Tucker Carlson’s Testicles

The craziest damn thing you've ever heard of or a secret message to the crazies?

TNR Soapbox’s Ian Allen caught my attention with the headline “We Are Sorry to Say That You Should Take Tucker Carlson’s Testicle-Tanning Stuff Seriously.” But, no, it’s not because the concept isn’t complete horseshit.

The Fox News host, whose show boasts nearly four million viewers, broke the internet this week after seeming to advocate for testicle tanning in an interview with quack fitness guru Andrew McGovern. They ran a trailer for an upcoming episode of his Tucker Carlson’s Originals series called “The End of Men,” which centers the false notion that men’s testosterone levels and sperm counts are reaching crisis-level lows. In one ridiculous clip, a naked man—with muscled arms held aloft—heroically straddles a contraption that beams “red light” onto his genitals.

Presumably, most people reading this have seen it. Indeed, I can’t un-see it.

But why the hell should we take it seriously?

Well, it is crazy, and Tucker Carlson knows it. That’s why he kept repeating it: testicles. It’s clickbait. And the trailer for his show was designed with this in mind; it was stuffed full to bursting with over-the-top footage of jacked bros doing manly stuff. Captions decry modernity for creating such a bunch of fat, out of shape weaklings. Corny music plays over homoerotic B-roll of sinewy athletes hurtling spears and columns of young men in short shorts doing calisthenics. It’s a direct reference to (or parody of?) Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda films of the 1930s.

God damn it, Ian, that still doesn’t answer the question.

“There is a real connection between these male supremacists and white supremacist networks,” says Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch, a project that tracks extremist activity for People for the American Way. She points to Carlson’s concern for faltering manliness as just another version of the Great Replacement theory. “These men are concerned about the white race being destroyed, and part of that concern involves the need for controlling women and particularly white women, and an investment in them having white kids.” She warns that the manosphere is fertile soil for red-pilling, recruitment, and general crosspollination. “It’s not too hard to go from one scapegoat to another: ‘I’m going to blame all Jews, or all people of color.'”

There is a tradition in far-right propagandist literature—to which Bronze Age Pervert is a modern-day inheritor—of a white male hero who rises up against a liberal, racially mixed, feminist, and/or otherwise degenerate society. The most famous in the canon is William Pierce’s 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, the protagonist of which inspired Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City. Jean Raspail’s 1978 dystopic anti-immigrant fantasy The Camp of the Saints is the story of the last surviving white man on Earth; it was a professed favorite of Trump’s immigration advisors.

Today, this tradition is alive and well, living on Telegram, Discord, Reddit, Gab, and other online platforms. It’s a turbulent terrain of white male resentment, which found its footing in the 4chan and 8chan ethos of “There are no girls on the internet” and “Tits or GTFO” and the ensuing 2014 hate-fueled doxing of and attacks on female journalists known as Gamergate. Today, its center is held by a cluster of stars, whose celebrity has become increasingly mainstream.

So, that sounds bad.

Gavin McInnes and members of his Proud Boys have made a name for themselves by proclaiming celibacy and planning and joining misogynist and white-supremacist rallies. Sales of Jordan Peterson’s self-empowerment tome Twelve Rules for Life were bolstered by his early anti-trans comments. Slightly to their right, we find chauvinists like Mike Cernovich, whose testosterone-fueled Persicope rants garner millions of views, or Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet, who faces charges relating to his involvement in the January 6th Capitol Hill riot and previously livestreamed his trolling of “fat” female pro-immigration activists with openly racist and smooth-chested attention whore Catboy Kami, whose real name is not quite pinned down, but who livestreams himself in anime costumes or blackface and says seriously effed up things to teenagers on Omegle and once went on a “hilarious” hot date with podcaster Nick Fuentes, the bigot-king of the Groypers, who targets rightwing pundits and … okay, I’ll stop there.

“You do hope that it stays on the fringes, and isn’t going into the households of four million people,” says Kristen Doerer. “But that’s what I’m concerned about. There are people who will watch Tucker Carlson and say, ‘He gets it,’ and be encouraged that their theory of the world is right. So, if you’re validating any of these groups, that’s where it does become dangerous.”

The danger is no illusion: Throughout the literary canon penned by far-right white-power activists and their hangers-on, there are stories and ideas which, at first blush, appear silly, sad, or demented. But however difficult it is to take their wild notions seriously, they have a purpose: to nourish apocalyptic ambitions among those who dream of civil wars and fascist coups. It can all just seem like a big, stupid joke until, suddenly, it’s not.

