Salvo 03.23.2022 4 minutes

Creating Conspiracy Theorists

Nationwide protest by gyms against lockdown measures

Turning basic facts into thought crimes turns normal people into thought criminals.

Far be it from me to deny that fat bottomed girls make the rockin’ world go ‘round. No less an authority than Freddie Mercury discovered this ironclad scientific law in 1978. But at the risk of bringing the motion of the globe to a screeching halt, let me suggest that there is something less than empowering, beautiful, sexy, and fierce about being several hundred pounds overweight. 

I acknowledge that this is a subversive view, tantamount to flirtation with white supremacy. In Britain, a group of researchers “have detected a network of online ‘fascist fitness’ chat groups on the messaging app Telegram,” reports Mark Townsend of the Guardian. Yesterday on MSNBC, Cynthia Miller-Idriss warned that Americans are not immune to this dangerous trend—indeed, “the U.S. is comparatively far behind” when it comes to warning young men in jiu-jitsu classes against the seductions of neo-Nazism. 

Mr. Townsend and Ms. Miller-Idriss are every bit as expert in cultural politics as Freddie Mercury was in astrophysics. So I was alarmed to read their articles, not least because—brace yourself—I too am part of a chat group on Telegram dedicated to weightlifting and physical fitness. Does this make me and my friends conservative extremists? 

Apparently so. And it’s true that a suspicious number of magnificently jacked media personalities are also right-wingers. COVID brought this into sharp relief. Ian Smith, owner of Atilis Gym in New Jersey, earned notoriety for refusing to close down his business—now he’s running for congress. In Canada, Chris Sky was one of the first people to discern and articulate the logic of endless lockdown—all while looking absolutely yoked in a tank top.  

It’s not just the pandemic, of course. Lots of conservative-leaning figures advocate fitness as a spiritual and mental discipline, from Ryan Michler and Dave Reaboi to Bronze Age Pervert and Sol Brah. Some of these guys are more traditional, others are more kooky and online. They don’t agree on everything. But they do lift, and they think you should too. Being hot and healthy is now officially right-wing.  

It seems the Left is getting worried about this, in response to which I have to ask: what on earth did they expect? The governing progressive line on physical fitness is “fat people are beautiful and healthy and fitness is wrong.” Much like conservative weightlifting, this bizarre line of reasoning predates COVID. In 2019, NBC published an article entitled “when doctors fat-shame their patients, everybody loses.”  

But 2020 dialed everything up to 11, and “body positivity” was no exception. Cosmopolitan featured a rotund model cackling on its front cover, alongside the announcement, “this is healthy!” Lizzo, a pop star whom even Sir Peter Paul Rubens could not depict for lack of canvas space, has a new reality show called Watch Out for the Big Grrrls in which she seeks backup talent that can match her girth. 

There is, of course, such a thing as a pathological obsession with thinness. But there is also such a thing as beauty, and declaring it obsolete will not make it so. Physical excellence is inherently appealing. If you make a political platform out of shaming virtue and discouraging self-improvement, lots of people are going to run the other way. And if your concern is that health and fitness will then become associated with views you dislike, maybe don’t…make ugliness and obesity into objects of compulsory worship? 

Ever since the election of Donald Trump, our chattering classes have been obsessed with retrospectives: how did we get here? How could this happen? What led to this totally unexpected turn of events? But the one thing they never seem to ask is: did we do that? It is simply inconceivable to them that their ceaseless campaign against human nature might make actual humans seek political recourse elsewhere. 

It is enough to make you wonder whether causing problems, and not solving them, is the point. Of course the upshot of Miller-Idriss’s article is that we need “better pathways to reach at-risk youth,” which means lecturing kids in MMA class about their propensity for domestic terrorism. We have to surveil you, Johnny—otherwise you might go from roundhouse kicking Billy to storming the Capitol! 

The Left has made a habit out of forbidding things that are normal or even admirable to pursue—physical excellence is just one of those things. Raise doubts about transgender pronouns or election integrity and you—moderate, well-adjusted, not-even-all-that-political you—are suddenly a potential Unabomber.  

If you wanted to force people into the arms of conspiracy theorists, you could hardly come up with a better strategy than to pathologize normalcy and make observing basic facts into a thought crime. And the more conspiracy theorists there are out there, the more pretext for crushing dissent of any kind. The whole thing, one suspects, is by design. 

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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