Ciaran Colleran analyses the emergence of right wing ‘men’s rights’ groups
‘Men’s Right’s Activism’ and Red Pill Philosophy first revealed itself to the public in 2014 when Elliot Rodgers, who was associated with the movement, went on a murderous rampage, killing six people. In his online tirades against women he repeatedly referred to the jargon connected with the philosophy: ‘Alpha, Beta, Incel’. It has been suggested that his hatred of women was fuelled by this online ideological echo chamber that validated and amplified his sickness.
More recently, the unapologetic Red Pill proponent Roosh V (Daryush Valizdah) was prevented from giving his seminars in England. Roosh wanted ‘Red Pillers’ (terpers) to start stepping out from behind the anonymity of the internet. He arranged meet-ups in various countries of men who subscribe to his site. However, these meetings were stopped in their tracks as the left organised on social media to confront and disrupt them.
Roosh V is the owner of the right wing website known as Return of Kings (ROK). It aims for the return of what he terms ‘Neo‑Masculinity’, to ‘foster masculinity in an age where masculinity is under attack’. He is also the author of many self-published books that offer advice to men on how to ‘pick up’ women and have sex with them. In 2015 he was vehemently criticised for a post titled ‘How to Stop Rape’, where he argued that the best way to stop rape was to legalise it.
Roosh has argued, implausibly, that this article was Swiftian satire. It seems that whenever ‘Red Pillers’ are called out and attacked for their vile misogyny, they resort to this weak defence. They then go on the attack, stating that the left has ‘no humour’ because it is crippled by political correctness. ‘Humorous’ titles on ROK range from “Five reasons to date a girl with an eating disorder” to “5 reasons fat girls don’t deserve love”. Other articles cover weight lifting, diet, self-improvement and ‘game’ (how to seduce women). Women and LGBT contributors are banned because the site is a ‘safe space’ for heterosexual men to discuss ‘heterosexual‑male‑related issues’.
Red Pill philosophy inhabits the ‘manosphere’ (a loose collection of internet sites that focus on men’s issues). It owes its existence to the Pick Up Artists craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s. What makes the Red Pill different from its earlier manifestation is that it takes the basic thesis of ‘game theory’ (how to seduce women), and runs with it, extending its application to all facets of life. The resulting perspective is a detailed, right wing political conspiracy theory which blames society for creating the illusion that women are oppressed.
Terpers proclaim the exact opposite is the case.
Terpers want to assert a reimagined masculinity in the face of a ‘politically correct world’, which they believe has emasculated and feminised men. This is the common thread linking all Red Pill websites and forums. They reject outright the idea that gender is a social construct and invokes various evolutionary psychological arguments. They argue that there is an absolute biological and neurological difference between men and women and that men have been ‘fooled by society’ into thinking that both genders are the same. Indeed, ‘Waking up to one’s masculinity’ means throwing off the ‘shackles’ of what they term ‘The Blue Pill World’ and taking the Red Pill just like Neo! (Yes, these are direct references to the Matrix). This entails men learning to be dominant in all aspects of life, including romantic relationships. Make no mistake, ‘dominant’ here means rejecting women’s sexual and political liberation and practising what can only be described as systematic emotional abuse in order to (try) to manipulate women into a submissive relationship.
Beyond the jargon it all boils down to an infantile male complaint that is saturated with patriarchal sexual entitlement; ‘women don’t want to sleep with nice guys, they only want to sleep with douchebags’. This is the centre of Red Pill Philosophy – everything else is a footnote. They believe, with fanatical faith, that ‘assholes who manage to seduce women’ embody the pure manifestation of ‘raw masculinity’ that women find irresistible, and only the Red Pill philosophy holds the key to becoming one of these ‘Alpha Males’. Terpers believe that all women put men into two camps:
- The Alpha male, a man who women view as a short term, fun sexual partner. This is a man who has the best genetic material and with whom women want to have easy non-committal sex.
- The Beta male, a man who does not measure up in physical attributes compared to the Alpha, but is seen as a good provider for long term relationships.
Terpers believe that Betas are pond scum, someone to be used and abused. Indeed, many posts start with ‘I am so ashamed when I think back to my Blue Pill Beta days’. There are also many posts that depict how Betas deserve what they get as they are the ones who have unquestionably ‘swallowed the blue pill lie’. If there is one thing these guys hate more than women, it is Betas. Any man who is seen sticking up for a woman is labelled a ‘mangina/whiteknight’ and quickly ostracised.
This dualism between Alpha and Beta ties directly into their confusing hatred for women who enjoy sex with multiple partners – confusing because most of the philosophy revolves around learning how to get women to sleep with them. Nevertheless, terpers believe that women look for Alphas in their youth to have lots of no-strings-attached sex with. Simultaneously, they believe these same women ‘friendzone’ Betas in order to extrapolate emotional resources and support, while the aloof Alpha gets what the Beta so desperately desires: causal sex. This leads to their dictum ‘Alpha fux, Beta Bux’: meaning Alphas for sex, Betas for money and resources.
Not surprisingly, these reactionaries are giving their full backing to Donald Trump in the US presidential election. Very recently, a prominent Red Pill poster who goes by the offensive online moniker ‘Gaylubeoil’ appeared on talk-show called ‘Full Frontal’ to discuss why he supports Trump. His contribution involved calling host Samantha Bee a ‘trickle-down media whore’. Furthermore, on the Reddit subreddit ‘The Red Pill’, there are many posts describing what a wonderful Alpha Trump is. Additionally, the insult ‘Cuckservative’, is used to describe those traditional conservatives who have no problem with immigration and is an example of Red Pill terminology leaking into the wider right wing discourse. A ‘cuck’ (short for ‘cuckold’) is a man who is ‘happy to let other men have intercourse with his wife’. For these men, Donald Trump is no ‘Cuckservative’, he is the only one who is willing to ‘uncuck the right’.
