Weekly Digest: Why Men Look Online for Advice
Welcome to the weekly digest for February 11, 2022.
For new subscribers, you can control what emails you get from me by visiting your account page.
Why Men Look Online for Advice
I have a new piece online at the Daily Wire looking at why young men are looking to online influencers like Joe Rogan rather than traditional authority figures and institutions. It may be paywalled, but here is an excerpt:
Angry people trying to censor Joe Rogan skip over one important question: why are millions of people, especially the men who comprise most of his audience, listening to him in the first place?
The most important thing that distinguishes them from legacy institutions is that they are actually on the side of the men who listen to them. This doesn’t mean they encourage or validate men in doing whatever those men want. Quite the opposite. Jordan Peterson’s most famous line might be, “Clean your room.” His call is for men to take responsibility for cleaning up their own act first. Jocko Willink calls on men to take “extreme ownership.” In fact, most of these figures seem to call on men to elevate their game and pursue excellence. There’s a reason why so many of them are explicitly self-improvement oriented. But rather than a beat down, the call to self-improvement and excellence is usually in the form an aspirational challenge. Michler observes, “There are no benchmarks in traditional society, so what we try to do is elevate the expectations of our men.”
While some influencers in the darker corners of the internet promote hedonistic and selfish approaches to life, the majority of the online men’s gurus, especially the bigger names, want men to be productive members of society who provide for their families and try to make their neighborhood and country a better place. For example, Michler’s motto for men is “Protect, Provide, Preside.” But unlike so many of the legacy institutions and leaders, they also want men to flourish personally, to be healthy, successful, fulfilled, and developing their own potential as men in the process.
“I’m Going to Make Myself Happy”
Vogue magazine has a big interview with Kim Kardashian. This piece is yet another installment in a trend I first highlighted back in October, namely the promotion of a new line that women are free to divorce their husbands for purely and explicitly selfish reasons without having to give any other reason. Here’s what Kim says about her divorcing Kanye.
“For so long, I did what made other people happy,” the 41-year-old explains. “And I think in the last two years I decided, I’m going to make myself happy. And that feels really good. And even if that created changes and caused my divorce, I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about what really makes you happy. I’ve chosen myself. I think it’s okay to choose you.” She pauses before elaborating. “My 40s are about being Team Me. I’m going to eat well. I’m going to work out. I’m going to have more fun, spend more time with my kids and the people who make me happy.
Kardashian is the latest in a growing list of such women (Adele, Lara Bazelon, Honor Jones) prominently featured in both the elite news media (NYT, Atlantic) and lifestyle media (Vogue) promoting this line. It's not just about the individual cases in question, but sending a message to ordinary women across the country to encourage similar behavior.
This is a nascent cultural shift - and you were able to learn about it here first.
More Content and Media Mentions
First Things published a follow-up article engaging with my three worlds piece (and one from David Brooks).
I joined the Think Institute podcast to talk about living in a world that doesn’t trust Christianity.
New postings this week:
I wrote about how to understand David Brook’s recent 4,500 word hit job on evangelicalism (Subscriber only). This is more about the context of the piece than the content. I will say that I’m gratified to see Brooks validate what I said in my First Things piece that the cultural engagers “have declared their own culture war, but theirs is against other evangelicals rather than the world”
At American Reformer, Caleb Morell argues that we should stop talking about “finding our identity in Christ,” as this language is ahistorical and rooted in 1970s and 80s psychology.
And John Ehrett reviews James Poulos new book about technology Human Forever.
My podcast this week is the case against the case against Bill Hybels. (Subscribers can read the transcript) It’s a look back at the accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against Willow Creek Church founding pastor Bill Hybels.
This upcoming week I have two great interviews scheduled.
Please subscribe to get the full experience. Subscribers get exclusive content, transcripts of podcasts and interviews, and can share comments here on Substack.
A Word from Our Sponsor
During the month of February, the newsletter and podcast are being sponsored by Gold River Trading Company. Gold River is a specialty tea company that serves modern pioneers forging new frontiers and charting new paths. Blended and packed in the United States, Gold River's fine teas are a healthy, flavorful alternative to woke beverage companies. Use discount code “RENN10” for 10% off your next order at goldriverco.com.
Best of the Web
Brookings Institution: Rebalancing to put children first
A new NBER working paper finds that alcohol-related deaths were up by about 14,000 over the trend line during the pandemic.
Anthony Bradley: Saving men requires the leadership of laymen
Andrew Yang/WaPo: The boys are not alright
The Times of London: I’m 37, I might be single for ever — and I’m happy with that
At that point, I hadn’t been in a relationship for six years. I’d had sex once in that interim. It wasn’t something I’d planned, but our habits make us who we are and my habit had become retreat and avoidance. Since that night, many, many people have told me they’ve experienced something similar. Being single for years at a time, even an entire life, is not that strange at all.
It would be nice to be able to say I felt nothing but compassion and empathy for the lonely hearts reaching out to me, but mixed with those emotions there was also a healthy helping of terror. Some of their stories were so grim, so desperate, so steeped in isolation. I wondered if it was a window into my future if I didn’t make a change soon.
Walter Kirn/NYT: Heather Havrilesky Compares Her Husband to a Heap of Laundry
Richard Hanania: Women's Tears Win in the Marketplace of Ideas
Aaron Renn is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.