In journalistic jargon, they are called summer snakes. This is rather absurd news and dubious relevance, which multiply during periods of information drought, especially in the midst of dog days. Surely many remember what for decades was the quintessential summer snake, the Loch Ness monster. The elusive Jurassic beast is stuck in a swamp in the north of Scotland and has mysteriously “appeared” every year, at least in the press, through August.
By the tan of the testicles, one could tell that this is a full-fledged summer snake, if not for the fact that it ended up causing a fierce debate in the United States. So much so that for several weeks now he has been competing in the information hierarchy of the American media with inflation, the war in Ukraine, the primaries from which candidates for legislative elections will emerge, or the NBA playoff stage.
It all started with a commercial. In mid-April, Tucker Carlson, Fox News commentator and host, audience leader and considered an emissary of Trumpism on television, promoted the upcoming premiere of a special report dubbed “The End of Men.” One night, he aired a trailer that showed a naked man standing with his arms crossed in front of a machine that projected an alarming red light onto his crotch.
Tucker Carlson during a conference in 2018 in Los Angeles. Michael S. Schwartz (Getty Images)
The montage also included images of half-naked muscular guys doing push-ups, Greco-Roman wrestling and target shooting, milking ruminants or chopping wood, while an ominous voice assured that the decline in masculinity that the United States was experiencing could only be stopped by intense effort. activity, physics, producing “people with the strength necessary to survive and restore order.” Everything is very impressive, to say the least. But it was the beam projected onto his crotch that took away the cake.
In fact, the machine in question was an infrared lamp used as part of a therapy to reduce wrinkles, alleviate muscle injuries, or fight acne that was offered by wellness centers and aesthetic clinics. But Carlson, a professional with a nose for viral phenomena, chose to bluntly and bluntly call it “testicle tan,” and the networks (especially the ultra-conservatives, the segment of public opinion targeted by Fox News) warmly embraced the concept. In a matter of hours, the brown scrotum has become a symbol of masculinity, patriotism, and militant rejection of so-called “cultural leftist complexes” and “gender ideology.”
come back man
A few days later, the journalist invited an “expert” in non-traditional methods of treatment to restore masculinity, personal trainer Andrew McGovern, to his program. McGovern told the audience that light therapy “has many health benefits for which there is ample scientific evidence that is not being reported in most of the media.” “But we’re talking about testicular tanning, right?” asked Carlson, who usually doesn’t do stitches without thread. “Of course, but also to take care of the health and balance of the body as a whole,” McGovern replied. And “restore masculinity.” Don’t forget about it. Even Kid Rock, a Trump supporter and Carlson regular, was skeptical: “Are you serious, Tucker? Do you think I’ll burn my testicles? I guess I won’t listen to you this time.” But the stone was thrown into the lake. And very soon he began to create waves.
As Bruce E. Lee, editor of Forbes magazine, one of the first to write an article about the appearance of such a peculiar therapy on prime-time television, explained, “Carlson spent years exposing on his show the alleged decline in testosterone levels and sperm quality of American men, which he credits the success of feminism and the criminalization of male lifestyles. The lack of a material basis for his dissertation does not prevent him from being very popular among followers of his Tucker Carlson Originals program, an “investigative” space that has given rise to theories such as that the storming of the Capitol was in fact staged. assassins of the Democratic Party or fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Journalist Eric Lutz explained in Vanity Fair that Carlson is not alone in this kind of crusade against the decline of masculinity: “He has supporters like Josh Hawley, a Republican Senator from Missouri, for whom men are in crisis because the Democratic the elite hate America and plot to subvert the values of masculinity.” Lutz is astounded by the fact that Carlson calls the issue “an issue that is being hushed up by the regime’s press” (progressive, of course): “He insists again and again, without providing any information, that there is some kind of media conspiracy to keep the public from knowing that testosterone levels reached their historical lows. A cynical and twisted logic is being applied: that the majority of the media and the main body of the scientific community are not talking about this would be proof that this is happening and they are covering it up.” To those who think that tanning testicles to restore masculinity is crazy, he replies that “madness is ignoring the problem and not looking for a solution.”
Stupidity as a strategy
Ian Allen, writer for The New Republic, a political commentary magazine, sees it as a mistake to ridicule “ultra-conservative cultural agitation” campaigns that are as biased and delusional as those of brown testicles. Allen explains that “Carlson is not at all concerned that his detractors make fun of him in other media or social networks, because he preaches to new converts, and his personal obsessions and crusades permeate his ideological circle like fine rain.”
It should not be forgotten that the average audience of Tucker Carlson’s The Originals “is in excess of four million viewers and that its echo on the networks is far greater.” This is “a huge community among which Carlson distributes extreme messages, which without him would be frankly a minority.” Because the idea of the decline of the white man, “besieged by an army of feminists, blacks, Jews and homosexuals,” is, in Allen’s opinion, more than a variant of the “Great Replacement” thesis, the gradual replacement of the heterosexual and white alpha male by racial and sexual minorities, very widespread in far-right circles.
This theory, based on the racist superiority of the late 19th century, had contemporary popularizers such as The Bronze Age Pervert, author of the new masculinity supremacists’ bedside book Bronze Age Mind. In this essay, published in 2018, the author calls on his alt-right advocates to “provoke our ideological adversaries with statements that annoy and shock them so that they lose their false moral superiority once and for all and show themselves as they really are: pedantic, pretentious, arrogant, ugly.”
According to Allen, Carlson applies this recipe with “deadly precision.” When he pushes “real men” to tan their testicles to save America, he expects a visceral (or contemptuous) reaction from his adversaries. That they call him crazy or grotesque or idiotic, that they pretend to laugh in his face, but that they say about him: “That’s what propagandists like Carlson mean by success,” Allen concludes, “that the most extreme and ridiculous from his ideas enter the collective agenda, become the subject of discussion.
Allen does not think that Carlson should be taken lightly: “On the contrary, turning into the meat of a meme strengthens him, it is his strategy to get out of the corner into which he is driven by the extremism of his views, and thus take a more central position in the world. , the quadrangle of public opinion.
In his almost homoerotic celebration of aggressive and uncompromising masculinity, one can find echoes of an entire aesthetic and intellectual tradition associated with the extreme right, which, according to Allen, “goes back at least to the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.” There are many examples of the kind of referents that educate Carlson, from the racist science fiction of Jean Raspail to The Turner Diaries, the novel by William Pierce that inspired the right-wing anarcho-terrorist Timothy McVeigh, to Gavin McInnes’ Proud Boys or The Proud Boys. Jordan Peterson self-help books for men in need. A whole tradition, in short, of worshiping the body, exalting traditional masculinity and without nuance, misogyny and militant hatred of sexual diversity.
Sam Wolfson, editor of The Guardian, prefers to take the digital tan as a joke, although he admits that “deep down it’s not funny at all.” Wolfson adds that “it’s no surprise that, according to Fox News, the solution to all social and political problems in our country lies in increasing testosterone levels: this is their vision of life, these are the mental categories that they manage. “. Wolfson would like to know “what are these amazing health benefits that these treatments claim, and what is the overwhelming scientific evidence to support them, because neither Carlson nor his experts give details about it.” Of course, this idea is ingrained in the collective unconscious: at least in the US, testicle tanning is a right-wing patriot affair.
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