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Liberalism And “Manly Men”

June 14, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

There is no video of the “body slam” of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by Greg Gianforte in the final days of Gianforte’s successful bid for Montana’s open congressional seat, so it is difficult to make a judgment about how inappropriately Gianforte behaved.
Obviously, there is a difference between a violent physical attack meant to do bodily harm (which Jacobs alleges), and a tussle over a microphone rudely shoved in Gianforte’s face, during which Jacobs and Gianforte fell to the ground (which is Gianforte’s story).
But something out-of-order took place. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault and will appear before a Montana judge. The negative newspaper and intense cable news coverage may have damaged Gianforte’s reputation, but not enough to prevent him from defeating his Democratic rival by a 7 percent margin.
I don’t know enough about Gianforte to make a case for why he lost his temper in this manner. But there is something else about this case that we can make a judgment about: the difference between conservatives and liberals in the media in their reaction the incident. The liberals were aghast at Gianforte’s “bullying,” his “lack of self-control,” his unprofessional demeanor” and “lack of respect for the press.”
Many conservatives agreed. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) called on Gianforte to apologize, saying: “There’s no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings.”
But not all conservatives saw it that way. According to The Los Angeles Times, California Cong. Duncan Hunter tweeted, “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.” Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, who has been a subject of unflattering stories written by Jacobs, tweeted, “Jacobs is an obnoxious, dishonest first-class jerk. I’m not surprised he got smacked.”
Laura Ingraham agreed that Gianforte should have kept “his cool.” But then added that Jacobs was being, well, whiny: “What would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man? Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?”
Rush Limbaugh saw things similarly: “This manly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama boy journalist.”
Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, a native of Montana and best known for firing the shot that killed Osama bin Laden, joined in: “Apparently this snowflake reporter invaded Gianforte’s safe space with ambush tactics, and we have a saying in Montana: You mess around, you might not be around. You’ll get the bull’s horns in Montana.”
I am glad that Limbaugh, Ingraham, and O’Neill raised this topic. It is one at I have been reluctant to bring up, lest I come across as a wise guy. But my reaction is the same: Liberal men, too often to ignore, are snowflakes.
Come on: ’Fess up. We won’t tell anyone. If I brought you into a room where there were ten men, half liberals, half conservatives, don’t you think you would have a reasonable chance of sorting them out? There would be exceptions, of course, but you know where you would assign the burly men in flannel shirts and rough hands, the men with VFW jackets and scuffed work boots, and those wearing green John Deere baseball caps.
Also where you would assign the men with man-buns and Birkenstock sandals, the men with horn-rimmed glasses held in place with a necklace strap, those with skinny jeans and an earring or two. You know, men who look and act like the men we saw teary-eyed at Hillary’s election night rally as the numbers rolled in confirming the Trump victory.
It’s true, isn’t it? Macho men lean right; pajama boys to the left.
The question is why. Do an Internet search with the key words: “masculinity and conservatism.” You will find a variety of academic studies that deal with the topic. Some of the studies will take the position that a strong masculine self-image leads to right-wing violence and paranoia. But others are simply descriptive, noting what personal experience tells us about where military men, hunters, auto mechanics, and jocks fall on the political spectrum. The common denominator is that strong and confident men tend to be conservative because they don’t think they need government programs and the welfare state to survive.
The corollary is that men who have felt vulnerable and threatened since they were boys feel a need for a supportive state apparatus to provide them security, a buffer against the kind of world that we would have if the macho men had their way. This would also explain why single women, especially those with children, are among the most loyal elements in the Democratic Party’s base.
My suspicion is that liberal men would not take exception to this description of their motives, if they were permitted to rephrase it; that they would say their own experience of vulnerability has led them to be sympathetic to the needs of the oppressed and those in need of a supportive community — the poor, minorities, victims of abuse — to protect their economic and psychological well-being.
And what is the moral to this story? It is not that it’s always better to promote a society that emphasizes self-reliance and personal responsibility. Nor that it makes one morally superior to favor a vast welfare state apparatus to provide for the needy. Obviously, lines have to be drawn. The Church’s teaching on subsidiarity is designed to do that.
One way to draw these lines would be for macho men to ponder the reality that there are millions of their fellow-Americans who, through no fault of their own, cannot compete successfully in a completely unregulated free-market economy.
And for the men who pride themselves on their compassion to consider the degree to which self-interest motivates their commitment to the least of our brethren. It is relatively easy, for example, to favor higher taxes to pay for the needs of poor children when you are a teacher or social worker who will benefit from the higher salaries included in the increased spending on schools and community services. Especially in comparison to a small businessmen or tradesman, perhaps a little rough around the edges, who will have to pay those increased taxes.

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