I’m noticing a curious thing in coverage of Donald Trump’s failure in a debate with Joe Biden to condemn the Proud Boys white supremacist militia group. Folks are declining to call it a militia group, preferring to call it a gang.
But gangs are merely a form of organized crime. Whether about drugs or the classic forms of shakedown operations, gangs are principally about profit. Militia groups are not merely about illicit profit; they are motivated rather by ideology (in the U.S., typically white supremacist and/or extreme right wing) and, like gangs, armed, often heavily. The Proud Boys thus count as a militia group. I have no explanation for the apparent squeamishness about the label.
An article on the Atlantic website, forthcoming in print, reminds me of another way, namely the Oath Keepers and similar groups, the distinction between police and such militia groups is being obscured. Members of these groups are often current or former military or police, indeed they may join the military for the training.
Mike Giglio, “A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans,” Atlantic, November 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/right-wing-militias-civil-war/616473/
Jason Wilson, “Proud Boys are a dangerous ‘white supremacist’ group say US agencies,” Guardian, October 1, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/proud-boys-white-supremacist-group-law-enforcement-agencies
- Zak Cheney-Rice, “We Can Probably Stop Asking Trump If He’s a White Supremacist,” New York, September 30, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/09/trump-tells-proud-boys-to-stand-by-still-white-supremacist.html; Robert Mackey, “Neo-Fascist Proud Boys Exult Over Trump Telling Them to ‘Stand By,’ Not Stand Down,” Intercept, September 30, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/09/30/neo-fascist-proud-boys-exult-trump-telling-stand-not-stand/↩
- For examples, Robert Mackey, “Neo-Fascist Proud Boys Exult Over Trump Telling Them to ‘Stand By,’ Not Stand Down,” Intercept, September 30, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/09/30/neo-fascist-proud-boys-exult-trump-telling-stand-not-stand/; Jason Wilson, “Proud Boys are a dangerous ‘white supremacist’ group say US agencies,” Guardian, October 1, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/proud-boys-white-supremacist-group-law-enforcement-agencies↩
- Mike Giglio, “A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans,” Atlantic, November 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/right-wing-militias-civil-war/616473/↩
- Lois Beckett, “How the US military has failed to address white supremacy in its ranks,” Guardian, June 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/24/us-military-white-supremacy-extremist-plot; Leo Shane, III, “Signs of white supremacy, extremism up again in poll of active-duty troops,” Military Times, February 6, 2020, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/02/06/signs-of-white-supremacy-extremism-up-again-in-poll-of-active-duty-troops/↩