Although social media is so often ridiculed for being filled with self-obsessed, attention-seeking content, for the past few days its been filled with messages of love and compassion.
Over the weekend, the words Proud Boys took on a whole new meaning as gay men flooded Twitter with messages of love and acceptance using the hashtag #ProudBoys.
This has caused two very different groups of men to face off on the same hashtag: the far-right cadre known as the Proud Boys—and the thousands of gay Twitter users who flooded that platform with pro-LGBT images, marking those posts with #proudboys.
Tens of thousands of gay men have taken over the #ProudBoys on Twitter and the actual Proud Boys are pissed.
#ProudBoys, which members of the hateful, far-right group have been using, was trending over the weekend after tens of thousands of gay men on Twitter hijacked it and flooded the feed with photos of their loved ones and families and with memes.
The celebration of LGBTQ pride was a clear attempt to drown out voices of the far-right group with the same name, which made headlines after getting mentioned by President Trump during last week’s first presidential debate.
“Let’s replace the hashtag with images of love, positivity and true PRIDE,” tweeted Carlos G. Smith, an openly gay member of Florida’s House of Representatives.
Many tweets attached to the trending hashtag showed photos of couples who had been together years or decades — at their weddings, posing with their children, marching in pride parades or just looking happily in love.
At least one of the many tweets from gay men using the #ProudBoys hashtag referenced Trump’s debate words. “We will never stand back and stand by! Together for 25 years with two amazing children,” Dan Ort-Patrick wrote.
It seems that we can thank actor George Takei for the brilliant takeover idea!
The hashtag takeover appears to have originated with Star Trek star George Takei, who wondered aloud Thursday what would happen if gay men tagged themselves as #ProudBoys on social media.
“What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys? I bet it would mess them up real bad,” Takei tweeted.
The Proud Boys – a racist, hate group – began trending last week after Trump refused to denounce their actions and beliefs.
The Proud Boys group entered the mainstream conversation last week after Donald Trump seemed to call them to action at the first presidential debate. During an exchange between Trump and moderator Chris Wallace about white supremacists, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Following the debate, members of the group celebrated Trump’s reaction, using “stand back” and “stand by” in their logo and posting videos from the debate with the caption “God. Family. Brotherhood.”
The Proud Boys referenced in the debate are “self-described ‘western chauvinists’ who adamantly deny any connection to the racist ‘alt-right,’ insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an ‘anti-political correctness’ and ‘anti-white guilt’ agenda,” according to civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center. The SLPC maintains, however, that the group, founded in 2016, affiliates with extremists and is known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.
All sorts of people showed their support – even the Canadian Armed Forces.
The official Twitter account of the Canadian Armed Forces in the United States took part, too, tweeting a picture of two men kissing—one a corporal named Brent Kenny—with #proudboys.
“Love is love,” the group wrote in a reply tweet. (It was perhaps not a surprising piece of activism from an institution that describes itself in its Twitter bio as: “Nice people. Maple syrup.”)
The Canadian Navy’s Twitter account later retweeted the image, as did the account for the ship that Kenny sailed on, the Winnipeg.
Couples from around the world got in on the viral hashtag to help spread love, not hate.
So many couples shared their wedding photos, images of their families, pictures from their first date, and so much more – to help deliver a takeover of a hashtag so often used to spread hate.
Gay men shared their pride in themselves, their community, and in their love.
But back on Twitter, it was all love and rainbows, with Takei expressing gratitude for the enthusiastic response to his idea.
“Brad and I are #ProudBoys, legally married for 12 years now,” he tweeted Sunday along with a photo of him and his partner. “And we’re proud of all of the gay folks who have stepped up to reclaim our pride in this campaign. Our community and allies answered hate with love, and what could be better than that.”
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