The Proud Boys, a group that HuffPost reporter Andy Campbell calls “a far right street gang hell-bent on political violence for GOP causes,” are known for immersing themselves in, and being instigators of, political violence. But, according to Campbell, author of the new book We Are Proud Boys, that’s not the scariest thing about them.
“While they were on this parade of violence, they’re also building these relationships in the GOP, and positioning themselves as Trump’s de facto enforcement arm,” Campbell explains to The New Abnormal podcast host Andy Levy in this bonus episode. “They wanted to do what crusty old white Republicans won’t do and get out in the street and fight. And the GOP, especially the Trumpian GOP, was ready to embrace that because Trump loves having people in the street for him, especially if they’re fighting for him.”
America got an unseasoned taste of this when Trump called out the group by name during a 2020 debate and Andy Levy wonders how the former president even found out about them.
“Roger Stone was a huge part of it,” says Campbell. “I mean, he has been friends with [Proud Boys leader] Enrique Tarrio since back in, at least, 2017. And he admitted to me in an interview that he had been advising the Proud Boys politically, as Enrique Tario pushe[ed] them to become more political, run for office, throw their weight behind GOP officials who share their ideology.”
That ideology, Campbell points out, is still rooted in white supremacy. Yet the group has been normalized to a great degree, which he sees as a very bad sign.
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“I honestly think that it is an entire machine that sort of normalizes this. You have the GOP embracing the Proud Boys. You have far-right media not only celebrating them, but continuously blaming Antifa. I mean, Tucker Carlson still maintains that Antifa did Jan. 6. And so you have this whole machine supporting it, and that ends up translating to everyday Americans also supporting it,” adds Campbell. “I was talking to a reporter, he told me about his time in DC right before Jan. 6. He said he could see the shift from just Trump rhetoric, [to] Fox News rhetoric, to everyday people when he got punched in the face by a Proud Boy in December before Jan. 6, and he looked out into the crowd of just regular MAGA folks and a woman who he said could have been his mom turns to him and says, ‘You deserved that.’”
Speaking of Jan. 6, Campbell also explains to Andy Levy how the group members charged with sedition are actually turning on one another. But that doesn’t mean the group is getting any weaker.
Plus! In this episode, actor Paul F. Tompkins, known for There Will Be Blood and BoJack Horseman, explains why he stays away from politics in comedy, and that the MAGA-aligned actors who complain about being blackmailed aren’t being shut out—they just suck.