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He Who Shall Not Be Named

A few thoughts on a popular leader of men.

I have been warned not to write about a certain professor who, over the last year or so, has become a very popular snake-oil salesman. I know that “snake-oil salesman” is a pejorative but I’m not so sure it should be. America loves snake oil. It is the lubricant of our dreams.

The warnings felt a bit over-the-top. I’m pretty sure if I said his name out loud three times in a mirror he wouldn’t appear behind me. But I’m not going to write his name out because while I don’t believe in the supernatural, I do believe in search engines. I was told that any criticism of this man inspires fury from the faithful.

And there are faithful. He has tens of thousands of fans. The vast majority of these fans are men. In every practical sense I, too, am a man.

He gives these men pep talks, and tough love, and says all the things that a very good high school football coach should say after everyone takes a knee. So far, so good. The next thing you know he’s claiming men deserve to rule because lobsters are jerks to one another and we share an evolutionary ancestor with those melted butter vehicles, never mind the fact that all living organisms on Earth call the same splotch of primordial protoplasm Mommy.

He resembles a gentleman scarecrow. Dapper, slender, solemn. He speaks with a seriousness that, I think, shouldn’t be mocked. I sort of feel like I have to root for anyone who tries to be serious during unserious times. I believe he believes what he preaches. He tells his followers they are worthy. He tells them they are oppressed. Finally, he tells them there is hope. Unfortunately, along the way, he also says things that are flatly outrageous, but three piece suits don’t pay for themselves.

I watched some of his videos and you can see the conflict between the scholar and the guru who is making lots of money from telling people what they want, or need, to hear. His eyes tremble with sadness, and fear, and pity. His lessons are stern. He tries, I think, to teach these men to take responsibility for their lives. I hope some of them hear that message. But far too many applaud his theatrics. He can be casually cruel to those who aren’t in his flock. He has learned to love the cheers a bit too much.

He recently told a major newspaper that the only solution to sexually-frustrated men is “enforced monogamy.” This statement was controversial, to say the least. Later, the professor clarified what he actually meant by “enforced monogamy.” He didn’t mean women should be forced to sexual service men at gunpoint. He just meant that society should encourage monogamy. Or something like that. He also said, in that interview, that women are pursuing only “high-status” men. I’m going to make a sweeping gender statement that I feel pretty good about: superficial men and women are always nitwits.

One big takeaway from this article is that, for a man who insists men “speak precisely,” he is extremely good at being misunderstood.

Then, again, holy men often speak in tongues. Their sacred gibberish is then interpreted, and argued over, and interpreted again.

I don’t judge those who find religion. Humans crave purpose and seek out prophets who provide direction. Unfortunately, most religions require their worshippers to surrender to its principles, even if those principles are contradictory. It’s hard to take responsibility for your actions if Satan, or some other all-powerful scapegoat, made you do it. It is a poisonous, contradictory sermon: love they neighbor… oh, and by the way, thy neighbor is why you’re a loser. This is why, I suspect, the professor’s fans are so savagely angry about feminists, or trans people, or internet essayists who aren’t easily impressed by self-help hucksters. They are heretics who dare to question The Word.

One of his many theses is that there is a crisis in masculinity. I do not disagree with this, either. I find it disappointing, though, that another of his frustrating contradictions is the idea that a man can be self-confident, and a tender-hearted victim at the same time. But this where concern mutates into con. The nation’s boys are in pain, you see, and he is there for them, a dark, yet understanding, father. I wish this father taught compassion, to the self and the other, instead of a kind of fast food stoicism that mixes the acceptance of suffering with vengeance. The truth is there really is a population of, mostly, listless men out there in search of basic life instructions. Professor Daddy tells them the things their parents told them to do, but he suggests it is ancient wisdom, instead of just motherly nagging.

I will admit that our society generally tells men they are worthless unless they make money, get the girl, drink beer. Suffer in silence. If you become a father along the way, good. Don’t fuck it up. The professor is a symptom of a larger failure of cultural imagination, though. There are dudes out there who, consciously or subconsciously, want to know who to be, and there are few answers beyond the ones I mentioned. In this vacuum, a lie is being sold. That lie is a simple one. It starts “Poor you…” and ends with “…and they’ll pay.” Who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending?

One reason I was warned not to print this man’s name is because it would invite interaction with fanatics who treat his words and texts as sacred, and only fully understood by true believers. To question their beanpole Odin is sacrilege. I don’t have the time to pore over his books, essays, and transcripts. More importantly, I don’t have the interest. I am currently in therapy and don’t need the help of a fallen shrink moonlighting as a pop philosopher.

I don’t dislike the guy. I don’t trust him. But that’s just my opinion, man.

I once made wrote a joke about the guy on social media. It may be too generous to call it a joke: the post more of a half-baked wisecrack. All social media posts are toots of gas. I was surprised, then, when a follower immediately jumped to his messiah’s defense and accused me of jealousy. Which I thought was an odd insult. The follower naturally assumed I wanted the professor’s fame and money.

And who knows? Maybe, deep down, I do? I, mean, I like money, that’s for damn sure. I know many critics of Dr. Feelangry are called “Marxists” by the chubby couch Spartans known as the “alt-right.” “Marxism” has become one of those empty words that has become a sort of vessel, like a beloved Aunt’s ambrosia salad bowl, that these cultural warriors pour all their fears, and prejudices into. I don’t think I’m a Marxist, but, you know, I think the dude made some very, enduring, points about how money makes us all assholes.

I also don’t know if I want this man’s attention. Thousands of people telling you you’re right is a hell of a crack pipe. The thing about crack is it’s fun, at least the first time. So I don’t know. Perhaps I’m jealous? I just don’t know that I am? Do I want to be filled with the spirit of the mob? Am I attracted to power? Is this the age of little dictators?

Anyway, scratch a troll and you’ll find a snowflake.

I have read parts of his bestselling book and listened to him speak. I have heard him suggest women wear makeup because they are wired by biology to do so, which isn’t really anthropology, just old school advertising executive wisdom. He mines fairy tales and myths for simple truths like a graduate student reading Joseph Campbell for the first time. His hero has a thousand faces and, sadly, they all look like the dull face of a mass murderer. White. Angry. Lost. Martyrs, falling to their knees before high-priests in splendid robes.

There is an entire generation of men out there who want a leader. Or, like, a Mean Daddy. They’re following the ones who show up. In a way, the names of these leaders don’t matter. What matters are those men who follow them and, chances are, you probably know the names of more than a few?

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Editor, Humungus. I won two James Beard Awards once for an essay about Taco Bell. Let’s be friends.

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