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This Fawning New York Times Profile of Violent Proud Boy Bigot Gavin McInnes Is Next-Level Complicity BS

gavin mcinnes, alt-right, proud boys, new york times, nyt, bigot, hate speech, profile, normaiize

If you saw one of the world’s leading media outlets describe someone as a “hipster” and a “provocateur,” who would you think they were describing? Banksy? Shia LaBeouf? The description sounds innocuous, if mildly insufferable. It sure doesn’t sound like a way you’d describe the leader of an actual gang, let alone a hate group. But that’s how the New York Times described Gavin McInnes, co-founder of the alt-right, misogynistic, racist group the Proud Boys.

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It’s not exactly clear what the point of the profile is. In its 1500+ words, it uses mostly McInnes’ own to describe him and his group. By doing so, I suppose the author (Alan Feuer) is able to shirk any responsibility to paint the hate group with the gravity they warrant.

Instead, the article leans into McInnes’ path from Vice co-founder to the man who brandished a plastic sword at Antifa protestors outside a GOP headquarters last week. Of course, even that description heavily downplays what actually happened. Feuer calls the incident a “brawl” between McInnes’ “allies and a crowd of shouting protesters.” What actually happened, and what presumably led the NYT to write this timely profile, was a large group of Proud Boys jumping three protestors, shouting homophobic slurs as they severely beat them. There’s video available. I don’t recommend watching it.

McInnes did show up with a sword, which turned out to be plastic. The NYT’s description of the event makes it sound like something out of a child’s birthday party, not the brutal, bigoted attack it was. The storied newspaper has done much to empathize with Trump voters–with their endless “What do they want” profiles of the white working class voters who came out ahead in the last election yet somehow still need to be studied and mourned–has also worked to normalize violent pro-Trump, anti-everyone else groups like the Proud Boys.

Again, the article goes extremely easy on the group, using their own words to describe themselves, rather than depicting them honestly. Luckily, Twitter was here to do that today, to do the job that we would normally expect the New York Times to do before publishing such a near-fawning profile of a bigot. It’s not hard to find any number of clips of McInnes advocating for and bragging about violence. (Content warning: violence, hate speech, transphobia.)

The article quotes McInnes as saying he is an “Archie Bunker sexist,” as in “I don’t like Gloria Steinem, but I’d take a bullet for Edith.” But his words about even the women in his own life go far beyond playful sitcom sexist banter.

Warning: extreme racist language. (Repeated use of the N-word.)

The New York Times describes McInness’ “egghead glasses, pocket-protector and heavy-drinking, angry-nerd aesthetic,” his “aggressive rhetoric,” and his willingness to “get physical.” They do not call him out for his actual inciting of violence, his celebration of violence, or his racist, misogynistic, homophobic, or transphobic propaganda. It’s hard to imagine the outlet using this sort of framing for any other form of extremism. Yet when it comes to Trump-supporting bigots, men like McInnes and their followers seem to get not just a pass, but full justification.

(image: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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