21st Century extremism: Tracking the Proud Boys


Not all heroes wear capes and fly around:

All five Proud Boys on trial this month in the Justice Department’s landmark seditious conspiracy prosecution were in Squire’s original data set. Another member who pleaded guilty and is expected to testify previously filmed himself railing against Squire on social media, and posted her private information on Telegram in retaliation for her research.

After years of observing Proud Boys act as if they’re above the law, Squire said, the trial offers the promise of long-awaited accountability. “This is where you end up when you’re in this movement. It’s not going to end well,” she said. “To use their own favorite expression: You eff around, and you find out.”

Yanno, folks on the right like to throw the word "Patriot" around to sauce up their gun fetishism, but Megan is what I consider a true patriot. Using her skills to protect the wider public from unhinged and dangerous people, even though she knows that comes with a serious risk:

Squire, now at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, is among a small cadre of academic researchers and leftist activists who saw early signs of the risk posed by the Proud Boys. She waited years for law enforcement agencies to catch up. Since the first appearances at local rallies, the group’s thuggish behavior made it “clear from the very beginning that the Proud Boys would emerge as leaders above the other street-level extremists,” journalist Andy Campbell wrote in a new book, “We Are Proud Boys,” which chronicles the movement’s rise.

The trial, veteran Proud Boys observers say, is a test of how the courts deal with right-wing political violence. It should also offer a window into the inner workings of a national extremist group and a hard lesson about ignoring the risk posed by hate-fueled online networks.

“It almost always eventually gets into the real world, either through a rally, or an attack on the Capitol, or sending people to your house to harass you,” Squire said.
The Proud Boys did not take kindly to Squire’s work. Soon, she found herself in the group’s crosshairs. The nasty, threatening messages she received escalated, she said, after she started closely tracking Proud Boys who demonstrated against Confederate statue removals in North Carolina, where she lived.

One time, a far-left activist in North Carolina tweeted a photo of an unidentified Proud Boy at a rally. Squire had seen the man’s face before and knew that he had given media interviews, including to The Washington Post, as “Jeremy Onitreb.” When she started checking him out, Squire said, she figured out that he was spelling his real last name backward: Bertino.

Bertino, Squire said, was livid with her for publicly identifying him.

He started a Facebook group called “March of the Patriot” and filmed videos in his car threatening to show up to Elon University, where Squire taught. He later used a people-finder service to dig up Squire’s personal family information, which he then posted on Telegram. Squire provided screenshots of the posts.

In October, Bertino became the first Proud Boy to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy charges and is expected to be called as a government witness in the trial of Tarrio and the others; federal prosecutors referenced him repeatedly in opening statements this month.

Sometime over the weekend I'm going to do a deep dive into the psychology of guys like this. Stay tuned...