How a plant-based pejorative went from an alt-right burn to a core concern of mainstream Republicans.
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Michael: Also, due to my hand problems, I'm no longer holding my mic. I have a mic stand now. So, I can do the clap emojis, [Aubrey laughs] give the men estrogen.
[Maintenance Phase theme]
Okay, I have one, but it might be too scientific.
Aubrey: Oh, interesting.
Michael: As an expert in this field.
Aubrey: As an expert in this field.
Michael: It is imperative upon me.
Aubrey: I can't wait to hear what comes next.
Michael: To educate the public.
Welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that says yestrogen to all forms of estrogen. [Aubrey laughs] People thought I wasn't an expert. People thought I didn't know but I do know.
Aubrey: Big “I Am Kenough” energy.
Michael: If this one was about testosterone, it would have been "say yestosterone."
Aubrey: It wouldn't have been testosteroney, the San Francisco Treat.
Michael: I'm Michael Hobbes.
Aubrey: I am Aubrey Gordon. If you would like to support the show, you can do that @patreon.com/maintenancephase. You can also subscribe through Apple Podcasts Premium. It's the same audio content. Michael?
Michael: Aubrey, I'm so excited. I'm not even letting you get to the today we're doing part.
Aubrey: [laughs] You’re so excited.
Michael: I'm jumping right in.
Aubrey: Tell me what you're excited about.
Michael: Because I am such a beta cuck person [Aubrey laughs] that I already feel seen. This one is about the soy boy thing.
Michael: Men are growing boobs because they're eating tofu or something.
Aubrey: Yes. Today, we're going to be talking about the right-wing insult, soy boy, which has morphed into almost a plank in the Republican platform.
Michael: Yeah, it's really bleak.
Aubrey: We're also going to figure out what the underlying science is from all of that.
Michael: What does the research say about fapping? [Aubrey laughs] Fap, [unintelligible 00:01:56] review say?
Aubrey: So, just to start us off for folks who are unfamiliar, first of all, congratulations. [Michael laughs] Soy boy is an insult or pejorative that's very popular in far-right spaces, especially online spaces. It goes in the same category as calling men cucks or low-T or beta males or nu-males.
Michael: I have been called all of those things and I agree.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's right. You're part of the extended cuckiverse. So, I thought we would watch a little video clip of someone who I thought would be a real expert in this, explaining what a soy boy is.
Michael: Oh, no.
Joe Rogan: Soy is like a political fruit or vegetable.
Speaker 4: Is it?
Joe Rogan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. People call you a soy boy if you're a Republican. People call weak men soy boys.
Speaker 4: I never knew that.
Joe Rogan: Soy is one of the rare foods that's actually attached to being a bitch.
Speaker 4: That's a pussy food.
Joe Rogan: This is not my perspective. This is just I just think it's a plant. It doesn't matter to me.
Speaker 4: Right.
Joe Rogan: I think soy lowers your testosterone.
Speaker 4: They think it is like estrogen stuff in there.
Joe Rogan: Yeah, yeah. Soy isoflavones can produce estrogen-like activity in the body, mimicking the effects of natural estrogen. Yeah. But I think--
Speaker 4: You could grow titties off of soy?
Joe Rogan: Not quite, but it might feminize you. It might feminize you.
Speaker 4: Fuck soy man.
Joe Rogan: Plants affect your hormone production.
Aubrey: This is how I want to learn my scientific information from one comedian telling another comedian. Michael, tell me your thoughts and feelings. Does this comport with what you would expect of Joe Rogan? Does this comport with what you have heard about soy?
Michael: Sorry, can you give me a second? I'm just fitting my sports bra [Aubrey laughs] because I had some tofu this morning. Very logistically difficult for me. This is the fucking perfect Joe Rogan thing.
Michael: Where he's like, "I don't know, man. Some people think it's, like, pussifying, but I don't know, man. Anyway, why don't we google that? Oh, yeah, it turns out it is. Yeah, here's some crank screenshot from some crank website."
Aubrey: I mean, he brings it back to the "I don't believe it" at the end of this segment.
Aubrey: Donnell Rawlings, I will say, hilariously chimes in with, “I thought it was about being a foodie.”
Michael: I do think there's probably something to that though, in that it's coded as liberal effete ivory tower lib bullshit. I mean, this is the whole thing. It's a culture war thing. Obviously, more than it's any kind of scientific stuff, but it's basically, people I don't like are really into tofu, and therefore tofu must be uniquely pernicious in some way.
