There’s an episode of “The Twilight Zone” (Jordan Peele’s version) called “Not All Men” that basically tells the story of a town where men have become infected by a mysterious substance that drives them to violent rage.
The men are reduced to conflict-driven Neanderthals who allow even the slightest slights — and perceived slights — to set them off. The episode and its title seem like clear references to the hypermasculine backlash to the #MeToo movement, as well as a warning about the dangers of men embracing a hypermasculine id.
I’ve thought about the episode all week as I’ve watched leaders of the conservative movement embrace the politics of right-wing rage. No, there’s no cosmic fluid driving MAGA men to exhibit their anger in increasingly disturbing ways. It appears they have Donald Trump for that.
For me, it all started with the former president’s mockery of the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who was bludgeoned by someone whose lawyers say got caught up in right-wing conspiracy theories. (Note: This was the same rally where Trump used Nazi-like rhetoric to talk about vanquishing his foes.)
Later that day, Trump made a special entrance at an Ultimate Fighting Championship event alongside extremist musician Kid Rock, among others, which struck me as another example of the MAGA movement’s hypermasculine hackery. FYI: Right-wingers’ attempts to reach young men through UFC have been documented, and I’ve written a bit about it for The ReidOut Blog.
And on Tuesday, we saw the MAGA movement’s male aggression on full display. We saw:
- Sen. Markwayne Mullins, an Oklahoma Republican and former MMA fighter, inviting a Senate hearing witness to fight during his testimony (and then defending violence).
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California reportedly elbowing a fellow House Republican, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who had voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker.
- Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., unleashing an insult-laden diatribe against Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., from a House dais.
It seems the MAGA men have gone mad — in more ways than one.
And it’s dismissive to merely say, as some have, that these instances simply show a lack of decorum. They also seem to show a conservative movement that’s increasingly open to antagonistic politics and performative acts of toughness, if not physical violence. And that’s worthy of widespread concern.