Saturday, October 20, 2018
"Right now, this week, everyone wants to kill me," he says, with a shrug that's almost believable. "But the weeks before that everyone loved me. And they're both equally annoying. Like, imagine you took a Sharpie," he laughs out the word Sharpie, "and you colored your nose black. Completely black. The whole thing. And you'd get on the train and people would go: 'What's with that guy?' 'Why is his nose black?'" He pretends to gasp, dressed in the style he has become known for, aptly described in a recent New York Times profile as his "heavy-drinking, angry-nerd aesthetic." His beard is thick, with a mustache promontory, the regal goatee of a Scottish Terrier, and his boxer's frame juts out spry and thin, with shoulders like a brick wall.
Gavin McInnes: official godfather of Hipsterdom, co-founder of Vice Media, former punk rocker, stand-up comedian, entrepreneur, writer. Born in England to Scottish parents, raised in Canada, then an American countercultural icon. A man who Ghostface Killah once described as "The realest n***a."
Courtesy of Gavin McInnes
Then, somehow, everything changed (he blames 9/11), and he was Gavin McInnes: libertarian, outlaw comic, provocateur, Fox News regular, father/husband, rude Don Draper.
"Everybody says this, but I feel like I'm sitting in an 'SNL' ['Saturday Night Live'] set, and the background changed," he says. "So I'm still in the chair. Looking at the audience. And when I started there was all this hipster stuff behind me. And then I turn around and it's all American flags and patriotism, and it's like, 'I'm still saying the same s**t I always said. You're the one that made me into Rush Limbaugh by changing the background.'"
Then, it happened again in September 2016, when McInnes founded the Proud Boys, a men's club named after the song "Proud of Your Boy" from Disney's "Aladdin." It was supposed to be a small, in-jokey, beer-soaked dads' club, but it quickly burgeoned into a massive worldwide fraternal order with pro-Trump leanings and Fred Perry uniforms, labeled by various media, politicians, and activists as a hotbed of white supremacism, homophobia, and misogyny — all of which McInnes has vehemently denied, his cough-drop eyes bulging any time he talks about it, especially as the entire country staggered toward the 2018 midterms.
"That's what's so crazy with the whole 'Hate has no home here' [campaign]," he says. "That's like saying, 'Albino skateboarders have no home here.' OK. How many are there? Seven? 'Hey, albino skateboarders, I'll pay for it, but you gotta go on vacation. Right before the election. Because, for some reason, an entire political party that wants to run the most powerful country in the world has put all their eggs on you being the bad guy, and you causing all the trouble.'" He scoffs. "Hate? What the f*** are they talking about? You mean Nazi skin heads? What are they talking about?"
We are at a local bar of McInnes' choosing, and it is definitely the kind of bar that McInnes would chose. A New York facsimile of an Irish pub, straight off the "I'm sending this from Donegal" postcard, with saggy red walls gilded at the edges. Terrible lighting, on purpose of course. Wood-tinseled flooring, rows of liquor bottles like eager cadets awaiting duty, rusty spigots with decals for each beer, steel pipes jutting up from a long shiny bar flattened like a horseshoe.
"I've had too much going on for too long," he says, "and fame sucks."
The past week has been hellish and wild for him, with play-by-plays by none other than the New York Times and the New York Police Department. His eyes glaze for a moment, as if he knows it won't get better soon.
It won't. Oof. No. No, it will not.
GAVIN McINNES QUITS THE PROUD BOYS www.youtube.com
"I always had this sense of irreverence," he says, leaning into the slanted table. Call it irreverence, call it punk snarl, call it hipster elitism, call it contrarianism—whatever it is, it's his animating force.
In a 2013 New Yorker profile, he said of his time at Vice Media:
My big thing was I want you to do stupid in a smart way and smart in a stupid way. So if you're going to Palestine, try to find a good burger joint. Don't talk about Israel and the borders, 1967, Gaza — just find a good burger joint. Conversely, if you're gonna do a thing on farts or poo, talk to experts in digestion, find out the history of what we know about farts, why they smell. Be super-scientific and get all the data.
