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Latest “masculinity influencer”: Another dudebro guiding followers into deeper loneliness

Latest “masculinity influencer”: Another dudebro guiding followers into deeper loneliness
Latest “masculinity influencer”: Another dudebro guiding followers into deeper loneliness

Andrew Tate may be facing a mounting number of international charges for alleged sex crimes, but this doesn’t mean we’ve seen the end of “masculinity influencers” who make big bucks by preying upon the the insecurities of young men. On Tuesday, Ben Terris of the Washington Post profiled Nick Adams, a self-described “Alpha Male” who wins over young men with an is-he-kidding shtick focused on the ever-present threat of emasculation supposedly posed by everything from liberals to girlfriends to salmon entrées at restaurants. 

Like most similar marketers of so-called masculinity, Adams targets young men’s fears of loneliness or failure — which are no doubt both real and prevalent — with the false promise that embracing aggressive misogyny is the key to achieving your dreams. Adams has evidently cashed in because he’s good at employing faux-irony in order to push his message. Terris, who has an eye for telling details, zeroes in on excellent examples of the “jokey but serious” rhetoric.

In one of his swears-they’re-true stories, for instance, Adams described lecturing a date: “You are the supporting cast, I am the main character. I am a king, and I expect to be treated like it.”

In a story praising the value of screaming at women: “I exploded on her, issuing a correction that rattled her to her core. After that her apology was, shall we say, more enthusiastic.”

He advises not allowing a female partner any say in how to decorate her own home, except maybe permitting “a small area for her to do her scrapbooking or host her sewing machine.” Much like someone giving their dog a doghouse, I thought. 

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As Terris documents, Adams likes to sow confusion over how serious he is about any of this, telling Terris at one point that he’s playing “a character,” but then contradicting himself: “This is not a character. This is not a bit. It’s not trolling.” The ambiguity is strategic. To his followers, the core message comes through loud and clear — misogyny rocks, and will get you laid — but Adams can deflect at least some criticism by pretending it’s all just an elaborate joke. 

This is a common tactic on the far right and in the MAGA movement, exemplified by Adams’ hero, Donald Trump. For instance, Trump recently posted an image of Joe Biden being kidnapped on Truth Social. When critics pointed out the violent implications, Trump’s apologists pretended it was just a joke, even though the legacy of Jan. 6 suggest it very much is not. But it’s pretty much inarguable that Adams’ followers are sincerely misogynistic. They love Trump, whose sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll was very much not a comedy bit. 

These “influencers” claim they’re here to help young men address two major concerns we’ve heard so much about: Loneliness and fear of failure. But the “advice” they offer, as anyone who isn’t redpilled can see, is likely to backfire.

There’s a different kind of irony at work when it comes to the psychological damage done to the audiences of Adams and other masculinity influencers. These guys market themselves as self-help gurus who are here to help young men address two major concerns we’ve heard so much about: Loneliness and fear of failure. But the “advice” they offer, as anyone who isn’t redpilled can see, is likely to backfire. In the name of being “alpha,” Adams encourages his followers to be rude, annoying and even abusive, especially to women. But behaving like an unpleasant jerk, rather than being a secret to the good life, is a good way to shut yourself out of both jobs and dates. Keep that up long enough, and you might not have any friends left either.

It’s hard to square the conflicting messages young men get in a sexist society: On one hand, women are lesser beings, but on the other, you need to put some effort into pleasing them if you want to get dates. These “alpha” influencers step in with an appealing message: Guess what, guys, you don’t have to choose! If you bully women and assert your dominance, women will supposedly swoon because they secretly desire to yield to aggro dudes. It’s true that some women, thanks to economic dependence, mental health issues or a diminished sense of self, will stay in relationships with men who belittle or abuse them. But on the whole, this is not a highly effective strategy for attracting female partners. In fact, even abusive men often understand this, which is why so many of them play the Prince Charming role until their victim is too invested to walk away easily.

Linguist Adam Aleksic wrote this week in the Washington Post about how terms imported from far-right “incel” message boards — such as being “pilled” (persuaded) or “maxxing” (maximizing) — have morphed and spread into common online slang. As Aleksic notes, the vast majority of Gen-Z folks who adopt these terms are doing so ironically, to invoke a “shared mockery of incel ideas.” But I perceive a noticeable minority of young men do exactly the opposite: use this supposed irony as a shield to explore antisocial ideas, while pretending it’s all just a game. We saw an awful lot of that during the Trump presidency, as many white people started experimenting with “ironic” racism, until some of them wound up storming the Capitol, which really wasn’t ironic at all.  

(I’m not saying you should stop using “pilled” when you’re talking about tacos or TV shows. As Aleksic says, most people do so in good spirits. But it’s useful to be alert to the unavoidably porous nature of speech and identity, which is often exploited by the far right.) 

The “alpha” shtick promoted by con men like Adams isn’t just self-defeating in the arena of romance, but in most other areas of life as well. Unless one is pursuing a career as a MAGA influencer, being a loudmouthed jerk tends to backfire in the long term. Most employers, customers and other normal people prefer to work with those who can play nice with others, and don’t want to argue constantly over what’s “just a joke.” Being intensely competitive in social situations is a good way to alienate potential friends as well as romantic partners — and the steaks-and-cigars diet mock- recommended by “alpha” influencers doesn’t quite work with the muscled, gym-rat image they offer up as the masculine ideal. 

But while that kind of advice does little or nothing to help the young men who imbibing it, it certainly serves the goals of Adams and his ilk. Male alienation is their bread and butter. Young men who are successful at work and dating are a lot less likely to turn to “alpha” gurus for guidance. Ensuring that their target audiences stays frustrated allows these influencers to keep their claws in them. It’s not unlike the way cult leaders work when they instruct followers to adopt eccentric behaviors and beliefs that drive them away from friends and family. Eventually, the only support network they’ve got left is the cult, and they’re basically trapped. The internet has empowered shady actors like Nick Adams to employ those same tactics on a much larger scale. While most well-adjusted and normal people will see right through these characters, they reach enough vulnerable people to build a following, even without the direct, one-on-one contact that traditional hustlers use to snag their marks. 

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