After last year’s presidential election the proud boys, a far-right group, declared its undying loyalty to President Trump.
In a November 8 post on a private channel on the Telegram messaging app, the group urged supporters to take part in protests against an election alleged to have been fraudulently stolen from Mr. Trump. “Hail Emperor Trump,” wrote the Proud Boys.
But by that week, the group’s attitude towards Mr. Trump had changed. “Trump will go under as a total failure,” said the Proud Boys on Monday in the same telegram channel.
As Mr. Trump left the White House The Proud Boys, once one of his staunch supporters, also left his side on Wednesday. In dozens of conversations on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the group have started referring to Mr. Trump as “shill” and “extraordinarily weak”, according to New York Times news. They have also urged supporters to stop participating in rallies and protests for Mr Trump or the Republican Party.
The comments are a surprising twist for the Proud Boys, who for years supported Mr Trump and promoted political violence. Led by Enrique TarrioSo many of his thousands of members were so die-hard fans of Mr. Trump that they agreed to serve as his private militia and celebrated after he told them to “stand by and stand by” in a presidential debate last year. On January 6th some Proud Boys members stormed the US Capitol.
But since then the dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump, who later condemned the violence, has passed. On social media, Proud Boys participants have complained about his willingness to leave office, saying his opposition to the Capitol rampage was an act of betrayal. And Mr. Trump, truncated on Facebook and Twitterwas unable to speak to them directly to allay their concerns or to make new rally cries.
“When Trump told them that America would fall into an abyss if he resigned, they believed him,” said Arieh Kovler, a far-right political advisor and independent researcher in Israel, of the Proud Boys. “Now that he has resigned, they believe that he both surrendered and failed to fulfill his patriotic duty.”
The shift raises questions about the strength of support for Mr. Trump and suggests that pockets of his fan base are starting to break. Many of Mr. Trump’s fans still mistakenly believe he was stripped of office, but other right-wing groups like the oath guardsAmerica First and the 3 percent have also criticized him on private Telegram channels, according to a review of the news.
Last week, America First leader Nicholas Fuentes wrote on his Telegram channel that Mr. Trump’s reaction to the Capitol rampage was “very weak and slack,” adding, “Not the same guy that ran in 2015.”
On Wednesday the Proud Boys welcomed Telegram Group President Biden to the office. “At least the in-depth administration is honest about its intentions,” the group wrote.
Mr Kovler said the activity had shown that groups banding around Mr Trump were now trying to figure out their future direction. Losing his ability to post on Twitter and Facebook has also made Mr Trump less useful to the far-right groups who have relied on him to raise their profile at the national level, Mr Kovler said.
Mr. Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Mr Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, who was also the founder of the online publication Vice, as a club for men. It soon attracted people who appeared to be violent and often advocated anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views. The group has supported Mr Trump since he took office.
The change in this support has been slow. After the November election, the group’s private Telegram channels, Gab pages and posts on the alternative social networking site Parler were filled with calls to keep belief in Mr Trump. Many proud boys, mirroring Mr. Trump’s lies, said the election was rigged after a review of the news.
The Proud Boys urged their members to take part “Stop the Steal” Rallies. A November 23 message on a Proud Boys Telegram page read, “No Trump, No Peace.” The message related to information about a rally outside the governor’s house in Georgia.
While Mr. Trump’s legal team contested the election results with lawsuits, the Proud Boys closely followed court and appeal proceedings in various states and posted frequent links to news reports on their Telegram channels.
But when Mr. Trump’s legal efforts failed, the Proud Boys posted on social media calling for him to use his powers as president to stay in office. Some urged him to declare martial law or to take control by force. Over the past two weeks of December, they have protested and used social media to urge Mr Trump to “cross the Rubicon”.
“They wanted to arm themselves and start a second civil war and overthrow the government on Trump’s behalf,” said Marc-André Argentino, a far-right researcher with a doctorate. Candidate at Concordia University. “But in the end he couldn’t be as authoritarian as they wanted to be.”
Then came the week that the Capitol stormed. On January 4, Mr. Tarrio was arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of burning a banner from the Black Lives Matter that had been torn from a black church in Washington. Two days later, other Proud Boys members were part of the mob that broke through the Capitol. Some have posted dozens of videos of the rioters on social media, hailing them as a symbol of “collective strength”.
The group expected Mr. Trump to champion the mob according to their social media messages. Instead, Mr Trump posted a video on Jan. 8 deciphering the violence.
The disappointment was immediately noticeable. One Proud Boys Telegram channel wrote: “It is really important for all of us to see how much Trump betrayed his supporters this week. We are nationalists 1st and always. Trump was just a man and, in the end, an extraordinarily weak one. “
Since then, at least five men have identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys got arrested in connection with the riots in the Capitol.
Some proud boys grew angry that Mr. Trump did not appear interested in making presidential excuses for their arrested members. In a telegram on January 15, they accused Mr. Trump of “instigating” the events at the Capitol, adding that he then “washed his hands off”.
“They thought they had his support and, ultimately, Trump would get through for them, even with an apology if they needed it,” said Jared Holt, a visiting researcher at the Atlantic Council’s DFR laboratory. “Now they realize that they went too far in the riots.”
Some proud boys are now saying in online posts that the group should “go dark” and withdraw from political life by breaking off from any political party. They encourage each other to concentrate their efforts on secessionist movements and local protests.
“To all demoralized Trump supporters: There is hope,” said a Proud Boys Telegram channel on Wednesday. “There is an alternative. Give up the GOP and Dems. “