Twelve-odd people hunch into the bar's railing, with the grimaces and cackle of regulars and the heavy, graceless clobber of proper New York accents, staring at college football games on wall-mounted televisions as the metro train blurs past outside. A fleshy smear of blank faces.
McInnes writhes around as he describes the headline-making brawl that happened eight days ago after his speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club. He sets the scene. A small group of Proud Boys left their police escort and walked toward the metro station when they were surrounded then jumped by Antifa members. Then, he smacks his fist into his palm, and imitates Ol' Dirty Bastard: "War-ee-rars. Come out to playeeyay!"
It's not about me losing power, it's just about people who love America, goddammit!
A moment later, McInnes is serious again.
"All week I've been telling the media: They come to us. They won't leave us alone. We don't go to their s**t. I have no intention, no interest. Yet [the media] said we were roaming the streets. Roaming the streets? No. We were ambushed."
Since the brawl, media coverage has only intensified. Seems like there's a fresh article every minute. The New York governor and attorney general have gotten involved. Jail. Felonies. People getting harassed at their jobs — all of it plays on repeat in McInnes' mind, a never-ending reel-to-reel of a staged assassination.
The whole thing is constant. At times, he keeps a fighting spirit; at others, he is fed up, done with it all, exhausted. In both states — confusion.
"If it's a grassroots thing and a bunch of people hate your guts, all right, that makes sense," he says. "People hate you. It's like 'Disco Sucks.' But when there's something else going on, you wonder, who's funding it, and, more importantly, why?" He draws out the last syllable. He does this a lot. For humorous effect, but also for gravity, the way you slam a hammer for good measure and the wall shakes.
To make matters worse, the New York Times insinuated (heavily) that the Proud Boys were cozy with neo-Nazi types.
"Ridiculous," McInnes says. "The story behind that is, there's a crew called the 211 Boot Boys, and I asked around and said, 'Are these guys racist?' No, they're Manhattan skinheads. You can't be a Nazi in Manhattan: you'd die of exhaustion. What are you gonna do, go f*****g-bashing in the West Village? That's one day. Then you're gonna go attacking blacks in Harlem? Best of luck to you there. Then you wanna go do some anti-Semitic graffiti in the Upper East Side? Hope you got lots of paint. Oh, you hate Puerto Ricans? All right, that's the Lower East Side. Where do you even go? You could just walk around a circle in Times Square. But even that's full of immigrants."
It seems obvious that he's just joking, but these are the kinds of statements that get him in trouble. Comedy has always been his way of speaking truth to power, but it's also his jagged weapon, in both ways driven by his code of authenticity, often to his detriment, although something like detriment hasn't ever mattered until lately.
Does he consider himself a comedian?
"It depends," he says. "That word is sort of stretched. Now it just means 'funny guy'. It doesn't mean stand-up comedian. But, I don't know: Satirist or something? I'm definitely kidding a lot of the time. People say, 'Well you said this' and 'You told Joe Rogan that Proud Boys is a gang.'"
He hooks into an elaborate metaphor involving My Little Pony, then trails off, perhaps realizing that it must have sounded better in his head.
"I honestly believe everything I say. But also I'm aware of the hyperbolic way I say it. I always compare it to someone like David Cross, where, when he's onstage, he's joking," he says.
Then he imitates someone who can't understand this idea (that comedians don't mean everything they say) by forcing drool from his mouth, a molasses gob that nearly lands on the table.
McInnes attends an Act for America rally to protest sharia law on June 10, 2017, in Foley Square in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis via Getty Images)
"When you're a comedian you're telling the truth, just in a floral, funny way," he says. "And the left is so desperate for villains that they take your jokes and willfully ignore the background."
"You can't exaggerate," he says.
"I want to," he says.
"I like being hyperbolic," he says.
Antifa members have hosed him with pepper spray. They've hurled glass bottles full of urine at him. They've sucker-punched and ambushed him. They've sent him and his family death threats, a constant stream of them. Every so often they'll post his personal information online. The most recent time, people repeatedly called his phone and shouted, "White genocide is coming." McInnes rolls his eyes, says that white genocide is not what he — nor anyone around him, including the Proud Boys — worries about.
