I had never heard of The Proud Boys until the debate and wanted to find out more. What I found was hundreds of articles including Wikipedia describing The Proud Boys as far-right, racist, etc. However, when I attempted to check the reference links in the articles every one I checked (a lot, but not all) were links to what someone said The Proud Boys did or said — NOT a link to what they actually did or said.
Now, this does not mean that The Proud Boys didn’t do or say those things, but if they did, why not link to those articles or videos, etc.? Many (many, many, many) references were not to anything demonstrating that The Proud Boys are far-right, white nationalists, etc. but merely definitions of those terms.
For example, this from Wikipedia
The links to “far-right, white nationalist, and neo-fascist male-only organization that promotes and engages in political violence” are links to definitions of those terms without any evidence that they are appropriate descriptions of The Proud Boys.
It is beyond logical fallacy – like saying “Bob is a cat” and adding “A cat is a feline animal” as proof that Bob is in fact a cat.
You can follow the other footnote links in that sentence yourself, but I felt that the articles they referenced were opinions either poorly or completely unsubstantiated by the articles or any links they provided.
This is another sneaky little journalistic trick. They write an article saying “Bob is a cat.” And link to a New York Times article which is Bill’s unsubstantiated opinion that Bob is a Cat. In addition, if you check links two or three deep, you often find that “Bill” quotes “Ed”, who quotes “Mary”, who quotes “Bill”.
This is similar to what MS Excel calls a “circular reference”. Circular references are not allowed in Excel because they invalidate the formula. Circular references in supporting articles may not invalidate the argument, but they are worthless proving it.
So, who are The Proud Boys? I don’t know yet. I don’t know enough to endorse them or denounce them — except that I don’t like tattoos. Without an opinion expressed or implied, here is what they say about themselves at: https://officialproudboys.com/proud-boys/whoaretheproudboys/
And here, you can listen to their founder describe his boys club in his own words and decide for yourself.