Article Thumbnail

Grown Men Living With Their Moms Are Way Too Easy to Radicalize

A popular internet stereotype underlies today’s right-wing extremist threats

Of the 31 adult men arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho this weekend before they could incite an anti-LGBTQ riot at a Pride event, at least one was living with his mother. Until, that is, she threw him out of their Utah home for his refusal to quit the Patriot Front, the neo-Nazi group that had planned the attack. Karen Amsden told the Daily Beast that after her 27-year-old son Jared Michael Boyce had gotten bailed out along with the other participants, she gave him an ultimatum: Abandon the movement or stick with his family. He chose the Patriot Front.

“So pack your stuff and get out of my house,” she recalled telling him. 

For many years, “you probably live in your mom’s basement” has been a handy putdown in online arguments. It paints a picture that inflames male insecurity: You only talk tough on the internet because you’re so pathetic in real life. You can’t support yourself or keep a job. And you have nothing better to do than play make-believe. Indeed, Boyce described himself as an “Alpha Chad” in his Twitter bio, clearly deluded about his own rather unimpressive circumstances. 

But the stereotype of the loser still mooching off their parents becomes less funny by the day, as the nature of those depressingly limited lives has continued to create real danger. Jacob Angeli Chansley, the “QAnon Shaman” who became the face of the January 6th Capitol insurrection, was at the time 33 years old, jobless and living with his mother. Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the extremist Proud Boys and likewise indicted for storming the Capitol, was even older — and also residing with his mom. White nationalist Nick Fuentes, 23, only recently discussed the possibility of moving out of his parents’ house in Chicago. Would-be mass shooter Tres Genco, who identified as an incel, was foiled because his mother discovered his weapons and disturbing writings in his bedroom and decided to alert the police. He was 20 years old. In April, 51-year-old William Hillard was charged for making pipe bombs in his mother’s house in Vermont, where a raid uncovered his semiautomatic rifle with the phrase “WHITE POWER” on it. He asked the judge if he could remain at home with his mom as the case proceeded.  

And here’s the recent story of 33-year-old Jeremy Hanson, who was busted for allegedly sending anti-trans terror threats from a PlayStation 4 in — you guessed it — his mother’s house.

The pattern virtually begs for the kind of aggressive profiling that federal law enforcement has unjustly brought to bear on Black, Latinx, Muslim and Middle Eastern people. It would seem this one domestic arrangement provides several key ingredients for right-wing radicalization: free time, more disposable income (since you aren’t paying rent or bills), lack of purpose and healthy social outlets, plus a nominal female authority figure whose presence, rules and opinions you begin to resent as a hindrance to masculine greatness. The American male twenty-something NEET (“Not in Employment, Education or Training”) is perfectly primed for the paranoid rage that motivates the likes of the Patriot Front and Proud Boys, who fear that their birthright, however they might define it, has been taken from them, and society turned upside down.

The sick irony is that one good way to address this crisis — a strengthened safety net for all citizens, one that opens doors to personal advancement and independence for those who are materially “stuck” — is completely anathema to conservative politics. Aside from wanting to deny those opportunities to non-whites, it feels as though Republicans know they maintain their base in part by keeping young white men alienated, angry and helpless. 

This is when those lads seek inclusion and meaning within organizations that legitimize negative emotions and give them a hateful ideology to communicate, while serving as shock troops for right-wing hysteria. We’ve long ridiculed these guys for their dependency on parents well into adulthood, but it hasn’t done anything to mitigate the growing threat they present. Though genuine sympathy may be a bridge too far, at some point we’ll have to help them.