American Legion Removes Escondido Post Commander From National Leadership Over Proud Boys Affiliation
Speaker 1: 00:00 The California American Legion says it has no room for hate in its membership. After removing the Escondido post commander from national leadership roles over social media posts, the organization says 56 year old, Michael Sobchak bragged on social media about participating in a street brawl and joining the proud boys joining me now is Andrew Dyer, a reporter who covers the military and veteran issues for the San Diego union Tribune. Andrew, welcome. Speaker 2: 00:28 Thanks for having me. What Speaker 1: 00:29 Can you tell me about sob checks, posts Speaker 2: 00:32 He uses? He appears to use, uh, two social media accounts, one on Facebook and one on parlor, which is, uh, an alternative version, kind of like Twitter, you know, for a while. Um, he appears to have been pretty active in talking about his, um, affiliation with the proud boys, uh, boosting proud boys on parlor. Um, he likes to post these, uh, Facebook live videos where he talks about politics or his form of activism. Speaker 1: 01:05 Now subject has been removed from national leadership roles with the American Legion. Do you have any sense of if the local chapter will take the same action, Speaker 2: 01:14 The state commander here in California, it was kind of limited in what he could do, um, about sob check, um, you know, they removed him from his seat on a couple of national boards, uh, but as far as, uh, his position as commander of that post in Escondido, um, it's, it's really up to the members there to, uh, to oust him so to speak. You know, subject has been, um, a leader in the American Legion for, for a long time in California, especially with it's it, you know, he rides a motorcycle. So he's been active in the American Legion riders. And Speaker 1: 01:52 How does this situation reflect the culture of the Escondido post of the American Legion? Speaker 2: 01:59 I really would hesitate to, to say that it reflects in any way on that post veterans join the American Legion for a number of reasons, reviewing their, their website and some of his, his posts on the website, everything that I've seen from him in his American Legion role seemed standard stuff for what you would expect from an organization like that. Um, there was nothing in it that he did in that role that, um, appeared to influenced or promoting any type of politics. Speaker 1: 02:33 And it's beyond politics. It's, it's seeping into hate as was pointed out by, uh, national leadership with this organization. Correct. Speaker 2: 02:41 Right. Um, you know, the, the problem is, um, you know, the SPLC call them a hate group, but right. They, they do fall under this broad umbrella of, of the, uh, kind of right-wing extremist movement that we're seeing in this country right now. Speaker 1: 02:57 In your story, you mentioned a post where Michael sob check said the proud boys filled a void for him after retiring from the military. Have you encountered other ex military who have gravitated toward these far right hate groups? Speaker 2: 03:08 You know, there's anecdotally I do hear accounts of, of veterans joining these groups, uh, experts who study extremist movements. You know, they'll tell you that, um, every time we, uh, kind of have a conflict overseas, when, when people come back, there tends to be a rise in membership in these types of groups. Um, you know, we saw it after, after the Vietnam war, we saw it in the mid nineties. Speaker 1: 03:35 Well, it is, it has been widely reported at least that hate groups have certainly gravitated toward the military. What do you know about that? Speaker 2: 03:42 Well, yeah, um, there have been, um, active duty military members caught, um, being members of, uh, various groups going from just PO throwing, putting up flyers in their, their towns. Um, all the way to actually planning, um, attacks, Speaker 1: 04:02 Uh, are hate groups in San Diego County, seeing an uptick in membership. Speaker 2: 04:06 There's certainly been, um, an increase in kind of reactionary, community groups, forming, um, in response to some of the unrest that we saw in the wake of the killing of, of George Florida in Minneapolis. Um, of course we have the big protest in the Mesa that, uh, turned violent and there was, um, some buildings burned that particular incident did spawn kind of community organization groups to get together and to go in and kind of stand wallet over businesses. Speaker 1: 04:45 Are they community organizations or are they hate groups? Speaker 2: 04:48 They are community groups that you'll have a few members in a large group who might be extremist or members of other groups. And it's kind of a way for that ideology to seep in, to become more mainstream. But I would not define these groups specifically as hate groups. It's clear from when you look at the activities in these groups and the conversations people have that there is, um, hateful ideology being, being shared. Speaker 1: 05:17 You know, you also mentioned in your report that sub check was seen in social media posts with the defendant East County shirt on what can you tell us about that group and, and who are they and what are they trying to accomplish? Speaker 2: 05:29 But defenders County is one of these groups that started right after the big protest in the Mesa. Um, it was the largest, uh, of, of those groups, um, at its peak. It had more than 22,000 members, but in the run-up to the election, the group was removed from Facebook and, um, its members have been trying to reorganize since then, you know, this kind of deep platforming that Facebook did on County has been fairly effective. They've struggled. Speaker 1: 06:00 And finally, how does the Southern poverty law center define the proud voice? Tell me about that. Speaker 2: 06:06 Certainly members of the probably's, um, espouse white nationalists and white supremacists ideology, but, um, as an organization, you know, they call themselves a Western chauvinist in Western culture is a euphemism for white culture. So it's certainly there in, you know, right under the surface, you don't have to, but you know, their, their, their leader is a black Cuban from Florida. Um, if they're a hate group, then they hate the left in general. Right. So, um, if they're a hate group, it's, it's that they, they kind of hate liberalism, the left and, and, and women, Speaker 1: 06:48 Um, for your reporting, the Southern poverty law center classifies the proud boys as a hate group. Uh, Andrew Dyer, military and veterans issue reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.