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Michael Walsh made the case for “toxic mas­culinity” on Tuesday. COURTESY

Michael Walsh is an author, screen­writer, and jour­nalist. He was a music critic and  foreign cor­re­spondent at TIME Mag­azine for sixteen years, cov­ering events ranging from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Vladimir Horowitz’s return to Russia. He is the author of several novels, including “As Time Goes By,” a sequel to the film “Casablanca.” On Nov. 19, he gave a lecture titled “In Praise of Toxic Mas­culinity” at Hillsdale College. 

What is toxic mas­culinity and what is its role in society?

I’m not exactly sure how the people who com­plain about it define it. I think they just mean normal mas­culinity, whose meaning in society is changing. The left’s assaults on mas­culinity are based on some new­fangled notion of what the proper rela­tionship between the sexes should be. They’ve created this whole world where there are mul­tiple sexes and genders and a lot of craziness. I want to cut through all that. I think 10,000 years of human history and evo­lution don’t just vanish overnight. And as the old mar­garine com­mercial used to go, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. 

What will result from the wide­spread accep­tance of fringe ideas about sex and gender?

These ideas will reach a peak of stupid and then recede. These things always do go away, because they can’t support them­selves. They are fun­da­men­tally irra­tional reac­tions to external stimuli. There’s a famous book called “Extra­or­dinary Popular Delu­sions and the Madness of Crowds,” which out­lines various bubbles and cases of mass psy­chosis, like the French financial scandal just before the French Rev­o­lution when people were buying shares in the Mis­sis­sippi Company, which was largely illusory. People believe what they want to believe, and the power of belief is strong enough to overcome physical and phys­i­o­logical con­tra­dic­tions, until it isn’t. And then it stops. 

Why do you think these groups see mas­culinity as a threat?

I’m not sure — that’s between them and their inner voices. But I think that there’s a great amount of resentment in the modern fem­inist movement. It looks at men as if they’re these superior beings and it dis­counts any dis­tinc­tions in the way humans relate to each other, whether physical, intel­lectual, or emo­tional. It’s very similar to the leftist idea that everyone is exactly the same, and that every­thing should be dis­tributed exactly pro­por­tionally. In no case is that true in nature. 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I’m a pianist and I was a com­poser in college at the Eastman School of Music, but I always knew that I would be a writer. I studied music to improve my musical skills, but when I came out of Eastman I almost imme­di­ately went into jour­nalism and music crit­icism. 

As a music critic, what is your opinion of the current music scene?

About pop music, I have no idea. I stopped lis­tening to pop music when the Beatles broke up. Every­thing else was just not going to be as good. They were an amaz­ingly influ­ential group and they brought so much that was syn­thet­i­cally new to music, which they derived from the blues and Elvis and 50s rock. They were fresh and they were extremely good song­writers. They’re much better than the hor­rible, hideously over­rated, absolutely worthless Rolling Stones. Don’t even get me started! I still listen to some very obscure bands from the 60s that no one’s ever heard of anymore, like the Incredible String Band, for example. It was just two guys, and the music is incredibly weird, but either it’ll speak to you or it won’t. 

What was it like to cover the fall of the Berlin Wall?

I speak German, so I had been going to East Berlin since 1985, and I had a lot of friends on the com­munist side. Between ‘85 and ‘89 I’d get in through the famous Check­point Charlie. And you’d go from light and color to black and white. When the wall came down, it was scary because you didn’t know how the guards on the east side were going to react. They were heavily armed and trained to kill, but at some point they decided that it was no longer worth killing people to pre­serve this fiction. And once everyone got pretty used to the fact that they weren’t going to be shot, the mood got better. 

How did your expe­rience in com­munist East Germany influence your view of American pol­itics?

It made it clear to me that we don’t want that here. Take it from all the Rus­sians that came over and said, ‘Are you crazy? You want com­munism in this country?’ I’ll tell you, the thing about being in a com­munist country is the stench. It’s the stink of coal fumes, gasoline, clothes that haven’t been washed in a thousand years. I always get a kick out of people that think America is pol­luted. If you want to see pol­lution, you should have been in East Germany, Poland, or Russia. I spent a lot of time in Moscow and I was there when Cher­nobyl blew up. Every­where I go, some­thing happens. But it’s a good life lesson for everybody, that what seems per­manent today can be gone tomorrow. Lit­erally.