Embrace of accelerationism signals a potential escalation of violence by Proud Boys
Jordan Green

The caption under the video, despite being couched in edgy humor, leaves little to the imagination.

The 27-second video compiling screengrabs of news headlines about a Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville, Tenn. that was destroyed by arson on New Year’s Eve backed with a hip hop track went out on the Great Basin Proud Boys Telegram account, with the giddy commentary: “Bro this year is about to be LIT.”

This is part two in a three-part series on accelerationism in the Proud Boys movement. You can read part one here.

At least one other Proud Boys chapter, Maryland-DC, forwarded the post.

An earlier post on the channel was even more direct.

“When I hear that California is going to be an abortion sanctuary state and I live less than an hour from the California border,” the caption reads. Text superimposed on an image of a cartoon donkey completes the thought: “I’m makin’ pipe bombs.”

According to the pinned message on the Great Basin Proud Boys channel, the account is primarily run by the president and vice president of the northern Nevada chapter. Raw Story was not able to determine their identities.

In January, the Maryland DC chapter distributed a TikTok video of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan discussing COVID control measures that featured the absurd headline “Military state is beginning” on its Telegram channel. The commentary accompanying the video on the Maryland DC Proud Boys channel included a personal attack on the governor, ending with the hashtag #bringbackpublichanging.

Content advocating for terrorism and the execution of elected officials swapped on Telegram by Great Basin and Maryland-DC along with other hardline chapters reflects a kind of rhetoric wouldn’t be out of place in discussions among members of The Base and Atomwaffen, said Matthew Kriner, the managing director of the Accelerationist Research Consortium and a senior research scholar at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Following a law enforcement crackdown beginning in 2017, several members of the two groups are either serving sentences or awaiting trial on charges of murder, conspiracy to threaten journalists, swatting, stockpiling explosive material and firearms violations.

READ: Why accelerationist Proud Boys latched on to big conservative rallies in DC last month

“That kind of rhetoric is indicative of accelerationist tactics and views,” Kriner said. “That kind of rhetoric is far more likely to be found in chat rooms of The Base, Atomwaffen or Feuerkrieg Division discussing tactics that they believe are necessary for the overthrow and collapse of the political system.”

Content promoting accelerationism, proactive violence and overt white power ideology is becoming increasingly prevalent in online spaces where Proud Boys interact, while the group as a whole serves as a bridge from mainstream conservative entities like the GOP to more extreme far-right activity. As an example of the content that blatantly celebrates violence, posts on the Great Basin Proud Boys channel routinely celebrates Ted Kaczynski, the eco-terrorist who carried out a bombing campaign over the course of 17 years that resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries.

“We’re seeing that these communities are absorbing and interacting with neo-fascist content that is distinct from the broader Proud Boys community,” Kriner said. “The broader Proud Boys community tends to be far-right conservative or crypto-fascist.”

Progressives and centrists might not see much difference between the two positions, Kriner said, but the distinction is critical to understanding when extremists feel justified in resorting to violence.

“The difference is that the crypto-fascists and far-right conservatives don’t generally call for proactive violence,” he said, “whereas the neo-fascist accelerationists explicitly call for violence as a means of generating action.”

READ: Reporter uses 13-minute time discrepancy to demolish Oath Keepers' defense for storming the Capitol

Michael Loadenthal, who serves on the advisory board of the Accelerationist Research Consortium, said accelerationism should not be understood as a movement in the same way that MAGA or the anti-vaccination mobilization are.

“It’s more of a brand and an aesthetic and a tactical repertoire,” he said. “Use of firearms, scary posters with black, white and red colors, advocacy for violence, actively racist and homophobic, advocacy for industrial sabotage — if you do these things, you’re accelerationist.”

The Telegram channels for the Great Basin, Mid-Missouri and Maryland-DC Proud Boys chapters promote particularly accelerationist content, alongside posts that are openly racist and antisemitic as well as violent. The appearance of more than a dozen men attached to the Maryland-DC chapter who wore Proud Boys clothing, skull masks and tactical gear to the Defeat the Mandates rally in Washington DC last month showed that the accelerationist tendency has moved beyond digital space and into the streets.

In one example of antisemitism, a user named “Simon Bolivar” commented on a post in the Maryland-DC channel last month purporting to show immigrants from Latin America who were secretly smuggled into the country on a flight into New York City.

“How ironic would it be if we turn these migrants into national socialists and have them go after the jews?” “Simon Bolivar” commented. “Just tell them Henry Kissinger destroyed their nation and they need to avenge their ancestors.”

