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Is Fitness Fascist?

The Left wants you weak.

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One doesn’t expect much substance or insight from the UK’s left-wing Guardian, and a recent opinion piece there – “Getting fit is great – but it could turn you into a rightwing jerk” – did not disappoint on that score, but it did accidentally raise a worthwhile question: does becoming healthier and stronger incline one toward right-wing politics, even fascism?

In all fairness to Guardian columnist Zoe Williams, it’s possible that her article was written tongue-in-cheek or meant to be more self-deprecating than serious; possible, but not likely. The humor and wit are too tepid to make for successful satire. And there is an underlying seriousness to the thesis, which she states as, “[T]here is a dark side to wellness, which I always, for shorthand, thought of as political: getting fit makes you more rightwing.”

Her implication, then, is that getting fit, which most people would see as a desirable aim, is a social danger to be avoided, because Europe already has too many unruly “far-right” populists threatening to overthrow the globalist elites who know best how the hoi polloi should live. No Guardian columnist would find anything right-wing acceptable, much less desirable.

“The mechanism is incredibly simple,” Williams explains. “You embark on this voyage of self-improvement, and more or less immediately see results. You feel stronger and more energetic, probably your mood lifts, and pretty soon you think you are master of your own destiny.”

It’s revealing that she believes that striving for self-improvement and feeling that you are responsible for your own destiny in life mark you as right-wing. It’s almost as if she is admitting that demanding everyone celebrate your obesity, and embracing victimhood in the face of social forces beyond your control, are left-wing attributes.

Williams goes on to make the questionable claim, for which she offers not even anecdotal evidence, that improving your fitness level gets you “high on self-righteousness”:

Inescapably, you start to situate other people’s problems within their failure to be as fit as you. This is particularly true if you don’t know them and they’re just a bunch of numbers. All those statistics – depressed people, obese people, people with IBS – imagine how much better they would be if only they took responsibility for their health, the way that you have.

I don’t think it’s self-righteousness so much as common sense to believe that people suffering from treatable conditions would be better off if they took greater responsibility for their health. Should we encourage them to take less or no responsibility for it? In any case, Williams seems to lack any awareness that self-righteousness today is largely the domain of left-wing social justice maniacs. They, and not right-wing gym rats, are the loudest and most self-righteous voices in the health field: tarring meat-eaters for killing the planet, for example.

Then Williams claims that “[f]itness has a capitalist logic”: “Always competing, always striving for growth…” This is not the condemnation of fitness that she thinks it is. Competition and striving for growth are, again, positive undertakings. But mostly she dislikes that “you’re getting on everyone’s nerves.” She sneers that upping your muscle-repairing protein intake has “the taste of pure virtue” and warns that “preening” about it is bad for “your soul.”

The dearth of self-awareness here is astounding, yet unsurprising: smug, self-satisfied virtue-signaling, and preening about one’s diet, are almost entirely the domain of the left-wing today, not the right-wing.

She concludes weakly, and again insupportably, that

there is a fixed amount of excellence in any self, and the more you spend on your biceps, the less you have for your personality. I realise it’s not really a question of an unwitting slide into fascism, hastened by a treadmill. It’s more that Wellness could turn you into a bit of a jerk, is what I’m saying.

Let’s address this “slide into fascism,” which is an overriding worry of the left. First we must ask ourselves what fascism actually is, especially because it is such an overused epithet today. The left regularly smears anyone as a fascist who resists accepting Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, open-borders globalism, and any other of their ideological lunacies. The most succinct definition of fascism came straight from the mouth of Mussolini, its most notorious icon: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

The Wikipedia entry on “fascism,” which reads like a Soros-funded high-school student wrote it, asserts that fascism is right-wing. But it has manifested itself differently in different countries, and Mussolini’s own definition sounds exactly like what today’s Democrat Party strives for, complete with fraudulent elections, the suppression of free speech, military purges and show trials of political opponents, government agencies weaponized against the people, and a state media that gaslights them with propaganda around-the-clock. Indeed, Jonah Goldberg, before his descent into Never-Trumper irrelevance, wrote a whole book, Liberal Fascism, detailing the shared roots of fascism and progressivism.

Nevertheless, the left in recent years has made a cottage industry of fear-mongering about right-wingers, fascism, and exercise. Countless articles abound on the internet with fretful headlines like this one from the far-left Daily Kos: “‘Fitness fascists’ hijack workout cultures to spread far-right politics and recruit a physical army.” Or another from the Guardian, with a title so similar it’s like a Harvard plagiarist wrote it: “‘Fascist fitness’: how the far right is recruiting with online gym groups.” How about this one from The Week: “Far-right ‘hypermasculine’ fitness clubs” (where do I sign up?). Yet another: “Gym Fascism,” from the Society of Cultural Anthropology. Or this unintentionally comic headline from the University of Oslo’s Center for Research on Extremism: “Granola Nazis: Fascism in the World of Health, Fitness, and Nature.”

And you knew they were going to make sure they linked it to white supremacy. Here’s a hilarious headline from Time, the magazine that voted Joseph Stalin as its “Person of the Year” – twice: “The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise.” The reliably idiotic MSNBC chimed in with its own article about how “White supremacists’ latest scheme to valorize violence and hypermasculinity has gone digital.”

Contrary to the left’s hysterically paranoid take on exercise, the fitness industry is not overrun with subversive fascists gearing up for another J6 “insurrection.” Fitness is good for everyone — of all races, not just “white supremacists” — and gym-goers are people of all political persuasions or none. The real danger of obsessing about fitness lies in self-idolatry (just check out all the gym selfies on Instagram), not self-righteousness or political extremism.

The truth about the left’s panic over an army of muscle-bound, right-wing warriors like the Spartan studs of the movie 300 is this: first, the left hates masculine men who bond over masculine pursuits; and second, the state-worshippers of the left are fearful of a populace that is strong, healthy, disciplined, self-reliant, clear-thinking, and politically dissident. Totalitarians require a society of weak, flaccid, dependent, cowed dullards, like the subservient race of Eloi in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine or the euphorically drugged and indoctrinated populace of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Pumping iron isn’t fascist, but it will help you resist fascism.

Follow Mark Tapson at Culture Warrior


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