Weekly Digest: Partisan Polarization by Gender in High School
Welcome to my weekly digest for August 4, 2023, with the best articles from around the web and a roundup of my recent writings and appearances.
My family is going to be on vacation next week, so there will be no posts here. I am planning to resume posting on August 14th with my main monthly newsletter, this one about neopagan masculinity.
The Political Gender Split Begins in High School
The Hill had an article on this week about how high school boys are trending conservative. Here’s their chart for boys.
And here’s the one for girls.
This echoes trends we’ve seen in South Korea and elsewhere, where young men are becoming more conservative and young women more liberal. This is sometimes producing a sort of battle of the sexes. I covered the South Korea situation in newsletter #75:
The fact that these are high school students, however, show that this trend can’t be simply chalked up to post-familialism. Regardless of the actual cause, I consider this an unhealthy development.
The Decline of Happiness
An interesting research paper by Sam Peltzman on the socio-political demography of happiness prompted a lot of discussion this week. One of the headline findings: “Being married is the most important differentiator with a 30-percentage point happy-unhappy gap over the unmarried.”
Here are the trends by gender:
This echoes the well known finding that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men since the feminist revolutions in American society. But the two genders appear to have ended up at the same place for now.
Causation on these finding is an open question, which the author openly states. But as he notes, this certainly deserves more study:
The usual caveats about causal inference should be kept in mind All of them – mutual and reverse causality, omitted variables, selection, etc. – apply to most every comparison you will see. For example, married people are happier than unmarried. Is that because marriage produces happiness or because unhappy people tend to be difficult to live with or because they sort out of the marriage market and on and on or all of the above? I leave such questions to others but show that the marriage gap is large enough to merit asking them.
Evangelicals and Gender
In follow-up to my piece about how evangelicals think men are 100% to blame, 100% of the time, somebody sent me a link to this public Facebook post by theologian P. Andrew Sandlin from earlier this week.
This is what so-called conservative evangelicals actually say and presumably believe. If you go back 15-20 years ago, virtually nobody was questioning this. But since then, a variety of people, including Yours Truly, have publicly documented this line of thinking. Younger generations of men are rightly asking, “What’s up with that?”
This is part of the social context for why a number of younger evangelical men are feistier than they used to be. It helps explain why, for example, so many young guys reacted so badly to George Gilder’s claims from Men and Marriage that, “The prime fact of life is the sexual superiority of women” on the occasion of that book’s reissue.
There needs to be an honest reappraisal of what a significant number of evangelical leading lights have been saying and teaching on gender for the last 35 years.
America’s Post-Christian Right
One of the theme’s of my newsletter has been the decline of the status in Christianity in America and some of the consequences of that. One of them is the emerging of a post-Christian right, especially among younger men. Most likely the majority of under 30 conservatives are post-Christian.
The rise of the dissident right is one aspect of this. The Atlantic has a big story in its September issue about one of the major dissident right figures, who goes by the name Bronze Age Pervert, or BAP.
BAPism reached members of the right who lack philosophical training—young men whose main interest is not in the rise or fall of the American civic religion but in something more primal, an urge they themselves hardly understand, let alone control. “There is a level of self-loathing, chronic-masturbating anger out there among adolescent and early-20s fucked-up males,” one Republican operative told me. To them the world is dry, purposeless, and designed for the flourishing of anyone but them. Conservatism in the old way—not Bronze Age old, but Reagan old—does not satisfy them. “BAPism essentially involves re-enchanting the world and giving purpose to these young guys,” the operative told me. “And for some reason we can’t.”
BAP styles his book an “exhortation,” and ultimately he exhorts white people to form military units with deep masculine bonds, and together annihilate lesser races or throw them under the yoke. One could more easily dismiss BAP as a political shock jock, and his racism as cheap and tasteless subversion, if this section were not so obviously heartfelt. He mentions by name the white mercenaries who toppled governments for profit and pleasure in the 20th century. “The coming age of barbarism will not be owned, as so many of you urban cucks fear, by the gangbangers and the unwashed hordes of the teeming cesspools of the world, but by clean-cut middle-class and working-class vets, men of military experience, who know something about how to shoot and how to organize. The fools who think oligarchs will be able to control these men for very long should look to the fortunes of the Sforzas”—the Renaissance clan that controlled, then lost, the duchy of Milan—“and many others, and remember that money is no match for force of arms combined with charm.”
Interestingly, the article confirms what has long been assumed, that despite his copious use of Nazi imagery, BAP is Jewish. He even has relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.
The writer of this piece is an Atlantic staff writers who has known BAP personally for over a decade. In other words, he sat on this piece discussing BAP’s true identity for years. Thus we should ask why this article came out now, particularly in light of the spate of BAP-related pieces in the last couple months. This includes a major piece in Politico that was published about two weeks before the Atlantic one, and thus had to have been written in parallel. The timing is especially interesting given that BAP seems to have stagnated and may even be in decline in terms of influence.
