O n election night infour years before the January 6 storming of the U. Capitol, the Proud Boys threw a party. McInnes had just created his gang months before. Few back in realized how far the group would go—soon establishing chapters in 45 states, with members eventually indicted on charges ranging from civil disorder to conspiracy in the Washington, D.
At a. In the s, McInnes was hardly a far-right menace. He counted comedians such as David Cross and Sarah Silverman as friends, both of whom contributed articles to Vice.
Neither agreed to interview requests. But over time McInnes accelerated his drift to the political fringe. The days of the West are ed, and I will be the impetus that destroys it. I am turning America inside out from the outside in. Byhis unseemly pronouncements had become a part of American political discourse. In Novemberhe reluctantly stepped down as leader of the Proud Boys.
He wanted to cause chaos. He wanted to break America—and remake it in his imaginings. Though McInnes immediately struck me as someone to avoid outside of work, nothing then indicated he would hatch an organization as vitriolic and violence-prone as the street-brawling Proud Boys.
He and I were never friends. Founding editor Suroosh Alvi—who remains at Vice Media with the title of founder—brought me on board as a writer at the same time as McInnes.
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By then his title was cofounder. Close since the age of 12, they shared everything from mescaline then the Canadian name for PCP or horse tranquilizer to lovers. How tight were they? Smith today serves as executive chairman of Vice Media.
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He is considered an internet-age pioneer, having expanded an indie magazine into a global powerhouse. Smith declined to be interviewed for this story. VICE unequivocally condemns white supremacy, racism and any form of hate, has shone a fearless, bright light of award-winning journalism on extremism, the alt-right and hate groups around the world, and has created one of the most inclusive, diverse and equitable companies in media.
Our respective records of the last decade and a half speak for themselves. Shakespearean or not, McInnes started both Vice magazine and the Proud Boys, and one metastasized out of the other. His family immigrated to Ontario when he was five, settling in suburban Ottawa.
Was there any foreshadowing that he would go on to form a group as extreme as the Proud Boys? McInnes and his Monks were stoner freaks, on a different planet entirely than the Carpies, rural farm l from up Carp River. Moving on from bongs, some of the Monks, by age 15, were dropping acid and huffing Pam cooking spray. Ina police officer came to their school to screen a PSA about the dangers of drunk driving.
As McInnes relates in his autobiography, the students at Earl of March Secondary School watched the sobering of a young woman paralyzed in an accident. The origins of Vice can be traced to a rehab facility 30 minutes south of Montreal. InAlvi was 25 and had been shooting heroin for five years.
Nothing worked. Days before entering rehab, Alvi had gone with his family to the mosque to celebrate Eid. As a Pakistani-Canadian, Alvi was raised Muslim but had never been observant. Everything after that started changing, quickly. During treatment, the therapists asked the inpatients to do a career exercise: Write down their ideal job, imagining a time when they would be sober and try to reintegrate themselves into society.
After rehab, he attended a Narcotics Anonymous meeting where a stranger named Walter walked up to him, offering to become his sponsor. Walter asked if he was interested in writing. The job was part of a government program that supplemented regular welfare checks. Alvi, already on welfare, was hired on the spot. The exercise from rehab had come true. He would think things and they would happen, he told me. Knocking the remote with the vacuum cleaner, he accidentally turned on the TV and the video for that exact song came on.
Alvi knew his magazine would cover it. He just needed to find someone to review the concert—which is how I ended up writing for volume one, issue one, of Voice of Montreal. He started aligning himself with socially conscious groups. Around that time, McInnes started a punk band called Gavin mcinnes naked with his grade school friend Shane Smith.
Their shtick was being half naked, falling-down drunk. It was fucking gnarly.
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After university, both McInnes and Smith bummed around Europe. McInnes stayed in squats and attended a fascist skinhead rally in Germany. Asked today about that experience, he grew agitated.
He kept saying we instead of they. After Europe, McInnes moved to Montreal to become a comics illustrator. The city in was suffering an economic downturn, and cheap rent led to a thriving arts scene as well as a strong underground comics movement. McInnes started making his own zine—a photocopied mini-comic called Pervert —about some of his life experiences. I tracked down back issues at Arcmtl, a nonprofit that preserves independent Montreal cultural artifacts. When other publications wrote negatively of Pervert, McInnes sent reviewers threatening letters splattered in his blood. Contemporaries in the comics community tried to reason with him.
Alvi had started recruiting contributors. Local scenester Rufus Raxlen thought McInnes could help curate a comics for the paper.
He got off on it. Standing at a busy intersection at rush hour, the cartoonist noticed McInnes across the boulevard. Cars in both directions go screech, screech! Luckily, the drivers braked in time and swerved, honking and screaming. His friends were doubled over laughing.
I met Alvi just after turning He was looking for contributors, and when he learned that I wrote for my college paper, he asked me to bring clips to the office. On the night of the performance, I filled my backpack with the rocket-shaped leaflets.
He then placed a tab of LSD on my tongue. Looking up, I saw what looked like thousands of starry birds fluttering through the concert hall.
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I soon realized: The origami sparrows twirling from the rafters were actually the fliers from my backpack. The fliers got swept up and dispersed over the crowd. It seemed appropriate; after all, what does a rocket ship do?
He suggested I write about all of this in my review. Instead, the publication had a clear emphasis on diversity and inclusion. And only one editor was listed on the masthead of the debut issue: Suroosh Alvi. For his part, McInnes contributed cartoons and a record review. To qualify, McInnes too had to be on welfare. War is an invitation to the greatest party of all. This is the heat of a conflict that burns everything it touches.
In Ottawa, Smith had been a waiter in a fancy restaurant. The masthead soon listed Alvi as editor in chief, McInnes as office manager, and Smith as business manager.
What are the “proud boys” so proud of anyway?
It also got them press. The story got picked up by Canadian media.
Lying became part of who we were. Their d helped de a ballistic computer for the M1 Abrams tank used by the U. Smith started enlisting Alvi and McInnes to help with ad sales. He did the same with me. An immense amount of work went into producing each issue, but there was a DIY spirit, with everybody pitching in. InVice took on a new editor: Robbie Dillon, a bank robber and loan shark who had just been released from Bordeaux Prison for drug trafficking. They started to find their voice by doing, as they often said, stupid stories in a smart way and smart stories in a stupid way.
Their combined voice was a combustible mix. There was also something else hiding behind it.