Stephen Hunter

Violence, Homophobia, and Misogyny: The Core Tenets of America’s Lost Boys

(Fight Club, Photo 20th Century Fox / Everett)

Today’s modern American domestic terrorists were influenced by the hypersexual, uber-violent, misogynist attitudes and images that were prevalent in the 1990s.

 

America, if eligible to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant. —Walt Whitman, 1870.

 

Now seems a good time to look under the hood of masculine rage here in the United States.

Boys … you’re Caucasian, you’re male, you’re healthy. Compared to the vast majority on the planet, you’re privileged, pampered, well-fed, swimming in a warm bath of super abundance, and—let’s get this straight—you’re furious? You feel hard done by? If it weren’t for grown men swaggering around the streets, clad in combat gear, toting assault rifles, this would be laughable.

Just recently, thirteen of these charming brutes were arrested trying to cook up a plot to kidnap, even kill, the female governor of Michigan. One showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and killed two BLM protesters. All this to the adolescent cheerleading of the President of the United States, the country’s commander-in-chief, the one who wanted “his Generals” to provide him with a North Korea style parade, complete with tanks and missiles; he of the nuclear codes.

What’s telling in that litany isn’t the “commander-in-chief” or the “Generals” or the “tanks and missiles,” it’s that “adolescent” tag. As a stage in human development, adolescence has a dodgy reputation. It’s associated with an on-rushing hormonal storm leading to everything from “barely controllable, though understandable sexual urges” to “bad skin” to “wild mood swings” to “sudden and extreme personality morphologies.” In boys, it can be a time of untamed aggression and an attraction to violence, even aimless violence, violence that requires no causal spark.

Adolescence is also an age where adult models become hyper important. What is admired and aped in adolescence can often carry on right through life.

 

Adolescence is also an age where adult models become hyper important. What is admired and aped in adolescence can often carry on right through life.

 

A generation of American men took cues from the iconic personas of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood: the solid, stolid, stoic, and silent individualists who, sure, could fall into easy violence, but always and only in response to a threat. They were protectors and defenders—their aggressions well-bounded and contained by a strong ethic, a personal code of honor.

The thirteen “Boogaloo Boys” that threatened the governors of Michigan and Virginia were all between the ages of 30 and 45. This is also the predominant demographic cohort for the other, major white nationalist cults: “The Proud Boys,” “The Oath Keepers,” and the “3%ers.” The FBI has just identified these groups as the greatest, single terrorist threat now facing the country.

The men in these groups came of age in the 1990s where the teenage touchstones of male modelling had moved on from Wayne and Eastwood. They’d been re-imagined and replaced by Pro Wrestling, sexist-homophobic gangster rap, and Fight Club.

 

 

Here, masculine violence is acted out in a near-vacuum, unmoored except as show, performance—a substitute for the harder work of meaning. It’s a method not to gain or defend but to fill a void in an increasingly pointless and materially over-saturated culture. The violence, homophobia, and misogyny are the explosions of a fantasy life that is empty at its core; there is no ethic, no identifiable code. The one thing that could be said in defense is that it may be more a reflection of fear than of rage.

And what about this man: a “successful” New York investment whizz; one obsessed with brands and branding; handsome, rich; a visceral hater of “losers;” associated with strings of beautiful women—seemingly “has it all.” But, a man known to be hyper-aggrieved and hyper-aggressive (some would even say unhinged) paranoid in his lust for power, money, and celebrity. That’s not a description of president, Donald J. Trump, by the way, that’s a Wikipedia description of Patrick Bateman—the narrator, main character, and protagonist of American Psycho.

We model what we see.

 

Related posts

*

Top