Summary: 2016 was the year of the Trump surprise. The Berkeley riot suggests that 2017 might hold a bigger surprise – the uprising of an underclass of America’s young men. It might change America’s politics for a generation, or forever.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. …”
— “No Man Is An Island” by John Donne (1624).
America has taken some steps on a dark path. America has bred an underclass of young men — dispirited by their upbringing in feminist-run schools, by poor prospects for careers, too beta to interest attractive young girls, despised by both political parties. Many have retreated to booze, drugs, sports, porn, and video games.
For years I have said that young men will do as they always do: self-organize into packs and find that they are strong when they stand together. We could only guess where this spark will occur. I have suggested to look at the online gaming communities (e.g., here I examined the massively multiplayer online game Eve Online).
Now it has happened, as loose groups form such as Anonymous, 4chan, and Black Bloc. We do not have surveys, and they have different compositions, but available evidence suggests that they are mostly young men —
The obvious historical analogy is with the young disaffected vets of Germany after WWI. Vets of WWII, disaffected from post-WWI German society, who organized into the Freikorps that played a key role in the 1918 – 1920 period — and some of whom played a key role in Weimar’s disturbed politics. That didn’t end well; perhaps it will work out better for America. Let’s pay attention to avoid repeating history. Two recent articles provide valuable information about this phenomenon, looking at the young men coming from the online communities.
- The origins of the online “armies” of Anonymous and 4chan: “Here’s Why There’s Anime Fan Art Of President Trump All Over Your Facebook” by Ryan Broderick at Buzzfeed — “Here’s how Japan’s infamous online army, the netto-uyoku, has shaped the far-right movement in America.”
- An online army marches to the Right: “4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump” by Dale Beran — “Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.” 4chan is also the origin of Anonymous, and the driver of Gamergate.
Beran’s article is especially enlightening. Here are snippets of the many insights he provides. Note how the 4chan communities have already proven themselves to be a creative and vital force. Read it in full!
“4chan invented the meme as we use it today. At the time, one of the few places you saw memes was there. The white Impact font with the black outlines, that was them (via S.A.). Terms like “win” and “epic” and “fail” were all created or popularized on 4chan, used there for years before they became a ubiquitous part of the culture. The very method of how gifs and images are interspersed with dialogue in Slack or now iMessage or wherever is deeply 4chanian. …the site left a profound impression on how we as a culture behave and interact. …
“To those with a passing knowledge of 4chan it’s strange to think of it having a value system. And indeed it did try its mightiest to be nihilistic, to hate, to deny, to shrug, to laugh off everything as a joke like all teenage boys do (the board was mostly young men). This effort was of course impossible. The attempts to be “random”, like a Rorschach test, painted a portrait of exactly who they were, the voids filled in with their identity, their interests, their tastes. …There were things it loved, things it hated, ways of being and acting that met with approval and disapproval in the group.
“All the rules had a Lord of the Flies vibe to them, that is to say, they were very obviously created by a bullying and anarchic society of adolescent boys — or at least, men with the mindset of boys — particularly lonely, sex starved man-boys, who according to their own frequent jokes about the subject, lived in their parents’ basement. …They were obsessed with Japanese culture and, naturally enough, there was already a term for people like them in Japan, hikikomori — meaning “pulling inward, or being confined” — teens and adults who withdrew from society into fantasy worlds constructed by anime, video games, and now the internet.
“And of course, it’s relevant to note here the themes of Fight Club itself, a film about a male collective that regains its masculinity through extreme acts after it has been debased by modern corporate culture.
“…take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness …
As Beran’s article winds to a conclusion, he retreats into leftist garble-doctrine. While his analysis is weak, his observations (much of which seem first-hand) are incisive. Only time will tell to what extent this applies (in a general sense) to other groups of young men.
Some mobs become gangs. Eventually all gangs find leaders.
Societies that wish to survive devote much thought and energy into the socialization of each generation of young men. America has done the opposite, assuming that nature provides a crop of dutiful citizens without any special effort. We are testing that belief. The price for our folly might be high.
The self-mobilization of America’s young men has just begun. Some of them have learned that when they stand together they are strong. That’s an infectious insight. They’re still discovering what they want to stand for. So far no strong leaders have emerged. But that next stage will happen as day follows night. Leadership will be a force-multiplier for them. Perhaps they will evolve into a political force, or become a building block in a larger new coalition, or get absorbed by an existing movement (as the GOP co-opted the Tea Party).
We cannot accurately predict what will happen or if the result will be large or small. If large, this will be an uprising of an underclass (unlike the graduates of elites schools who dominate the US news), and so will be difficult to predict. How this plays out in America’s political conflicts might determine which side wins in the next generation.
For More Information
To understand the dimensions of the problem, see this disturbing US Census report “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016” by Jonathan Vespa, April 2017. To understand the risk, see the Homeland Security Assessment “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment“, 7 April 2009.
If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about the Berkeley riot, about women and the gender revolution, about reforming America – steps to a new politics, and especially these…
- Martin van Creveld warns about the infantilization of our youth — What we see today is the result of what van Creveld describes.
- What are the odds of violence from the Right in America?
- About Anonymous – an emerging cyberpower.
- Fear the rise of political violence in America. We can still stop it.
- Women have won the gender revolution.
- The Economist proclaims that men are “The Weaker Sex”.
- Women are moving on top of men in America.
Background reading to understand this new rebellion.
- The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex by Warren Farrell (1993).
- The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers (2013).