Scott Tibbs

Physical fitness and the boogeyman of the alt-right

By Scott Tibbs, July 21, 2023

MSNBC got quite a bit of mockery for this article and this Tweet promoting the article. So does this mean MSNBC is against physical fitness? Do they want people to be fat, lazy and unhappy? Well, no. Let’s back up a bit. The author specifically makes this point:
Fitness of course is a staple and a hobby for many people, for whom it is enjoyable and rewarding for brain health and overall well-being. Physical fitness channels dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin in ways that literally feel good.
So no, MSNBC is not saying that working out makes you a Nazi or a white supremacist. This is why you need to read the article, not only the headline and short snippets of mockery on social media. They are not arguing against physical fitness. They’re warning that it is being used to recruit people into the "far right." That has been documented, and it is happening. It is something we should monitor, because extremists can be dangerous.

Whether the extent of this problem is exaggerated is another matter entirely. I doubt that it is nearly as much of a problem or nearly as widespread as MSNBC claims it to be. This would not be the first time the news media has exaggerated something for clicks and social media buzz. Something that appears to be widespread on the Internet often is not catching on in the real world.

Now, are there radical Leftists who are actually opposed to physical fitness? Sure. "Libs Of TikTok" has shown plenty of videos of Leftists ranting about how the fit ideal is a product of "white supremacist" culture and is explicitly designed to paint Blacks and other minorities as unhealthy, fat and lazy. They actually say that if you work out to lose weight, you are "fatphobic" and a tool of white supremacy. But this is known as "nutpicking" - choosing an extremist and tying his crazy world view to the other side as a whole.

But there is a world of difference between pointing out the actual fact that extremists are devoted to physical fitness and are using it as a means to recruit (even if the threat is exaggerated) and actively opposing exercise, healthy eating and weight loss as some sort of oppressive and bigoted practice. We may "own the libs" by oversimplifying arguments to parody the other side, but we are not actually informing anyone or contributing to the public discourse in a productive way. Physical fitness is a good thing, but so is honesty.

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