Between The World And Men
Truckers, Rogan, Peterson and the revolt of masculinity.
To be honest, I didn’t quite see the Canadian truckers coming. I’ve watched a lot of Canada coverage over the years (mainly via South Park, I concede) and the whole anti-vaxxer, campfire-burning, horn-tooting, macho revolt among our gentle neighbors to the north nonetheless took me by surprise.
Rob Ford was a harbinger, I guess. It’s as if the ancient, manly, lumberjacky Canadian id was finally roused from its cultural slumber by a soy-boy prime minister, forcing truckers to take a jab or forfeit their livelihood. And some reports suggest that the vaccine issue seems just the proximate trigger for the rage, and not the real source — a rage which has been steadily building for some time, especially in the pandemic, in the most progressive-left country on the planet.
And there’s something very blue-collar male about this populist anger. Trump, of course, identified the testosterone tribe he helped define and rally:
I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.
You can see similar “tough people” fault-lines in the other recent Covid contretemps involving Joe Rogan. The millions of men (71 percent male, and evenly split between high school and college grads) who listen to Rogan’s legendary podcast have rallied to him, even as the media establishment has been waging a fully-flexed campaign against him and some of his Covid coverage. There’s something about masking — chin-diapers — and mandating vaccines, and vaccines themselves, that some men seem to find feminizing.
At the same time, we also have the truly strange and newly potent phenomenon of macho Christian nationalism. Trump is a hero to the “patriot” Christian soldiers defending democracy on January 6, 2021. “Trump’s manliness is that of a man who is not afraid to say out loud what others only whisper and to incur the wrath of the ruling class for doing so,” as one Trumpist once put it. “It is his manliness, more so than his other qualities, his fame or his views that accounts for his popularity and his success — and makes up for his shortcomings and missteps.” Some evangelical mega-churches fuse Old Testament patriarchy with raw political energy — trying to masculinize faith in what they see as a newly feminized culture. (The HBO comedy series on a mega-church dynasty, “The Righteous Gemstones,” brilliantly and lovingly mocks the phenomenon.)
This macho posture is also on Twitter, of course. The scholar, James Lindsay, who has done superb work exposing and explaining the philosophical roots of critical theory, nonetheless plays a character online that is always bragging of his big dick, manspreading skills, and ways with a big sword. Another of Twitter’s new right soldiers, one Dave Reaboi, has a feed dedicated to stanning DeSantis, brandishing his biceps, and blasting his critics as wimps. As in: “Why do people mock David French as being weak, low-T and sexually incontinent? Because pieces like this announce he’s a little bitch … *also because, come on, look at him.” Never mind that French served in Iraq, and has long fought courageously for religious freedom.
The rise of the angry macho right is easily explained by its progressive foes. It’s a fevered backlash to white patriarchal privilege finally being dismantled — so enjoy the white male tears. And this contains, as many woke insights do, a kernel of truth. It is a good thing that the default identity in America is no longer white, straight and male. It’s a great thing that women’s talents and abilities are no longer so constrained. The workplace-harassment bill that just passed with wide bipartisan support, for example, seems a positive development. It’s wonderful that gay and trans people who are sometimes seen as foils to this “cis-hetero-patriarchy” are so much more visible than before, most recently with Amy Schneider, the brilliant and charismatic Jeopardy champ.
But the successor ideology will not stay there. It never rests. It insists that masculinity itself is entirely socially constructed and can and should therefore be entirely deconstructed; it regards the construction of masculinity as inherently oppressive; it regards men as problematic and privileged; it affirms that the “future is female”; and it treats the straight white male on campus as an unfortunate burden at best. And all this is happening culturally as the following is happening in real time:
Men now make up only 40.5 percent of college students. Male community college enrollment declined by 14.7 percent in 2020 alone, compared with 6.8 percent for women. Median wages for men have declined since 1990 in real terms. Roughly one-third of men are either unemployed or out of the workforce. More U.S. men ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents than with romantic partners …
Many boys are thus often growing up raised by single mothers, the share more than doubling between 1980 and 2019, from 18 percent to 40 percent. A study from 2015 found that “as more boys grow up without their father in the home, and as women … are viewed as the more stable achievers, boys and girls alike [may] come to see males as having a lower achievement orientation. … College becomes something that many girls, but only some boys, do.
This is a real problem — and it’s wonderful that Andrew Yang understands this, even though the Democrats don’t seem to. And it’s a problem not just for men but for society as a whole. Rearing a cohort of under-employed, disaffected, fatherless men who are alienated from mainstream culture, denied responsible male role models, and robbed of jobs they once took for granted and could support a family with is, well, asking for it. Adding a whole bunch of contempt doesn’t make it any better. In fact, it is making it a whole lot worse.
When politicians bring this up — as Josh Hawley did recently — they are skewered and mocked. And sure, he overstates and polarizes: “The left wants to define traditional masculinity as toxic. They want to define the traditional masculine virtues, things like courage and independence and assertiveness, as a danger to society.” But he’s highlighting a crucial, misandrist dynamic that is altering our culture and politics, and generating a needless backlash.
No, the left is not calling all masculinity toxic. But they get pretty quiet when you ask for a definition of non-toxic masculinity that doesn’t end up sounding like being a woman. And, no, they’re not explicitly denying that there are biological differences between men and women — they just speak and act on the premise that there aren’t, that boys do not need a different kind of education than girls, that all-male groups are problematic, and that finding a way to direct masculinity to noble ends is somehow enabling the oppression of women, or gay people. The result is that men are subject to left derision, right machismo, and complete cultural derailment.
And that’s where Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson come in. They too, of course, are mocked constantly, demeaned as chauvinists or white supremacists, etc. But what Rogan does is speak and talk the way men do with each other in private, which, in this media era, is a revelation. He doesn’t entertain the woke bromides of gender theory because he’s lived a life, clearly loves being a man as much as Adele says she loves being a woman, and believes, as he once put it, that “bad men are just bad human beings who happen to be men.”
He lifts weights, watches fights, eats elk meat, smokes pot, dabbles in DMT, and asks the kind of questions normie men might ask of experts. Which is why they listen. They feel at home with him. Unlike so much of the MSM, he feels real: not a throwback to patriarchy but an opening to a kind of brotherhood that feels sane to many disoriented men in America — especially the majority who haven’t yet bent the knee to the doctrines of the successor ideology.
He’s in no way a bully or blowhard. Just listen to him: his tone is mellifluous, curious, amused. His masculinity is unforced, funny and real. He’s genuinely ingenuous — the way most humans are, possessing the kind of credulousness journalists are trained out of. But that’s why he has 11 million listeners and CNN has a little over 500,000. One of his most frequent guests is the brilliant comic Tim Dillon — openly gay and stereotypically male.
Rogan’s politics are eclectic, but they reflect a male concern with practical things, straightforward people, and solutions. The idea that he is a right-wing ideologue is silly and untrue. He readily admits when he’s wrong and often self-deprecates. He’s not afraid to show emotion and choke up — whether it’s over the triumph of female fighters or putting down a puppy or the death of Chadwick Boseman. Rogan is simply not the brutish caricature that left-Twitter and CNN would have you think.
The same goes for Peterson. The Canadian prof and clinical psychologist is cantankerous, yes, but also compassionate. The man is single-handedly introducing serious ideas to regular men and women, and he draws crowds as big as rock stars’. Some of his riffs are a bit cranky for my taste, and I confess I couldn’t get through his books. But his defense of nature, of hierarchy, and of order, resonates with men in a culture that bizarrely regards all three as forms of “oppression.” His understanding of the plight of young men — trained by their disproportionately female teachers to think of their core nature as toxic — is real and moving. He, like Rogan, has a penchant for tearing up, especially when talking about the young men he meets who are turning their lives around, away from brooding resentment. The man has a hell of a lot of heart.
The medium in which Rogan and Peterson operate is also crucial to the hold they have on their fans: podcasting (and YouTube lectures, in Peterson’s case). The long-form, immersive format — Rogan’s recent episode with Peterson was more than four hours — is an antidote to the soundbites of cable news and the crude snippets of Twitter. If Rogan and Peterson are today’s version of masculinity, the “strong silent type” has officially been retired.
And of course, in this wide-ranging informal discourse, weird and dumb ideas will surface, conspiracy theories will have their moments, and listeners and Rogan will change their minds all the time. But this is not what the MSM calls “misinformation.” It’s called free discourse. As long as it is accountable for errors — as the old blogosphere was, and as Rogan has shown himself to be — it adds rather than subtracts from the discourse. And it’s a place where men talk and think like free men — and debate ideas. Rogan and Peterson may be doing more to educate and intellectually engage young men than most colleges in the country. Instead of demeaning them, we should study how they have managed to pull this off.
