Are Frat Boys Normal?

Are Frat Boys Normal?

As I mentioned in passing last week but didn’t announce formally, I was traveling this week.  It was for a good cause, and I learned a few things – some of which I will share next week.

While I was away, the tide of the anti-Israel/pro-Hamas campus protests appears to have turned.  Not only did school officials and metropolitan police departments crack down on demonstrators and their rather aggressive tactics, but a new and incredibly unlikely group of heroes emerged: frat boys.

First, of course, a group of young men from Pi Kappa Phi at the University of North Carolina saved the American flag from touching the ground when the protesters took it down, intending to replace it with the Palestinian flag.  They’re pictured below, with at least one brother reeaaallly enjoying the entire episode, exactly as he should.  Then some fraternity brothers at UCLA participated in demolishing one protest campsite.  Then the young men from LSU chanted “USA, USA” at protesters.  Then a protest at Ol’ Miss was drowned out by frat boys singing the Star Spangled Banner.  And then those same boys got into a tussle or two with one of the protesters.  All in all, social media has been awash with frat boy videos, frat boy memes, and frat boy criticism (because of course).

Some frat boy critics are precisely the type of judgmental, self-righteousness racialists you’d expect them to be.  Some are conservatives who think that the fightin’ frat boys project the wrong “image” and that the pushback against the protests should be more refined and restrained.  And naturally, some frat boy critics are just a**holes.

At the same time, however, Hedge funder Bill Ackman gave the UNC fraternity brothers some money, as did Jerry Seinfeld’s wife.  Country music star John Rich promised to hold a concert in their honor, and the folks over at Fox News can’t stop proclaiming the greatness of the nation’s new saviors.

For our part, we think the whole thing is kind of a hoot.  More to the point, we think that this could be the start of something big.

Now, to be clear, we don’t think that frat boys are going to save the country or that people should get too wrapped up in these young men’s “heroics.”  It looks to us like they’re mostly just having some fun, poking their woke-scold classmates in the proverbial eye after decades of being on the receiving end of the pokes.

What this does suggest, however, is that “normies” may finally have had enough.  These frat boys are, more or less, EveryMan.  They’re just a bunch of goofy college kids who are tired of being told to wear masks and to maintain their social distance.  They’re tired of paying $30,000-plus/year for “remote learning.”  They’re tired of being yelled at for their “privilege” and for being “the worst oppressors in the history of ever.”  They’re tired, frankly, of discussing privilege and going to “unconscious bias” training and having every aspect of their lives politicized and criticized.  They’re just plain tired of the way they’re expected to live their lives today, in order to accommodate others’ political obsessions.

And who can blame them?

Unlike a handful of other commentators, we do NOT think that this definitively represents the “end of woke” or the collapse from “peak woke” or whatever.  But we do think that it could have a significant impact on elections and the makeup of government at all levels over the next few years.

This is not the first time that American politics has been shaken by a demand for a return to normalcy.  Super-duper-long-time readers may recall that we confidently predicted a victory for George W. Bush in 2000 because we sensed that the voters were done with the drama of the Clinton years.  The American people were tired then too.  They wanted their lives back and to be free from the seamy mess that the Clintons had made of Washington.  There was no way they were going to elect Al Gore, we insisted, A.) knowing that his presidency would represent a third Clinton term, and B.) believing (correctly, it turns out) that the guy was probably, down deep, even weirder than Bill.

We were right in that Bush won and in that he represented “normalcy,” but we were wrong about that normalcy ever becoming a reality.  Eight months into Bush’s presidency, the world changed – brutally, dramatically, and in a way that would prevent this nation from being “normal” for a long, long time.

In each of the last two presidential elections “normalcy” has been on the ballot as well, although to a lesser extent.  Trump won in 2016 in large part because he was more normal than Hillary Clinton (not that that’s an especially high bar), and Biden won in 2020 because he appeared more normal than Trump (again, a low bar).

In the short term, if a return to normalcy is truly on the people’s minds and is, thus, on the ballot this year, then it’s to Trump’s advantage.  Between his mental condition, his physical condition, his increasingly polarizing politics, and his inability to do much of anything, Joe Biden looks less and less normal by the day – so much so that the guy on trial in seemingly every courthouse across the country is the more normal of the two major-party candidates, while the vaccines-cause-autism nutjob Kennedy appears sane by comparison.

In the long term, a return to normalcy would be bad news for both parties because…well…look at them!  I mean…just because Donald Trump is more normal than Joe Biden, that doesn’t mean that he is normal.  Additionally, Biden and Trump, two wholly abnormal specimens, may well be the most normal elected officials in their parties because…well…look at them!  And don’t even get us started on the psychoses that Trump has inspired among some of the more prominent of his former-Republican critics.  Yikes.

The frat boy thing will likely prove to be a short-lived political phenomenon, which makes sense since it’s really an anti-political phenomenon.  Nevertheless, it may be the tip of the spear in the backlash against our overly politicized and overly neurotic culture.

Even if it’s not, that’s fine.  Sometimes, boys – and girls – just wanna have fun.  And if that fun comes at the expense of their super-earnest cohorts who have fallen under the spell of antisemitic propaganda, who are we to complain?

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.