“Violence is one of the most intensely lived experiences and, for those capable of giving themselves over to it, is one of the most intense pleasures,” Buford writes. By McInnes’ account, his Proud Boys heartily agree.

The violence of the Proud Boys has additional allure to a certain audience in this moment. It can be portrayed as merely defense against the thuggery of antifa (which in left-wing jurisdictions like Portland, Ore., is tolerated to a shocking extent). It is simple, and requires no effort at argument or persuasion. It is taken as a symbol of strength—the Proud Boys supposedly always win their fights.

Needless to say, this is all poisonous. You can oppose antifa without brawling with it—one mob does not justify another. Violence outside the law is always wrong. We have democratic politics exactly so political and cultural disputes can be settled without resort to fisticuffs—or firearms and bombs. If conservatism is to represent law and order, it must anathematize and exclude advocates of, and practitioners, of violence.