Cynthia Miller-Idriss is MSNBC’s self-described “expert on extremism,” and according to her, at-home workouts are turning young men into Nazis.

As always, the media has a penchant for stoking fears about radicalized right-wingers. The popular caricature of a conservative today is one of a racist, violent, dimwitted, conspiracy theorist and covert Klansman who plots race wars and controls women’s bodies. Traditional men, in particular, are some sort of hybrid of Arthur Dimmesdale, David Duke, and Adolf Hitler. Oh and now, Jonah Hill. Conservative women just don’t know that they can be free from their “oppression.” 

In the media ethos, this narrative is unquestioned. It taints mainstream coverage of everything from “book bans” to the “Sound of Freedom” (the “Rolling Stones” story about this anti-child-trafficking thriller practically oozes with contempt for audiences doltish enough to actually believe that child trafficking is a serious problem. “I was at the movies with people who were there to see their worst fears confirmed,” wrote columnist Miles Klee. “To know thousands of adults will absorb Sound of Freedom, this vigilante fever dream, and come away thinking themselves better informed on a hidden civilizational crisis… well, it’s profoundly depressing. Worse still, they’ll want to spread the word.” Did I mention that Klee’s article is called “‘Sound Of Freedom’ Is a Superhero Movie for Dads With Brainworms”? Not to be outdone, “Jezebel” ran a piece called “‘Sound of Freedom’ Is an Anti-Child Trafficking Fantasy Fit for QAnon.”)

This is what the media wants everyone to believe about us: that we’re too naive to reason with; too racist to reckon with; and too “extreme” to tolerate. According to their description, we all want to topple democracy and plunge the nation back into Jim Crow. We all are flat-earthers and birthers.

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There’s only one problem. The data just does not back up that sensationalized claim. Not even close. The left wants (and needs) us to believe that there is a racist in every neighborhood and an Alex Jones lurking deep inside even the most casual Republican voter. But it simply is not true.

To compensate, the media has subtly evolved the definition of “extremist.” Suddenly, being concerned about sex trafficking is more harebrained than believing that men can get pregnant. Innocent, everyday activities are reinterpreted as racist gatekeeping mechanisms.

Before you know it, there is a racist in every neighborhood (simply because “racist” means someone who works out). In fact, our nation is overrun with Nazis (again, because “Nazi” has a gentler definition than ever before). Woke, yellow journalists uncover some shocking connection between white supremacy and, say, mixed martial arts and boxing, and it just so happens that half of middle America is guilty! Fifteen minutes ago, no one could have imagined that gyms were Nazi meeting-houses, but now, the media has informed us otherwise.

Into this conversation enters Miller-Idriss’s colloquy on the centrality of “violent hypermasculinity” to the far right. To be fair, the author is not breaking any new ground. The left’s disdain for physical fitness has already been well-established. In fact, I previously wrote that it is not an exaggeration to say that the left hates weight loss. But Miller-Idriss takes the argument to a new level of absurdity.

Apparently, it was not enough to say that BMI, exercise, and kids’ cartoons have racist origins and undertones. None of that was racist enough. No, MSNBC had to go and up the charges.

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“It appears the far right has taken advantage of pandemic at-home fitness trends to expand its decade-plus radicalization of physical mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports spaces,” Miller-Idriss writes. “Earlier this month, researchers reported that… ‘fascist fitness’ chat groups… are recruiting and radicalizing young men with neo-Nazi and white supremacist extremist ideologies.”

She continued: “Physical fitness has always been central to the far right. In ‘Mein Kampf,’ Hitler fixated on boxing and jujitsu, believing they could help him create an army of millions whose aggressive spirit and impeccably trained bodies, combined with ‘fanatical love of the fatherland,’ would do more for the German nation than any “mediocre” tactical weapons training.

Fitness, she argues (pulling from the online fringe), is “championed as a tool to help fight the ‘coming race war.’”

“The realm of online fitness now provides a new and ever-expanding market for reaching and radicalizing young men,” the author concludes, “and it requires our targeted focus and resources to try and stop the cycle.”

Of course, if white supremacist ideologies were actually coursing through the nation, I would be as concerned as the next man. But to make that claim and say, “I know this because young men are working out,” is not an argument. It’s yellow journalism at its finest. And it’s all the left can rely on to back their bold accusations.

Really, it’s a matter of two worldviews. Either, you can choose to see young men in gyms and older men watching “Sound of Freedom” as relatively average. Or, you can see them as Klansmen, Nazis, or (best case scenario) Tin Foil Hatters in disguise. Either way, these people are everywhere. What that means will depend entirely on how you define “extremist.”

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