Meanwhile, a post in the Mid-Missouri advocating for “decentralized banking” uses the “triple echo” parentheses — a code used by white supremacists for Jews — to charge that “(((They)))” create wage slaves by encouraging usury,” while another post displaying a Jewish caricature suggests that Jews don’t like talk about “natural immunity” because they’re behind the pharmaceutical industry’s push for bigger profits.

The overt antisemitism displayed on the Mid-Missouri and Maryland-DC channels is at odds with the Proud Boys party line, which discourages discussion of the “JQ” — a shorthand among white supremacists for “Jewish question.”

The Great Basin chapter’s endorsement of fascism is not veiled. Twice in December the Telegram channel for the chapter shared a video with the headline “It’s f*cking Mussolini Monday” that showed the fascist dictator striking various poses accompanied by a goofy dance music soundtrack. Another video shared on the channel in December depicts a speech by British fascist Oswald Mosley.

Kristofer Goldsmith, a senior fellow at the Innovation Lab of Human Rights First, has noted that a Telegram channel named “Western Chauvinism” — named for the Proud Boys foundational doctrine — generates fascist content that specifically targets Proud Boys and is widely circulated in the digital spaces where they interact.

Most Proud Boys propaganda is implicitly racist and antisemitic, but where the accelerationist faction marks a departure is in their willingness to express it openly, Loadenthal said.

“I would portray the Proud Boys as antisemitic, racist bigots,” he said. “They would not see themselves as such. But it’s undeniable when they start sharing content that is explicitly racist and antisemitic. You see more and more of that — some call it ‘siege culture’ or accelerationist aesthetic — in the mainstream versions of the Proud Boys, the nationalist version of the far right. Those groups want to see themselves as nationalist. They’re interacting more with people who would identity as fascist or eco-fascist. Those walls used to be higher. They’re not higher anymore.”

Beyond the Proud Boys, Loadenthal said the broader accelerationist network appears to be poised for a “second renaissance,” following a period of reshuffling after the law enforcement disruption campaign that took place from 2017 to 2020.

“We have observed in recent history, specifically the period after the January 2021 assault at the US Capitol building the expanded recruitment by accelerationist groups such as The Base and Atomwaffen, and individuals involved in those groups documenting their presence throughout the United States and Western Europe,” Loadenthal said.

The Base and Atomwaffen jointly released a 90-second propaganda video depicting a “winter survival training” on their respective Telegram channels in late January, Loadenthal said. The text accompanying the video describes the two groups as “brothers in arms” and invites viewers to “Join us in the struggle to Save Our Race.”

“Someone in Atomwaffen and someone in The Base got together and made a video,” Loadenthal said. “It could be two people, it could be four people, it could be more. What it shows is some degree of coordination.”

Another indicator of a rise in accelerationism within the Proud Boys is content shared on Telegram that glorifies Kaczynski — no less than nine times on the Great Basin channel since the beginning of December 2021. Last week, the Great Basin chapter shared a TikTok video that explicitly traces a radicalization path from enthusiasm for Donald Trump to support for terrorism. It begins with footage of Trump dancing to “YMCA” by the Village People, captioned, “My political beliefs in 2016,” and then turns to static, before a new frame shows Kaczynski being led away in handcuffs, with the caption, “My ‘political’ beliefs in 2021.”

Admiration for Kaczynski on the far right extends beyond the Proud Boys. Ryan Sanchez, a neo-Nazi from southern California who is affiliated with the Groyper movement, noted news that Kaczynski had been diagnosed with cancer with the hashtag #PrayForTed on his Telegram channel. Sanchez is currently organizing a “team” to accompany the truckers convoy that planned to begin in southern California on March 6 and travel to DC.

“They embrace the unmitigated nature of the attack, and it shows they don’t feel the need to go through representative democratic systems,” Loadenthal said, explaining the appeal Kaczynski holds for the far right. “They don’t feel the need to go through communities of affinity. They don’t care if they alienate people. They are apocalyptic, and they are not concerned with the optics.”

Samantha Kutner, who has extensively interviewed members of the Proud Boys and is at work on a book about the group, said she is concerned about the potential for an escalation of violence, citing the mobilization around trucker convoys and the upcoming mid-term elections. She said it’s impossible to predict when someone will decide to carry out an act of violence, or whether it will be a member of the Proud Boys or someone who holds no organization affiliation.

“There are incidents like in 2018 during the mid-terms with the MAGA bomber where you can see how Trump’s rhetoric acts as a mobilizing force,” she said. “There’s no consideration of these disastrous effects.

“My fear is that he’s going to incite further violence and there will be, if not the Proud Boys, other of his followers who act on it,” Kutner continued. “Individuals who commit violence might be identified as MAGA, but they might not have any affiliation. The likelihood of violence based on past precedent and Trump’s rhetoric right now is incredibly high.”