"That's not a fear of these patriots. The fear is that we're losing the Constitution. We're losing what made America America. It's got nothing to do with me: I. Am. Rich. As. S**t. I've got stuff I don't want. I just sold a house because I was never in it. I had a boat that was just rotting out there on the dock. I used it like twice a year." He tucks his corduroy blazer sideways. "So it's not about me losing power, it's just about people who love America, goddammit!"
He nods, reels back, pleased. "That's a good ending." He whistles. "Just cut-and-paste that and put it at the end."
The night before McInnes gave his talk at the Metropolitan Republican Club, two masked men vandalized the entrance — glued the locks, smashed the windows, and spray-painted the front door with two anarchy symbols.
They also left a note.
"The last sentence is the best," McInnes says, then squints as he reads: "'We will not sit back and tolerate this tone of American barbarism.'"
"You read that and you say, 'When did I last say the word barbarism.' I don't think anywhere. Like, remember that woman who climbed up the Statue of Liberty? She just made it to the toes," crosswise smirk. "She was there to protest America's awful human rights. Now, she's from the Congo. And I looked up the Congo, because you just know it's got the worst human rights on earth. And its children being forced to rape their mothers at gunpoint, and the word 'savage' came to mind, but even then, with the most barbaric thing I've ever heard of, I never still would say 'barbarism'."
He grins. He sneers. With a snort: "Barbarism."
"I've been writing the better part of my life," he says. "I can tell styles. [Antifa] had a demonstration last night, and they read out these things about how I'm 'complicit' and you see the same kind of verbiage. So, the literal authors of this are definitely Marxist, definitely academic, I assume linked to the DNC [Democratic National Committee]. I assume funded by some sort of DNC or globalist kind of thing, who knows."
He stops short of mentioning George Soros, partly because he knows how Alex Jones-level wacky it sounds — but the nag of it remains — his thoughts just keep circling back to that question: Well, then who?
Because, he says, somebody is paying for it.
In a way, the war on Britain is a war on America's fundamental values. Which is talking, which is free speech.
"The people we saw on the street protesting my talk [on October 12] seemed fake, like they were extras in a film," his mustache curves upward with his smile as he breaks into a Latvian accent: "'You vant I hold like thees?'," he imitates someone curbside dressed as Lady Liberty holding a "WE BUY GOLD" sign. "I want to ask them, 'Which of my articles did you hate the most?' And then there's the spoiled brats from Columbia [University]. And they were just minions. But their obsession is with Nazis and 'racists.' And if you're not a racist, you're with the racists."
"But the thing is, everybody has the same amount of energy," he adds. "Especially young people. They go to wars. That's why we've had wars. And this energy that young people have is Darwinian. They have this energy and they don't know what to do with it. So they have to be told."
He pauses to thread the idea out.
McInnes addresses the crowd gathered during a pro-Donald Trump rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, California, April 27, 2017. (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
"Maybe that's why Proud Boys exploded. Because there was this anger. And we're already good for leftist angry young men, and maybe rightist angry young men said, 'We want a kick at the can, too,'" he says.
Then he thinks about his kids, all goofy in their Halloween costumes. He thinks about his father, who's visiting, about what he said when they spoke earlier today. He thinks about his wife, about a recent conversation. And it's text message after text message from Proud Boys, or they are calling him from jail looking for enough cash for bond or a lawyer. The jukebox cranks out Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty." The timing of it! Those lyrics! ("Everyone I know, everywhere I go / People need some reason to believe, / I don't know about anyone but me.") Right as McInnes describes how an embattled worldwide community has come to see him as a father-figure, and he can't let them down because they've been deemed an "alt-right" hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but he's also a father to his actual children, and maybe it's time to choose.
"When the Antifa guys hit 30, 35, they become lieutenants," he says. "We saw it the other night. Very coordinated. They become the coordinators. With cellphones, giving orders. It's funny because, they never have kids. They never retire. But we, we get married and have kids, and I'm like, 'All right, youngsters,' then we retire." He has always fought back, he says, then jabs his right hand forward, all hair and knuckle, one fat ham-hock. With a half-tired grimace, he says that pubs used to be sacred. Gathering places. Lively with conversation. He tosses his hand around, as if to say, look at this noisy arcade, TVs at every angle so that you can't look elsewhere even if you try. No escaping it: that olden-day sweetness is gone. Now it's, "Can you turn up the volume, I can't hear the fight song?"
