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.