Aubrey: Totally. So, the people I don't like part is the caricature of a soy boy. They're usually depicted as being unathletic. They don't really have muscle tone. They are generally seen to have feminine traits, small hands, small features, breast tissue is part of it. They're usually shown wearing glasses and with an untrimmed beard. That's like a little scraggly.
Michael: Okay. There's a whole aesthetic.
Aubrey: There is a face that's called soy face. I prefer this name Soylent Grin.
Michael: Oh, that's pretty good. Wait. Let me google Soylent.
Aubrey: Oh, it's like the Aziz Ansari face in Parks & Rec.
Michael: Yeah, that's right.
Aubrey: Big open mouth, surprised smile.
Michael: I was just about to be, I make that face [crosstalk]. [Aubrey laughs] But that's proof of their point, I guess if you're in this world.
Aubrey: This is quietly just an intervention for you.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Joe Rogan's right over your shoulder. [Aubrey laughs]
Tell him the face thing.
Aubrey: Mike. There's life after being a gay person. You don't have to live this way.
Michael: Also, I will say I have huge hands. [Aubrey laughs] I didn't know that was a masculine/feminine thing but for a beta cuck, 5'6 effeminate prancing little man. I have giant hands.
Aubrey: Maybe you're not a soy boy.
Michael: The whole point of this episode for me is to prove my masculinity.
Aubrey: So, in addition to all of those physical features, those soy boy stereotype also includes them being vegetarian or vegan. They're also considered to be SJWs, but not like the boundless rage of lady SJWs. The idea here is that they're the cowed male equivalent.
Michael: They're betraying their sex too. It's like, well, as a man, you're supposed to be loyal to other men. You're not supposed to be talking about like, “Well, the gender wage gap and stuff,” come on, man.
Aubrey: Yeah. I also think this is a term that is deeply deeply racialized.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: So, there's also a little tinge of race traitor-
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: -that's happening in there.
Aubrey: So, in order to talk about this set of myths and this right-wing panic, we got to talk about soy a little bit. Soy itself has been cultivated in East Asia for thousands of years. It has a ton of advantages. As a crop it's hearty. It can grow in pretty low-quality soil and it also like any beans and peas that you might grow as gardeners know, it will actually enrich the soil for the next crop that you plant.
Michael: It sounds like a pretty hearty crop. It sounds pretty manly, [Aubrey laughs] honestly. It sounds fairly alpha.
Aubrey: So, the 70s is when we start to see much more of a take-off of tofu in particular and soy as the main event, which is also around the same time that the US starts to experience a real boom in natural foods and health food stores. So, there's more of an idea that some foods are really good, some foods are really bad, and at this point we start getting layers of moralizing about it and what those foods say about who you are. This is also around the time that people start really wrapping up our understanding of tofu in our understanding of vegetarians. We start getting more of a market for vegetarians and more of a market for vegetarian foods. Things like tofu dogs start popping up in grocery stores and folks become more aware if they are not vegetarian that there is a growing sense that there are more and more vegetarians around them.
Michael: Right. We talked about this in our vegetarianism episode. I know this when it happened, but we also get the social construction of vegetarians and vegans as holier than thou. I mean, I have not met a vegan like this, but this idea of, “They're constantly scolding you and they think they're better than you and all this stuff.” I remember this stuff from the 90s.
Aubrey: Can I tell you my theory about where that comes from? So, listen, we talked about this a little bit in our food pyramid episode that there was this push by doctors to define vegetarianism as the heart healthiest diet of the thing you ought to pursue and cut out animal products. But I think that folks were feeling really judged by that and externalized that response to feeling judged as like, “They're always preaching to you.”
Michael: People used to mention tofu the way that they would mention, John Tesh [Aubrey laughs] as just the most obviously, just like loser shit like, “That guy eats tofu.”
Aubrey: That is a true thing. I think whatever a particular culture or group of people selects as their example of a gross out food is incredibly telling.
Michael: Yeah. Super. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: What I learned in the research of this cultural anxiety about men and men's health is that this is actually a pretty long historical pattern of making fun of vegetarians more when white masculinity feels like it is tenuous or outdated or under threat. So, dating back to the 1800s, people in the US and the UK started depicting vegetarians, especially men who are vegetarians, as a threat to hegemonic masculinity. That there's this implicit threat of a man deciding to do something other than what, “Manly men are supposed to do.”
Michael: This man is 5’6” and he hosts a podcast.
Aubrey: Partly, this response is because of the cultural association between masculinity and hunting or domination or any of that kind of stuff. But a lot of it has to do with diets being lighter in animal products had long been associated with black, indigenous and people of color, but particularly Asian people. Existing stereotypes had depicted Asian cis man as effeminate and insufficiently masculine. That's a thing that continues to this day.
