrote:
Here’s pretty much all you need to know about Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio: He has questionable ties to Roger Stone, he thinks it’s funny to use racist and homophobic slurs, and he was banned from Twitter after threatening to report undocumented immigrants to the feds as a method of retaliation against his critics.
Currently, Tarrio is going up against both:
Rep. Donna Shalala, a Democrat who flipped the district blue after Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retired in 2018….[and] Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, whom Shalala defeated in 2018.
Proud Boy and troll at the far-Right conspiracy site Big League Politics, Jacob Engels, known for working with Roger Stone to mobilize Proud Boys against attempts to issue a vote recount in Florida during the 2018 midterms, is also working with Tarrio on his campaign.
Proud Boys Digital Solidarity with Neo-Nazis and White Nationalists
Looking through the Proud Boys Mass Report Telegram thread, one would think that the majority of accounts they would be reporting would be journalists who are writing critical pieces about the Proud Boys – and against antifascist groups mobilizing directly against them. This is largely not the case. What one quickly discovers, is that this is only a very small amount of what the Mass Report thread actually encourages its readers to report on.
Instead, the vast majority of the content is about white nationalist, Alt-Right, and neo-Nazi groups who are being reported on and organized against online – and calls for the Proud Boys to defend them. In one instance, the Proud Boys even encouraged their members and followers to write emails to the employer of a Identity Evropa member who antifascists were trying to fire, in an effort to make them look better in the eyes of their boss.
[E]mail any of the directors to send them a nice message in support.
Even groups like Atomwaffen get repeat Proud Boy support, as post after post from the Mass Report thread encourages Proud Boys to shut down attempts by journalists and activists to expose and document neo-Nazis involved in violent, paramilitary organizing.
While on paper the Proud Boys present themselves as against neo-Nazis and even racism itself, in reality, as the Mass Report threads show, the organization is deeply committed to expressing solidarity with any group on the far-Right who is being exposed by grassroots movements and written critically about by journalists.
Reaching out to the Jewish Worker, a journalist from the publication commented for It’s Going Down on this reality:
The Proud Boys love to claim that they’re not white supremacists but rather “Western supremacists.” Yet somehow, whenever white supremacists are endangered of either being exposed or being physically confronted by anti-racists, the Proud Boys have the white supremacists’ backs. It not only undermines their claims of not being a racist organization, but it reifies the fact that they themselves are an ever-present danger to our communities.
Proud Boys discussing mass reporting Elizabeth King. “We don’t have twitter so this bitch won’t have one either.”
The Proud Boys see themselves as united in a common struggle with white nationalists and neo-Nazis and more over, recognize common enemies. While their own organization may differ slightly from those in the white nationalist camp, they are close enough in ideology and share much of the same cultural space on the far-Right (podcasts, memes, hand signs, forums, Trump support, slang) that they are willing to offer material support to those they claim to have nothing to do with.
Two and a half years after Unite the Right and the Proud Boys are still fighting side by side neo-Nazis and white nationalists – except now the terrain has moved from the streets to the internet and potentially, the halls of power.