Last time he was in a pub in England, it was the same as this, all noise, no piety. The old religious deference had vanished. He sees it as an assault on Britain itself.
"The pub is where you talked," he says. "You'd complain about your sink and there would be a plumber over there. It's what gave community cohesion. Once they got rid of that, they stopped talking to each other." He mulls the thought further. "I think you could argue that America is founded on the British notion of people in pubs talking to each other. Because the tavern is where the militia was formed. The tavern is where they decided to revolt. The tavern is where they organized to revolt. So, in a way, the war on Britain is a war on America's fundamental values. Which is talking, which is free speech."
He glows, "Oh, wow." He whistles. "That's another good one. Jesus Christ. Two! That's at least a pull quote." He whistles. "We are hitting it out of the park today!"
As people at the bar celebrate another touchdown, another ballerina-leap into the end zone, McInnes frowns at his pint glass with nothing but brown foam at the bottom, then says he'll have a Maker's Mark on the rocks. The bartender drops a couple tiny ice-balls in a whiskey glass, then upends the bottle like it is Al Qaeda and he wants some answers.
II. Good humor, bad taste
He paces out to feed the meter. The air swells, dark and glissading. He hunches downward, shivers a bit, clinches his arms, then fumbles with the machine.
Above him, the low October sun trails a half bare moon. Across the street, the train station gives the town an English feel, Amtrak rushing down the middle, the sound of a blade barely missing your ear. The building next to the pub, stout and bridelike, vaunts a trio of flags: "I Back the Blue" in American stripes, red and gold U.S. Marine Corps, and the Gadsden. If you squint, the apartment's windows form a swastika. Back inside, he jabs at his arms, having gotten used to the cold, so it takes him a minute to adjust to this shut-in clamminess. He grins at the fresh glass of Maker's, then says it's off-limits anymore to even joke about swastikas.
"In the old Hardcore scene, people would wear Skrewdriver shirts," he says. "That's a white-power band. But it was like when Sid Vicious would wear a swastika — it was just rude. And inappropriate. Like all the biker gangs in Brooklyn would wear swastikas. It just meant 'F*** you'. But people put their eyeballs of 2018 and they put them on 1989."
(To be clear, McInnes might be alone here in imagining the golden age of Swastika jokes. Even Mel Brooks couldn't pull it off.)
McInnes has been criticizing political correctness for years, long before The Atlantic's recent article about it. During his time at Vice, McInnes penned an unknown number of articles (he often wrote under aliases). In "Hooray for Hate," an essay from 2000 or so, he wrote, "All over the so-called free world, common sense and basic human rights are being smothered under a stultifying wave of censorship that used to be called 'political correctness' and is now called 'tolerance'."
Back then, Vice had grit, but, as it grew into a media empire, McInnes' anti-political-correctness got him in trouble. It's a recurring theme with McInnes: You can't be part of the mainstream and also remain true to a counterculture that rails against mainstream values. The money booms in the mainstream, which requires a more politically correct magazine or movie or show or whatever. Investors want stability, not authenticity. Vice changed, McInnes didn't.
After leaving, he focused on movies and stand-up.
"Comedy in 2008, it still had remnants of early 2000s," he says. "People were still crazy back then. And it was a more tumultuous time. Our friends were all dying from heroin, and you couldn't afford to be politically correct."
He mentions an article that he wrote for Taki's Mag titled, "I'm Not a Racist, Sexist, or a Homophobe, You N----r S--t F---t." He says that most people don't even read it. They just stop at the headline and use it as proof for whatever accusation they're leveling against him, which he considers ironic for so many reasons. In the essay, he argues that using the above-mentioned pejoratives is not itself racist, sexist, or homophobic.
"It's just very rude," he writes. "What is more than rude, however, is to insist you know my motive for swearing. To police language based on thought is to police thoughts. It's nobody's business what our motives are."
