High-profile personalities like Joe Rogan, a renowned podcaster, and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, recently critiqued MSNBC for re-sharing an article that linked the practice of physical fitness and healthful eating to white supremist ideals and Adolf Hitler.
Initially published in 2022, the piece drew sizeable interest after MSNBC’s official Twitter account reinvigorated its visibility by posting it on a Monday.
‘If you hit the gym, MSNBC labels you a Nazi’, Musk humorously commented on his Twitter account. His tweet quickly became popular, amassing more than 5 million views. Rogan also responded, saying, ‘To maintain good health is now ‘extreme-right.’ Astonishing.’
Rogan is beloved by many for his top-rated podcast, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’ Furthermore, he isn’t just vocal about health; he practices it through martial arts competitions and as a commentator for UFC.
The crux of the MSNBC article was that so-called ‘fascist fitness’ digital communities were discovered, where young men are radicalized with extremist ideologies associated with neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
This radicalization, the article alleged, materializes under the guise of health advice provision and beneficial physical transformations, subsequently exposing these men to extreme right-wing content.
MSNBC posited that right-wing extremists have exploited the fitness trend that emerged through the pandemic, allowing them to further infiltrate the mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports arenas, which they’ve been seeping into for over a decade.
The article referenced Adolf Hitler in an attempt to further its argument about the troubling association between far-right ideology and the trending interest in fitness and nutrition. The mention of Hitler served to underline the inherently destructive potential of this link.
Though the MSNBC article does mention that exercise and fitness are not always a gateway to far-right, neo-Nazi, or white supremacist radical ideologies, the reference was fleeting, being only fleetingly admitted.
The importance of physical fitness in far-right culture was described in further detail. According to the article, ‘Mein Kampf’, a book authored by Hitler, showed that he prized boxing and jujitsu, perceivably capable of forming a formidable, patriotic fighting force in service of the German nation – deemed more efficient than traditional military training.
Yet, despite the far-right association attempt, the MSNBC article reiterates that fitness is not always an express route to ideology alignment with far-right, ‘neo-Nazi,’ or ‘white supremist extremism’. The acknowledgment, however, seems to exist within an overwhelmingly dominant narrative of the contrary.
Physical fitness, while sometimes co-opted by radical mindsets, is a practice enjoyed by many, bringing mental benefits and promoting a sense of overall well-being. It allows individuals to properly channel essentials like dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin, fostering positivity and a tangible feeling of goodness.
This controversial take by MSNBC wasn’t only critiqued by Rogan and Musk, but also elicited jokes in 2022. Seth Mandel, the editor of the Washington Examiner, joked that ‘exercise is considered as Nazi behavior’.
Even The Federalist correspondent Tristan Justice chimed in at the time, suggesting that a renewed focus on fitness could reap benefits for a nation, given the declining majority of the population in healthy weight brackets.
This discourse, in several parts satirical, is symptomatic of a larger narrative surrounding health and political ideology – a narrative thrust into public view through MSNBC’s article.
Lindsay Kornick, a contributor for Fox News, also played a part in the circulation and commentary of this inventive perspective, indicating the network’s interest in engaging broader discussion.
Despite the diversity of reactions, the consensus projection is that care must be taken to ensure that framing healthy practices like fitness and nutrition doesn’t project a political color, especially not an association with extreme ideologies.
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