We all had a good laugh yesterday when we watched the trailer for Tucker Carlson's latest ... um, documentary:
Shirtless men chopping down trees and milking cows? A naked guy radiating his genitals? Another guy drinking a glass full of raw eggs? This is the new thing from Tucker Carlson?
The jokes write themselves. Here's the clip with an alternate soundtrack:
But we shouldn't be surprised to see this. Carlson has clearly decided that one of the failures of recent American neo-fascism can be dusted off and turned into a success.
Remember 2017, when much of the concern talk about Trumpism focused on the "alt-right," a movement that had been given a platform at Breitbart by Steve Bannon before he moved into the Trump White House as an adviser? The alt-right evolved from online and other communities focused on masculinity. In The Atlantic in 2017, Angela Nagle wrote,
For eight years, I have been closely observing an array of rightist forums as they have followed a strange and marked evolution. Initially, at least, taking the red pill was more closely associated with antifeminist and men’s-rights forums like Reddit’s /r/TheRedPill, which launched in 2012, than with the nativist or racist corners of the online right. TheRedPill was infamous for its mix of virulent misogyny and retrograde dating advice. The young men who frequented it obsessed over the male pecking order, evolutionary sexual psychology, and the decline of Western men, who had become too meek to stand up to their women. It also played a significant role in popularizing terms now associated with the racial politics of the alt-right, including cuck, a derivative of cuckold first used to describe an emasculated man and later adapted to brand conservatives who were seen as weak on immigration, or just weak.
Over time, this online “manosphere” would embrace an increasingly hard-line antifeminism, one that began to shade into broader critiques of a fraying social order. Daryush Valizadeh, known as “Roosh V,” launched his writing career with the Bang series of books, many of them essentially travel guides for pick-up artists. His site, Return of Kings, was at first dedicated to crude misogyny and pick-up advice. But by 2015, he was ranging further afield in his search for the source of male woe, writing pieces like “The Damaging Effects of Jewish Intellectualism and Activism on Western Culture,” a positive review of an anti-Semitic conspiracy text popular among the alt-right. The Proud Boys, a group founded by the former Vice impresario Gavin McInnes to fight the forces of emasculation (in part through a renunciation of masturbation), also blended sexism and creeping nativism. While some adherents were attracted by the campaign against self-abuse, or the fraternity-like initiation rituals, membership also entailed support for closed borders and what McInnes called, in a clever stroke of euphemism, “western chauvinism.”
But the death of Heather Heyer, a counterprotester at the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, made ordinary Americans aware that the Proud Boys are hatemongers, and, made the label "alt-right" toxic.
In those days, I recall that if you criticized these guys while calling them the "alt-right," someone would inevitably respond, "Don't say 'alt-right'! Call them what they are! They're fascists!" But what was actually happening was that we were making the term "alt-right" poisonous. People from the left and center succeeded in linking the term to fascism in the public mind. This is the kind of language manipulation Christopher Rufo did when he began the process of poisoning the term "critical race theory," except that we poisoned "alt-right" in a factually accurate way. Alt-rightism was fascist. And so the term became useless to the right.
But the ideas never went away. A few months ago I started seeing references at right-wing sites to a guy who calls himself Raw Egg Nationalist. I followed him on Twitter, and what do you know -- he's in Carlson's video, glugging down those raw eggs.
And before Raw Egg Nationalist, there was Bronze Age Pervert:
He's the author of Bronze Age Mindset.
At its core, Bronze Age Mindset is about the promotion of masculine strength and virtue as a means of bringing about political change. The world at present, according to its author, is sunk in a form of decentralised tyranny, ruled over by “bugmen” (a rough approximation of the Nietzschean “Last Man”) as well as matriarchal tyrants empowered by feminism and democracy. Beauty has been effaced from human society and the natural world is being despoiled.
The hypocritical supporter of liberalism, a physical weakling with a bad conscience, “pretends to be motivated by compassion, but is instead motivated by a titanic hatred of the well-turned out and beautiful”. In a style influenced by the norms of online debate, BAP punctuates each of his philosophical arguments with insults, blaming “obese high-fructose-corn-syrup-guzzling beasts” for suppressing masculine energy and acting as bad stewards of Earth’s natural treasures.
Steve Bannon's idea, in the run-up to the 2016 election, was that embracing ideas like this under the alt-right banner could win converts to his brand of politics: young men who might otherwise vote Democratic, or not vote, but would now back Donald Trump. Carlson clearly believes that project can be revived, shed of the alt-right label.
If you're wondering about the naked guy in the clip who has a glowing device at his crotch, Carlson gave us a partial explanation on Friday:
Tucker Carlson and good pal Kid Rock had another friendly conversation on Fox News on Friday, with one topic of discussion being “testicle tanning.” The subject had been raised earlier in Carlson’s show by Andrew McGovern, an Ohio-based fitness professional who was brought on to help answer Carlson’s question, “How do you reverse the effects of falling testosterone?” One of the solutions McGovern offered was red light therapy, which, when Carlson asked, he said includes “testicle tanning.”
Rock had apparently been listening along, because when Carlson addressed him minutes later, the first thing the musician said was, “Dude, stop! Testicle tanning? Come on. I haven’t heard anything like that in a long time.” The Fox News host replied, “Open your mind, Bobby!” He then asked, more seriously, “Don’t you think at this point when so many of the therapies, the paths they’ve told us to take, have turned out to be dead ends that really hurt people, why wouldn’t open minded people seek new solutions?” Rock demurred: “I don’t know what the hell is going on in this world. I’m not even sure if I understood that question. But some days you just want to stop this planet and let me off.”
We're in deep trouble as a society when Kid Rock is the voice of reason.
But this is where Carlson is going. The fear of depleted testosterone also links these folks to the anti-vaxx movement: Recall that Carlson and right-wing disinformationist Candace Owens praised Nicki Minaj's tweet about a "cousin in Trinidad" who allegedly became impotent after receiving a COVID vaccine shot. And, of course, this isn't the first time Carlson has fixated on testosterone. Remember what he said last September:
In the service of deriding vaccine mandates, Carlson launched into a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory that the military is required to weed out the undesirables in its ranks.
“The point of mandatory vaccination is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the freethinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anyone else who does not love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately,” Carlson claimed. “It’s a takeover of the U.S. military.”
Is this a shrewd move by Carlson? I don't know. I don't know whether it will lure more young men into the GOP, or into some incipient fascist movement. But it's clearly an effort to reverse Breitbart's failure to make the alt-right a political force in America. And it could work.
Published with permission from No More Mister Nice Blog.