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Weekly Digest: America's Social Problems
Welcome to my weekly digest for August 18, 2023, with the best articles from around the web and a roundup of my recent writings and appearances.
Angel Studios is considering creating a documentary about Rod Dreher’s book Live Not By Lies. They are presently gauging whether there is crowdfunding interest in the project. If this is something you would be willing to back, please let them know at: https://invest.angel.com/live. Note that they are not actually raising funds right now, just getting expressions of a willingness to give.
Pagan Masculinity Follow-Up
Speaking of Rod Dreher, after I published my look at neopagan masculinity earlier this week, I was reminded that one of the pieces that helped inspire my newsletter was a post by him called “Re-Tribalizing America.” That post talked about Jack Donovan, one of the people I profiled. Here is what Dreher had to say back in 2016.
I find myself somewhat unnerved by this comment in a feminism thread on this blog, considered in this context. Brad Wilcox is a Catholic sociologist at UVA who researches the family. He’s also a friend of mine. Jack Donovan is a pagan masculinist/tribalist who has written approvingly of Virginia group that has built a Benedict Option for white supremacist pagan males. As a Christian, I am sorry to say that Jack Donovan is a very smart man who understands something important about what’s happening in this country, something that many of us conservative Christians do not.
It also occurred to me that there’s a lot of overlap between the Ryan Landry book on masculinity and what I wrote about healthy masculinity for IFS last year. This reinforced me opinion that there was a semi-mainstream book in there wrapped up in a dissident right packaging.
Mother Jones has a long article trashing the manosphere. They basically throw the kitchen sink at it. While they have some valid critiques, articles like this, which have no positive offer for men, actually help fuel the manosphere’s continued rise.
I found it particularly interesting that they claim this young man was deprogrammed from the manosphere by asking ChatGPT questions and getting back standard “official” answers from society. It illustrates how one of the prime functions of AI will be information control. This is fundamentally why there are so many groups angling to get control over how it is used.
The Washington Post has a piece about men’s groups that are embracing an alternative conception of American masculinity. The article is about men looking for missing connection in their lives, but features exclusively groups that try to subvert traditional masculinity. Again, not attractional for anyone vs. the manosphere.
And this Martin Robb piece at Fairer Disputations on men in childcare is also illuminating. Fairer Disputations is a site touting “sex realist feminism,” and features people like Louise Perry and Mary Harrington. But as this article shows, sex realist feminism is basically just a variation on the old feminism with some new packaging.
Updates on American Social Problems
The anti-porn movement, which had completely collapsed not that long ago, is making something of a comeback in the form of state legislation requiring age verification before a user can access an online porn web site. This has pushed PornHub and other operators to exit certain states. This is simple common sense, but our courts have been pretty relentlessly pro-pornography, so we’ll see how this turns out.
First Things has a critique of state supported gambling, which is another toxic plague on our society.
World Magazine has a great article about how student loan debt is bedeviling students who went to Christian colleges. A Christian college owes a higher duty to its students than an ordinary business. They have a responsibility to make sure their students are not hobbling their future life by incurring too much debt in order to attend.
CNN: Suicide deaths reached a record high in the US in 2022 - another example of America’s failed leadership class.
WSJ: Women’s Problem Drinking Is Catching Up to Men’s - not a healthy trend
Best of the Web
Abby Farson Pratt has another great post about why women don’t have as much time as they think to get married and have kids. I’d add that the same is true for men as well, albeit in a different way.
There’s an odd preoccupation in our culture with “readiness,” as if it were a universal truth. But “readiness” is never defined. We’re given the vague, unhelpful advice to “wait until we’re ready” to get married or have kids. What would that even mean? How do you know when you’re “ready” for that kind of responsibility? You won’t. You’ll never be ready. Aside from choosing a good partner, there’s no amount of preparation that will make child-rearing easier or smoother or simpler. You become ready through the very act of being married and raising children. Lord willing, this is the time in your life to rise to the occasion and put fears of “readiness” to rest.
Sociologist Rob Henderson also argues that people should stop swiping and start settling.
NY Post: The ‘rizz’: Popular new dating tactic that women can’t get enough of - Charisma is a foundational principle of attraction. See my previous newsletter on the logic of attraction.
This interesting Youtube video about why men get so many fewer likes on online dating sites that women do has racked up nearly three million views. I believe the information provided is roughly accurate.
I wrote about the dynamics of online dating in newsletter #50.
Scott Alexander: In Defense Of Describable Dating Preferences
A viral Tik Tok video portraying marriage as making life worse racked up tens of millions of views. It turns out this video was created by someone in China, and is obviously being promoted hard by a Chinese application. It is overwhelmingly likely that China is using Tik Tok as a vehicle for negative social influence in the United States.
New Content and Media Mentions
New this week:
In case you missed it, this month’s longform newsletter was a look a neopagan masculinity.
The End of Mass Consumer Culture (paid only) - I write about the fragmentation of the old mass consumer culture during the 1990s, which is one of the transitions that make the 21st century different from the 20th.
Dan Wuori tweeted a beautiful video of men in a barbershop singing to a little boy who started freaking out on his first trip to a barbershop.
I wish Elon Musk would resolve his feud with Substack and reenable Tweet embedding.