Whenever you see multiple big articles in multiple major media outlets on a similar theme, it’s worth paying attention. For example, I previously highlighted a number of articles last year that praised women who openly boasted of divorcing high quality, devoted husbands for no reasons. These things don’t necessarily indicate a conspiracy or coordination, but they do indicate something. I wouldn’t be surprised if a major push is brewing to try to force Amazon to ban BAP’s book.
A more publicly acceptable version of this is found in the so-called “Barstool conservatism” movement. Slate just ran a piece about how Barstool founder David Portnoy became the most powerful food critic in America when it comes to pizza.
Dave Portnoy is many things: a blogger, a podcaster, a media mogul, and the boorish entertainment personality at the helm of Barstool Sports. But over the past decade—and particularly the past five years—he’s also become easily the most influential pizza critic in the country. The hundreds of videos plastered across his social channels (2.9 million followers on Twitter, an additional 4 million on Instagram) follow the exact same format: Portnoy stands outside a pizza restaurant somewhere in the country with a piping hot, no-toppings cheese pie in hand, and submits a highly specific grade between 0 and 10. The “One Bite Pizza Reviews,” as they’re known, are notoriously stringent. After over 1,000 reviews, only 22 pizzerias have managed to score a 9.0 or above, and most pizzas struggle to breach the 7.0 threshold. (A 6.5 is considered respectable.) Thus, if you end up in the celestial 9s—or even land a solid 8—your restaurant immediately goes viral, becoming a can’t-miss attraction for legions of young, loud, and often inebriated Barstool die-hards.
The fact that a top review from Portnoy can send crowds of people to particular pizza shops for years afterward shows that he has a very large following. The Barstool movement is essentially classic bro culture, but with a soft political tinge. They are especially anti-woke and with a somewhat anti-feminist stance as well. At the same time, they are pro-hedonism and reject traditional social conservative positions around matters like abortion and LGBT issues. Having said that, supposedly quite a few of them are happily married family men. Andrew Tate (see post-script) is an even edgier version of this.
While trends like BAP or Barstool will come and go, I do think the basic contours of a post-Christian right are here to stay.
Best of the Web
Scott Yenor: Challenging the No-Fault Divorce Regime
Scott Yenor: Sexual Suicide for Two? - Yenor also reviews the new reissue of George Gilder’s 1986 book Men and Marriage.
Samuel D. James: More on Singleness, Marriage, and the Church - A follow-up to a piece I previously linked to.
Census Bureau: Multiple Partners, Multiple Kids - “More than 1 in 5 (21.2%) opposite-sex U.S. couples who lived together in 2021 had at least one partner who had children with multiple partners.”
WSJ: Why Middle-Aged Americans Aren’t Going Back to Church - Apparently Gen X is leading the way in turning away from church attendance.
Jake Meador/The Atlantic: The Misunderstood Reason Millions of Americans Stopped Going to Church
Miles Smith: What a prayer breakfast joke reveals - The Rep. Nancy Mace joke about turning down sex with her fiancé to make it to the prayer breakfast on time is a good example of how America is a post-Christian society.
Mere Orthodoxy: It's Time to Build Counter-Institutions
David Brooks asks “What if We’re the Bad Guys Here?”
Discourse: The Problem With Disabling - An interesting piece talking about the vast expansion in the number of college students claiming disabilities in order to get accommodations like more time to take tests. The number of students at the top eight liberal arts colleges claiming disability has tripled in the last twelve years. Once again we see the devolution of America into a low trust, scam society in which the goal is simply to game the system to get ahead, whatever it takes.
Rob Henderson: The Burdens of Devotion - A great look a A. O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, a book I’ve referenced here many times. If you see people online talking about “exit,” they are referring to this book
Finally, here’s a long read for next week while I’m off. It’s Samuel Huntington’s 2004 article in the National Interest, “Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite.” A good read if you aren’t already familiar with it.
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New Content and Media Mentions
I was a guest on the American Reformer podcast this week. I was also very pleased to be a guest on the White Horse Inn podcast. We recorded a video of this but I don’t see it online. If I find it, I’ll include it in a future digest. I also got a mention in Toby Sumpter’s blog.
My podcast guest this week was Denny Burk, talking about evangelical gender controversies.
Paid subscribers can read the transcript.
Also new this week:
Evangelicals Think Men Are All to Blame, All of the Time - The Rep. Nancy Mace shows that there’s basically no length some evangelicals won’t go to in order to blame men for everything.
The Eschatological Perspective (paid only) - What do Tim Keller, Doug Wilson, Russell Moore and David French have in common? It’s something good.
A twitter user put together a video compilation of Andrew Tate, juxtaposing some of his recent appearances with his old ones. It’s very effective. Since he burst onto the public consciousness last year, he’s clearly been trying to reinvent himself as an edgy but publicly acceptable character like David Portnoy. In fact, he was a guest on one of Portnoy’s podcasts. Today, he’s doubling down on this to try to keep himself out of a Romanian prison. But it’s very different from what he used to say, such as boasting - we shouldn’t assume truthfully - about fleecing men out of millions of dollars with his cam girl operation. Tate basically admits that his MO is to prey upon the people who follow him.