Last night, a Medium post written under the name Kurt Schwitterz appeared making connections between Gavin McInnes—formerly of Vice and currently the leader of “pro-Western fraternal organization” Proud Boys—and Death From Above bassist Jesse Keeler.
The fact that Keeler and McInnes know each other is undeniable: Keeler has appeared on McInnes’ podcast more than once, and photographic evidence shows the two hanging out together at a bar on election night. McInnes even claimed in an article on the Proud Boys website (which has since been deleted, but you can find screenshots here) that Keeler is a member of the Proud Boys, a claim that Keeler denies.
Soon after the Medium post went up, Keeler took to Facebook to disavow any connection between himself and the Proud Boys organization, saying that he’s known McInnes since McInnes did a story on DFA (then DFA 1979) for Vice in 2003-04. He also says that he stayed in touch out of “morbid curiosity,” giving McInnes the benefit of the doubt even as he developed political views Keeler “absolutely [does] not agree with.” Here’s his full statement:
It’s difficult to know where to begin with this letter, so I’ll start here: I recently learned that last year I was the subject of an article written by the very controversial and provocative media figure, Gavin McInnes. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it may be for the best. Unfortunately the bells it rings play a sour tune in the key of “Alt-Right.”
In his article, Gavin claimed that I was part of his group, the “Proud Boys.” This is completely false. I would never join that group. My connection to Gavin however is real, but begs to be clarified. I first met Gavin in 2003 or 2004 as a founding member of Vice Magazine. Vice had started a record label and my band released records with them in the U.S. Through that connection, we became loosely acquainted. Our first interaction was back around 2004 when he called me up to do an interview with our band for his magazine. He offered to either do an interview or “just make some stuff up.” The latter seemed more fun/interesting to me at the time and so that’s what he did. Back then he was mostly known as the writer of Vice magazines famed, and often not so politically correct fashion section, “Dos and Don’ts”. In short, he was a comedian. Through the years we remained friendly and as our lives diverged, we spoke only on occasion, mostly about Dad stuff as we both have kids. After leaving Vice, Gavin had been doing stand-up comedy, making movies and writing books, all seemingly a continuation of the wreckless comedy style he had implemented in the magazine. Over time, I watched many people distance themselves from Gavin both professionally and personally. I always perceived that as people just thinking he was “a little much.” In short, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
When he started a video podcast and invited me on as a guest, I obliged. When he invited me to his talk-show and a party on election night last year, regrettably, I attended. Never without a morbid curiosity. Anyone who knows me, or has met me for longer than 5 minutes knows how curious I am. I never thought that my curiosity would lead to this moment, where now it feels like I’m walking through a lake of mud.
Soon after the election, I began noticing that Gavin was promoting violence and a form of radical politics that I absolutely do not agree with. I have always been anti-war and anti-violence. That is my baseline position. As far as immigration and nationalism: I am the child of an Indian mother and a Canadian father. I was raised in Canada by my immigrant-Indian family who struggled to make it in a new country. I watched my highly educated Indian grandfather deliver the newspaper his whole life, instead of working in his proper field. My skin tone may not tell this story, but it’s a fact. Growing up I didn’t identify as either race, as choosing one group seemed to somehow betray the other. I’m sure this is the plight of many mixed-race people.
So here I am, again caught between two things. Reality and fiction. The reality is that I am not “Alt-Right,” nor a White Supremacist. The facts are I am a mixed race father of two and a musician. I am so sorry for putting my family, friends and fans in this position. I never wanted to talk about politics, I just wanted to make music and leave that stuff alone. Unfortunately, my actions have brought me here, and I am deeply heartbroken about it. To a fault it seems that I give people the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that you will give me the same in return.
Jesse F. Keeler
The pro-Trump, “anti-politically correct” McInnes insists on differentiating between his “Western chauvinist” organization and white supremacists, threatening to sue journalists who refer to him as the latter and describing the membership of Proud Boys as follows on YouTube: “It’s a multi-racial group made up of straight guys. There’s some homos in there. There’s plenty of Jews. The only prerequisite is that you’re a dude—born a dude—and you accept the West is the Best.” He also distanced the Proud Boys from the self-proclaimed “alt-right” after the recent violence in Charlottesville.
But as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, that’s coming from a guy who tweeted about “white genocide” in June, and whose organization has proven to be an entry point for further radicalization for its members. “Despite McInnes’s protestations on social media and elsewhere, he’s devised, perhaps inadvertently, the most fertile “in-real-life” recruiting ground for white nationalists and anti-Semites within today’s organized far right,” the SPLC writes.