Aubrey: “I did not fucking know this.” Those stereotypes were used to justify colonialism and colonialist projects throughout Asia.
Aubrey: In 1884, there's an American neurologist who writes about Asian communities and the diets in East Asia and writes, “Thus flesh-eating nations have ever been more aggressive than those peoples whose diet is largely or exclusively vegetable.”
Aubrey: “The effeminate rice eaters in India and China have again and again yielded to the superior moral courage of an infinitely smaller number of meat-eating Englishmen.”
Michael: Dude. How the fuck is a British person going to be like, “We're good at colonialism because our food is better.” [Aubrey laughs] I don't know how much you know about British food at this time. [Aubrey laughs] Don't think that's the reason.
Aubrey: They haven't stolen Indian food yet.
Michael: Exactly. We have one and a half spices at this point.
Aubrey: So, while all of these foods are getting attached to that idea of the lefty vegan schooled. [laughs]. Foods like tofu become aligned with this classed liberalism. That it's about both left leaning politics, but also a certain amount of disposable income and other foods like red meat, which is quite expensive, become tied to conservatism in the popular imagination.
Aubrey: So, by the early 1990s, Rush Limbaugh is already railing against, “Latte-drinking liberals.”
Michael: The latte stuff, they still trot that out sometimes, which is the funniest shit because lates are now so fucking normal [laughs]
Michael: That's not even like a liberal elite thing, that's like a suburban strip mall thing.
Aubrey: This is where we get into the real modern origins of this myth, if you're ready.
Michael: Does it start with Alex Jones?
Aubrey: No. 2006, we're going to start with Michael Pollan.
Michael: Oh [laughs].
Aubrey: Publishing The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Michael: We're coming for you, Pollan.
Aubrey: [Laughs] No.
Michael: We left him alive last time by Saddam Hussein in the 90s.
Aubrey: [laughs] Jesus Christ.
Michael: We're coming back.
Aubrey: Jesus Christ.
Aubrey: So, in 2006, Pollan publishes The Omnivore's Dilemma and Rush Limbaugh really latches on.
Michael: Oh, Limbaugh was a Pollan guy?
Aubrey: No, he was not a Pollan guy. He was like, “Get off my case, I eat what I want. Ba-ba-ba-ba.”
Michael: Oh, got it. So, he was anti-Pollan. Okay.
Aubrey: He was totally anti-Pollan.
Aubrey: This starts to bubble up a little bit in conservative spaces. So, later that same year, the right-wing website WorldNetDaily ran a six-part feature on the hazards of “health foods.”
Michael: Oh, [giggles] nice, nice, nice.
Michael: What were the hazards?
Aubrey: The hazards were that soy and flax and then a bunch of other health foods were the cause of homosexuality, early puberty, late puberty, [laughs] and infertility.
Michael: That's false though because the cause of homosexuality is having small hands.
Aubrey: So, within a few years those claims start to broaden and they start to focus in on just soy. Soy alone is now responsible for, “feminization of cis men.” That “feminization” was reported with this air of medical authority. That's like, “It's definitely happening. We should all be freaked out. The science is clear.” A lot of that traces back to one particular story.
Aubrey: That story is published in 2009 in Men's Health.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Aubrey: So, I just sent you the screen grab of the head and deck for this story.
Michael: Fuck, yes. This is a question mark headline. We love a question mark headline. [Aubrey laughs] So, it's like Men's Health and then they have these tags with categories. It'll be movies or books or whatever. The category of this story is soy's negative effects. That's the vertical. [laughs] Then the headline is, “Is this the most dangerous food for men?” Then sub headline. “The unassuming soybean has silently infiltrated the American diet as what might just be the perfect protein source. It's cheap and vegetarian and could even unclog our hearts. But there may be a hidden dark side to soy, one that has the power to undermine everything it means to be male.”
Aubrey: So, here's my question. Based on your years of experience hosting the show with me, what do you expect this article to contain?
Michael: Maybe, this is just because I've been reading too much anti-vaxx nonsense lately, but I'm expecting an opening anecdote. “John always felt like a man, but then he ate a patty of tofu and now he has boobs or something.” [Aubrey laughs] Some super anecdotal unconfirmed report and then we're going to interview some allegedly iconoclastic doctor. "The scientific consensus is that soybeans are fine, but doctor so and so says that he sees patients with boobs or whatever.”
Aubrey: God, it's like you don't even need me here.
Michael: [laughs] I'll take the episode from here, Aubrey.
