WAIT A MINUTE. Is The FBI Actually Going To Go After Rightwing Domestic Terrorists???
The Proud Boys are a violent Republican street gang of losers who scream about "Western Chauvinism" while trying to reenact the worst scenes from A Clockwork Orange. They have been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (and by Wonkette, though our take is less official), and now they are officially classified as an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism" by the FBI, which tends to be a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to these things.
The classification was revealed in a document obtained by the government transparency Property of The People related to an internal affairs investigation of Erin Willey, a Vancouver, Washington, deputy who was fired from her job after being photographed wearing a "Proud Boys' Girls" sweatshirt -- which she may have manufactured and sold herself. The document was sent to reporters at The Guardian, who then contacted law enforcement to authenticate it.
The photo was sent to The Columbian newspaper, which then reported it to law enforcement. Authorities suspect the source of the video was Willey's ex-boyfriend, Graham Jorgenson, a Proud Boy himself who was bitter about Willey breaking up with him and wanted to ruin her career. There is a lesson here for women who think that siding with misogynists means that the misogynists won't eat their faces.
I officially apologize, by the way, for not knowing there was a Proud Boys Ladies Auxiliary, but in my defense there are only like ... three of them.
The document states:
The FBI categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to White Nationalism. The FBI has warned local law enforcement that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific Northwest and that some in the group have contributed to the escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.
According to the author of the document, the FBI has actually classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group since at least August, though this is the first time that classification has been made public:
The author of the document, headquarters commander Michael McCabe, is in charge of internal affairs, training, background investigation and courthouse security in the Clark county sheriff's department.
After confirming the authenticity of the document, he told the Guardian in a telephone interview that the FBI's classification of the Proud Boys as an extremist group was revealed to him in "a briefing we were given by the FBI" on 2 August, at Clark county's west precinct.
Willey's case is far from the first time right-wing extremists have invaded law enforcement. The FBI itself published a report on members of white nationalist groups infiltrating law enforcement in 2006, so this has been an ongoing problem for a while now -- just not one the DOJ had an appetite to do anything about once rightwingers began screaming and yelling that calling domestic terrorists domestic terrorists just wasn't fair to domestic terrorists.
The FBI taking the Proud Boys seriously enough to classify them as an extremist group, while a bit late, is still important and still helpful. It gives us leverage in taking them down and may make it more difficult for them to radicalize others. It makes it easier to keep their members from infiltrating law enforcement. It makes it harder to blow the things they say off as "jokes" and rebellious opposition to "political correctness."
Gavin McInnes, the founder of the group, is still trying to push the line that even though they go around beating people up, they are simply a wee innocent "men's fraternal organization." There are politicians who openly associate with the Proud Boys, and certain Roger Stones out there who use them as security. There are a lot of people out there who will blow off an SPLC classification as a hate group, because they think the SPLC is just an organization that exists to be mean to conservatives. While some of those people may blow off an FBI designation as well, those who are not already fully radicalized may be more likely to be put off by it. Or, you know, one hopes they will be.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse