The virile style

The most interesting overlap between the obsessions of Tucker Carlson and the Buffalo shooter is not, as our self-serving Democratic friends insist, “replacement” rhetoric — it is masculine anxiety. Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson comes from the West Coast version of the old New England and Mid-Atlantic WASP elite, a product of the La Jolla Country Day School and boarding schools in Switzerland and New England. He doesn’t have any more experience with ranch labor, factory workers, or the Hells Angels than Tom of Finland had, but his valorization of blue-collar and rural life is marked by the same kind of longing after masculine archetypes, and his approach to the question of masculinity could not be more literally reductive — his interest, as described in his recent documentary, The End of Men, is commanded in no small part by the state of the American testicle. Carlson represents the latest in a very long line of insulated aristocrats gripped by a panic about the state of masculinity in their time: Teddy Roosevelt was another, with his advocacy of the “strenuous life,” and the father of Scouting, a movement intended in part to address certain perceived deficiencies in late-Victorian masculinity, was Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB, KStJ, DL. Xi Jinping, the son of a high-ranking Communist Party official who did not find physical labor much to his liking when he was forcibly rusticated by Mao Zedong, has banned depictions of “sissy men” from Chinese media. Vladimir Putin’s regime is strangely interested in the question of gay Russians — since we have it on the good word of senior Russian officials that there are no homosexuals in their jurisdictions.

Where the fear of emasculation meets “replacement theory” is on the hard ground of social-status competition. What was that tiki-torch dork parade in Charlottesville all about? As the man behind one of the country’s premier neo-Nazi websites promised those thinking about attending that rally, the result would be not the beginning of a racial holy war or the achievement of political power or anything like that: “Random girls will want to have sex with you,” he declared. As it turns out, that doesn’t seem to be how things went down. But the Nazis say more than they perhaps intend. Of course the Buffalo shooter dreamt of inflicting sexual humiliation on those of his fellow countrymen he regards as his enemies — from a certain warped point of view, that is only reciprocal justice. You will not find very many happily married men among the ranks of the mass shooters and their 4chan fan clubs, or among the armband-and-jackboots set. It is not usually sexual satisfaction and social success that leads a man to testicle tanning. And, as even most casual observers know, socioeconomic success and marital success are linked: There is almost no difference between the overall workforce participation rate for black Americans and white Americans, with both groups typically hovering in the low-60-percent rage; married black men are significantly more likely to be in the workforce than are single white men; even more telling, the workforce participation rate for married fathers is well above 90 percent.