Aubrey: [laughs] Sorry. It's hilarious because that is like beep for fucking beep.
Michael: Seriously, fuck. Yes.
Aubrey: I will say it's not that it starts with an anecdote. It starts with an anecdote, it middles with an anecdote, and ends with anecdote. This is one person's story.
Aubrey: The article focused on a guy named James Price who was a retired US Army Intelligence Officer who was diagnosed with gynecomastia, which is enlarged mammary glands in men. He says that he went in to seek treatment after feeling really emotionally dysregulated for a long time. He was like, “It was above and beyond this thing, but it was around the time my wife died.” I was like, “Buddy, you're going to feel emotionally dysregulated after your partner dies.”
Aubrey: Again, he was like, “No, it was more than that.” But I was like, “Oh, this feels like a very funny joke about a dude has a feeling and is like, “I got to see a doctor.”
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. it must be the soybeans.
Aubrey: [laughs] Totally. So, he went to the doctor, and they ran a bunch of tests and spent a bunch of time investigating, and they found that this one guy had elevated estrogen levels. According to Men's Health, he had roughly eight times that would be expected for other cis men. As the story unfolds, we find out that this guy, James Price, found out that he was lactose intolerance some years earlier, so he had switched to soy milk. When the doctor asked him how much soy milk he drank, he said it was, like, “One of his favorite drinks and that he estimated that he drank about three quarts of soy milk a day.”
Michael: He's just a Big Gulp cup full of soy milk next to him at all times.
Aubrey: That's a couple of Big Gulps full of soy milk. So, this is entirely anecdotal. We're just talking about this one guy. Then, the piece drops into these sweeping, alarmist claims about Americans consuming too much soy.
Michael: Right. Because you can probably do a correlation with, "Over the last 10 years, soy consumption in America is quintupled or something because it probably did by 2009."
Aubrey: Yes. I mean, that's essentially what they did. So, here's what they have to say. They talk about the AAP recommending cow's milk formula over soy formula in a report in 2008, which is true. They did. They note that 35% of bottle-fed babies in the US at the time received at least some of their protein from soy.
Aubrey: They go on. This is more Maintenance Phase catnip. This is a quote from the actual piece.
Michael: It says, “A 2001 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed over 800 adults, ages 20 to 34 who were fed either soy based or cow's milk formulas during their infancy. One of the few differences to emerge was that the group raised on soy formula regularly used more asthma and allergy medications in adulthood. Was this just a quirk of the sampling or could it represent a subtle impairment of immune function?” What?
Michael: This is false because we know that the immune function is related to the mercury that they're getting in the vaccine.
Michael: So, it’s measles virus.
Aubrey: Also, surveying an existing group of people who have allergies and are eating foods that are more common in allergy friendly spaces-
Aubrey: -feels like, yeah, no shit. If you take allergy meds, you might be more tuned in to your own personal health and wellbeing. You might be more likely to gravitate toward health foods. You know what I mean? There's so much going on here and instead they do this dumb shit heavy lifting question mark thing.
Michael: Yeah. This is very similar to the moving of the goalpost thing among anti-vaxxers where it's like, It's this vaccine, it's this other vaccine. It's autism. No, it's everything. No, it's allergies. Where it's like if people are consuming more estrogen and it's causing this guy's very specific condition, that's one thing. But then we have a completely different narrative here where it's like asthma and allergies. But those are all different biological mechanisms by which it would be affecting you. I feel like there's this idea that foods are good for you or bad for you, and anything bad that happens, people are like, “Oh, it's his food.”
Aubrey: So, it does it again with-- there is a piece where they cite a couple of papers suggesting that one component of soy is linked to erectile dysfunction in animals. Then they do a whole thing being like, “What if it's true in people too?” It is like, chill the fuck out. This is an article that's not ready to be written yet. There's just not enough evidence here to say anything for sure. But instead, they turn in this like, “I'm just asking questions kind of draft.”
Michael: We're all eating soybeans and now the mice can't even get boners anymore. [Aubrey laughs]. Nobody wants to talk about it. I feel like there's a fundamental mismatch here in that I think that it is good to do studies on random shit. I don't really mind these kinds of studies being done, but I think that one of the fundamental challenges of the information age is that because everybody has access to so much information, it's very easy to look up academic journals. You can easily take these super preliminary studies and be like, “We're all growing boobs because of the soybean.” But I don't want to throw the scientific baby out with the bathwater here. I think doing animal studies is fine. It's just that they get interpreted and spread around our bad information environment in this really obnoxious way.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. So, it is true that soy contains something called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens exist in plants, but they have some chemical similarities to the estrogen that is produced by humans. They are similar to estrogen, but they are not human estrogen. Also, even when we are talking about straight up human estrogen, despite-- we characterize estrogen as a women's hormone or something. But people of all sexes and genders produce estrogen. So, you produce estrogen, I produce estrogen. I also produce testosterone. We just have them in different balances. Phytoestrogens are named phytoestrogens because they are chemically similar, but decidedly not identical. Phyto just means plant. When humans eat phytoestrogens, they are metabolized differently. They are put to work differently. It all works differently. When you eat phytoestrogens versus when your body produces estrogen.
