For the Alt Right, branding has been everything. The mission of people like Richard Spencer or groups like Identity Europa is to rebrand white nationalism as just another intellectual movement about identity, disconnected from the long and relevant history of violent white supremacist attacks. With expensive conferences, snarky advertising, and coded language, they want to avoid the linkage with violence.
This is obviously a mirage since they have always been tied to the violent wing of the white nationalist movement since they are birthed right out of it, the same people in a new generation. The Council of Conservative Citizens, while allying with Alt Right figures and talking points, has also been a meeting point for KKK members and inspired the violence of Dylan Roof. American Renaissance is regularly attended by the Stormfront crowd and Aryan Nations members, and even inspired the Arizona shooting that left many dead and a congresswoman with a critical head wound. In every one of these Alt Right organizations you will find a history of white supremacist violence, from Identity Europa’s Nathan Damigo’s conviction of a racially motivated assault to the neo-Nazis that make up much of Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Workers Party.
As we saw on April 15th, the Alt Right has now shifted towards open assault and attacks on leftist protesters, uniting with militia movement members and more volatile parts of Trump’s base to create stirring confrontations in the streets. Led in part by “Based Stickman” Kyle Chapman, they are forming corps of volunteers to being attacking opposition in public ways.
Kyle Chapman, a California activist arrested earlier this month in a clash in Berkeley between anti-fascist protesters and pro-Trump demonstrators, announced this week he is forming the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (cleverly called “FOAK).
Chapman, who uses the Internet meme “Based Stick Man,” says his new militant, highly-masculine group will be the “tactical defensive arm” of the Proud Boys, another group that shows up at pro-Trump rallies looking to rumble with counter-protesters.
“We don’t fear the fight. We are the fight,” Chapman said in a recent social media post announcing FOAK’s formation.
“I’m proud to announce that my newly created Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights will be partnering with Proud Boys,” Chapman said, with the “full-approval” of its founder, Gavin McInnes.
McInnes is a co-founder of Vice (although he and the magazine severed ties 10 years ago) and more recently has been a frequent guest on FOX News and a contributor for the racist site VDARE where he denigrated Muslims and called Asian Americans “slopes” and “riceballs.”
Now described as a “neo-masculine reactionary,” McInnes calls his Proud Boys a “pro-West fraternal organization.”
Others describe it as the military arm of the Alt-Right.
And now there’s “FOAK,” which Chapman proudly describes as a “fraternal organization,” a Proud Boys affiliate chapter, “with its own bylaws, constitution, rituals and vetting processes.”
Although there initially aren’t any overt racist themes, the new Alt-Right group of street fighters sounds quite similar to a neo-Nazi “fight club” called the “DIY Division.” Members of that white supremacist group showed up last month in Huntington Beach, California, mingling with an estimated 2,000 Trump supporters.
The Proud Boys reportedly have a four-step initiation process. It starts with a prospect declaring himself a “Proud Boy,” suiting up in Fred Perry polo shirts with yellow stripes—similar to those worn by skinheads.
The second degree is a “cereal beat-in” during which the new member is punched and beaten by current members until the plebe can rattle off the names of five cereals (you know, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios!)
The third degree reported involves “adhering to the masturbation regimen and getting a tattoo,” blogger Will Sommer wrote in a recent post.
Since then, a fourth-degree has been added to the initiation ritual – brawling with antifascists at public rallies.
Chapman said his Proud Boys’ affiliate, Alt-Knights, are ready to take it to the streets.
“Our emphasis will be on street activism, preparation, defense and confrontation,” he said. “We will protect and defend our right wing brethren when the police and government fail to do so.”
Chapman says his organization “is for those that possess the Warrior Spirit. The weak or timid need not apply.”
The willingness towards this violence was seen especially in Nathan Damigo’s brazen assault of a protester on camera on April 15th, one that has been used as a snapshot of the movement’s turn towards excessive violence.
Spencer himself has been calling for right-wing “defense squads” since he cannot go out in public without opposition, yet this seems to be a code for far-right violence. This is something for the anti-fascist movement to consider, and especially when it comes to the necessity of community self-defense movements. The reality of their violence is becoming explicit, and this could result in seemingly random acts of violence as they become increasingly desperate.