Since their inception during the 2016 presidential election by Gavin McInnes, the Vice Media cofounder-turned-professional far-right asshole, the self-proclaimed "western chauvinist" Proud Boys have become former President Donald Trump's de facto street army, marching against — and brawling with — the various progressive movements that stood up to oppose the Trump administration.
That violent enthusiasm for Trump's xenophobia and bigotry came to a head during the Jan. 6 attempted coup at the United States Capitol, in which multiple members of the neo-fascist gang — and that's what they really are — were among the insurrectionists who stormed the halls of Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a second presidential term to Trump.
Now that Trump is officially out of office, however, the very group he once ordered to "stand by" has become decidedly less enthusiastic about the man to whom they once pledged loyalty. The boys, it turns out, are not so proud anymore.
In private chat rooms, across messenger apps, and on far-right social media platforms, members of the group have begun turning on Trump, declaring him a "total failure" in the same Telegram channel they once used to declare him "emperor," according to The New York Times. Elsewhere, he's been dubbed "weak," "a total shill," and accused of facilitating "the betrayal of Trumpist base by Trump himself."
The defections stem, in part, not only from Trump's broad failures as president, and his inability to remain in power, but from what's seen as his abandonment of the group in their time of need. After multiple Proud Boys leaders were arrested for instigating and participating in the violence in Washington, D.C., in the waning days of the Trump administration, many in the group had reportedly hoped the president would include them in his last-minute pardon spree. Instead, one member wrote in a Telegram channel reviewed by the Times, Trump had instigated the attempted coup, only to "[wash] his hands of it."
Which isn't to say the Proud Boys are going anywhere soon. With thousands of estimated members, and the sort of clannish structure that rewards group cohesion, the gang may have lost faith in Trump. But there will surely be new and even more despicable people for these boys to feel proud about.