May 31, 2023 - 1:00pm

While the political beliefs of Mark Zuckerberg remain somewhat enigmatic, his more recent recreational pursuits may reveal something about the ideological trajectory of the mysterious, rubber-faced man behind the social media empire. The Facebook boss neither discloses his voting history nor reveals any explicit partisan leanings. Media conjecture swings wildly, with pundits labelling him everything from Right-wing conservative to Left-wing liberal. As a quintessential Silicon Valley magnate, Zuckerberg appears to have a market-oriented commitment to free speech and has displayed periodic hesitation regarding rigorous content filtration and censorship on Facebook.

Zuckerberg is a man of few passions, but the ones he has exhibited — cooking meat, competing in BJJ tournaments, and doing CrossFit — tend to be coded “Right” in today’s absurdly polarised environment. Further, his affinity for Greco-Roman history, a common interest among online “trads”, is evident in the classically-inspired names he’s chosen for his children. His first daughter, Maxima, is named after Maximus — a Latin moniker used by emperors like Magnus Maximus, who usurped the throne in 383 CE from Gratian. The name of his second daughter, August, pays homage to the legendary Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, whom Zuckerberg regards as an intriguing historical figure.

Among the social media mogul’s Right-oriented hobbies, his passion for Brazilian jiu-jitsu stands out. This martial art — associated with figures like UFC commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan and 10th Planet founder Eddie Bravo, both of whom are known for their sceptical attitudes towards government and Left-leaning politics — is one in which the slim Zuckerberg, once an avid surfer in spite of his permanent pallor, has displayed a growing proficiency. He recently claimed victory in the no-gi white belt 149-pound division at the BJJ Tour Silicon Valley, competing in the bracket for athletes in their 30s. 

Zuckerberg also trains using CrossFit methodologies, a fitness regimen with a surprisingly Right-leaning history. The company’s founder, Greg Glassman, was compelled to step down after offhand tweets about the death of George Floyd and the Covid-19 pandemic provoked a ferocious rebuke from the Left. 

Facebook founder Zuckerberg recently boasted about undertaking CrossFit workouts such as “Murph” — one of many physically demanding “workouts of the day” named to honour fallen soldiers and first responders. On Memorial Day, he documented his successful completion of this endurance-based workout, which involves lots of running, push-ups, squats, and pull-ups — all while wearing a 20-pound vest. (Donald Trump, Jr. completed the workout sans required weighted vest a few years ago and almost certainly lied about the time it took him to complete it.) 

There has been extensive speculation about Zuckerberg’s possible leanings towards Chinese interests due to his marital ties (which is strange, because his wife, Priscilla Chan, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants from Vietnam who fled the latter country as refugees). However, an alternative reading of his day-to-day activities potentially positions him as even more “based” than Elon Musk, who has yet to win a single BJJ tournament, white belt or otherwise. Alternatively, much like many others who share these hobbies — including myself — he may simply be a soggy centrist and contrarian with an abiding love for meat, muscle, and martial arts.

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work