The gnostic paradox of young, tech-savvy traditionalists, who see through everything except their own conspiracy theories

They want you to lift the veil pulled over your eyes by the progressives who secretly control society. Like Neo escaping the Matrix, your choice is to wake up and see how the world really is, discarding religion, subjectivity, and feminist indoctrination. Conspiracy theorists, Men's Rights Activists, Pick-Up Artists, GamerGate, even the Neoreaction: all of these communities share a common creed, tech-fluent and superficially self-aware. To outsiders, it's distinctly conservative. But they don't see themselves as conservatives at all.

Welcome to the Red Pill worldview, where the entire world is a game and the people who are winning are the best players.

They've yet to assume a formal name, remaining a loose confederation of overlapping reactionary movements resistant to (though exploited by) their would-be leaders. Most identify as libertarian, many as atheists, and they are overwhelmingly white and male. They're comfortable with progressive terminology and how technology has changed society, which puts them sharply at odds with most conservatives, who see both as a threat to traditional values. Many "Redpillers" perceive conservatism as censorious and unscientific, and instead identify with the "freethought" and "skeptic" internet communities.

Despite espousing often-conservative views, most GamerGaters identify as left-libertarians when given the opportunity, as in this self-selected poll from aggregated by Twitter user @hazmatbrigade. (It's easy to fiddle the results, though)

Despite this, Redpillers define themselves as opponents to progressives. They seek to roll back the achievements of "cultural Marxists", "Social Justice Warriors", "political correctness" and "radical feminists", justifying ruthless tactics as a necessary response to these perceived excesses.

One of the core dogmatic beliefs is in a just world, or at least one the cultural Marxists weren't mucking up. A focus of unwavering belief is meritocracy: if you're successful, then you deserve it because you're superior. If you're superior—and Redpillers are prone to deem themselves so—then you deserve to be successful. The presence of one without the other, such as success without merit or merit without success (especially in regards to oneself), is evidence of some kind of social-justice trickery.

This leads, of course, to pervasive bigotry.

This takes active forms, such as the conclusion any woman or person of color who outperforms a Redpiller must have cheated to do so, either with sexual favors or affirmative action. But it takes passive forms, too, such as the corresponding belief that any time white men have an advantage over anyone else, it must be because those men are just better at it, rather than for systemic reasons. Redpillers rationalize even vicious bigotry as hatred of a particular person who happens to be a minority, rather than hatred of the minority groups themselves. And you are the real bigot, for pointing out any sort of pattern.

This bigotry is most often seen in action within the Men's Rights Movement. The term "taking the red pill," to refer to coming around to that way of thinking, comes from this community. While they pay lip service to issues that might benefit men, in practice Men's Rights groups—such as misogynist author Paul Elam's A Voice For Men—focus on projects like imitating and funneling donations away from the White Ribbon anti-domestic-violence charity.

Despite the anti-feminist focus of MRM groups, members describe themselves as believers in real equality, identifying with euphemistic labels like "men's rights advocate" (MRA), "egalitarian", or "equality feminist". MRAs reject the feminist idea of patriarchy—the idea that male chauvinism is perpetuated not by intent, but by internalized, unconscious behavior—as a conspiracy theory, but also often hold that feminist ideas only spread because of a literal conspiracy of cultural Marxist infiltrators in governments and academia.

These imagined cultural Marxist plots, to foist progressive beliefs on everyone, aren't only opposed because they are perceived to be unfair, but also because they obscure the truth. While the scientific method only concerns itself with what can be observed and measured, a uniting thread of Redpillers is scientism, which goes a step beyond that to reject the authority or value of anything that can't be handled by empirical observation.

Indeed, anything that is studied subjectively, like philosophy, religion and theology, or art, is considered a lesser subject because it cannot provide the objective truths of "hard" science. Formally, they assert that objective methods are applicable to every imaginable field. Informally, however, Redpillers tend to simply reject other people's opinions as subjective while prizing their own as objective. This "realz before feelz" approach characterizes GamerGate: their nebulous ideas of ethics in video game journalism often come down to "objective" reviews of video games which never espouse any opinion they might find disagreeable.

This approach comes along with a narcissistic idea that their superior understanding of "real" science can propel Redpillers beyond the fools who prize subjective or emotive qualities.

One peculiar result is the Redpiller love of get-rich-quick schemes that rely on this superior understanding. Gambling and investment schemes of all sorts appear in Redpill communities; lately, Redpillers have frequently fallen victim to ones surrounding digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Despite nearly every Bitcoin exchange failing under shady circumstances, Bitcoin buyers flocked to ponzi scheme after ponzi scheme, convinced that their superior understanding of economics would protect them.

The get-rich-quick psychology doesn't just apply to money: so-called "pick-up artists" such as Daryush "Roosh V" Valizadeh or Matt Forney offer how-to schemes to win the "game" of sexual conquest, although that advice often amounts to emotional abuse or coercion. In the most extreme case, this pseudologic even carries into legal thinking, with "Freemen on the Land" and their schemes to somehow escape taxes or other legal obligations [PDF link].

Rejecting subjects that cannot be studied in a controlled setting allows Redpillers to reconcile their conspiratorial scientism with the just world hypothesis—say goodbye to even credibly scientific approaches. Redpill communities' intellectual pretentions make them fertile ground for pseudoscience on all these fields, from Praexology economics to neurolinguistic programming.

Redpillers also often subscribe to biological essentialism, a viewpoint that is far from uniquely conservative in its appeal. For example, it's also the province of trans-exclusionary feminist writer Cathy Brennan, who describes herself as a "gender atheist", equating modern psychological ideas of gender identity with religion. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See Cathy Brennan's response to this at the bottom of this article] (Contrast with the co-writer/director of The Matrix, Lana Wachowski, who came out as a trans woman in 2012.)

Human biodiversity, a euphemistically-named biological-essentialist racist movement, is also popular in Redpill circles. Proponents of HBD, such as neoreactionary video blogger and self-described "white nationalist on paper" Davis Aurini, hold that differences in outcomes for different races and ethnicities aren't a result of racism, but rather of genetic differences between races.

While these so-called "racial realist" views aren't mainstream in science, they are common in the Redpill universe, especially its most militant and regressive regions, such as the Neoreaction movement. Also occasionally called the "Dark Enlightenment", this is a movement that seeks to defeat "the Cathedral" (an incoherent alliance of everyone who isn't a neoreactionary) and roll back liberal affectations like humanism and democracy in favor of monarchy, slavery and ethnic pogroms.

Thankfully, Neoreaction isn't particularly large or influential. It is mostly confined to a handful of bloggers such as Michael Anissimov, software developer Curtis "Mencius Moldbug" Yarvin, and author Nick Land. But even this fringe of the Redpill Right finds support in unexpected places. You can find Redpiller arguments in any sufficiently young, sufficiently white, sufficiently male internet company, be they neoreactionaries or bitcoiners, hardcore skeptics or GamerGaters, tax evaders or pick-up artists.

The Redpill Right is the new conservatism of a secular, internet-savvy generation, and its perceived enemies are legion.

Further reading

UPDATE: Cathy Brennan writes:

"For the record, I am not a 'biological essentialist.' Indeed, that is the very opposite of feminism. I have never written a single thing that supports the idea that because a person is born female or male that they should act in any specific way. Indeed, I have written numerous publicly available posts that say the exact opposite of this. See, e.g., Cisterhood is Powerful."

And from the comments: "Hi, Cathy Brennan here. The writer, who I have never heard of, misrepresents my views. I don't subscribe to "biological essentialism." Indeed, I have no idea what that means."