When I was eight or so a borderline gun nut told me that he thought Red Badge of Courage was boring. Though of course I was eight and hadn't read anything heavy yet. I guess he assumed that I still had a hairless penis after all and so would Just Know what any given war story was all about. It would be some years before I read "Badge" and some years more before I could guess where he borderline gun nut was coming from. Crane's message in the story is that there is no such thing as courage being proven once and for all in a Great Caldron of Truth; even in the extreme case of industrial warfare, because courage and cowardice are themselves circumstantial, not even existing as consistent traits within the same person over life. I can see why that message would leave a bad taste in the rural white men I grew up among. Men who perform martiality with the same defensive flamboyance of 18th century aristocrats with their guns their American flag clothes and their intentionally cultivated ease to feel dishonored.
The truth is that we don't get eaten by wolves so much anymore. Murder by human villain is and has always been a rare cause of death no matter how unfailingly overestimated. Even war itself has famously grown more assembly-line impersonal through the years. The fact is that no man's personal courage, even if truly exceptional, is likely to have any effect on extending either his own life or that of a loved one. Heroism and loving will to protect mean nothing in the cancer ward. Still men are raised to orient our entire beings around a Great moment of truth that shall probably never come. There's a vertigo in that, an unplaceable cortisol itch, a sense of failure born from the very absence of any chance to fail. If we lived in some alternate timeline where feminism had somehow never come to exist in any form, or a greater variety of sexual habits and identity had never come to pass masculinity would still bear the smell of protest-too-much, wounded theater, zoo-simian-jerkoff, hamfisted/kneejerk denial of challenge, bullshit puffery, every man a codpiece of himself.
I read in Roger Ailes NYT obit of how he once spoke of a time when he punched a hole in his office drywall while abusing his staff. Then someone performing the act of admiring the boss wrote "don't mess with Roger Ailes" around the hole with magic marker. I happen to be intimate enough with drunken bro-pads to know that punching through drywall does not require extraordinary prowess. It can be done with average or less upper body strength. So if this is the proof one offers to the world for being So Badass then I don't know. This may inspire a sort of Christian pity though such is best reserved for those who make a hopeless stand against overwhelming social overdogs. And Ailes very intentionally chose a politics that assured he would never have to do that. So I spose that fuck his dead ass is all there is.
One may look at Ailes or any of his Fox News shouting heads or Ted Nugent or any number of others who overact manhood like they in an amateur drag show and feel assured that they can't be for real. That no one truly confident of having common sense or ancient mandate of nature on their side could vamp it up so artlessly. There's some truth to that. Exaggerated male power is in no small part a reaction against modern challenge to white male power. This is commonly understood by most sides. But humans don't fear loss of power simply due to vanity or sadism or some Nietzschean vital force but also (perhaps mainly) due to sense of identity and sense of certainty of who different people must be to each other's eyes that comes with an established and familiar power structure. When a modern man views an 80's action film where Musclesweat murders a thousand cocaine communist Muslims and finds Musclesweat to be an utterly serious role model he isn't "just" posturing but also truly needs a role model that badly.
The attraction of cartoon alpha-maleness for the Fox News crowd is partly ego to be sure; the idea of such invincibility and impossible control being our natural birthright. The main appeal however is that it is simply an external standard for how to be. An outside authority to measure oneself against and see if one is "doing it right". A freedom from having to improvise oneself as they go along with the eternal lack of certainty of being good this entails. Some people just never grow out of playing House or Monkey-doing their parents in the mirror. I say 'grow out of' as if it is a matter of intelligence or sophistication but no. It is a matter of personality and life experience that may be had by some with more raw IQ than myself. Many people if not most just need an outside authority to existentially guide them. This can lead to bizarre cosmic dogmas on the only true way to mow one's grass, or a thousand other small conformities that sentient creatures should be above. It leads at a price of massive suffering to narrow and cartoonish standards of True manhood or womanhood. Even so there are many who will tolerate these cartoonish and narrow standards, or even embrace them Because they are cartoonish and narrow, because if they are cartoonish and narrow than they are Fucking Clear. It is only the mud of the human world as it actually is that gets in the way of such clarity. The reality of billions of men of invariable and often mutually opposing tempers and desires. The reality of culture/how one Knows Life to Work being an accident of oceans mountains and time. I would guess that a large part of what attracts people to right-wing and other pseudo-populist junk media is the assurance that such muddiness is artificial, that it is a uniquely modern decadence invented by whoever the elites are; & thus that clarity is still the natural human default though none have ever seen it.
A friend of Theodore Roosevelt's said that 'Death had to take him sleeping. If he had been awake there would have been a fight'. Sure, and he was a sick old man who would have lost. To put it another way there is of course no decadent modern tendency to 'forget' our war veterans. We remember our veterans with great fixation truth be told. The men we do forget are the skeletons of Pompeii found arched because they were trying to shield their wives and kids from the raining fire. The skeletons of the wives and kids were of course found in the same place because they died at the same moment. Some of these men must of been exceptionally strong or brave by human standards but then a mountain.
I've written of how manhood has always and must necessarily have an air of wounded posturing, even when no challenge to male dominance was visible on the horizon, and though I've hypothetically mentioned a timeline where there was no feminism or gender challenge the truth is that of course the absence of such challenge could have never happened. History must be filled with those who examined the supposed primal contract of men being in charge in return for sacrificing ourselves when trouble came and and known that this emperor was naked yet chose to keep quiet. Someone or another would have spoken up at some point.
The world is perpetually bloated with hero vs. villain stories. While no one makes movies about lowering the death rate from diabetes by 12% over thirty years. We obsess over terrorism and crime for a galaxy of racial reasons and also due to an attractive sense of control in the assumption that deliberate villainy is a primary cause of human suffering; that death does not sometimes but typically come in a tangible form that can be punched back. This obviously has poisonous effect on our culture and politics. There are for example those who will always blame the possibility of terrorism on cowardice or political correctness for so long as they lack control over death itself, which shall of course be forever. Still they will never stop 'believing' that mastery of fate can possibly be had with just a little bit more power and force.
It is obvious to say that men backlash against feminism, trans & gay rights or 'The Left' in general because we want to stay in control. It is more to say that we backlash because we want to be "Needed" in control. People want to be needed. 'If everyone is equal and free to be as they will then how am "I" to Know that I am needed and good?' This is the emotional problem that the left is always burdened to answer. This is what the incoherent ravings against 'the elite' boil down to most always.