Monday, November 28

the right shakes the myth of the macho man

It was difficult to predict that the tan testicles would become one of the topics of the moment in the US, but it is, by the work and grace of Tucker Carlson, the most influential figure and intelligent of the American media right. If you’ve paid attention to the star Fox News anchor, however, it’s easy to see that the proposal, with its usual provocation, is just a bait. And he leads to a trap: replicate a message from the global far rightshake the culture wars that grease the Republican electoral strategy and incite the ghosts and fears of white men when the freedoms and conquests of rights of women, the LGBT community, racial minorities or immigrants advance.

Days ago, Carlson presented ‘the end of men‘ (The End of Man), one of the specials on the conservative network’s streaming service (where last season it spent three episodes spreading conspiracy theories about the Capitol assault as an anti-Trump plot). In that presentation she released a trailer in which, among other images, a naked man was seen on some rocks with his arms crossed which illuminated his genitals with a large vertical lamp of red light.

“It touches not only the insecurity about masculinity but the whole idea that the US is becoming feminized,” says a social psychologist

Since then, rivers of ink have flowed and jokes have been fired about the treatment with which Carlson and at least one of the “experts” consulted proposes to reduce the drop in testosterone levels, the image of testicular tanning and many other images of a video populated by burly men chopping down trees with an ax, shooting arrows, drinking eggs, moving giant tires or milking a cow. The background, in any case, is not funny.

Paranoia and conspiracy theories

“It seems like a parody and a caricature of a type of archaic masculinity but, at the same time, it is very dangerous and cannot be taken lightly,” warns Sarah DiMuccio, a doctor in Social Psychology, in a telephone interview, which she conducted, with the New York University professor Eric Knowles, a study on the relationship between men with stress or anxiety about appearing masculine and their propensity to vote for Trump. “Reiterates and reinforces negative notions of what it means to be a man. And it touches not only insecurity about masculinity but the whole idea that America is becoming feminizedIt goes in the wrong direction, it’s not hard at all.”

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Carlson – who in his programs and messages increasingly leaves room for pseudoscience, paranoia or conspiracy theories such as the “great replacement” – is anything but subtle. The trailer for ‘The End of Man’ opens with a speech by John F. Kennedy introducing his fitness program, but the next person you see and hear talking about the alleged crisis of declining sperm and testosterone production (a scientifically debated issue that has been politicized for years), is Robert Kennedy Jr., the controversial member of the clan who has been one of the promoters of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

An effective bait

When the words “weak men” appear in the trailer, they do so on an image of Joe Biden stumbling on the stairs of a plane or on that of Democratic politicians kneeling in a tribute act in Congress to George Floyd. The first image of an obese person is that of a black person. And the scenes of masculinity have, for observers like DiMuccio, reminiscences of those he propagated years ago about himself. Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is, together with Viktor Orbán, Jair Bolsonaro either Trumpone of the leaders whose manhood is admired by Carlson.

“It always ends up targeting older white men. It’s all part of the same fight – us or them, now or never – between masculine Americans and mannered elites”

With his bait, the Fox star has once again shown that he knows how to direct the spotlight and stir up the passions and anxieties of the radical right. She feeds the doubts stating that neither the Government nor the media want to address the alleged crisis of testosterone levels. And it all responds to his modus operandi, which political journalist Philip Bump has described in The Washington Post in this way: “He always ends up targeting older white men in particular, supposedly besieged in an increasingly hostile culture, giving them tools to defend themselves (… .) It’s all part of the same fight – us or them, now or never – between masculine Americans and effeminate elites.”

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The obsession of Carlson and the extreme right with the alleged threats against masculinity is not new in the US, where the Republican Party has claimed its representation and defense since the 1980s. Already in March 2018, when the country celebrated women’s month, the presenter dedicated a report every Wednesday to “men in America”. There he was already talking about the decline in the production of testosterone and sperm (whose treatment, it should be said, plagues the ads that are broadcast in conservative media).

profitable myths

Then Carlson argued that American men have worse results in education than women, shorter life expectancy, more cases of obesity, higher rates of addiction, marry less, have fewer children… With this he questioned whether it was necessary to continue giving ” more opportunities for women and girls” and described it as a “pernicious lie” to speak “of women as victims and men as oppressors”. “When men fail we all suffer,” she said.

Some of the statistics that Carlson used (that men represent 77% of suicides, that they suffer more anxiety and depression or that they are 90% of the prison population) can be seen, however, from another perspective. Psychologist Sarah DiMuccio stresses that precisely enacting strict norms and ironclad expectations about masculinity as Carlson does “is detrimental to the health of both men and women. There are young victims of bullying who are told they can’t show emotion , or be vulnerable or ask for help, which leads to more mental crises,” he stresses. “And many react with aggression towards women or sexual minorities when they believe their masculinity is challenged.”

far right canon

Carlson’s speech also connects with the canon of far-right propagandist literature, which includes titles such as ‘The Turner Diaries’ or ‘The Landing’, the book by Jean Raspail that was one of Trump’s favorites, that present a white man as a hero who rises up against a progressive, feminist, racially diverse and/or degenerate society.

And adding to that canon was 2018, the year of Carlson’s first reporting on the subject, ‘Bronze Age Mentality,’ a self-published manifesto by someone under the pseudonym Bronze Age Pervert that became a phenomenon in right-wing circles and among members of the Trump Administration. That 200-page text, denounced as fascist and anti-Semitic, advocated, like Carlson, combining “sun and steel”, tanning and weights. It also criticized contemporary Western society, denigrating feminism, immigration, Islam and Judaism, calling social justice “disgusting parasitism” and asserting that women who succeed in traditionally male domains are “lesbian in spirit.”

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The Fox News presenter does not directly do politics, but the brand. In November of last year, ultra-Missouri Senator Josh Hawley gave a speech at a conservative caucus in which he denounced that “the deconstruction of America begins with and depends on the deconstruction of the American man.” “The left wants to define traditional masculinity as toxic, and traditional masculine virtues like courage, independence and assertiveness as dangerous,” Hawley said, before arguing that “men who take responsibility, who start and maintain families, who enter the commitment of marriage and respect it. We need men to raise men and women in their likeness, to transmit the great truths of our history and culture, to defend freedom, to share the work of self-government.”

Messages like these give relevancy to analyzes like the one made by Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley in his book Facha: How Fascism Works and How It Has Entered Your Life. “Highlighting alleged threats to men’s ability to protect their women and children solves a difficult political problem for fascist politicians,” he wrote. “In a liberal democracy a politician who explicitly attacks freedom and equality will not get much support. The politics of sexual anxiety is a way of getting around the issue, for the sake of security, it is a way of attacking and undermining the ideals of liberal democracy without being seen as explicitly doing so.”

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