In the aftermath of the first presidential debate a certain theme has emerged in relation to the media coverage of the “Proud Boys” group. Let’s see if you can figure out what it is.
The Guardian wrote: ‘The group, which admits men only, was classified in 2018 by the FBI as an “extremist group”‘
The Hill wrote: “The FBI categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism”
The Mirror wrote: “a violent far-right group declared ‘extremist‘ by the FBI”
The Rolling Stone wrote: ‘the FBI “categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to White Nationalism’
Sky News wrote: ‘The Proud Boys – who have been called an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism” by the FBI’
USA Today wrote: ‘the FBI called the Proud Boys “an extremist group with ties to White Nationalism.”‘
KEEL radio in Louisiana wrote: “The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist organization, classified by the FBI as an “extremist group”
Canadian news site Narcity wrote: “The group was classified by the FBI as an extremist group in 2018″
Newsweek wrote: ‘a group labelled by the FBI as extremists with “ties to white nationalism,”‘
Quartz went as far as to say: “Proud Boys are listed as a white supremacist hate group by the FBI“
And those are just a few. A quick perusal of the world’s news outlets this morning reveals dozens of references on the theme of the Proud Boys being declared an extremist group by the FBI.
There’s only one problem with this narrative of course, which is that it’s a complete lie. A total fabrication. “Fake News” as they say. The FBI has never officially declared the Proud Boys an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism” or anything like it.
So why do so many journalists believe that they did?
The answer lies back in 2018. An extremely left wing non-profit called Property of the People were looking through a Freedom of information request they had made as a part of an anti-police campaign against the Clark County Sheriff’s department, and found a memo where a local commander stated that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as extremist group.
After the story broke Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon the head of the Oregon FBI quickly cleared up that they had said no such thing, and that while they had indeed given a brief to the Sheriff’s department that included information on the Proud Boys, it didn’t include any “classifications” and that it had also included info on Anarchists and far left groups as well.
So to sum up, by early December 2018 this story was dead. A local Sheriff’s office had gotten the wrong end of the stick during a briefing and had written their misconceptions down in an official memo. Full stop, end of story.
So why is this fake news being repeated by some of the largest media organisations in the world almost two years later?
The clue is in a Guardian story linked in most of yesterday’s articles repeating this Proud Boys lie. This article was written in late November 2018 by Guardian Australia journalist Jason Wilson and popularised the trope of the FBI officially (yet apparently secretly?) declaring the Proud Boys an extremist group. Wilson never retracted his story after the truth came to light. Which of course is hardly surprising. At the time Wilson was leading (an eventually successful) campaign to have Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes banned from visiting Australia.
As you may have guessed Wilson is hardly an unbiased authority when it comes to the Proud Boys. The reasons for his antipathy are probably best summed up by the courageous investigator Eoin Lenihan, who pointed out in the Quillette journal that Wilson regularly uses his Guardian columns to promote Anarchist extremists like Alexander Reid Ross, Shane Burley, Mark Bray and Luis Marquez and that he also uses his columns to “defend such tactics as doxing, stalking, deplatforming and shaming as valuable means to attack individuals whose views he dislikes”.
Here at the Unshackled we’ve also pointed out that Wilson has promoted (and even plugged the books of) other Anarchists in his Guardian columns including Matthew Lyons, a frequent contributor to Anarcho-Communist site LibCom who runs his own Anarchist blog and who gave a talk in New York in 2016 entitled “Trump, White Supremacy, Fascism? Building New Resistance Movements!”. The fruits of the “anti fascist resistance movements” built by people like Lyons and promoted by scribes like Wilson can be seen by the light of the burning buildings adorning several dozen American cities this year. Wilson has also made multiple appearances on the podcast of Australia’s most well known Anarchist organiser the pseudonymous “SlackBastard”.
In none of his many articles attacking “extremists” like the Proud Boys has Jason Wilson ever pointed out the even more extreme viewpoints of the people he quotes to attack them. And of course this is why extremists and their fellow travellers like Wilson continuing to have a platform to spread their lies is a major problem. As long as fabricators like Wilson are in a position to spread fake news, misinformation and mistruths, and as long as the overwhelmingly left leaning media caste of the English speaking world continues to unquestioningly accept them, we will continue to see false leftist narratives pushed to the very top, even to the debates for the election of the most powerful man in the world.