Actor Gavin McInnes attends Shorts Program II during the 2009 Sundance Film Festival at Racquet Club Theatre on Jan. 16, 2009, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Kristin Murphy/WireImage)
McInnes despises political correctness with a strategic perfectionism. He considers political correctness itself to be offensive, so anything that attacks it is inherently good. The more offensive, the more inflammatory, the more caustic, the better. And in 2018, anyone espousing such opinions automatically becomes a political figure. In the postmodern era of President Donald Trump and an all-powerful Twitter, everything is political, especially words. Especially curse words.
What's offensive to us is always a result of what's important to us.
For centuries, the taboo words and phrases were the blasphemous ones, and to a lesser extent the scatological. Believe it or not, even "goldarn" and "tarnation" used to be offensive. But with the decline of Christianity and the rise of social activism, our language took on the tensions of the zeitgeist. Now, the most offensive words are references not to God, but to identity. The worst three words in the English language are pejoratives for: 1. Black people, 2. Women, 3. Homosexuals. This shift has exposed or bolstered power relations, it has personalized the act of cursing in a strange new way, anchoring each of these pejoratives to a specific group of people who in turn seek retribution, instead of an omnipotent being who doles out punishment.
In other words, using these words is, foremost, an act of bad taste. McInnes doesn't deny that. But he implies that a person's motivations can determine whether or not the words themselves are part of a greater plan that can transform any joke's bad taste into something that will make you laugh. In "Good Humor, Bad Taste: A Sociology of the Joke," Giselinde Kuipers argues that humor — unlike beauty — always implies some bad taste.
For starters, humor is a social function, so its "goodness" must be determined with each joke (the measurable unit of humor here) in relation to the context of each moment, audience, and situation. But no matter how "good" any joke is, it'll never produce or express good taste: "Even the most refined, elitist, highly cultured humorist is always demoting, debunking, failing to take seriously, mocking and trivializing."
There also happen to be gradations of "bad" in relation to "taste" that can, if bad enough, negate any goodness of humor entirely. Part of the reason for this irredeemability of taste is that jokes need at least a hint of offensiveness to be good. The artistry of comedy requires a deeper interplay between "funny" (good humor) and "offensive" (bad taste). The more offensive a joke is, the less likely it will be funny, so the funnier it must necessarily be. For example, a joke about airplane food is safe. But for that very reason, it's also the kind of joke that tends not to be funny. No risk, no surprises. On the other hand, a joke about a taboo topic, told with a crass tone, invoking racial and sexual epithets and maybe even a dig at religion—oof. High stakes, high risk. You better be Dave Chappelle or Sarah Silverman or Bill Burr if you're going to try make that one funny, and even then it's Evil Knievel motorcycling over a fiery gasoline lake.
McInnes' strength and downfall both arise from the idea that offensiveness is highly subjective — in fact, people are far more likely to agree on whether or not something is funny than whether or not it is offensive, largely because each interpretation is tied up in someone's personality, how apt they are to take a joke personally or see it as validation of actual bad taste. And because humor is a social function, a joke that is collectively deemed too offensive will either isolate the person who told it from the mainstream or propel them into cult comedy status.
Satire is the weaponization of humor, a tactical fusing of comedy and politics. It is difficult to separate McInnes' politics from his humor, so taste becomes even harder to judge, which is the advantage of satire. In this regard, he's only doing what liberal comedic journalists (satirists) have done for years — something that painfully few conservative comedians have ever even comprehended. Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Trevor Noah — they have all perfected duplicitous satire, able to hide behind humor when it suits them, but also free to pretend to be journalists, and enjoy the luxuries of being a journalist, but without any journalistic responsibilities or blowback. If they botch serious information, they can shrug and say, "Look, I'm just a comedian. Take a joke." If a joke bombs, they can say, "Look, I'm being serious. I'll take the credit." They can criticize media or politics or culture, often to the point of injury, and never themselves be subjected to criticism.
McInnes takes this a step further by using satire in an activism-causing way, bringing about real-world effects. John Oliver uses a similar form of activism-causing comedic journalism. (Google "the John Oliver effect.")
