Proud Boys in Hawai‘i
Many were surprised by the results of the 2016 election, meaning, they were surprised by the number of people who support Trump and his views. Over 100,000 people voted for President Trump in Hawai‘i and a national group with a new chapter here is activating to advance right-wing views.
The Proud Boys is an international organization of right-wing men who sport many of the trappings of the alt-right but differentiate themselves by saying they are anti-racist, among other things. According to an online map, there are two Proud Boy chapters in Hawai‘i, one on O‘ahu and one on Maui.
The O‘ahu chapter is led by Nick Ochs, a journalism major, political science minor, at UH Mānoa. Ochs says his visibility in class raising questions and on campus as co-Chair of the Trump for President campaign, led to forming the Proud Boys Hawai‘i chapter in 2017.
In a correction to comments made to HPR last week, UH spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl confirms there were four cases of hate speech documented at UH Mānoa since the 2016 election. In one case, a professor singled out because of religion felt it necessary to report the case to state officials and HPD. Some professors at UH Mānoa have remarked on an increasingly contentious classroom atmosphere related to views that challenge research on racial and sexual equality, climate change, and other issues.
Here is a conversation with Nick Ochs, President of Proud Boys Hawai‘i. He founded the organization to counter what he sees as rampant liberalism in Hawai‘i. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.
Nick Ochs: “We are a social club, a fraternity. Proud Boys are what you’d call the “new right” or, to make it simpler to understand, the “alt lite.”
Ochs says, contrary to media reports, they did not have anything to do with events in Charlottesville and are not racist.
Ochs: The only thing you have to do to become a Proud Boy is declare yourself to be a proud Western chauvinist. It’s just to say that we think Western culture is the best and we need make no apology for that.
What is Western culture, then?
Ochs: Western culture, the “first world.”
Who is that anyway?
Ochs: America, first and foremost we’re an American chapter and we think this is the greatest country on earth, Canada, Western Europe. Let’s not overcomplicate this. What’s today’s big controversy? The president is in trouble for, I know you have polite listeners, calling certain parts of the world crap holes, specifically, Haiti.
Ochs: And Africa, sure. Objectively these countries don’t have anywhere near the standard of living that countries in the West do. Everyone agrees that Haiti is a crap hole. I think speaking honestly is just speaking honestly, and the fact a controversy erupts from that is why we exist.
Ochs says the fact that he experienced leftist bias in classes at UH, and was penalized academically for his views prompted him to start this Proud Boys chapter.
Ochs: Absolutely. The anti-Western propaganda is so thick, anti-American, anti-military. I know Hawai‘i is especially bad because we have an activist movement here. I talk to conservative students who do not want to be out about who they are because they fear repercussions, grades in class. That’s certainly happened to me.
Ochs says Proud Boys are anti-feminist, anti-PC, against the drug war, don’t like pornography, and do like closed borders. They’re anti-racial guilt, anti-racist, pro free speech, pro-guns. They espouse generally libertarian views, glorify entrepreneurs and venerate the housewife.
Initiation to the first degree in Proud Boys involves simply declaring that you are a western chauvinist. Advancing to the second degree involves choosing five other Proud Boys to hit you as much and as hard as they can until you name five breakfast cereals. At the third degree, you are allowed a Proud Boys tattoo and agree to treat all Proud Boys as brothers. The fourth degree is conferred when a PB is jailed or in a fight for the cause, but you’re not allowed to start a fight to get it.
The multi-racial O‘ahu group has “super top secret” official meetings once a month, though members meet more often. Ochs refrains from a hard number but says there are less than two dozen members. He remains the only public face of the organization because he says others who have appeared with him at functions have been harassed.
Ochs: Reagan won Hawai‘i for his second term and I would very much like and I think it’s possible for Trump to win Hawaii in his second term, especially with this tax plan. It’s good for everybody, people are going to legitimately see more money in their paychecks in 2018. Remember that’s what Reagan did when he won every state except one.
Five years later we won’t have that money though.
Ochs: Yeah, well, five years is a while from now. I think with the economy rising it’s probably a good time to cut taxes. We’ll see where the conservative wisdom goes on this, but I’m happy so far.
It sounds like trickle down again though, I thought that didn’t work.
Ochs: I think if we can fix our massive illegal immigration problem, that’s trickle up.
Ochs says he approves of de-funding higher education, thinks rising temperatures and extreme weather are part of natural processes, and that mass shootings are statistically irrelevant to the gun debate. I asked specifically if he was involved in an online chat that degraded a Jewish professor.
Ochs: No, absolutely not.
Would Proud Boys use racial slurs?
Ochs: No. and none of my guys did.
Proud Boys are known not just for their politics, but for their outfits, black Fred Perry polos. The brand has long been associated with white supremacist groups though it has disavowed any connection with them or the Proud Boys. Proud Boys also use memes like Pepe the frog, often accepted as an alt-right symbol, but deny any hate related overtones.
Ochs recently started a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative activist organization, to get more conservative speakers on the UH Mānoa campus.
Proud boys is a men's group, but there is an affiliated organization for women, Proud Boys' Girls.
Read Hawaiʻi Public Radio's full statement about the Ochs interview in the box below or click here to open a new tab.