A note of aggressive petulance

Speaking of styles of masculinity and who does it better and what it all means – Alexandra Schwartz argues that Kavanaugh’s bizarre mix of shouting and sobbing is the new hip conservative thing.

Kavanaugh choked up and sobbed as he described his father’s detailed calendars, which apparently inspired his own calendar-keeping practice; he seemed unable to gain control over himself, gasping and taking frequent sips of water. The initial impression was of naked emotional vulnerability, but Kavanaugh was setting a tone. Embedded in the histrionics were the unmistakable notes of fury and bullying. Kavanaugh shouted over Dianne Feinstein to complain about the “outrage” of not being allowed to testify earlier; when asked about his drinking, by Sheldon Whitehouse, he replied, “I like beer. You like beer? What do you like to drink, Senator?” with a note of aggressive petulance that is hard to square with his preferred self-image of judicious impartiality and pious Sunday churchgoing. Lindsey Graham eagerly took up the angry-man mantle, using his allotted five minutes of questioning to furiously shout at his Democratic colleagues.

One issue here is…it might work, but if it does it will work at the cost of making the Supreme Court itself a less respected institution. Maybe that doesn’t matter in the short term, given the uncheckable nature of its power, but bringing the law and authority into disrepute doesn’t seem like a very conservative value to me.

What we are seeing is a model of American conservative masculinity that has become popular in the past few years, one that is directly tied to the loutish, aggressive frat-boy persona that Kavanaugh is purportedly seeking to dissociate himself from. Gone are the days of a terse John Wayne-style stoicism. Now we have Trump, ranting and raving at his rallies; we have Alex Jones, whose habit of screaming and floridly weeping as he spouts his conspiracy theories is a key part of his appeal to his audience.

Well, okay, that’s two, but is it really a widespread thing?

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