Michael: It really feels like these people are just going through Wikipedia and looking for any excuse and, “ooh, phytoestrogen, gotcha."
Aubrey: It has the word estrogen in it.
Michael: It's like, do you have any actual knowledge of this [laughs] substance or how it works? It’s like tada, tada, tada, it has estrogen in it.
Aubrey: So, that Men's Health piece comes out in 2009. In 2010, we get two big research reviews, two big meta-analyses that show no compelling evidence that a soy-rich diet impacts testosterone levels, sperm counts, or anything else to do with cis men's health.
Michael: Maybe you're just a pussy because you're a pussy Todd, [Aubrey laughs] not because of the soybeans. This is very similar to the mercury and vaccine stuff, where it's just like, “Yeah, if this was true, we would fucking know it” and it would be super obvious. There’re vast differences between populations and how much soy they're eating. It would be really fucking easy to measure.
Aubrey: So, Men's Health unwittingly plants a seed, and by 2015, what becomes, frankly, a real modern classic of the Internet. I sent you a link.
Micheal: I'm afraid, I'm afraid.
Aubrey: This is what we will be watching.
Michael: Oh, this shit. I've seen this, Aubrey. I've seen this so many times. [laughs]
Aubrey: Well, see it again.
Michael: I love this shit. Okay, the title is Alex Jones Gay Bomb Rant. [Aubrey chuckles] Let's not do 1.5 because I feel like we want the full experience. [laughs]
Aubrey: You want to really let it breathe. [laughs]
Aubrey: Yeah, this is when you become like a garbage clip sommelier.
Alex Jones: By the way, they didn't just test it, they sprayed them with gay bombs. If you're a new listener, [Aubrey giggles] just type in [unintelligible 00:24:59] tested gay bomb on Iraq. They didn't consider using it. They've used it on our troops, in Vietnam. They'd spray PCP on the troops, Jacob's ladder.
Michael: Jacob's ladder.
Alex Jones: You think PCP, some horse tranquilizer or something? Ha-ha. They got stuff that'll whack your brain permanently. [Aubrey laughs] They give the troops special vaccines that are really nanotech that already reengineer their brain.
Michael: [laughs] Then he cuts to Wikipedia.
Alex Jones: There it is, the gay bomb. [Aubrey laughs] Look it up for yourself. This is what they're-- What do you think tap water is? It's a gay bomb, baby. I'm not saying people didn't naturally have homosexual feelings. I'm not even getting into it quite frankly. I mean, give me a break.
Michael: Let's be responsible.
Alex Jones: You think I am like, oh, shocked by it. So, I'm up here bashing it because I don't like gay people? I don't like them putting chemicals in the water that turn the frigging frogs gay. [Aubrey giggles] Do you understand that?
Michael: He's clarifying his views.
Alex Jones: [bangs desk] Crap. I'm sick of being social engineered. It's not funny.
Alex Jones: Okay. Damn it. I just dropped a bunch of stuff off the side of here. I need those articles [unintelligible 00:26:03].
Michael: I can do that now because I have a mic.
Alex Jones: I apologize to the family audience. I'm going to settle down. I haven't done this in months and I just cannot handle it anymore. I apologize. I apologize. Jesus, forgive me.
Alex Jones: Let me just get back to the news. Thank you. Children becoming hunchbacks due to addiction to smartphones.
Michael: Sounds real.
Aubrey: [laughs] That's all, you can stop there.
Alex Jones: For Northeast Release [unintelligible [00:26:27]
Aubrey: Michael, the amount of restraint it took me to not play the entire 11 minutes.
Michael: I know, I want to keep going.
Aubrey: I have to collect myself. I have watched this so many times.
Michael: I was about to make fun of him for working himself up into a lather and being like, “I can't do this anymore.” Then, I remembered what we do for a living.
Aubrey: That's our whole thing.
Michael: The same, the whole thing [laughs]
Aubrey: [laughs] We live in a glass house, so I'm not going to do this anymore.