When reading terper material, I found myself feeling a mixture of deep anger and pity for the men that read this stuff religiously. Many of them actually write about how things were better before they ‘swallowed the Red Pill’. I can’t express enough how toxic their ideology is. It manipulates working class male insecurities in a changing world and preys upon their vulnerabilities. It takes very real, alienating economic forces and places the blame solely on women’s shoulders. They live in a world where they cannot trust women; where they are told that a woman cannot love a man in the same way that he loves her; where the only way to keep a woman who they care about in their lives is to manipulate and emotionally abuse them.
A Marxist Response
Clive Martin recently wrote a controversial piece for Vice magazine entitled ‘Rise of the douchebag’. On the surface, it seems to harbour prejudice toward working class males. However, beyond the vitriolic language which typifies Vice, Clive touches on something pertinent: the masculinity crisis. His article focuses on the rise of a new type of male, who has risen out of the debris of modern, late capitalism. The ‘douchebag’, for Martin, is characterised by a proclivity for what can only be seen as ‘hyper-masculinity’, obsessed with aesthetics and the bedding of women that comes from his endless focus on it.
This same phenomenon has been described as creating the ‘spornosexuals’ by journalist Mark Simpson – a neologism that fuses together porn star, sports star and sexual. He argues that this is the next evolutionary stage from the metrosexual. Max Olesker of Esquire, who expands on this, writes:
‘He [the spornosexual] defines himself less by the clothes he wears than by his HD-ready body, which is perpetually ready to be ogled on the beach, admired on the high street as it bursts out of a skin-tight plunging V-neck T-shirt, or rubbed-up-against under the flickering strobe of an Essex nightclub.’
I believe that this phenomenon is related, albeit different, to the rise of the Red Pill. Indeed it shares many traits – 1) The injunction to lift weights, 2) The focus on aesthetics, 3) The objectification of women.
If these aforementioned pieces reflect the outward manifestation of a type of desperate return to an idealised form of masculinity, then the Red Pill can be perceived as a facet of its theoretical basis and an online justification, albeit with a deep right wing twist. That said, I do believe that Red Pill and the spornosexual are ultimately different things, though related. However, the rise of terpers and spornosexuals have the same cause. Clive Martin writes:
… whilst it’s easy to scorn the banality-and vanity of the modern British douchebag, they’re only products of their environment. An environment that has very little to offer them anymore, other than gym memberships, intentionally ripped clothes, alcohol and creatine [a muscle‑building supplement]. The institutions that gave British men a sense of wellbeing have been ripped apart. Nobody trusts the police any more: nobody wants to join the army because no one believes in its wars; traditional industries have been decimated and the only thing to replace them is stifling, mind-numbing positions in service and retail. Because of this, British men have tried to reimagine masculinity, in a hyper-realised, childish, desperate way. A new kind of machismo, built on fake bravado and vanity.
This analysis is where I believe a Marxist analysis of Red Pill philosophy should start. Rather than just condemning their theory as a type of evil that is born out of nothing, we must understand aspects of patriarchy as being tied to new manifestations of late capitalism. As it spirals further out of control, new forms of reaction from its alienated victims will create new ways of simplifying the complexity of their cause of distress. The Red Pill is a symptom of toxic capitalism which drags the frail vestiges of male identity further into its machinations. Indeed, as the plasticity and fluidity of capitalism dissolves ancient structures, in order to make new ones that further benefit the accumulation of capital for the 1%, working class men are left adrift without a sense of identity. This lack of identity in turn, creates a desire for wholeness, a suture that can alleviate the pain of modern existence. However, as Slavoj Žižek would point out, this solution exists in the realm of the imaginary. In order for their proposed solution to exist, terpers need a mirror image which they loathe, yet desperately want to subsume into themselves: women.
The Red Pill, therefore, is a fantasy of male heterosexual wholeness that masks the need for men who have lost all purpose in life. However, rather than fight inequality and institutions that cause exploitation, terpers are told to ‘man up’, suck it up and float to the top of the pile; become the exploiter not exploited. These are alienated men who, between endless, fruitless work and a sense of purposelessness, find temporary relief in a manipulative fantasy that fuses male entitlement and utopian ideas of sexually successful men, sports stars and businessmen under the grim title of Alpha. ‘The Dreamers’, a movie by Bernardo Bertolucci, attempts to show what romantic relationships would look like outside the realms of economic injunctions. If ‘The Dreamers’ attempts to show what revolutionary love is, that is, a love life that is free from the forces of production, then the Red Pill shows what relationships look like when capitalism saturates every aspect of a relationship. Love is subsumed into a crude exchange of goods: a woman’s sex in exchange for a man’s commitment. Sex becomes an expression of power, and our worth (our sexual market value) is only found in the fluctuating vicissitudes of what terpers call ‘the sexual market place’.
A Marxist response, therefore, sees The Red Pill as a symptom of capitalism and the need for revolution itself as an answer to the supposed masculinity crisis. Questions of gender identity are irrevocably bound up in a world of economic scarcity – a revolutionary challenge to these conditions must, by necessity, revolutionalise these identities and relations. Getting into online arguments with these people will lead nowhere. The best way to combat them is to continue to protest the physical presence of people like Roosh and to fight against economic inequality as part of a movement that challenges every manifestation of oppression as counter to all of our interests.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the rs21 magazine