That toxic hypermasculinity is a longstanding trope of the far right doesn’t necessarily mean that Tucker Carlson is intentionally using his platform to send out a Bat-signal to the crazies. It strikes me as more likely that he’s out for the lulz—and the ratings. As publicity stunts go, this one was brilliant in that it got everyone talking. Sure, they were talking about what a jackass Tucker Carlson is. But, hey, all publicity is good publicity.

My suspicion is that even most fans of Tucker Carlson will have the same reaction as Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie and wonder what the hell is going on in this crazy world. Still, that there are extremists who will think Carlson is intentionally signaling his support is interesting regardless of his intention.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Media, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    “The craziest damn thing you’ve ever heard of or a secret message to the crazies?”

    I vote for both.

    4
  2. Kylopod says:

    What’s the news? Carlson just confessed he’s got a tiny dick.

    10
  3. drj says:

    It strikes me as more likely that he’s out for the lulz

    That’s a pretty optimistic take considering that conservatives were actually taking horse dewormer (and dying) to own the libs not so long ago.

    Moreover, conservatives (including Carlson, DeSantis, and a bunch of Trump judges) took active steps to ensure that many other people would die, too.

    With these people we’re way out of joke territory.

    15
  4. Jen says:

    Here I am, hoping against all reason, that this…”process” actually will irradiate and further lower said sperm counts, leading to a blessed and apparent accidental eradication of these loons.

    This really is the weirdest timeline.

    4
  5. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    The biggest risk is they may bang their testes against the contraption.

    They must not know about this human organ that anyone rarely sees or hears about, the skin. It only covers the entire body, so it must be hard to find. Anyway, it prevents stuff from getting in and other stuff from leaking out; the former includes radiation like visible, infrared, and UV light.

    4
  6. drj says:

    @Jen:

    Here I am, hoping against all reason, that this…”process” actually will irradiate and further lower said sperm counts

    Well, sperm has a hard time with heat. That’s why the male scrotum is largely external. It’s cooler on the outside.

    Not an irrational hope at all.

    5
  7. Kathy says:

    Rebecca Watson over at Skepchick has her take on this kind of, um, “treatment.” Choice quote:

    So, prepare yourselves because this is like Dante’s Inferno if instead of Hell you journey through nine concentric circles of stupidity.

    2
  8. Jon says:

    That toxic hypermasculinity is a longstanding trope of the far right doesn’t necessarily mean that Tucker Carlson is intentionally using his platform to send out a Bat-signal to the crazies. It strikes me as more likely that he’s out for the lulz—and the ratings.

    There is just no reason, whatsoever, to give Tucker the benefit of the doubt on anything, ever.

    9
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    It was certainly. . . odd.

    As some here will recall I’ve been saying for some time that MAGA may be more about sex than race. A lot of men feel endangered and given the way men’s life expectancies are dropping, largely as a result of drug use and suicide, and the way men are falling off the educational ladder, they aren’t wrong.

    To which many men and women shrug and say, ‘Who cares? Men had their ‘moment’ for the last 10,000 years.’ And I respond that we should care because we should care as a matter of basic morality about half the human race, and if that’s not enough: men are dangerous.

    5
  10. scott says:

    So tell me, who is the evolutionarily more successful male: The toxic, testosterone-fueled male who gets himself killed before he reproduces or the monetarily and materially successful male who attracts mates and has offspring.

    These guys watch too many Viking fantasy shows focused on blood, guts, and sex without hygiene and where everyone dies young.

    5
  11. Scott O says:

    “It can all just seem like a big, stupid joke until, suddenly, it’s not.”
    That’s exactly how I felt about Trump in 2016.

    11
  12. @James:

    It strikes me as more likely that he’s out for the lulz—and the ratings.

    Perhaps, but I think you are downplaying this more than it warranted. I think all of this does fit into a broader radical right politics that has a clear connection to neo-fascists, white nationalist ways of thinking and directly ties into the ongoing panic in some circles about “groomers” as well as anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ politics.

    Consider members of the Senate suggesting that KBJ and anyone who voted for her might be pro-pedophile. I know it all sounds crazy, but the crazy has gone mainstream and as much as I would like to just make fun of it, I think we do need to take it seriously.

    It has resonance with the QAnon nonsense that has made its way to Congress.

    The Tucker imagery is the same imagery that Putin has used for decades (e.g., shirtless on a horse) to project manliness and power (and it fits into his own anti-gay politics that has resonated with many on the American right).