Michael: Yeah. Who can say that they're better than the gay bomb guy?
Aubrey: So, the lead into this and the lead out of this little segment is him genuinely just like leafing through pages of stapled packets of printed out internet news stories.
Michael: It's so fucking funny though, like all the papers on his desk, [laughs] which makes it seem like, “Oh, he's going through and reading the studies and stuff,” but this man has not read a complete sentence in his entire life.
Aubrey: No. Also, like an intern printed out 100% of these and he's literally reading off headlines.
Michael: Also, wait, I need to go to the gay bomb Wiki entry.
Aubrey: Michael, this was exactly the thing we were just going to do. Do not even go to the Wiki entry.
Michael: Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay.
Aubrey: Do not even go the Wiki entry. I'm going to tell you the timestamps. So, you're going to just keep your thing on pause and take yourself to 5:28ish somewhere in that neighborhood.
Aubrey: Then, we're just going to go full screen.
Aubrey: What does that full screen say, Mike? It says sources remain unclear and [chuckles] it has insufficient citations.
Michael: Oh yeah.
Aubrey: Then it says, the halitosis bomb and gay bomb are informal names for two theoretical nonlethal chemical weapons that US Air Force Research Laboratory speculated about producing. So, if you pause the show that you're watching when you're watching Alex Jones, it fully debunks itself.
Michael: It's also very funny to me because even if you could produce this bomb. It's not homosexuality just turns you into this rapacious, sex wanter immediately. If I was like in my house and cutting vegetables and all of sudden some vapor came in the room that made me straight, I would just keep cutting vegetables, my life wouldn't immediately change. [laughs]
Aubrey: You wouldn't flip over your cutting board and just tear into some raw beef.
Michael: This only works if you think that gay people are driven mad immediately by their gayness. [laughs]
Aubrey: So, Alex Jones actually doesn't specifically mention soy in this clip, but I think it's a really good indicator of where the right is at, on again this perceived threat to white masculinity. This whole thing is about, “They're turning frogs gay and there's the gay bomb.” All of this stuff is really softening the ground for this soy panic stuff.
Michael: So, I guess what we've got so far, the Men's Health article and the Alex Jones clip are basically two ends of the spectrum of the same concept. The Men's Health one is the most respectable form of the idea that like, "Ah that science says that phytoestrogens, blah blah,” and then Alex Jones is a completely out in outer space version of it that is, “You're drinking chemicals and now you're gay thing.” But basically, there's a wide spectrum of ideology that is getting this message that there is some threat to masculinity and through the form of food.
Aubrey: Yeah, absolutely. Part of what we're seeing here is that depending on what you ingest, you could become a gay frog, [Michael laughs] you could grow breasts. All of this stuff is getting reached for through this particular portal of about things that you ingest.
Michael: It's also very interesting to me that it's turning the frogs gay and that's a threat to masculinity when, “You can be gay and masculine.”
Michael: Like my Grindr profile says, “Masc4Masc.”
Aubrey: No. [laughs]
Michael: It's a very important value for me as everyone knows.
Aubrey: So, that Alex Jones freaks out is in 2015. Again, all of these things are doing just little things and little things and little things to ratchet this conversation up. It's not until 2017 that we get the emergence of soy boy as an insult. The history of who first used soy boy as a pejorative is disputed.
Aubrey: There are some folks who say that the first appearance was a 4chan comment of someone just calling someone else a soy boy cuckold.
Aubrey: Some folks claim it was Mike Cernovich. Do you know Mike Cernovich?
Michael: He's just like a far-right guy, wasn't he the Pizzagate guy?
Aubrey: Yeah, he's a blogger. He's a far-right dude. He's big in the manosphere. His claim or the thing that he's credited with in all of this is posting the following image.
Michael: Oh, no. You're going to show it to me.
Aubrey: I'm showing it to you. I'm sorry. The image quality is so tiny and small.
Michael: Okay. Oh, my fucking God. So, it's an image meme of a bunch of dudes in suits and he's superimposed a bunch of those pussy hats from the Women's March on top of them. Then the header says, “The Soy Boys.” Then it says, under that “Soy Boy, slang used to describe males who completely and utterly lack all necessary masculine qualities. This pathetic state is usually achieved by an overindulgence of emasculating products and or ideologies.” Oh, so products like tofu and SJW podcasts.
Aubrey: Mike, I feel like you've missed a critical part of text of this image and that might be down to the low resolution. Those people are Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien, James Corden-
Aubrey: -Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, Larry Wilmore, and Trevor Noah. [laughs]
Michael: Well, Bill Maher's is a Soy Boy, [Aubrey laughs] but everybody else, that's mean.
