Amid the blood-spattered horrors of Kabul, perhaps the most startling response has been an outpouring of warlike passion from disaffected young Western men. But they’re not backing Western soldiers. They’re cheering on the Taliban.
Far-Right groups are gloating. One user on an online message board called the toppled Western-backed Afghan government ‘globohomo-clownworld’. He characterised this as powered by ‘liberalism, consumerism, secularism, usury, democracy, global capitalism… and most of all, feminism/women’s rights/women’s liberation’.
Such men consider abhorrent this value system that an America-led coalition spent trillions of dollars trying to instil, via two decades of Afghan ‘nation-building’.
These alienated men hate all of it – the whole woke world view, from racial tolerance to LGBT rights to feminism. And they’re lionising the Taliban as heroic anti-woke freedom fighters.
One meme circulating on social media as Kabul fell depicted barefoot Taliban fighters next to a photo of American soldiers wearing high heels for a PR stunt, mockingly connecting Western support for gender-bending to a failure of military competence. And, above all else, these angry Western men detest feminism.
Taliban fighters patrol the streets armed with weapons in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday
Following the American retreat, one far-Right forum member highlighted a report that an Afghan woman had been shot for refusing to don the hijab. He commented: ‘Whores get what they deserve.’
Another claimed that all women secretly want to be oppressed, stating that ‘soon every Afghan female will embrace their natural place and start to be happy like they haven’t been in the last 20 years’.
Others dream of imposing Islam-style modesty for women in the West. One high-profile anonymous Twitter account suggested that after the pandemic ends, women should continue to wear face masks. ‘Islam is right about women,’ he declared.
A small minority of young Western men, then, see the West’s enemies as heroic freedom fighters against a despised regime.
The Taliban are lionised not just in homophobic, antisemitic and misogynistic terms but as icons of manliness. One common image is the ‘Chad’, a stereotypically hyper-masculine man. And with the fall of Kabul, ‘Talichad’ images began to appear, adapting the ‘Chad’ with an Afghan-style turban and beard.
There has been a call for an ‘Aryan Talichad empire’ to free the world from ‘the yolk [sic] of LGBT’. ‘The Taliban is epic,’ said another. ‘As soon as we left, the Taliban took over the country in like 12 hours.’
A US Marine carries a baby as a family is processed through the evacuation control centre at an airport in Kabul
I’ll be the first to condemn this swamp of hatred – and, of course, there is a danger that in discussing it, the noxious opinions reach a wider audience. But just think for a moment about what it implies. Far from feeling a patriotic love for their own culture and nation, a minority of fighting-age Western men viscerally hate it.
They’re looking at images of gun-waving men in a violent, war-torn wasteland where women can be beaten with impunity. And they’re not horrified. They’re envious.
So how did we get here?
Mainstream public culture has changed immeasurably over even my adult life. Aged 18 and working in a pub, I was told by the landlady that sexist remarks on my appearance were ‘part and parcel of the job’. These days, I’d have grounds to take her to court on sex discrimination charges.
We have more female MPs than ever. Half of all doctors are female. More women than men go to university. Big companies publish gender pay gap data.
Across the West, you can be fired for being lecherous to women, or saying unkind things about LGBT people: in July, a teacher was fired from a Surrey school for referring to a transgender pupil as ‘that’.
Even the American military industry is now run by women. Defence manufacturing behemoths Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman all have female CEOs. It’s difficult to find mainstream cultural imagery that doesn’t at least superficially support the ‘girlboss’ consensus.
U.S. service members assist the Department of State with a non-combatant evacuation operation in Afghanistan on Saturday
Gillette faced a backlash in 2019 for lecturing its (male) customers on ‘toxic masculinity’. Nike, a company that (according to its own reports) makes twice as much money from selling menswear as womenswear, ran a campaign that featured a pink-haired teenage girl sneering at ‘patriarchy’.
If you’re a middle-class white woman, as I am, this is all greatly to your advantage. But clearly not everyone is on board.
When a 22-year-old man shot dead five people in Plymouth earlier this month, his horrifying actions were widely connected to his radicalisation by an ideology spread by the same men lionising the Taliban.
The shootings prompted an outbreak of Nice White Women on TV, talking about ‘toxic masculinity’ and the poisonous bigotry of ‘radicalised’ far-Right online cultures.
But the only cure usually available to deal with such disaffection is a mixture of therapy and repression. As one feminist cartoon put it, more mental-health resources plus a redoubling of efforts to ‘strangle misogyny at the root’.
But if education was the answer to creating egalitarian young men, we wouldn’t be where we are.
De-industrialisation has driven an increasingly feminised education and employment landscape. Traditional sources of male employment have been replaced by service-economy and caring roles, where physical strength and camaraderie take second place and soft skills are all-important.
To meet these changing employment needs, schools turned away from teaching knowledge in a disciplined, competitive environment in favour of teaching soft skills. Teachers are 70 per cent female – 82 per cent so at primary level.
Pictured: A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021
And yet somehow this isn’t translating into universal male adoption of a more feminine – or feminist – mindset. Instead, boys are tuning out: girls now consistently outperform boys at school.
Meanwhile, as the youth unemployment rate has soared over the pandemic, it’s hit young men far harder than young women.
Amid rising unemployment, these alienated, embittered young men spend their days marinated in violent, misogynistic pornography and violently sexist computer games. They see shrinking opportunities, contempt for masculine role models, and a world that appears to hate them. Small wonder, perhaps, that such men look enviously at Afghanistan, the one place in the world where a cartoonish woman-hating machismo looks to be winning.
Just as they tried in Afghanistan, our Moral Betters have sought to impose liberal democracy and woke feminism from the top down here. And like in Afghanistan, they’ve failed to win hearts and minds. Instead, they’ve created a paper-thin fake consensus over a boiling pit of angry resentment.
You don’t have to agree with those posting ‘Talichad’ memes to think this an ominous state of affairs. And, I fear, it will be our daughters who’ll pay the price.
Mary Harrington is a columnist for UnHerd.