In a wildly tone-deaf profile of Gavin McInnes this week, The New York Times went to great lengths to avoid calling the Proud Boys founder a racist, sexist, fascist gang leader, even though he could be accurately described as all of these things.
As described in the article, published Tuesday, McInnes ― co-founder of Vice and leader of a punch-happy street gang of self-described “Western chauvinists” ― is a “provocateur” worthy of curious contemplation. The former “Brooklyn hipster” recently made national news, after all! The Times’ headline reads: “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went From Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.”
Right off the bat, the Times has glossed over key facts about McInnes ― he’s an anti-Semite; he disparages women, the LGBTQ community and anyone not white and North American; he started a gang that has made a name for itself by committing acts of violence ― in favor of cute descriptors generally set aside for cosmopolitan chefs and singer-songwriters, like “provocateur” and “hipster.”
Some critics of the Times were hoping the paper had learned its lesson after the backlash to its 2,000-word feature on “the Nazi sympathizer next door.” In that November article, the paper of record allowed a neo-Nazi to deny the Holocaust, demonize Trayvon Martin and “hail victory” after the deadly Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Reader, the Times did not learn its lesson. McInnes’ own words and videos fly in the face of the Times’ glowing feature of him ― he is not the safe-for-work drinking buddy the Times portrays him as. His output, which you’ll see below, includes vile homophobia, sexism, racism, celebrations of violence and even sex acts (with himself) on camera.
By the Times’ lights, McInnes is a rabble-rouser, and his involvement in the Proud Boys’ bicoastal crime spree over the weekend was just Gavin being Gavin (emphasis ours):
With his egghead glasses, pocket-protector and heavy-drinking, angry-nerd aesthetic, Mr. McInnes has in recent years set himself apart from the current crop of professionally outraged right-wing pundits, not only for being able to spout aggressive rhetoric, but also for being willing to get physical at times.
His obsessions seem to be more cultural than political. Mr. McInnes, a fiscal conservative and libertarian, calls himself a champion of Western values and reserves a burning ire for the political correctness of people on the left whom he describes as busybodies who have lost their sense of humor.
Below are some examples of McInnes’ work that reflect his Western values, and that the lefty “busybodies” have lost their sense of humor over. McInnes has spouted these views on multiple platforms, including his YouTube channel, Twitter and various blogs and news sites. He generally has a large following on all the platforms he uses (though he’s been kicked off Twitter several times).
A member of McInnes’ Proud Boys was sent to intimidate a Twitter comedian named Vic Berger, who made this compilation of McInnes saying the n-word repeatedly on camera, throwing up a Nazi salute and using every other slur under the sun. (There is also some pixelated nudity and sex toy use.)
He has repeatedly launched into tirades about women and feminism. On HuffPost Live in 2013, for example, he said:
Women are forced to pretend to be men. They’re feigning this toughness. They’re miserable. Study after study has shown that feminism has made women less happy. They’re not happy in the workforce, for the most part. I would guess 7 percent [of women] like not having kids, they want to be CEOs, they like staying at the office all night working on a proposal, and all power to them. But by enforcing that as the norm, you’re pulling these women away from what they naturally want to do, and you’re making them miserable.
He wrote “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural,” a 2014 blog post for Thought Catalog where he said there are no “normal trannies”:
They sell flowers at the local village and bake pies for their scores of adopted children. They’re non-heteronormative. In fact, the only thing more normal than castrating yourself and taking tons of hormones to grow tits is chopping them off. Women who get double mastectomies and then have their cunts turned inside out are just righting a wrong. They need to have a weird cheese blintz-looking thing sticking out of their previous cooch because it feels way better than wearing a strap-on. Sure, the nerve endings aren’t the same as a real dick, but standing up to go pee pee is something these women were born to do. How dare you have a problem with that?
He has repeatedly called for violence among his Proud Boys and “the Trump people”:
The Times profile also goes soft on the Proud Boys, portraying them as a beer-drinking frat whose members simply prefer not to be around women when they’re bro’ing out with their bros:
In its guise as a fraternal organization, the Proud Boys get together in New York and other cities once a month at beery meet-ups that can draw as many as a few hundred participants. Women are not allowed at the group’s formal gatherings (though they are permitted at the “warm up” sessions, Mr. McInnes has written). As a character-building exercise, the Proud Boys forbid both masturbation and the watching of pornography. The group’s initiation rituals include reciting the names of five breakfast cereals while being slugged by other members.
In reality, the Proud Boys are the street gang of the far right. This weekend they assaulted protesters in New York City and Portland, Oregon, making national news and presumably prompting the Times’ SEO-friendly headline about McInnes. When the Proud Boys aren’t singling out antifascists to attack, they often serve as bodyguards for other fascist groups like Patriot Prayer, which has held a series of increasingly violent “freedom rallies” in Portland. New York police are looking to charge several Proud Boys members after an assault in Manhattan on Friday night.
To be fair, the Times does note that the Proud Boys are often seen alongside neo-Nazis:
Sometimes accompanied by skinheads, neo-Nazis, modern-day Confederates and outfits like the Oath Keepers, an association of law-enforcement officers and military veterans, the Proud Boys have scuffled with the left at May Day rallies, so-called free-speech protests and at marches in support of President Trump.
But given that all the anecdotes above are easy to find on Google, the Times’ description of McInnes’ “egghead glasses, pocket-protector and heavy-drinking, angry-nerd aesthetic” is misleading, to say the least.
Reached for comment Wednesday, a spokesperson for The New York Times said via email: “We are always open to criticism, which helps us do better work. On this story though, we disagree with your take.”
“Our story is an unflinching look at Gavin McInnes that directly addresses his racist, sexist and xenophobic comments as well as violence perpetrated by a group he actively leads,” the spokesperson said.
Perhaps understandably, social media users aren’t taking too kindly to the puff piece:
This story has been updated with The New York Times’ comments.