Far-right fanboys are trying to organize street gangs — and the most effective way to fight back may be mockery
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Kyle Chapman, known to his fans on the alt-right as “Based Stickman” for beating a leftist protester with a wooden stick at an early March pro-Trump protest in Berkeley, California, wants people to think he’s tough. In late April Chapman announced on Facebook his creation of a new group of right-wing street fighters, called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (or FOAK), dedicated to “defense and confrontation” in the streets. You could almost hear the chest-thumping right through the computer screen.
“This organization is for those that possess the Warrior Spirit,” Chapman wrote. “The weak or timid need not apply.”
A few days after that, the Proud Boys network, a group that Vice co-founder and former Fox News contributor Gavin McInnes calls a “pro-West fraternal organization,” posted a notice about the formation of the alt-knights’ order and a call for “strong minded men” who are “comfortable in fisticuffs” to join. I reached out to Chapman in hopes of seeing his “warrior spirit” for myself. Alas, I ended up disappointed.
Initially, Chapman seemed interested in talking and gave me his phone number. But when I called him, he refused to speak to me, insisting that I email my questions instead. Since then nearly a week has gone by, and Chapman has not answered my emailed questions or any of my follow-up nudges on Facebook. (He has read them, though.) The “warrior spirit” is apparently not enough to help him tough out a conversation with a journalist about why he believes the world needs the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights.
The public claim is that this organization is needed for self-defense.
“The Proud Boys are already known to escort woman and targeted speakers to events for protection against violent anti-speech protesters,” a blogger named PawL BaZile wrote on the Proud Boys website. “FOAK will now take the next logical step in organizing the Proud Boy watchdogs into a force to protect and serve when the police are told to stand down.”
“These guys are there looking for a fight,” Neiwert said in a phone conversation. “These guys are clearly quasi-fascist, classic protofascists, and they’re on the track to full-fledged fascism. All we need to do is look at history and see how it happened.”
Neiwert said he consults historian Robert Paxton’s theory, published in 1998 in the Journal of Modern History, that delineates the five stages of fascism. Right now, Neiwert argued, far-right elements are seeking to consolidate power and that requires recruiting mainstream conservatives to their side. By going out into the street and picking fights with leftists, under the guise of free speech and self-defense, groups like the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights can play the martyr and give ordinary conservatives an excuse to rally around them.