For political extremism to become policy, a hyperbolic extreme must present itself in the marketplace of ideas. These lightning rods are necessary to allow the expression of previously unexpressible realities and to move the conversation towards a new allowable playing field. This is called “Moving the Overton Window“.
Moving the Overton Window has been a hallmark of abusive right-wing politics since the plutocracy declared war on American democracy with the Powell Memo and the Two Santa-Clause Strategy, and it is the centerpiece of the 50-year, Trillion-Dollar movement that has succeeded in ending democracy and the middle-class majority in America.
This movement calls itself “The Conservative Movement.”
At the center of this movement is a downward spiral. It is a self-feeding cycle of abuse that begins by driving down the life expectancy, social mobility and well-being of all Americans by means of increasing inequality.
As the above video shows, inequality drives essentially every social ill we revile in society, and of course, the conservative movement with its war on unions and religious devotion to the completely debunked lie of “supply-side” economic theory is the central cause of inequality in America.
The conservative movement does this and drives the decision to do it, but then it does something deeply sickening and destructive to society; rather than face the economic causes of these social ills and face a potential backlash from the abused, it provides scapegoats and thuggish bigotry as the pseudo-salve to the suffering of the most dramatically impacted.
In the case of our America, the conservative movement has intentionally created a culture of toxic masculinity to drive the misery of the debate and ensure that those most affected by the economic changes will not join together to demand their stolen economic and political power.
Sociopaths and indoctrinated practitioners across the right-wing media echo chamber dominate these conversations with thuggish and outlandish accusations and think-tank researched talking points to give the appearance of rationality to the irrational, and the appearance of moral rectitude to the deeply indecent. Toxic Masculinity as a rage vehicle for the misery inflicted on society by economic inequality is the central editorial rule of the State Television propaganda network that calls itself FOX News and of such online hate-rags as Breitbart.
Rather than delve too deeply into the abuse psychosis of this ubiquitous phenomena, feel free to explore the writings and thuggery of such truth-brutalizing luminaries as Fox Propaganda Network’s Sean Hannity and Neo-Nazi online douche-champion Milo Yannopolous. The tiny President who took the sickness, put his name on it and used it to elevate himself to the highest office in the land himself provides a daily a master course in the abuse cycle of toxic masculine culture.
Toxic masculinity is driving this transformational moment in American political, economic, and social life. It is disturbing and genuinely pathetic. People are responsible for their own words and actions and should absolutely be called out and condemned for every moment of bigotry regardless of the target or supposed justification.
But what happens next? What can go to the heart of this question to show what is driving this kind of sickness and toxicity in American men? Why are American men supporting the destruction of their own wealth and power, violently, passionately, and with the devastating brutality of the religiously indoctrinated?
This is a very important question, because people who are angry, alone, and afraid make really stupid choices. Exhibit A: the tiny bald hate-filled monster we somehow put in power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the craven office holders of his party enabling his derangement in Washington.
So, what is driving this bigotry? Why do white males feel so alienated, so afraid, so angry that they feel the need to lash out in every direction and make such pathetic and atrocious choices? What is driving this national epidemic of toxic masculine diminishment?
We are all familiar with the drug-addicted rat studies of the 1950s and 60s. In those studies, rats were put in tiny cages and allowed to press a lever to deliver morphine on demand. Many pushed that lever until they died. This became the basis for US drug policy ever since. Recent studies, however (see the attached video) showed that in reality, rats are very social creatures and need social interaction and diverse entertainment and activities to lead fulfilling lives. In interactive environments, rats essentially ignored morphine, choosing water instead.
Now consider the life of the American white male. 50 years ago, economic structures allowed for a level of stability and authority that have been systematically and intentionally destroyed by the greatest wealth and financial theft in human history, the corporate takeover of American democracy(tm). Now that minorities and women are achieving economic parity with white men, or from their perspective, now that white men’s economic prospects have been diminished to those of minorities and women, men in America now have a much more difficult time finding fulfillment in life.
Social expectations of “maleness” however have not changed, men are still expected to be emotionless, stoic, invulnerable, and completely responsible for their own fulfillment as stolid defenders of family, community, social and moral “good”, and national security. All of this drives a deep sense of dissatisfaction and alienation among white males in America.
It doesn’t have to be this way:
After 20-plus years of research, Dr. Way concludes that many boys, especially early and middle adolescents, develop deep, meaningful friendships, easily rivaling girls in their emotional honesty and intimacy.
But we socialize this vulnerability out of them. Once they reach ages 15 or 16, “they begin to sound like gender stereotypes,” she writes in “Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection.” “They start using phrases such as ‘no homo’ … and they tell us they don’t have time for their male friends, even though their desire for these relationships remains.”
As a result, online and video game addiction, drug use, alcohol addiction, use of pornography, sex addiction, a full scope mental health issue, and the kind of toxic maleness and bigoted politics are expanding enough to become a genuine threat to society as a whole.
…as we know, men are not fine. Boys get worse grades than girls. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35; men also report significantly lower life satisfaction than women. According to statistics compiled by the Men’s Health Forum, men make up 76% of all suicides, 95% of the prison population, 73% of adults who go missing and 87% of rough sleepers. A key part of this is men’s reluctance to seek help. Last year’s cross-party Jo Cox Commission described male loneliness as a “silent epidemic”: more than one in 10 say they are lonely but won’t usually admit it.
American men, today, find themselves trapped between cross-currents of social and economic change, and stultifying expectations for performance and ability. When we see the hate-filled sociopathy of the extreme right, we must, of course, denounce the insensible and demented brutality of their words and ideas, but we also have to understand the source of their sickness and the forces driving them to political and social dementia and the toll bigotry takes on bigots as well.
American culture is dying for lack of an informed, aware, vulnerable, compassionate, authentic, and nurturing masculinity. In its absence, we will continue to see the expansion of masculine self-destruction, and the toxic, resentment-filled, political extremism of the right that now threatens the future of the nation as a whole.