Modern America’s domestic terrorists were boys in the hypersexual, uber-violent, misogynist final throes of 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 or the nuclear-tipped 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.

 

The thirteen “Boogaloo Boys” that threatened the governors of Michigan and Virginia 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.

 

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 honour.

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 defence 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.

 

 

 

 

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