With a perfectly coifed blonde mane and matinee smile, Madison Cawthorn looks like a Ken doll and has about as much brains as one, too. He is the quintessential corn-fed All-American boy-next-door.
That is, until he opens his mouth. Only then do you realize that he is hate personified, an incubus made flesh. “They are trying to de-masculate [sic] the young men in our country because they don’t want people who are going to stand up,” Cawthorn told a cheering crowd in a video obtained by Right Wing Watch. “If you are raising a young man, please raise them to be a monster.”
His use of the word “monster” is instructive. Monsters are frightening because they are violent. They are capable of mauling and maiming, incapable of being mollified or tamed. In the hands of the right person, they are a powerful force for evil.
As chance may have it, this is the season of monsters. Thinking of popular Halloween costumes helps illustrate the point: blood-sucking vampires, brain-eating zombies, fearsome werewolves. They needn’t be fantastic creatures, though. Some of the scariest monsters of all are human beings: Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, the “Ghost Face” killer from the “Scream” franchise.
Cawthorn’s monsters are frighteningly real, though. They represent the end-goal of the Trumpian movement, one where straight white men are returned to what Cawthorn and his ilk view as their rightful place as the exclusive wielders of cultural, economic, and political power.
It is no coincidence that Cawthorn, one of the most vocal proponents of the “big lie” that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, wants parents to raise monsters. “If our election systems continue to be rigged, continue to be stolen, then it’s gonna lead to one place and that’s bloodshed,” Cawthorn threatened in August. He now wants parents to turn their sons into mindless Orcs of toxic masculinity and enlist them in the greatest horror film of all: an authoritarian pushback against the progress of the past 60 years.
Cawthorn himself proves that these embittered young men already exist, because he is one of them. This is a man who didn’t think twice about tweeting a swastika to criticize Black Lives Matter. A man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. A man who both claims the 6 January insurrectionists are “political prisoners” and promises to prosecute Dr Anthony Fauci for nonexistent crimes if Republicans are returned to power.
The contradictions of this kind of belligerent, excessive, violent masculinity are legion, and Cawthorn is just another embodiment. In 2017, the writer Laurie Penny reported on the young men who hung around Milo Yiannopoulos, then a lauded alt-right figure, describing his expert way of “whipping up the fear and frustration of angry young men and boys who would rather burn down the world than learn to live in it like adults, but directing that affectless rage in service of their own fame and power.” People like Yiannopoulos – and I would posit Cawthorn – exploit these young men and turn them into “cannon fodder” for their cause.
That cause is the return of what they perceive to be the proper social order, with all other groups subservient to straight, white men. It’s why Cawthorn didn’t include daughters in the monsters to be created – presumably they should sit down while their brothers “stand up.” It’s why Tucker Carlson endorses the white supremacist lie of the “great replacement.” Why Republicans in Texas put a bounty on women’s heads for exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. Why the Republican Lieutenant governor of North Carolina – which, it bears repeating, is Cawthorn’s home state – called LGBT people “filth”.
This army of masculine monsters is meant to savage each of these groups and anyone else who does not kowtow to the supremacy of the straight white man. On a political level, this means rolling back the rights these groups have won. These monsters are also meant to enforce the new status quo, limiting the ability of these groups to exercise political power or achieve any new and lasting victories.
That is frightening enough. On an interpersonal level, though, “masculine monsters” can be even more terrifying and dangerous. I went to high school with these monsters, and every day was a horror film for me – the effeminate gay boy victimized by the masculine monsters of Madison Cawthorn’s dreams. Bullies popped out of every corner like ghouls in a haunted house, screaming slurs and puffing their chests as they lunged and loomed over me, physically as well as emotionally intimidating.
Looking back, I was lucky that none of these boys ever physically attacked me. Not everyone can say that. Nearly three American women are killed by male partners every day – male monsters inspired by and acting out misogyny. FBI data shows that hate crimes surged by 20% under Donald Trump. Far-right extremism has proliferated over the past decade and now poses the biggest threat to American national security.
We just lived through the real-life horror film that was the Trump presidency, and Madison Cawthorn is already desperate for the sequel. His words are a stark reminder of the threat both Trumpism and toxic masculinity continue to present. Those of us opposed to an authoritarian takeover of the United States must remain vigilant, as the monsters are still here and just itching for a comeback.
That should terrify everyone. The consequences of the Trumpian monster army winning again would be catastrophic. Remember Randy Meeks’ rules for a sequel in “Scream 2?” The body count is always higher, the death scenes more elaborate – and never assume the killer is dead.
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