If Bros don’t easily see themselves as members of a group, it’s not necessarily easy for others to do so. People who do our work of cultural and political analysis, who are rarely part of the spaces where Bros congregate either physically or online, can easily miss the unifying facets of Bro Culture. Guns, weights, martial arts, sports, American flags, all that stuff goes together into a surprisingly coherent whole.
But if you don’t know Bros, you won’t see the confluence. You’ll be confused by Joe Rogan’s appeal. You’ll probably see him as a fringe figure instead of the center of a very large universe, where Navy SEALS and Green Berets and professional strongmen carve out lucrative careers as entrepreneurs and influencers. There’s a very specific form of American ethnonationalism brewing in these spaces, spiced with an odd combination of libertarian individualism, being a badass, and the worship of military competence.
From his post that inspired the interview:
You don’t have to be a soldier to be a Bro, though it doesn’t hurt. And - much more important - you aren’t born into being a Bro; you become one, by doing worthy deeds of prowess.
That’s a quintessentially American value: the idea that anybody can make something of themselves if they work hard enough, move enough weight, run fast enough, practice enough to shoot a tight grouping, make the right sacrifices. The physical meritocracy (and its potential rewards of fame and fortune) is open to anyone willing to do whatever it takes to climb the ladder. Even the least intellectually gifted meathead can make something of himself if he does the workouts, takes the right gear, and builds his audience on YouTube and Instagram. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, and smash that follow button.
Much of what happens in Bro Culture is driven by lifestyle consumption: ads for sunglasses on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast, brand partnerships between supplement companies and YouTube stars, tactical holsters for concealed-carry that an ex-Marine with a million Instagram followers wants you to buy. It’s self-actualization through sponsor codes.
The tactical lifestyle craze, a natural outgrowth of this particular slice of Bro Culture, is the logical endpoint of all this. It’s where entrepreneurial late capitalism and influencer trends meet imperial wars, the militarization of the police, and the emergence of Gun Guys as a default protected class within American society. You’re not a Crossfitter anymore; you’re a “tactical athlete,”