“PROUD BOYS, STAND BACK AND STAND BY…”
— DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, 9/29/20
Who and what are the Proud Boys, with their provocative slogan “Fuck around and find out”? Are they a patriotic fraternal organization defending Western civilization? A men’s drinking club moonlighting as a vigilante defense force? An ultraconservative version of Fight Club? Or a fascist paramilitary horde of politicized drunken thugs? Andy Campbell, who describes himself as a “modern extremism reporter,” should know—after all, he wrote the book on them. Literally.
We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered in a New Era of American Extremism is a compelling read about this looming, lurking reactionary threat. In his gripping page-turner, Campbell chronicles the rise of the alcohol-fueled “fascist gang of hooligans” that spawned the organizer of 2017’s Unite the Right rallies at Charlottesville, along with the first rioter to smash his way into the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and leaders who are, as of this writing, on trial for seditious conspiracy.
Born 1987 in Olympia, Washington, Campbell graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham with a major in journalism. He went on to report for the Brooklyn Paper and New York Post, and for the past decade-plus, his beat has been national crime and extremism at the Huffington Post. We Are Proud Boys is based on Campbell’s on-the-ground reporting of political violence.
Was January 6, 2021, merely the dress rehearsal for what is to come? Let’s find out.
HUSTLER: How did you get interested in covering right-wing extremism?
ANDY CAMPBELL: Throughout my career, I’ve focused on street-level crime reporting. For Huffington Post I was a national crime reporter and followed ambulances across the country. For a long time it was covering shootings… During the rise of Donald Trump we started witnessing more acts of violence at political rallies, especially involving these weird groups of extremists we’d never seen in public before. These were just bizarre armor-clad and meme-clad extremist factions coming out of the woodwork, believing they had somebody working for them in Donald Trump.