The path to power for all “decent men” consists in a deeply deceptive competition to appear maximally unthreatening

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Justin Murphy just watched a documentary about John McAfee, and it helped him realize some things about supertoxic masculinity:

The McAfee story is profound because it shows in stunning, horrifying detail how the hyper-masculine drive to dominate really works in contemporary culture: when cranked sufficiently high, it rapidly and easily trounces any quantity of moral outrage and/or legal constraints, in a direct line toward the zenith of the global dominance hierarchy.

Moderate misogyny can get you exiled from contemporary public culture, often for good reason, but hyper-misogyny in an intelligent and driven male appears to give you sovereignty over public culture. It seems to me that, if feminism today has one genuinely catastrophic problem to be rightfully alarmist about, it might just be the small number of males who will not be domesticated through social-moral pressure.

First, a premise of my argument is that SJW culture is genuinely quite effective at minimizing the nastier masculine edges of large numbers of men, because most men are decent people who want to be liked and approved by most others. This is not an empirical article so I won’t go into it, but if you doubt there’s been a general cultural pacification of male aggression just watch a random film from the 1950s and then watch a random film at your local cinema. Anyway, people on the left and right disagree about what to call this trend, but its existence is attested by all. Feminists see this as men learning to be less violent and oppressive, and feminists celebrate women’s long-term positive effect on the civilizing of violent patriarchies; others see this as a kind of female totalitarianism and evidence of civilizational decline. But the fact that feminist cultural politics have exerted notable and widespread effects of generally reducing the expression of masculine aggression in public culture seems hard to dispute.

The hypothesis I would like to advance is that this social domestication of masculine tendencies has made our society more vulnerable to the rare cases of men who escape the filter of social opprobrium. The life of John McAfee is a case study of this problem.

Why would the social pacification of once popular, moderate masculinity empower more virulent forms of violent masculinity? Many lefties think that pacifying the larger mass of men will shift the whole distribution of male behavior, lowering the ceiling of how bad the worst men may become. I would say this is the dominant mental model of most SJWs, because it’s the basic picture that comes out of liberal arts education today (that our images of the world shape what we do in the world, hence the emphasis on media and “representations”).

The problem is that when the baseline of masculine dominance expression is held below it’s organic tendency, defined simply as what men would do in the absence of cultural campaigns to defang it, this increases the potential payoff to those who dare exercise it, as there are more resources to dominate precisely to the degree that other men are not contesting them. Not only does it increase the rewards available, it decreases the risk of competing for them, as the chance of being defeated by an equally aggressive male, or even just the chance of encountering costly competition at all, is lower than it would be in a world of much but minor, local masculine excess. We might also adduce a “rusty monitor” effect: Through the domestication of men over time, most people become blissfully forgetful about what genuinely dangerous men are capable of, decreasing the probability or the speed with which domesticated males might awake from their slumber.

Another reason the over-domestication of moderate masculinity is dangerous is that it makes it too easy for ethically lax “bad characters” to win all of the large number of local hierarchies that would typically have the function of imposing humility and modesty on cocky boys coming of age. If you’re a highly intelligent, confident, and driven young man, the complex difficulty of having to navigate multiple distinct local hierarchies (among other highly driven males themselves sometimes prone to dangerous excess) from a young age, teaches you very quickly that you cannot ever be the best at everything. And that if you cut corners anti-socially you will be destroyed by other males invested in the maintenance of sociality. Examples of local hierarchies are sports competition, dating, ethical honor or “character” in the neighborhood or religious community, or even just fleeting micro-social competition such as battles of wits in social gatherings. All of these things will function as negative feedback mechanisms tempering genuinely dangerous anti-social ambitions in young boys coming of age, but only if the other males are equally able and willing to play all of these games to the best of their abilities.

If you’re overzealous or immodest or you cheat or you ignore your standing in one local hierarchy to dominate another — all of these things tend to get constrained by other males of equal will and ability, who are also sometimes dangerous and who have an interest in knocking all wiley characters down a few notches. What’s happened in recent decades is that a non-trivial portion of the West’s most intelligent and ambitious males pursue cultural careers predicated very specifically on the strategic under-display of their will to power. Take someone like the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — he’s the leading politician of a whole country, so nobody can deny that this is a man with a substantial will to rise to the top through a whole series of competitive filters. But he is one of the best examples of how, today, the path to power for all “decent men” consists in a deeply deceptive competition to appear maximally unthreatening. One reason you get the John McAfee’s of the world is because they went to high school with the Justin Trudeau’s of the world. In all of the little, local hierarchies they encountered throughout life, people like John McAfee and Donald Trump learned that they could be as anti-socially ambitious as they pleased and no other intelligent and able men would check them (because those men were opting for the cultural capital that accrues to being feminist). A serious challenge for feminism is to see that someone like Justin Trudeau is seriously complicit in the production of the McAfees and Trumps of the world. And if your a cheer-leader for the former, you’re an objective supporter and producer of the latter.

