Proud Now, Boys? Not So Much
By Andy Campbell
Multiple leaders of the Proud Boys street gang were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges in May for their outsize role in the insurrection on January 6, 2021.
After almost a week of deliberation, a jury in Washington, D.C., returned a verdict finding Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio—the gang’s leader—Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rare charge historically brought against terrorists on American soil. All were convicted of obstruction charges and conspiracy related to delaying Congress on January 6. A fifth defendant, Dominic Pezzola—the first to breach a Capitol window using a riot shield stolen from an officer—was the sole Proud Boy found guilty of robbery and assaulting an officer.
The trial, which lasted nearly four months, was one of the government’s highest-profile cases against leaders of two extremist groups that flooded D.C. in late 2020 to make their final stand for then-President Donald Trump. Several leaders of the Oath Keepers—a selfdescribed militia—were found guilty on seditious conspiracy charges in January.
After Trump’s inciting “fight like hell” speech at the Ellipse, prosecutors argued, the Proud Boys used the throng of Trump’s supporters massing around them as “tools” to breach the Capitol and ultimately delay the certification of Joe Biden as president.
Messages shown in court between Biggs and Tarrio detailed their desire to recruit more dangerous allies before January 6—which several defendants referred to as a coming “civilwar”—as opposed to the rest of the Proud Boys’ rank and file, whom Biggs referred to as “losers who wanna drink.”
“Let’s get radical and get real men,” Biggs messaged Tarrio on December 19, 2020. That quote played a key role in the prosecution’s case. “The Oath Keepers had their rifles. The Proud Boys had their ‘real men,’” prosecutor Conor Mulroe said.
The government often drew a hard line between Trump’s rhetoric and the Proud Boys’ mobilization to D.C., including an infamous moment during the 2020 presidential debates in which Trump, asked to rebuff any of the American extremist factions fighting on his behalf, said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Regardless of Trump’s intent, the gang took his words as marching orders and began stockpiling cash, equipment and recruits to prepare for January 6.
The government secured guilty pleas from multiple Proud Boys in exchange for key testimony. Among them was Jeremy Bertino, a chapter leader from North Carolina, who pled guilty to seditious conspiracy prior to trial. He testified in February that he and his fellow Proud Boys were prepared to forcibly overturn the election if nobody else could.
It’s unclear what chilling effect, if any, the trial will have on the national Proud Boys organization or the growing extremist crisis in the Republican Party. The gang continues to mobilize throughout the country, primarily in response to the GOP’s grievances: Over the past year they’ve held near-weekly rallies at LGBTQ+ events, abortion clinics and demonstrations, and drag queen story hours, introducing violence, harassment, and members of other bigoted factions to otherwise peaceful civic events.
That said, the Proud Boys are facing legal pressure from a variety of sources. Several of their leaders are looking at decades of prison time over the verdict, and separately, some of the defendants and the national organization are being sued for $22 million after the Proud Boys vandalized a number of historic Black D.C. churches in the month leading up to January 6.
Andy Campbell is senior editor at HuffPost, where a longer version of this article originally appeared.
The Dangerous Way Young Men Bulk Up
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is once again warning consumers to avoid muscle-building “supplements” that are anything but a safe alternative to steroids. In an advisory sent out at the end of April, the agency said it continues to receive reports of serious side effects linked to selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), US News reported. The compounds mimic some of the effects of testosterone and have long been under study for treating muscle wasting and bone loss caused by certain medical conditions. Online companies are marketing SARMcontaining products with the help of social media. SARM-containing products are linked to sometimes life-threatening side effects such as heart attacks, strokes, and liver failure. Other side effects include testicular shrinkage, sexual dysfunction, fertility problems and even psychosis.
Contrary to popular belief, the typical SARM user is not a high-level athlete trying to “cheat,” said Dr. Shalender Bhasin, director of the Research Program in Men’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Most people using SARMs are young men who want to enhance their appearance.” And that, according to Bhasin, points to a broader, littlerecognized issue: rising rates of bodyimage disorders among teenage boys and young men. Bhasin said that compared with decades ago, the “idealized male body” these days is improbably lean and muscled—another message amplified by social media.
“These young men are trying to mimic what is not realistic—something you can’t achieve by going to the gym a few times a week,” Bhasin said.
Rising with You, Our Afghan Sisters
As activists struggle for freedom around the world, V-Day recently launched its newest blog series: “Afghan Women Speak: Stories from Inside Afghanistan.” The blog will amplify the stories and voices of Afghan women who can never be silenced as they share the reality of their lives on the ground, V-Day says. They are committed to “rising” for and with the women of Afghanistan as they seek ways to directly help. V-Day noted that, as always, they will place emphasis on local women knowing best what their communities need.
Every day, the rights of millions of women in Afghanistan continue to be violated, stripped and threatened. Women currently have lost access to education, jobs, and multiple other freedoms, such as traveling without a male chaperone and utilizing public spaces like parks and gyms. V-Day is not alone in believing that the women of Afghanistan have the right to education, to travel, to freedom of movement, to jobs, to security, and the freedom to be able to breathe and be.
The first in the series, “We Will Die of Hunger If He Does Not Work,” was released in May. To learn more, go to: www.vday.org/afghan-women-speak.
Campus MENtal Health
Organizers of a new men’s mental health club at the University of Southern California could be a model to help create a safe space where male students can be vulnerable and support one another. Through discussions and activities, the USC Men’s Mental Health Initiative aims to destigmatize men’s mental health in a campus setting.
“Some of my friends who are male have comment[ed] to me regarding mental health… ‘I feel weak right now,’ and ‘I don’t want to talk,’ or ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this,’” according to Sam Stack, a sophomore, who founded and serves as president of the Men’s Mental Health Initiative. Other statements, including “I should be stronger,” and “I should be manly,” were among the comments that Stack, a communications major, said he has heard. It was those kinds of comments from men close to him that led Stack to create a program to help break the stigma around men’s mental health, especially in college-aged men.
“If someone’s kind of feeling down, they can come and use this as a safe place… [to] share or just choose to listen and see that they’re not alone,” he said. Will other colleges and universities follow USC’s lead?
“Misogyny Influencers” Cater to Young Men’s Growing Anxieties
Parents, teachers and politicians are worried about the appeal of so-called “online misogyny influencers” to boys and young men. These influencers post content to thousands of followers in videos and podcasts, offering advice about relationships, mental health and wellbeing, and achieving material success and status.
They are believed to be having a negative effect on young men’s attitudes, beliefs and expectations, including about gender roles and relationships between men and women, says Lola Okolosie, a teacher and writer focusing on race, politics and feminism. “I’ve carried out extensive research with young people about sex and relationships for nearly a decade. We need to ask what the appeal of misogyny influencers among some young men tells us about how they feel about themselves, and what it means to be a man right now.”
She also believes we “need to question what it tells us about our society’s failures to take the challenges young men face seriously. There seems to be a vacuum for these influencers to fill.” She says the term “misogynistic” is meant to refer “to clear expressions of outright hatred or dislike of women and girls—but also, more broadly, to the sharing of sexist ideas about both males and females.”