Beware the radicalized right-wing extremists at your local gym!
I know what you’re thinking, here’s a clickbait title, if ever there was one!
I must be making it up or at the very least exaggerating wildly because no one would be stupid enough to associate gyms and health clubs with violent, politically motivated extremists.
Step forward Bedfordshire Police’s social media team.
Building on the solid foundation of last week’s classic bit of Orwellian nonsense from Wiltshire Constabulary, where they now set themselves up as being the Police of what is fair in life:
Bedfordshire Police have jumped the shark on even this morsel of silliness with a series of tweets, some of which have now been deleted following scathing public ridicule, that told a sorry tale of where their priorities lie for dealing with the growing problem of radicalization.
We need the grammar and spelling police, not Bedfordshire Police, with that tweet, but other tweets were bizarrely telling the unsuspecting gym goer to be wary of “right wing extremism” at the gym:
I strongly suspect we all have an idea of the places in which the Police should be raising awareness against radicalization, but the sad momentum of politically correct appeasement continues to gather pace, Rotherham scandals be damned.
It’s ironic that in their vainglorious quest to not be seen as racist, they’ve fallen hook, line and sinker into the Left’s bete-noire of the racism of low expectations, as if sane and reasonable Muslims would be offended by raising the issue of the radicalization that is quite clearly ruining lives in certain schools, Mosques, and prisons.
I’m not supposed to be a political commentator, so this is a subject that I have to brush past pretty quickly. What I am an expert on, however, is the far less controversial (or so I thought) subject of gyms and fitness clubs.
If I know anything in life, it’s what goes on inside gyms. Especially the rough, tough, male-dominated gyms that Bedfordshire Police must have had in mind.
After all, surely they can’t be suggesting that female-dominated health spas are turning out a new wave of Nazis onto the streets of middle England?
I joined my first gym in the leafy Northern town of Ilkley as a 14-year-old way back in 1986, graduated to some of the most famous and notorious bodybuilding gyms throughout the UK, and of late am the owner of gyms on four different continents of the world. I don’t know much about policing or extremism of any kind, but I do know what happens inside gyms.
To the uninitiated, gyms can be intimidating environments. The naturally insecure amongst us will walk in for the first time and think all these hyper-toned, sweating, grunting lumps of sinew and muscle will look down on you for the sin of being “ordinary.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Gyms are some of the most egalitarian places you could ever wish to find. You’re not working in a team, so no one is going to get frustrated with you if you don’t pull your weight. All that will happen is that will no one will notice you.
If you start off a hopeless neophyte and try hard, you’ll find that the worst you’ll ever get is no attention, and some of the better people will actively encourage you. As cliched as it sounds, everyone was a beginner at some point, and the world of weight training, with its years of patient progression and working up the ladder, is one of the best examples you can find of the value and respect given to paying your dues.
I’ve been the lanky kid from the posh school going into a ‘spit and sawdust’ city centre Bradford gym. No one there was from a similar background, whilst I was deciding between PPE or English Literature as a degree, they were working the doors in nightclubs.
In many other environments that negative English trait of reverse snobbery would have come to the fore, I’ve seen it many times in many sports. Yet in the gym, because I worked hard, all I ever got were words and nods of encouragement.
Gyms, not middle class health clubs, are often a version of a social club where men are allowed to be men. There’s good and there’s bad to that, and I’m not going to defend Trump-esque locker room talk. I’ve seen incredible acts of generosity, small kindnesses, and gained lifelong friendships.
Gyms are not idyllic oases of calm. When you get a bunch of testosterone-fuelled, relatively young men together, sparks are going to fly. I’ve seen fist fights, knives, guns and the real life cast of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Their world won’t cross into your world if you share a set of dumbbells, and I’d argue that the education seeing a different side of life can give a young man is invaluable.
Some gyms are places where guys who graft get together. They lift weights and “plan some business.” Oftentimes, this is side by side with police officers who are solely in the gym to grab a workout. One of my gyms is a weight training focused facility in Marbella, some days it’s like a social club for men with bent noses.
What the superstar social media team of Bedfordshire Police have missed out on is that in these gyms men often look out for each other. If they see someone getting in with the wrong (criminal) crowd, they will “have a word.” They won’t necessarily stop it, but there are always older and wiser heads to set you straight.
The idea that gyms have become a breeding ground for right wing radicalization is astonishing to me. Forget about the fact that right wing extremism in the UK pales into comparison with other forms of extremism; it misses the point about what gyms are about. You see the same faces week after week; there’s a bond that grows and the older men look out for the younger ones.
The biggest problem that the UK gym scene has today is underground steroids being pushed onto young men. Steroids are not the unmitigated evil that the media often portrays them as, but the current epidemic of bathtub drugs is messing with people’s physical and mental health. This is where our attention needs to be focused; I’d argue by education more than active policing, and not some fabricated right wing conspiracy that satisfies a twisted sense of political correctness.