    This is also linked to the traditionalist nationalism of people like Orban.

    This is all of a piece with a broad movement on the right and is not just absurdity, I fear.

    17
  13. Plus, I would note, Tucker has been more than willing to spread white nationalist rhetoric prior to now and has been in the pro-Orban camp (not to mention a semi-Putin apologist in the early stage of the invasion of Ukraine). I think he has given us reason to believe he does believe some of this stuff (and it dates back to the Daily Caller, so it isn’t just his TV persona looking for $$$).

    8
  14. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    If you’re speaking of Carlson himself, he already has four kids.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As some here will recall I’ve been saying for some time that MAGA may be more about sex than race.

    Of course the two go hand in hand. They always have.

    4
  16. Slugger says:

    I have often wondered why women are not laughing at our conceptions of masculinity. Actually, maybe I’m just too blinded by testosterone to notice that they are laughing; we often stereotype girls as being giggly, and this must be why.
    I agree with Michael that men can be dangerous. I have seen violent spousal abuse waved off by cops. I don’t think that it’s rare.
    Mr. Carlson doesn’t look like a manly man to me. I bet he got a lot of wedgies in high school. The bow tie is a giveaway.

    4
  17. Scott says:

    And don’t forget the Christian Nationalism aspect of all this. These people are populating right wing mega churches all across the nation and burrowing into our public institutions. And in the name of “religious freedom” threatening the freedom of anyone who disagrees with them.

    Religious nationalism is on the rise throughout the world threatening authoritarianism everywhere.

    Hindu Nationalism is reflected here: Muslim properties razed in New Delhi after communal violence

    Authorities used bulldozers to raze a number of Muslim-owned shops in New Delhi before India’s Supreme Court halted the demolitions Wednesday, days after communal violence shook the capital and saw dozens arrested.

    Shop owners searched through the rubble of their shops afterward to collect their belongings. But for nearly an hour after the Supreme Court order, officials continued to demolish structures, including the outer entrance and stairs leading into a mosque. They stopped the bulldozers just outside the entrance of a Hindu temple, about 50 meters (160 feet) from the mosque, and began to retreat, spurring outrage from Muslim residents who said they were being targeted.

    Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church are justifying the war in Ukraine.

    And we all know about Islamic fundamentalism and how its impacted not just the Middle East but the whole world.

    Israeli Ultra-orthodox basically control Israel while enjoying special privileges.

    It’s a pattern that has to be acknowledge and confronted.

    4
  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    manosphere is fertile soil for red-pilling, recruitment, and general crosspollination

    My manosphere has gotten a bit too big lately due to winter whiskey consumption. My wife tells me it ensures I’m not going to be recruiting or generally crosspollinating anyone for awhile.

    4
  19. Jon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: All of this is the right trying to mainstream this Q insanity, the same way they mainstreamed birtherism. They both started off as fringe theories that eventually became normalized. This gives elected Republicans (and candidates) permission to wallow in this such that calling political opponents ‘groomers’ is slowly becoming just another thing Republicans do, rather than an outlier.

    6
  20. Beth says:

    @Slugger:

    Allow me to present: https://www.reddit.com/r/NotHowGirlsWork/

    The apparent number of men that believe that the ghosts of former lovers haunt women’s vaginas is absurd.

    3
  21. Mikey says:

    This reminds me of the Russian military video filled with buff, sweaty soldiers (all men, of course) doing all sorts of manly soldier things, that prompted Ted Cruz to shit on America’s military in comparison (“Wow, maybe a woke, emasculated military isn’t a good idea”).

    The Russian military’s sad lack of performance in Ukraine indicates it was all a facade, but the Cruzes and Carlsons of the world will never make the connection.

    1
  22. JohnSF says:

    Beware sunburn.
    I mean, seriously beware sunburn.

    3
  23. Mikey says:
  24. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Consider members of the Senate suggesting that KBJ and anyone who voted for her might be pro-pedophile. I know it all sounds crazy, but the crazy has gone mainstream and as much as I would like to just make fun of it, I think we do need to take it seriously.

    We’ve discussed this at OTB before – the mainstreaming of the demonization of Democrats is deliberate and necessary when the Republicans are unwilling and unable to quit Trumpism.

    How do you get “decent” rightists to look beyond the falsification, bigotry, and corruption openly on display and continue to vote for the GOP? Why, you establish that the alternative is far worse. Policy differences lack the persuasive power, so perversions have to be fabricated.