Even at its most innocent, McInnes' comedy is subversive.
Actor Gavin McInnes attends "How To Be A Man" premiere, presented by Sundance Institute at Sundance Sunset Cinema on Aug. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Today, when I texted "on my way," he replied, "Kkk." As in, the affirmative "OK" in the "K" form followed by what appear to be two clumsy typos of the same letter, the summation of which is also the abbreviation for the Ku Klux Klan. Good humor, bad taste? Or perhaps a legitimate typo? (After all, there's no way to know what his motives were.)
Earlier, McInnes referred to a particular country as a "homo nation." (The fact that you can likely guess which country he's talking about is testament to either his skill as a satirist or his banality as a provocateur.) Good humor, bad taste.
While describing his work at an ad agency: "It was really lucrative. You've never seen people with less talent make more money," pausing into the Woody Allen timing of a punchline, "but they also rape you every day." Good humor, bad taste.
Louis C.K. asking for sexual permission by handing out numbers like they do at supermarket bakeries. Good humor, bad taste.
Penis joke involving vodka and baseball. Good humor, bad taste.
Of course, McInnes is just as quick to mock himself ("I look like a rat with aids"), just as quick to mock anything at all. Which appears to be the point. Nothing is off-limits.
Most important, there's nothing accidental about his humor, or his offensiveness and provocation. After Vice, he had several years of comedy-qua-comedy. In 2012, he published his biography, "How to Piss in Public," which would later be re-printed as "The Death of Cool." A year later, he released "Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants," a documentary about his stand-up comedy tour. Next, he co-founded a production company and ad agency. The marketing world annoyed him, but he did well. Then, in 2014, he was put on indefinite leave after he wrote an article titled "Transphobia is perfectly natural."
How could this be an example of "good humor, bad taste" you ask?
He grins, as if he can guess what I'm thinking. "You know how the transgender article started," he asks. "I had a disease on my penis."
III. Bad kids, kids like you and me
He pours the ice pellets from his last drink into a fresh glass of Maker's on the rocks, releasing the sting of vanilla and barrel-wood. Words toppling out like a jazz song, the unhinged part in the middle when it's only the drummer and maybe some scat.
Long story short, he saw pictures of post-op transgender procedures and felt queasy. "So that's all I was saying, and somehow that became the most transphobic article, and I was persona non grata, total pariah," remembering the past few days, "Just like this week, really. I do these every couple of years." Laughing. "It's like a cleanse. A popularity juice cleanse. And I am cleansed."
I tell him that I don't fit in with liberals or conservatives. His face is animated as he responds: "I think a lot of millennials feel that way, like they don't have a home. Because they're so informed. Take something like a Holocaust denier: You hear a crazy theory like that and go, 'Wait a minute, even your best case scenario, that they weren't gassed but they were starved to death for their religion is horrific! The alt-right's best case scenario is still hair-whiteningly bad," laughing. "Or flat-earthers, or any esoteric thing. In my day, there'd be something like Ouija boards: I f*****g believed in Ouija boards till I was 13. Because I'd have to go to the library and look it up. Now you just say 'Ouija boards' to your phone and then, 'Oh there was a study in 1970 where they did a test with 700 people and blah blah blah blah.' Myths get shattered instantly."
His eyes bubble open with a flashing red strobe and he gawks past me, out the window to the street, distracted. At the train station entrance, two women paramedics flatten a yellow-and-teal-and-red stretcher out of a whiteish red ambulance. "Oh look at this, someone must've gotten sick on the train," he says. Imitating a Manhattan accent: 'Thanks a lot for making everyone late, sickie! You better have a real heart attack: I'm late!'"
McInnes on May 25, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
He returns to what he'd been saying:
"I guess the big picture is that the curious have more to work with now," he says. "The incurious will always be incurious. But the curious, they don't have to f***ing go to a library anymore. Jimi Hendrix was always going to be Jimi Hendrix. But right now, we have Jimi Hendrix working at Guitar Center, from the age of 7. So there's more good music. Which is my long-winded way of saying, I feel the same way as you.
