When Salon’s Brendan Gauthier recently wrote about the alt-right’s reaction to #Donald Trump’s humiliating performance in the first presidential debate, he included the following quote from a 4chan user defending the Republican nominee’s alleged stiffing of contractors:
“As an alpha [Trump] has no problem with asserting his will. You beta cucks wouldnt [sic] understand because when the waiter brings you the wrong order you are too busy shoe gazing at your cell phones to dispute in front of your step-sons mom [sic].”
This definitely isn’t the first time that “alpha male” rhetoric has been used to describe Trump by his radical right-wing supporters. Indeed, it’s pretty obvious from Trump’s hyper-masculine rhetoric that he views himself as an alpha-male figure — or, at the very least, that he wants to convince others this is the case. That’s why we need to remind ourselves that alpha malehood isn’t just a myth; it’s an Achilles’ heel that has been far more of a weakness than a strength for Trump and his supporters, and will inevitably doom their mutual quest for power.
It’s helpful to start by recognizing that the scientific literature that popularized the term “alpha male” is outdated. “The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book ‘The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,’” explains L. David Mech, one of the scientists whose aforementioned text helped bring the alpha-male concept into conventional use. After pointing out that the last 40 years have revolutionized scientific understanding of wolf social hierarchies, he goes on to write that “one of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. ‘Alpha’ implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack.”