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The reaction to Greg Gianforte’s attack on a reporter exposes America’s problem with macho talk

“That toughness that people seem to admire from a distance makes people fear you up close.”

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte campaigns in Montana.
Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte campaigns in Montana.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Shortly after Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly attacked a reporter in Montana, some of his supporters began suggesting the real problem was that the reporter, Ben Jacobs, didn’t automatically fight back. Conservative pundit Laura Ingraham tweeted, “But what would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?”

This kind of macho talk isn’t uncommon. But speaking from personal experience, Reason writer Mike Riggs argued on Twitter that this message is bad for men. As he notes in one of his tweets, “That toughness that people seem to admire from a distance makes people fear you up close.”

Here’s the full thread:

That any of this needs to be said is alarming. We live in a society that is supposed to abhor violence — punishing it through some of the harshest prison sentences in the world. People are supposed to solve disputes through rational talk, negotiations, and, if necessary, the legal system. That’s how civilization works.

Even then, America still suffers from the worst levels of gun violence of any nation in the developed world. So to encourage more violence — especially after a violent act by a politician, of all people — seems contrary to what America should strive for.

Then again, maybe these assumptions are wrong. On Thursday night, before finally issuing an apology for his actions, Gianforte won the special election for Montana’s US House seat.

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