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David French Is Completely Wrong About How COVID Affects Masculinity

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An “obsession with masculinity” allegedly characterizes the American right — and David French is obsessed with it. He’s so obsessed with it, in fact, that he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tweet about it even if it meant putting his scientific ignorance about COVID-19 on full display.

French’s most recent attack on the right’s so-called masculinity obsession came in response to an interview between Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and former British politician Nigel Farage. According to French, the duo’s discussion of how COVID-19 “weakened” Boris Johnson “as a man” was “nuts on its own terms and further evidence that a very, very weird obsession with masculinity is part and parcel of the new right.”

“Somebody who knows [Boris Johnson] told me … that getting COVID emasculated him. It changed him. It feminized him. It weakened him as a man,” Carlson said to Farage. “The virus itself — this is true — does tend to take away the life force in some people, I notice. I mean, it does feminize people. No one ever says that, but it’s true.”

French decided to dunk, and not only did he slip into one of his habitual blunders whereby he tends to view every argument of his political opponents through the lens of the 45th president’s personality — more on that later — but his characterization of the conversation as “nuts” was scientifically wrong.

One study from the Taylor and Francis Group in September 2020 found that COVID-19 lowers men’s testosterone levels. While reports had already indicated that COVID patients with low testosterone fared worse on average than those with higher levels, this study was the first to show that the Wuhan virus itself actually depletes levels of the hormone.

“In our study, the mean total testosterone decreased, as the severity of the COVID-19 increased. The mean total testosterone level was significantly lower in the ICU group than in the asymptomatic group,” according to the findings as recorded in Science Daily. “The patients who died, had significantly lower mean total testosterone than the patients who were alive.”

Additionally, more than 65 percent of the 46 male patients who were asymptomatic (of 232 total males) experienced a loss of libido.

This research wasn’t an outlier. It was replicated in a study by the National Institutes of Health, the government agency that employs Anthony Fauci, which found that patients with COVID-19 had “significantly lower levels” of testosterone than members of the healthy control group. Furthermore, low testosterone was “associated with higher risk of ICU admission and death outcomes … after accounting for clinical and laboratory parameters.”

Health researchers have theorized that the testosterone component of COVID-19 outcomes could explain why hospitals experienced such a high volume of virus-stricken male patients.

In other words, scientific research pretty clearly indicates a close relationship between coronavirus infection and the depletion of a pivotal hormone to men’s sex drive, physical strength, and physique. Low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction, fatigue, weight gain, and depression — the kinds of things that cause men to be “emasculated” or “weakened,” as Carlson put it.

Perhaps French wasn’t aware of these studies when he called the exchange “nuts.” Or perhaps he chose to ignore them so he could pull Trump and the supporters French finds so distasteful into the conversation — because that’s what he did when he shifted gears to the “new right.” In the same Twitter thread, French then shared an article he wrote last week as part of his new gig contributing to The Atlantic: “The New Right’s Strange and Dangerous Cult of Toughness.”

In it, French speaks from his soapbox about the “emerging culture of the right — a culture that idolizes a twisted version of ‘toughness’ as the highest ideal and despises a false version of ‘weakness’ as the lowest vice.”

“What makes the claims of toughness and weakness especially curious and dangerous,” French claims, “is the way in which they’re tied to the person of Donald Trump.” This is the lens French applied to the Carlson clip, linking to the article as “more on the new right’s obsession with twisted forms of toughness.”

Carlson’s comments weren’t about Trump, though, and they weren’t about abstract toughness. His comments were about the weakening of Boris Johnson as a direct result of his rough bout with COVID, and they were true and scientific. French is still just too hung up on his Trumpian political opponents to recognize that when he diagnoses their “obsession with masculinity,” he really just reveals his own obsession: them.