Review: “We Are the Proud Boys”, by Andy Campbell

Although Campbell doesn’t explore it, far-right paranoia about pornography goes all the way back to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In Protocol No. 14 of this notorious, more than a century-old forgery, Jews are supposed to create “dirty and abominable literature” to entertain the public. goyim of their plan to take over the world. In recent years, similar attacks branding pornography a Jewish conspiracy have been carried out by right-wing terrorists ranging from Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, to Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh Synagogue in 2018.

These anxieties reflect a greater fear: that what is lost is not just testosterone but masculinity itself. It’s no coincidence that groups like the Proud Boys emerged at a time when we have record numbers of women in Congress and far more women than men are graduating from college and graduate degrees. Women’s proper role, McInnes has repeatedly stated, is in the home, as housewives and traditional mothers. “There’s a real war on masculinity,” he told an interviewer a few years ago, adding that many Proud Boys were raised by single mothers with no male figure in their lives. A researcher who studied 43 McInnes videos that garnered more than a million views each on YouTube found that only three had to do with race, while 26 were about women, sex or feminism. One, titled “Single Moms: Stop Talking About Your Braveness and Coolness,” garnered 2.1 million views. Remember: the target of some of the worst insults and threats on January 6, 2021 was one of the most powerful women in the country, Nancy Pelosi.

We hear a lot about the far right these days about the Great Replacement: the accusation that sinister liberals are deliberately replacing native-born white Americans with hordes of minorities. But one wonders if what really worries bands like the Proud Boys is the replacement of men by women.

A similar sense of precarious white masculinity underpinned early vigilante groups. One of the most common pretexts for a Klan lynching, after all, was the rumor, usually spurious, that a white woman had been sexually assaulted by a black man. Badge-wearing members of the American Protective League were less public about their sexual anxieties, but it was also essentially a boys’ club. After a few men signed up their wives and other women expressed interest in joining the group, the group banned female members, with one leader saying allowing them would cause “untold hardship”. The America of the WWI years, like today, was one where millions of men were shocked by the changing role of women: they were about to get the right to vote , birth control promised them power over reproduction, and as war swept away men in uniform, women showed they could hold traditionally male jobs ranging from firefighter to streetcar conductor.

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