I also think that people like McAfee and Trump learn early in life that if you are ostracized from social groups for exceeding moral expectations, then you can just channel your anti-social intelligence to making money all the more efficiently. That is, another key problem is that in secular, advanced capitalist countries such as the U.S., if you are smart and driven enough it is a feasible life path to accept absolute social exile by converting all of your energy into economic capital accumulation, and then build up a new social cosmos for yourself. The interesting thing is to see that this is really only psychologically and materially feasible in a very late stage of advanced western capitalism where non-economic criteria of value have all but disappeared. Whereas above we saw one reason for the emergence of the McAfee’s and Trump’s of the world is that there wasn’t enough local masculine aggression to check them throughout their life, here we note the specific problem that secular society lacks any effective adjudicator of human character other than economic prowess. In this particular dimension we see that the contemporary correlation of anti-capitalism and secularism/atheism is ultimately an untenable loop, because you never have an effective basis for anti-capitalist cultural change if you cannot submit to the possibility that values come from a place higher than practical reality. Of course people pretend they value other criteria, but those criteria don’t operate in the selection of who ultimately wins attention, esteem, and power in society as a whole. There was no person, and no entity, in the entire life of these men who could credibly convey that there exist things in life more powerful than money, for the simple reason that hardly anyone believes this anymore. And so the most toxically ambitious males become the very first to realize that one can very well quit the entire game of socio-moral respectability and shoot to the top of everything via radically unreflective capital accumulation.

Another reason why the constraining of moderate masculine toxicity may increase the power of supertoxic masculinity is that males may become more pathologically power hungry from lacking opportunities for healthy satiation. Once upon a time (for better or worse), masculine prowess promised a fair number of immediate satisfactions. The best football players received the genuine interest of the most desired girls in high school, say. But even from my own observations growing up, it was easy to see that as my cohort aged from about 10 years old up toward about 17 years old, conventionally masculine prowess became less and less effective at winning immediate social rewards. By the end of high school, the most desired girls were more interested in — I kid you not — a nationally competitive business role-playing team. What this suggests to me is that, aside from perhaps an early bump at the very beginning of adolescence, dominance hierarchies rapidly stop rewarding conventional masculine expressions of dominance behavior in favor of the capacity to elegantly dissimulate dominance behavior. Today all of the basic evolutionary machinery of mating and dominance competition remains in full operation, but it’s mind-bogglingly confusing because increasingly females select for males who can most creatively and effectively hide their power. What this means is that precisely the most over-flowingly aggressive males may be less and less likely to receive the basic, small doses of love and esteem that every human being requires, in their early socialization experiences. Combined with the previous point about the ultimate power of money, it’s easy to see how and why the feminist inversion of which males get selected by females (defining dominance as the dissimulation of dominance), has the direct consequence of leaving the most irrepressibly narcissistic and power-hungry males to seek unbridled social domination via capital, as a basic requirement for psychological self-maintenance.


  1. Albion says:

    What is this about?

    I am tempted to say ‘what is this bollocks about?’ but that would be, to quote from the example here due perhaps to when ‘the baseline of masculine dominance expression is held below it’s organic tendency, defined simply as what men would do in the absence of cultural campaigns to defang it, this increases the potential payoff to those who dare exercise it, as there are more resources to dominate precisely to the degree that other men are not contesting them’

    Oh. Well, that explains a lot. Also, it’s all Trump’s fault.

  2. Graham says:

    A few points:

    I admit I can also see the distinction between the 50s and today, although the cultural products don’t always strike as as dramatically different as all that. I can see pros and cons as a passive male.

    Ultimately I cannot take entirely seriously any model of the universe that thinks of any period of American history as “violent patriarchy”. This suggests too narrow a grasp of human history. America has always obeyed its women to a far larger degree than other societies. Observers as different as Tocqueville and Freud thought it striking enough to comment on it. And that before female suffrage. How dramatic must it have seemed for it to draw so much attention. Others have suggested this was such a stereotype in early to mid 20c America that everyone in Britain grew up with it as part of their idea of America.

    It looks like the author just discovered the obvious. The pacification of the bulk of men results in vastly greater power opportunities for the few who are not. If ever there was a telegram from the Department of Duh, that truly was it.

  3. Graham says:

    Not that I wish to entirely object to the existence of the conquistador mentality, always a mindset and a capacity set limited to a minority of men.

    What a mind-numbing, boring and even to some degree less developmental civilization we would have had. You need farmers to tame the land. Not farmers to take it.

  4. Graham says:

    Although couched in explanatory terms that prove just how far we have come from most of human history, that passage about the role of local male hierarchies does a good job of bringing into the modern age and modern language the accumulated, once obvious, wisdom of the past 100,000 years of human males and competition. Systems still just about operating 35 years ago.

    So useful job on that.

  5. Random Observer says:

    On reflection, all this suggests to me that:

    Looking back on the iconic 80s film Revenge of the Nerds, I wish the Greeks had won. They were scummy, but still.

    The 90s film Demolition Man, of all cultural artifacts, most accurately predicted the course of society.

    Men should eat less soy & carbs & more fat. Either it will restore them [HT Mangan] or mercifully kill us.

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