He grins: "Around liberals I go, 'No, the Earth is not dying. Using different fuel isn't going to make the Earth live longer.' And when I'm with conservatives I'm like, 'It's called a threesome, dude. You don't do them when you're married, obviously, but in your heyday, yeah, set them up. Takes a lot of work if you're not gorgeous.'"
McInnes says again that pubs didn't used to be like this.
"Our dads would be at a bar like this, and they'd talk, and they'd read the paper, and the paper would be international news. 'The war in Vietnam is going pretty bad.' But now, some stupid idiot blogger who's like 21 will say, 'Second Proud Boy arrested, part of an alt-right hate group,' and that'll go in a file now, forever, and that'll turn up online" he says. "These Gawker types. They couldn't give a s**t about what they write. There's no heart. How would they handle Watergate? They just don't care. And I don't understand why someone like that would get into journalism, where it's all about truth. It's like getting into dance and you're not a physical person, or being a barber and not really caring what people's hair looks like. Why choose that profession?"
He blames Gawker, the snarky, now-defunct millennial tabloid.
"Gawker let a lot of people into the scene who didn't belong," he says. "The same thing happened with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' song 'Magic Johnson.' It brought a bunch of jocks into the punk scene and then you had Lollapalooza, then the mosh pit became football players beating the s**t out of everyone. Gawker did what college did. They said, 'We need to get our numbers up, we need more money, so let's just lower the bar, and raise the price.'" Pause. "'So now we do Philosophy of Love, History of Rock-N-Roll, and we charge people like 60 grand.' And so the college education just became garbage. I think that's what Gawker did, and what the whole era did, with journalism. It's amateur hour at The Apollo. Now we have children taking over the Walter Cronkite position on major networks.
"Meanwhile, 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses every single day," he howls. "In a year, that's about 40,000 or so. A lot of people. Throw a dart at your contact list, pull a page out, and someone there knows someone who died, or their son. Just the bartender down the street, he's a middle-class guy: his son. This isn't punk rockers in the Lower Eastside. It's farmers, it's hillbillies, it's teachers, it's old ladies, it's young kids. That's what bothers me about the media: We have so much focus on irrelevant minutiae. And there's real crises going on. Big pharma is I think one of the most under-discussed subjects. And the prison system. The incarceration industry, I feel like the left and the right could really unite on that. Both don't like seeing men in jail. Stop the war on drugs. Stop crime." He shifts in his chair. "It's really discouraging. That people are so worried that Brett Kavanaugh may have been rude with a boner when he was 18. It's like, 'While you were saying that, three children died of an opioid overdose.'"
He jettisons to a halt, stares out at the street commotion. "There he is, being wheeled out." Paramedics tugging wires, rotating the frame to accommodate a man, early 20s, heavyset, plunked on the stretcher, connected to monitors as his boredom lingers.
McInnes is going to a wedding tonight, and it reminds him of the Sharpie-on-his-nose metaphor, especially after this week, when on top of it all the New York Times, gatekeeper of legacy media, described him as a "far-right provocateur" and implied that he and his Proud Boys have fascist elements. Then one of his neighbors sent out a communitywide email warning: "I suggest we buy the 'Hate Has No Home Here' lawn signs and ask our friends and neighbors in [the neighborhood] to put one on their lawn. Imagine if everyone had one. It would send a clear message to [McInnes] and his ilk."
A month from now, when he'll be forced to quit the Proud Boys in a video statement, McInnes will say: "Did it occur to any of you that there was an element of humor to any of this?"
All day today, he's kept humor at the front of things. And now he looks at his phone, with the ambulance light strobing the room. The neighborhood red of his accidental grin as he looks at a picture of his son, in skeleton facepaint and a black sweat suit with white bones painted on. This is something else. How he stares into the iPhone screen, staring till he's alone in this blinking red pub, spot-lit like a Spike Lee character, till the screen locks. Stuck in Purgatory. Won't be leaving anytime soon. Then, he, Gavin McInnes, the Ulysses of bar-talk, prowls his eyes to the street: "We're in a funny time, man. The bad guys are not the bad guys."