Aubrey: So, it's like a picture of late-night show host.
Michael: Why is this, why is this, what they're mad at?
Aubrey: I tried to find the source tweet, but it's been deleted. So, I don't know. Regardless of which one of these absolute fucking gremlins started it. This is the year 2017 that the concept of the soy boy took off online. There's a far-right YouTuber who releases a video called The Truth About Soy Face and it just gets tons and tons of views. That YouTuber is named Paul Joseph Watson.
Michael: I knew he was going to be in this.
Aubrey: [laughs] Tell me what you know about Paul Joseph Watson because, I didn't know shit about shit.
Michael: Is it a real accent? He's British, I think.
Aubrey: He's from Sheffield.
Michael: Wasn't he on Alex Jones' show? Wasn't he an InfoWars guy? He was a little like Karate Kid to Alex Jones' Mr. Miyagi.
Aubrey: He was an InfoWars employee for a very long time starting in 2002.
Michael: Employee, imagine filling out your W2-
Aubrey: Oh god.
Michael: -with InfoWars LLC. [laughs]
Aubrey: Imagine listening Alex Jones as a reference.
Aubrey: The content is all exactly what you would expect from a longtime InfoWars staffer. He's got a bunch of conspiracy theories about Islamic takeovers. He's just doing the explicit proud, misogyny, transphobia, racism, and particularly when it comes to soy he calls the popularization of soy, “A globalist chemical warfare program” for the uninitiated globalist is used as antisemitic dog whistle.
Aubrey: It is built on the idea for many that the world is run by a secret cabal of Jewish people.
Michael: It's also the same thing, they maintain just enough plausible deniability to be like, “Well, we never said it was antisemitic.”
Aubrey: It's the ringtone that only teenagers can hear. [laughs]
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: [laughs] They just say globalist and only racist are Jewish people.
Aubrey: So, that's 2018. The next stop in our story is a very weird one. It takes us to a trade publication from the plain states in 2019 when a veterinarian publishes a piece in his local trade publication, the Tri-state Livestock News.
Aubrey: He wrote a piece focused on the impossible whopper that included the absolute banger of a line, “Here's to hoping that the impossible whopper is a possible flopper.” [laughs]
Michael: Oh, God.
Michael: That's like something we would try as a tagline and be like, “Oh, even for you Mike.”
Aubrey: [laughs] I would fire you for that. [laughs] So, the idea behind this piece is that the main ingredient in impossible meat and beyond meat is soy. So, in this piece, he claims that, “An impossible whopper has 18 million times as much estrogen as a regular whopper,” and he directly says that eating four impossible whoppers per day would, “Grow boobs on a male.”
Michael: Oh, God.
Aubrey: He says 18 million times as much estrogen. There is no estrogen. It's phytoestrogens, which are similar, but a different thing.
Michael: Is he just making this number up? Where is anybody getting this?
Aubrey: He's just pulling this shit out of thin air and listen this piece went viral. This goes so far and wide that at one point this guy gets a call from a reporter at The Atlantic who is like, “Hey, do you want to say anything about how far and wide this has gone?” He was like, “Yeah, we published a retraction. I didn't expect this to go that far and wide. I understand now that I'm wrong and I wish I'd never written it.” He really goes hard on, “I fucked this up.”
Aubrey: But that doesn't get, of course, anywhere near as far. It's not until 2021 that the mainstream of the GOP really keys into soy panic and the masculinity crisis.
Michael: Wait, how many years from Alex Jones are we? [laughs] It’s like from Alex Jones to like Ted Cruz, [laughs] six years?
Aubrey: Yeah, six years. Exactly. Six years.
Michael: That's actually a little slower than it usually takes.
Aubrey: So, 2021 is when Josh Hawley starts talking about masculinity stuff more. This is when J.D. Vance has his garbage tweets about Kyle Rittenhouse being an issue of broken homes and fathers and abandoning our boys and all of that. In 2021, Joni Ernst, who's a Republican from Iowa, introduces a bill called the Telling Agencies to Stop Tweaking what Employees Eat Act.
Michael: Oh, that has to stand for something.
Aubrey: Which is the TASTEE Act.
Michael: Oh, God.
Aubrey: The TASTEE Act would ban meatless Mondays in federal buildings.
Michael: This is such pussy shit. Stop banning stuff that you don't like. It's so bizarre to me. It's turning me into one of these fucking men's rights guys. I'm like, “This is the pussification of America, is men fucking moaning about shit like this all the time.” [Aubrey laughs]
Aubrey: This narrative really reaches a crescendo actually, last year, when Tucker Carlson released a documentary called The End of Men.
