South Carolina Man Risks It All To Fight For Proud Boy Leader's Honor
How many of us can say we would happily go to prison for years simply to defend the honor of someone we had never met, and in a way that actually would not even help that person? Probably not too many! Especially if that person was a well-known fascist.
James Giannakos Jr., a 46-year-old unemployed man living in Gilbert, South Carolina, was arrested on Thursday after (allegedly) sending a series of disturbing voicemails to a former assistant United States attorney in which he threatened her, her family, and everyone she currently works with. Why? Because said former assistant United States attorney had provided information to reporters about Proud Boy leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio having previously been a snitch for the Feds and having given them information leading to at least 13 arrests. It is not clear if Giannakos knows Tarrio, if he is a Proud Boy himself, or if he just felt like serving a few years in prison for funsies.
His first voicemail went to the attorney herself. He used his actual first name and called from the phone of a woman he was closely associated with, and at whose residence he was known to spend a good deal of time:
Miss (name known to the FBI), my name's James. I just wanted you to know that if anything happens to Mr. Enrique Tarrio, the same thing will happen to you and your family. I cannot believe you released the CI information, if that's even true. If anything happens to him, I promise you and your associates will pay for it. You will be held responsible.
Giannakos then sent several other messages to the law firm where the former AUSA currently works as well as to their satellite offices in other cities, telling them that outing Tarrio was "illegal and immoral" and that, again, "[i]f anything happens to Mr. Tarrio or his family, the same thing will happen to you and your associates. Be safe."
It is unclear what exactly Giannakos expected to achieve on behalf of Tarrio. While it's clear he (allegedly) wanted the former AUSA to feel scared, and to cause problems for her at her new job, it is not so apparent what he actually expected her or her current employers to do to keep Tarrio safe. What is also clear is that these were likely not empty threats, as Giannakos had previously been convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
Of course, not everyone is standing by Enrique Tarrio these days. Right Wing Watch reported earlier this week that news of Tarrio's previous status as a narc has resulted in several chapters declaring themselves autonomous from the national leadership — while also asserting that they are not political but merely a "men's drinking club."
Among those who have released "public declarations of separation" are the four chapters of the Indiana Proud Boys as well as the Tulsa Proud Boys in Oklahoma.
"We condemn the actions of Tarrio while cooperating with federal law enforcement as a confidential informant," the Tulsa Proud Boys wrote on Telegram. "We will continue to operate as Proud Boys but recognize no centralized leader or leadership beyond chapter officers … We are not a criminal organization, militia, fight club or political movement. We are merely a men's drinking club."
A joint statement from the four chapters of the Indiana Proud Boys shared similar sentiments, stating that they "reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him."
"We do not recognize the assumed authority of any national Proud Boy leadership including the Chairman, the Elders, or any subsequent governing body that is formed to replace them until such a time we may choose to consent to join those bodies of government," read the group's statement on Telegram. "We were created to be a men's drinking fraternity that focuses on self-improvement and brotherhood. This is what we will continue to be."
Yeah, except that's never really been the case. The Proud Boys have been far more than a "men's drinking fraternity that focuses on self-improvement and brotherhood" since they were first founded by Gavin McInnes in 2017. Mostly that is just a thing they say whenever they get in trouble. "What? Us? We're just an innocent men's drinking fraternity focused on self-improvement and brotherhood!" Of course, it's difficult to pull of that image when you're constantly going around picking fights with leftwing activists, talking about being Western Chauvinists, organizing massive Nazi rallies, and doing a whole lot of other sketchy things you don't really see the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo doing.
The St. Louis Proud Boys said that the image Proud Boys like Tarrio and Joe Biggs have perpetuated has made it really hard to recruit normal guys — who surely would go and join the Proud Boys, were it not for their antics.
"Enrique has always been big on the rallies—way bigger on them than most guys—and as a result, he doesn't curtail the public perception that the Proud Boys are a rally-centric fraternity; rather, he furthers it," the St. Louis Proud Boys wrote on Telegram. "Those of us who want the fraternity to retain its focus on brotherhood have focused only on brotherhood and neglected to counter the messaging coming from people like Enrique and [Joe] Biggs."
The St. Louis Proud Boys went on to explain that the current perception of the Proud Boys as a violent militia "drives away the sort of guys who used to join—the sort of guys of whom we want more—and attracts a bunch of try-hards and militants and weirdos."
It seems really unlikely that a bunch of normal guys who just wanted to have a "men's drinking fraternity" that wasn't all about trawling leftwing protests in search of petite vegans to beat up so they can feel like big, tough, macho guys would want to be Proud Boys. They could probably come up with another name if all they wanted to do was sit around and drink and do brotherhood and self-improvement (or not masturbate, which is a big thing for them). But no, they went with the Proud Boy name and they went with it for a reason — and when you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way.
It seems extra telling that the thing that really pushed them over the edge was Tarrio's history as a narc and not, you know, the many, many obviously terrible things Proud Boys have done over the years.
Perhaps this is the beginning of the end, for the Proud Boys as a "drinking club for men" — although with friends like James Giannakos, they probably have a bright future ahead of them as a prison gang.
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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