The world our elites are trying to create and impose by fiat is one that most normal people, not yet indoctrinated, do not recognize as reality. The world Rogan and Peterson live in — this they understand. For the normies, as for almost every other human on the planet through history and pre-history, the deeply different natures of men and women is simply fact. They don’t support misogyny or the old patriarchy or sexual misconduct. But they believe that men have a distinct and vital role to play in defending their families, their countries, and civilization from its enemies. They do not find gender a “prison.” They believe, as Norm Macdonald did, that full-on gender ideology “is a way of marginalizing a normal person.” Recognize this and engage it — and the market responds the way it has.
To me, to be honest, this all comes as a form of relief. It suggests that the lies of the woke cannot fully penetrate the minds of most non-college-educated folks. It genuinely gives me hope. And it’s something we need to build on, not tear down. This is not toxic masculinity, premised on violence, nor patriarchy, bent on the subjugation of women. It’s an egalitarian but distinct masculinity, needing direction, and seeking, however clumsily at times, a form of manly virtue.
Great civilizations do not despise this natural male urge to ennoble their distinct sex; they value, celebrate, and direct it. We once did. Our new elites insist that such a distinctly manly virtue cannot and should not exist. But if they do not respect and cultivate it, a dumb and dangerous masculinity will fill the void instead. In fact, to a dangerous extent, it already has.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: a long conversation with cancel-culture target Kathleen Stock on the nature of sex and gender; readers dissenting over my views on the Whoopi Goldberg dustup; eight notable quotes for the week; two principled quotes on Black Lives Matter and the Canadian truckers; 13 recommended pieces on Substack on a wide variety of topics; a trippy music video from Animal Collective; a wintry view of rural New York and a warmer view of urban Florida; and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a new subscriber:
Just a quick note to tell you why I sent you $50. Yes, it’s for your content — but it’s
more for what the Dish has been in the life of this nation. You and the old Dish blog talked me into changing my mind when I was against gay marriage — your argument was both novel and brilliant: “Why do you sing the value of marriage, and then say, but not for gay people?” You have ever and always showed people how to speak civilly even when argument gets heated.
New On The Dishcast: Kathleen Stock
Kathleen was a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex for nearly 20 years. Last fall, she resigned under duress following a vicious campaign to have her fired for questioning gender ideology. Her latest book is Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism. We bonded despite huge political differences — I think because we’ve both experienced the sting of harassment and caustic criticism from our peers among gays, lesbians and trans people, in different ways and for different reasons. And we’re both from England.
For two clips of our conversation — on whether being transgender is “natural” and if that matters, and on the homophobia baked into radical trans ideology — head over to our YouTube page. Listen to the whole episode here. That link also takes you to a bunch of continued reader commentary over the Whoopi controversy, including a long riff from me on race.
Dissents Of The Week: Semantics Over Anti-Semitism
A reader writes:
Good Lord, Andrew. I agree Whoopi Goldberg isn’t a deep thinker and not an anti-Semite. However, I fear your latest column shows you are TOO deep a thinker, and this CRT hysteria has made you miss the forest for the trees. You have a wall of text and assumptions about how CRT was behind Whoopi’s thinking about race, but you know the only word in the dictionary you didn’t use? Ethnicity!
In The ‘Stacks
In case you’re new to the Dish, this is a feature in the paid version of our newsletter spotlighting about a dozen of our favorite pieces from other Substackers every week. This week’s selection covers subjects such as GOP surveillance, why Netflix could falter, and the case against baby baptisms. Two examples:
Steve QJ is a paragon of addressing dissent — for example, this back and forth with a reader over trans women and locker rooms, and this engagement over “one of the last great taboos when discussing racial issues.” Check him out.
Simply a must-read for anyone worried about the successor ideology. A warning: this essay sank my spirits for two whole days this week. It’s so expansive and insightful it makes you want to slit your wrists.
You can also browse all the ‘stacks that Bodenner and I follow and read on a regular basis here — a combination of our favorite writers and new ones we’re checking out. It’s a blogroll of sorts. As you’re finding out, stories that the MSM will cover eventually are being covered right now on Substack. Stay ahead of the curve.
If you have any recommendations for “In the ‘Stacks,” especially ones from emerging writers, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? (The photo wasn’t taken recently.) Email your guess to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a three-month sub if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you’re new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for last week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today.
See you next Friday.