  25. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The Tucker imagery is the same imagery that Putin has used for decades (e.g., shirtless on a horse) to project manliness and power (and it fits into his own anti-gay politics that has resonated with many on the American right).

    And if you look at most historical fascistic movements (at least in the West, though I can also think of variations from Asia as well), this type of aesthetic romanticization of hyper-masculinity is a critical part of them. The Nazi’s for example were one of the first to use mass media as part of that effort.

    3
  26. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Now this is a nightmare inducing headline if I ever saw one. The headline, that is, not one of Tucker’s testicles (if he has any). Which would be suicide inducing.

    1
  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Apparently someone who had just been at Tucker Carlson’s house, tanning his testies, and felt like a real man decided to fuq with Tyson.
    https://twitter.com/TMZ/status/1517136382497538049

  28. Jen says:

    @CSK: Nah, I was talking about the potential long-tail effects of widespread adoption of this… “idea.” It’d be super-helpful if a substantial contingent of these @ssholes sterilized themselves accidentally.

    A girl can dream.

    2
  29. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    You could set up a manufacture of testicle tanning machines enriched with gamma rays for added effectiveness, and X-rays for that fresh feel.

    4
  30. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Many also tend to be led by an angry man prone to displays of rage.

    1
  31. Kingdaddy says:

    The fetishization of a particular type of masculinity is one of the hallmarks of fascism.

    4
  32. CSK says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    Or perhaps of totalitarianism in general. See The New Soviet Man: Healthy and muscular.

    1
  33. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I have mixed feelings about what you said. I think men are having a bit of a rough time, and I don’t want to demean or belittle them the way some female pundits do. I am not an enemy of feminism. I do think certain writers who espouse it don’t really understand it, particularly as it applies to men, though.

    However, I also think there’s a good way forward for men. Multiple good ways forward. I’ve followed one. James and Steven have followed some. You’ve followed another. It does involve learning, and changing and not doing something you used to do, though.

    So lots of men are kinda reluctant to do this. Add to this the issue that you can’t start to work at the plant, and expect to be able to support a family and have a house and maybe a boat the way your father did. That doesn’t work, and its an economic condition. So that’s an old way forward that isn’t available, and adds to the stress/anger.

    And now there are lots of people who can profit in some way from telling these men that what is happening to them isn’t their fault (which is mostly true) but their fault (which is entirely false) and they don’t have to change, they just have to do the old thing even, uh, harder. Get more T. Be more aggressive. Buy more guns. Irradiate your testicles.

    What I see in all this is the vulnerability in men who do this. I see the fears, and the desperation. They don’t want me to see it, so I have to be careful in talking about it in specific, though.

    As a martial arts instructor of a “soft” martial art, I dealt with this sort of attitude a lot. There is a way forward in life, and there’s still a place for courage and agency. But it manifests differently, and it’s a lot less gendered than it used to be. We admire courage and agency in humans regardless of gender, for instance.

    2
  34. steve says:

    I haven’t sen the important question answered. Do you tan them a toasty brown or do you go for Republican orange?

    Steve

    2
  35. Gustopher says:

    Tucker’s Homoerotic Montage of Metrosexual Manliness is a huge improvement over the usual white supremacists. These are men who clearly shave themselves everywhere, spend hours in the gym, and carefully sculpt their bodies without going too buff.

    Now, think back to the guys who were tried for the kidnap plot against Gov. Whitmer. They were wrecks of men who weren’t great in their prime.

    One of the things I’ve been lamenting about the rise of authoritarianism in America is our particular breed of flabby, unkempt and unwell authoritarians.

    3
  36. Kari Q says:

    @drj:

    I’ve always thought this was a good counter argument against “intelligent design.” No way would an intelligent designer create a system where viable sperm cannot be created at the body’s normal temperature. That kind of screw up takes either an evolved jury-rigged system or design by committee.

    2
  37. James Joyner says:

    @drj: @Jon: @Steven L. Taylor: Fair enough. It’s not so much that I’m giving Carlson benefit of the doubt as that I’ve always thought he was something of a moron. But he does have a team, so it’s not like he’s doing this on his own.

    @ Michael Reynolds: Agreed. There’s a real sense among men in traditional society that they’ve been rendered obsolete and therefore emasculated.

  38. @James Joyner:

    I’ve always thought he was something of a moron.

    Oh, he may well be a moron. I am just afraid that he is a real white nationalist moron who is sharing neo-fascist imagery and making it mainstream on the American right.

    4
  39. just nutha says:

    @Gustopher: You are so mean. I LOVE IT!!!

    1