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Shawn Vestal: Trial records expose Proud Boys as the silliest seditionists
Sun., Jan. 29, 2023
It’s long been clear that the Proud Boys – the “alt-right fight club” that rode the Trump train to prominence and a key role in the Capitol insurrection – are a destructive, malign force.
Less well-known, perhaps, is how incredibly silly they are.
This has been reinforced by court filings in the Washington, D.C., trial of several Proud Boys in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, where they helped lead the effort to overturn the last presidential election.
Five members of the organization face charges of seditious conspiracy and a range of other crimes related to assault, conspiracy and obstruction. The accused include a former national chairman of the group, Enriquo Tarrio, and a leader with a particular reputation for thuggishness from Auburn, Washington, Ethan Nordean.
Court filings in the case include a copy of a manual outlining club initiation rites, meeting guidelines, ranks within the organization and other matters. A lot of the manual seems like something designed for the Little Rascal’s He-Man Woman-Haters Club.
No girls allowed!
Sing the club song at least once a night!
Pledge allegiance to your gun!
If it weren’t for the rank bigotry and bloodlust, you might imagine these rules were written in crayon and hung on the wall of a treehouse. The 11-page manual is by turn distressing and amusing, in thrall to a vision of redemptive male violence and flush with the attitudes of little boys playing tough guy.
It often manages to touch both poles at the same time.
Take the description of the “Five Cereals” ritual, in which a member advances to the club’s Second Degree rank by being punched repeatedly by other members while trying to … name five breakfast cereals.
“Shots to the head and below the belt are discouraged but not against the rules,” the manual says. “The proud boy receiving his licks is not meant to fight back though doing so does not negate his second degree. After the beating, the brother gets a hug from (the one assigned to count the cereals) as he says ‘Welcome aboard,’ and everyone says ‘Proud of your boy,’ several times.’ ”
Seriously. Group members have denied this document is a club manual, but it was seized at the home of a key member and entered into evidence in the ongoing trial in Washington, D.C. It has also been reported on in the past, including in the book, “We Are Proud Boys,” by Andy Campbell.
The manual for new members includes a scriptural-style reading from a Pat Buchanon book (“In the story of slavery and the slave trade, Western Man was among the many villains, but Western Man was also the only hero”); a routine for toasting entrepreneurs, “the housewives,” free speech, and guns; and the warning to the “parasites both on the streets and in the White House who want to attack us and take what we earn.”
“You want a war? Well, you’ve got one,” the manual reads. “To all our enemies both high and low … BRING IT ON!”
It’s a real testament to the excellence of “Western Man.”
The Proud Boys worship Western Man, as you may know, and while they pay lip service to opposing white supremacy, they live in the same basic neighborhood. They call themselves Western chauvinists, and based on their club manual, you’d have to be impressed that they know the word “chauvinist.”
Nordean also goes by the name Rufio Panman (all good boys clubs involve code names, after all.) A body builder and protein supplement peddler, he got his start as a right-wing thug brawling in Portland and Seattle in 2017 with the group Patriot Prayer – whose leader, Joey Gibson, has been a presence at Spokane incidents such as the protests outside Planned Parenthood and a demonstration at the home of our former health officer, Dr. Bob Lutz.
Nordean was known for bringing “extraordinary levels of thuggish violence” to street confrontations on the West Side, according to David Neiwert, who writes about extremist violence for the progressive web site Daily Kos.
He graduated to the Proud Boys and became a national leader. In late December 2020 and early January of 2021, he posted online about plans to storm the Capitol in response to the false claims of election fraud peddled by the former president. This included a post where he explicitly said he and other Proud Boys were planning to “attempt to overwhelm police barricades and enter the United States Capitol building,” prosecutors say.
Reading court documents and reporting about the case is disturbing. But reading the membership manual lends it all a gleam of pure derangement – a sense, fitting for these times, that the ugliest, most threatening elements of our society are also just absurdly, impossibly dumb.
This is how it feels to read the full lyrics to “Proud of Your Boy,” the uber-cheesy song written for, though cut from, the movie “Aladdin.” (“Though I can’t make myself taller or smarter or handsome or wise, I’ll do my best, what else can I do?”).
It’s how it feels to read the manual’s “NO WANK” policy (“A Proud Boy must not ejaculate alone more than once every thirty days. That means he must abstain from pornography during that time and if he needs to ejaculate it must be within one yard of a woman with her consent.”)
It’s how it feels to their sophomoric claim to “venerate the housewife” (“We see housewives as sentient beings who have a great gift.”)
Stand back and stand by, indeed.
It’s just too stupid to be believed. And yet it’s real.