MSNBC opinion writer, NPR, others see right-wing threats to everything from motherhood to gaming to exercise

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MSNBC and other left-leaning outlets have lately found right-wing threats lurking to corrupt various, seemingly apolitical aspects of American life, from the concept of motherhood to exercise groups.

Last week, a guest MSNBC opinion piece by Professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss warned, in a piece headlined “How right-wing extremists weaponize the idea of motherhood,” that women and mothers “play a more significant role in far-right extremist movements than is often acknowledged.”

“Motherhood plays an especially key role in the kinds of rhetorical strategies far-right extremists use, including the kinds of ‘utopian propaganda’ that calls on followers to reject modernity and embrace ‘traditional values’ and roles,” Miller-Idriss wrote. “But women aren’t called upon to be entirely passive as mothers, or to be relegated completely to domestic tasks. Rather, motherhood is used to justify women’s engagement in activism and to ‘depoliticize’ their actions by positioning them as acting on behalf of their children and families.”

MSNBC headline reading  "How right-wing extremists weaponize the idea of motherhood"

MSNBC headline reading  “How right-wing extremists weaponize the idea of motherhood”
(MSNBC)

The surge in national debate over children’s education and such hot-button topics as critical race theory and gender fluidity discussions in schools have put parents at the forefront of American politics. Miller-Idriss fretted that far-right elements bring mothers into the fold by playing to the themes of “child exploitation and protection.”

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“It’s easy to understand why calling on women to protect their children from unimaginable harm is effective. But that’s also what makes it so dangerous. Because motherhood itself is being used to manipulate women and to recruit, mobilize and justify violent and antidemocratic actions,” she wrote.

Online “gaming” is yet another non-political entity that some media outlets worry is being captured by right-wing element.

“Far-right extremists are a growing presence in gaming, researchers have found, while the industry’s hidden metrics, lackluster content moderation and head-in-the-sand attitudes get in the way of assessing and combatting the problem,” Axios reported last week.

It quoted a think tank expert who called what Axios referred to as “extremism in games” a “growing threat.” A separate nonprofit research director, Rachel Kowert, warned that online gamers form dangerously tight relationships.

“While it may be a small number of players, compared to the billions of players, they are a very hardened, very influential, very dangerous group of people who are living their lives in these gaming spaces, with little to no consequences to their actions or behaviors,” Kowert told Axios.

In March, another MSNBC opinion piece by Miller-Idriss warned about “fascist fitness,” suggesting White supremacists were bringing new members to their ranks through the use of fitness groups.

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“Initially lured with health tips and strategies for positive physical changes, new recruits are later invited to closed chat groups where far-right content is shared,” she wrote.

Although Miller-Idriss acknowledged that fitness is mostly a hobby that is “enjoyable and rewarding for brain health and overall well-being,” she highlighted the connection between fitness and extremist ideals.

“The intersection of extremism and fitness leans into a shared obsession with the male body, training, masculinity, testosterone, strength and competition. Physical fitness training, especially in combat sports, appeals to the far right for many reasons: fighters are trained to accept significant physical pain, to be ‘warriors,’ and to embrace messaging around solidarity, heroism, and brotherhood,” she wrote.

Also in March, an NPR podcast explored how environmentalism overlaps with racism and Nazis. 

During a “Consider This” podcast, host Ari Shapiro and his guests had a discussion titled, “The Growing Overlap Between The Far-Right And Environmentalism.” The pair explored ways the environment movement was tied to White supremacy and even Naziism.  

“The idea that natural purity translates into racial or national purity, that was one that was very central to the Nazis’ environmental discourse. ‘Unspoiled’ forest goes hand in hand with racial purity or something like that. The Nazis saw themselves as environmentalists,” Blair Taylor, researcher at the Institute for Social Ecology, said.

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Researcher Alex Amend insisted that this side of environmentalism has been “rediscovered” by the alt-right and could be used in a form of eco-fascism.

Fox News’ Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report.

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