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MLive refuses to call Proud Boys a Hate Group, embraces the dominant narrative about policing

October 6, 2020

On Friday, MLive ran an article about an anti-lockdown protest in Lansing, which featured Steven Crowder, the far right social commentator who mocks those he doesn’t agree with.

The article also mentioned that there were “a handful of the Proud Boys” in attendance at the anti-lockdown protest. The Proud Boys have been part of every anti-lockdown protest in Lansing, since April, when far right groups began organizing these actions. 

However, what is interesting about the MLive article that mentions the Proud Boys, is that they didn’t offer any qualifying comments about the group. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Proud Boys as an “extremist group” and a “far right” group that promotes hate. Political Research Associates also identifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, with their participation in the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally in 2017.

Unfortunately, MLive (and most other dominant news organizations) don’t always identify the Proud Boys as a hate group or far right group. The day before, on October 1st, MLive ran an editorial about the aftermath of the Proud Boys presence in Kalamazoo. 

In that editorial, I was hoping for greater illumination on the Proud Boys role in the protest in Kalamazoo in August, but the editorial did not provide any new information or analysis from the August 15 clash between protesters and the Proud Boys. 

However, the editorial did include a link to a podcast between the vice president of content for MLive and Mark Tower, who is one of the news leaders for MLive in Kalamzoo. Again, the MLive staff member working in Kalamazoo was hesitant to call the Proud Boys at Hate Group or White Supremacist group, instead identifying them as a nationalist group.

Also disappointing in this interview between MLive news personnel, was the fact that not only was there limited discussion on the Proud Boys, there was a clear lack of understanding about the current wave of protest groups in the US, and their clear embrace of the dominant narrative surrounding the function of police departments. 

It was clear in the podcast that MLive staff have internalized the dominant narrative about policing, especially when one of them said, “you would think that the police would have had a squad car or two there before the Proud Boys showed up at the protest.” Such a statement reflects the belief that the police act to prevent violence in all circumstances and that they are somehow neutral in their dealings with groups which have opposite ways of seeing the world.

Interestingly enough, the MLive staff members did acknowledge that there were police present before the Proud Boys showed up, officers who were doing surveillance on the top of a building. So, the police did have a presence, but were not interested in preventing violence from happening between the Proud Boys and anti-racist activists that day in August.  

During the podcast interview, a question was asked about whether or not the Proud Boys would be back to Kalamazoo. The MLive staffer who works in Kalamazoo stated,  “I don’t know if they’ll be back, but we did interview someone with the Proud Boys, who is from Michigan.”  The MLive staff member from Kalamazoo did not offer anything illuminating about the interview with a Proud Boys member, which leads me to believe that maybe they didn’t ask probing questions. 

The MLive editorial and podcast were just one more affirmation for this writer, that the public cannot rely on dominant news sources for critical information about far right and extremists groups like the Proud Boys, nor can we expect these same news sources to investigate and hold accountable police departments or any other system of power and oppression.

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