Michael: The Red Ball, The Red Ball obelisk documentary.
Aubrey: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael: Yes, I saw the trailer.
Aubrey: The red-light scrotum tanning.
Michael: Which we both refused to Google because we're like, “Oh, my God, we're not going to spend time on this.”
Aubrey: But then I did spend time on it. I watched it a couple of times-
Michael: Okay, Jesus Christ.
Aubrey: -making things terrible. We're not going to go into it here because I want to do a bonus episode on it because every sentence in it is the most bananas, nonsense you've ever heard.
Michael: Rich text.
Aubrey: But I did want to share this one portion. It's a quote from someone who calls himself the raw egg nationalist.
Michael: A what? What are those words in that order? [Aubrey laughs] What?
Aubrey: [laughs] I love that you and I are both, join me this is gross.
Michael: God. Can we as a society agree one fucking thing? Raw eggs. Can we all just agree? Don't eat fucking raw eggs guys.
Aubrey: Not if you're talking to the raw egg nationalist.
Michael: Can we have one thing?
Aubrey: I just sent you a quote. This is something that raw egg nationalist says in this documentary that really encapsulates quite a bit of his message, as far as I can tell.
Michael: Oh, my God. This is such a masterpiece, Aubrey.
Aubrey: You're welcome.
Michael: “The enemy today is what I like to call soy globalism. The globalist aim is to destroy nations and global communities. They do this by isolating communities and sickening them through food and also through so-called medicine and all the chemicals we're exposed to on a daily basis. The globalists want you to be fat, sick, depressed, and isolated. The better to control you and milk you for as much economic value as they can before they kill you. By making an individual strong, you make a nation strong.”
Aubrey: It's wild that it is such deep, fringe, horrifying conspiracy theories. This aired on Fox News.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a “normal mainstream.”
Aubrey: This is shit that is on TV and a lot of people are watching it.
Michael: It's also it's so disingenuous, too. He says, like, “They want to milk you for as much economic value as they can.” Okay, great. So, you support a higher minimum wage then, no. You support unions, no. So, what are we-- it's like they use these arguments, but they don't actually believe any of this shit. They're just preying on people who are low information enough that they don't know the actual ideology behind this stuff because none of these people are going to make your life any better.
Aubrey: Yeah. I mean it's also wild to just think through all of this and be like, “Man, there are so many legit things to worry about with cis men’s health, but none of them are this.”
Michael: Get your prostate checked.
Aubrey: Get your regular screening, get you your prostate checked, get your fucking vaccines, get your shingles vaccines, go to the doctor regularly. There's a bunch of stuff that we could actually actively be working on with cis dudes.
Michael: Yeah, I feel like the biggest thing with cis dudes these days is depression, loneliness, suicides, and potentially drug overdoses. There are real problems that I think are absolutely worth taking seriously, but to take them seriously, you have to talk about the actual problem.
Aubrey: So, now we're in this place where the cat's out of the bag.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: I think we're at a point now where it is threatening to tip from a far-right idea to a center-right idea that's already happened, but from a center-right idea back to being a mainstream myth-
Aubrey: -about health and that part makes me nervous.
Michael: Also, it's weirdly important to these man gurus or something that masculinity has to be under attack all the time. They have this strange conception where it's like, “Masculinity is this all-powerful thing,” but also it can crumble down at the slightest poke.
Aubrey: This masculinity under attack, the war on Christmas, all of that shit is a way of being, “I'm actually just defending myself and you’re the one who's attacking me.”
Michael: Right. This is self-defense.
Aubrey: So, it allows people to do this weird Jedi mind trick with themselves.
Michael: Because it's also it's like, “If you don't want to eat tofu, don't eat tofu. Not everybody likes tofu.” It's totally fine. “If you don't want to go see Barbie, don't go see.” It's fine.
Aubrey: Nobody gives a shit.
Michael: It's like the weird-- There's something so fucking insecure about all of this stuff, and I don't want to call these people soy beta cucks because that's problematic to invoke. But it is by their own fucking standards of masculinity, this is not alpha behavior.
Aubrey: This is some real beta bullshit.
Michael: It's some beta bullshit, dude. Take it from a 5'6" podcaster [Aubrey laughs] with huge hands.
Aubrey: Take it from the Leftist podcaster who's gay.
Michael: The gay SJW podcaster. [Aubrey laughs]. This carpal tunnel does not allow him to get in fights, but still.
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[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]