Men’s-Rights Activism Is the Gateway Drug for the Alt-Right
By David Futrelle
Christopher Cantwell. Photo: Courtesy of YouTube/VICE News
Christopher Cantwell has a knack for getting himself noticed. The 36-year-old white supremacist with an internet radio show and a long history of violent rhetoric was one of the most visible figures at this past weekend’s #UniteTheRight rallies in Charlottesville.
The overgrown skinhead managed to thrust himself again and again into the center of the action, caught in one photo circulated on Twitter striking a dramatic pose as he sprayed anti-fascist counterprotesters with mace. He played a starring role in a Vice News mini-documentary on the event, helpfully providing the Vice crew with a never-ending supply of incendiary quotes. “We’re not nonviolent,” he declared at one point during the protests. “We’ll ******* kill these people if we have to.” In a later sit-down interview with Vice he coldly announced that the ISIS-style car attack that left activist Heather Heyer dead was “more than justified … I think a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here, frankly.”
Cantwell has not always been a figurehead of the alt-right. The Long Island native first gained notoriety as a cop-hating libertarian after moving to Keene, New Hampshire, in 2012 to take part in the the Free State Project, a quixotic political movement with the goal of turning the state into a haven for “free people.” He’s affixed various labels to himself over the years as his politics have transmogrified: anarchist, anarcho-capitalist, atheist, asshole. Perhaps the most revealing of his political past selves? Christopher Cantwell, men’s-rights activist....
....Cantwell is hardly the only alt-rightist with a past as a men’s-rights activist. Media gadfly, “sick Hillary” conspiracy theorist, and self-help guru Mike Cernovich was known for his men’s-rights talk before he turned to Trump and the alt-right — though he now claims to have broken with the movement. Canadian YouTube “philosopher” Stefan Molyneux declared himself an MRA long before he became a darling of the alt-right (and he recently conducted an interview with the author of that notorious Google memo, James Damore). Peter Tefft, a young man with a fashy hairdo who was famously disowned by his family after being outed as one of the torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville, went through a men’s-rights phase before declaring himself a fascist, according to his nephew in an interview with CNN.
There are good reasons why men’s-rights activism has served for so many as a gateway drug to the alt-right: Both movements appeal to men with fantasies of violent, sometimes apocalyptic redemption — and, like Cantwell, a tendency to express these fantasies in bombastic prose. And both movements are based on a bizarro-world ideology in which those with the most power in contemporary society are the true victims of oppression.
In other words, if you can convince yourself that men are the primary victims of sexism, it’s not hard to convince yourself that whites are the primary victims of racism. And it’s similarly easy for members of both movements to see white men as the most oppressed snowflakes of all.