Episode Summary

As American conservatism is rotting out from the inside, it is slowly being replaced by both reactionism and fascism. It is a horrifying story to see, but there are also a lot of interesting things to notice as conservatism is decaying. One of those things that fascism is just as much an aesthetic as it is an ideology.

While it’s become much more radical and obsessed with imaginary stories of national doom, the American far right has also become dramatically more interested in fitness and on looking good as they define it, with an additional focus by many on ancient Greek and Roman people who are known for their statues and philosophy.

That such a rapid interest in fitness would coincide with the political career of the obese ex-president Donald Trump is more than a little bit ironic. Nonetheless, some journalists and media outlets appear to be overstating the degree to which fitness may be associated with fascism.

This episode’s guest is Natalia Mehlman Petrzela. She is the author of a new book called Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession and a previous one called Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture.