Renowned entrepreneur Elon Musk and podcast host Joe Rogan recently joined in widespread criticism of an opinion columnist from MSNBC, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who made a controversial claim suggesting that physical fitness is a ploy used by white supremacists to recruit followers. The bizarre assertion drew swift backlash from Musk and Rogan, both known for their involvement in fitness and wellness pursuits.
Musk took to Twitter to express his incredulity, stating, “MSNBC thinks you’re a Nazi if you work out lmaooo,” and humorously added, “Parody & reality are becoming indistinguishable.”
Rogan, a fitness enthusiast himself, echoed the sentiment, exclaiming, “Being healthy is ‘far right.’ Holy f***.”
Miller-Idriss, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., argued that the far-right movement exploits the surge in at-home fitness during the pandemic to radicalize individuals through physical mixed martial arts and combat sports. She claimed that new recruits are enticed with health tips and then invited into closed-chat groups. To support her argument, she referenced Adolf Hitler’s interest in boxing and jujitsu, suggesting that these activities played a role in his vision of a formidable army.
According to Miller-Idriss, “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. It’s championed as a tool to help fight the ‘coming race war’ and the street battles that will precede it.”
Social media users joined Musk and Rogan in expressing skepticism over Miller-Idriss’ assertions. One Twitter user remarked that MSNBC fears fitness, homeschooling, parental rights, and religious liberty, while another dismissed the claim as an “insane conspiracy theory.”
This is not the first time Miller-Idriss has made controversial claims linking unconventional practices to far-right ideologies. In a previous article, she alleged a connection between homeschooling and white supremacist movements, suggesting that some homeschooling curricula are designed to indoctrinate children into white supremacy. She cited Germany’s ban on homeschooling, framing it as an example of a state’s obligation to foster democratic citizenship and reject extremist ideologies.
“Homeschooling as a strategy to indoctrinate children into white supremacy is nothing new,” she stated.
“There’s a reason why Germany, some 80 years after the Holocaust, does not allow homeschooling: because they see the state as having an obligation to teach democratic citizenship and socialize children in ways that lead to the rejection of antisemitic and extremist ideologies,” she concluded.
Miller-Idriss’ assertions, however, have attracted criticism for their lack of evidence and for seemingly perpetuating baseless conspiracy theories. Critics argue that attempting to associate health, fitness, and homeschooling with far-right extremism reflects a flawed understanding of these subjects.
The far right’s obsession with fitness is going digital https://t.co/saGOFXMn64
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 10, 2023