Illustration by team illustrator Sakura Siegel.
The concept of taking the “red pill” has become a cultural phenomenon that the creators of the 1999 movie, “The Matrix,” would have never foreseen.
In the film, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is given the option of consuming a blue pill that would keep him in a state of blissful ignorance, shielding him from the horrifying realities of the world. Or, Neo could take the red pill, which would bring him down a rabbit hole of what the world is truly like. Neo ends up taking the red pill and is exposed to the disturbing truth of the world that is no longer veiled behind distractions like mass advertising and popular culture. Oddly enough, the red pill is still a symbol of subversion, counterculture and transgression, but it has been embraced as the philosophy behind a dangerous extremist right-wing political movement called the “alt-right.”
The alt-right is a loosely organized political movement, mostly based online, that frames itself as an “anti-establishment” force that pushes against the “woke agenda.” Some members of this community may refer to themselves as “red-pilled” because they foolishly perceive themselves as fighters against political correctness. These are the people who become enraged at harmless changes in culture, such as the new inclusive nature of this generation’s Barbie dolls.
Notorious faces of the alt right, such as neo-nazi Richard Spencer, originated the movement as a way to push back against “white genocide” and in turn promote white nationalism.
The absurd myth of the white genocide espouses the idea that there is a contemporary plot to destroy the White race, seen through the falling birth rates of White women, rise of interracial marriage and the rise of multiculturalism, to name a few. The members of this right-wing movement are reactionary; they seek to diminish any social progression in society.
The Alt-Right As A Reaction Towards Social Progress by Women and LGBTQ+
Today, the alt-right has embraced online personalities that egregiously push anti-transgender and anti-feminist content on YouTube and streaming platforms. This sphere of the alt-right is infected with a cesspool of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.
It is extremely common to find members of the alt-right engaging with deeply misogynistic rhetoric that seeks to uphold and promote patriarchal society. At the core of the alt-right’s agenda is the belief that women need men because of their innate inferiority. Therefore, the movement fights back against any progression towards female autonomy. Along with the alt-right’s race realist tendencies, the movement also promotes gender essentialism, the belief that individuals are either male or female, not in between or any other. Gender essentialism is also the theory behind why traits or things (like hobbies) are perceived within the strict binary of masculine or feminine.
Since the general movement of gender nonconformity stands in opposition to the tenets of gender essentialism, transgender people and non-binary people have become targets for the alt-right. This has led to the foolish fear mongering on “issues” that really shouldn’t be considered issues because of how harmless they are, such as the rise of gender-neutral bathrooms.
The alt-right is so openly transphobic that alt-right adjacent pundits like Michael Knowles, a conservative commentator, recently said at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” Comments like those made by Knowles are dangerously uncommon in alt-right spaces—these people often don’t just dislike transgender people, but they don’t believe in their right to exist.
The Demographics of The Alt-Right
The alt-right is known to target young, middle class White males. It’s an internet-based movement, so these young men form communities on sites like Discord, Reddit, and 4Chan.
The alt-right often intersects with other nonsensical communities such as the men’s rights movement and incels (involuntary celibates). These ideological intersections that encapsulate anti-feminist politics and misogyny showcase the importance of upholding patriarchy as one of the alt-right’s principles.
It can be theorized that many of these young White males become involved with alt-right politics because they understand that they are the main beneficiaries of patriarchy, therefore they want to preserve their position in society that inherently relies on suppressing the progress of women.
What can be true at the same time is that the alt-right deliberately targets men who are suffering under capitalist patriarchy. Men in American society are expected to be emotionless and, as a result, do not know how to healthily express themselves.
These same men, like the rest of the working class, are pressured to break down their bodies through labor in an effort to escape the potential of poverty. This predicament is built into the design of the capitalist system because of its innate, relentless chase for profit. A realization of this reality is dreadful; these capitalist and patriarchal pressures are so severe that they can create such an intense sense of nihilism.
It doesn’t stop there; patriarchy will then tell men that the only way to process this dread is through violent rage (think, the trope of angry men punching the wall) or otherwise they should just live with it entirely.
The alt-right takes these suppressed frustrations and gives them a scapegoat: women, people of color, feminism, cancel culture. However, this anger is purposefully misdirected by the alt-right to protect what deserves the real blame: the intersections between capitalism and patriarchy.
The Manosphere: The Internet-Based Rejection of Feminism
One of the most successful ways the alt-right has turned some boys into right-wing extremists is through the growing influence of the “manosphere.”
The manosphere is a loosely organized network of online personalities on YouTube, TikTok and other video streaming platforms that promote an anti-feminist agenda with the framing of “men’s issues.” These content creators often frame men as victims and women as oppressors with the rise of feminism. It is also common for manosphere creators to dedicate a lot of content to sexual politics; they are regularly anti-sex work and oppose the #MeToo movement.
The manosphere gained a lot of mainstream attention within the past year due to the rise of Andrew Tate.
Often found utilizing alt-right language such as advising men to “escape the matrix,” Tate became a symbol of internet-based misogyny because of the popularity of his videos dedicated to the dehumanization of women. Tate became so popular that Google searches for him in the UK surpassed those for Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump in July of 2022.
He openly advocated and bragged about violence against women while also claiming that women need to take some blame in instances where they were raped. Mixed in with the misogyny is hyper-capitalist, pseudo self-help/financial advice through his “Hustler’s University” courses. Unsurprisingly, Tate’s violent and misogynistic mindset has manifested in his arrest as he and his brother are currently being investigated for rape and human trafficking.
What Tate also represents is how alt-right politics have seemingly transitioned from the outskirts of social media to the frontlines, making it easier than ever for young boys to fall into right-wing extremism.
This phenomenon has been studied under the theory most known as the “alt-right pipeline.” The theory alleges that social media algorithms bear much of the blame for the prevalence of alt-right content online. Social medias like TikTok are designed to capture the patterns of their users and relentlessly funnel content to their recommended feed, regardless of how dangerous the content may be.
For example, an ignorant teenage boy may harmlessly search up videos on relationship advice and end up viewing a portion of Tate’s nonsensical commentary on how men should treat their girlfriends. However, all it takes is those few seconds of watch time for that young boy to be recommended videos deeper into the manosphere. The more clicks, the more constricted the echo chamber of opinions becomes as one becomes flooded with videos legitimizing misogyny and white nationalism.
Although, radicalization is not a fast process—right-wing extremism takes months or even years to incubate.
Perhaps that young boy didn’t even form any political opinions beforehand, but through the alt-right pipeline, his world is slowly being shaped through the lens of bigots like Tate and Steven Crowder.
The alt-right is successful in selling the dream of hyper-masculinity to young men. Anyone who doesn’t fit into the alt-right’s classification of what makes a “real man”—poor men, men who don’t conform to patriarchal notions of gender—are automatically seen as less.
This dream of hyper-masculinity is what leaves young boys with little positive role models in popular culture. What boys are left with is such a restricted view of what masculinity looks like; they become unwilling to embrace anyone who doesn’t fit within the alt-right’s senseless standards of subordination and gender conformity. The possibility of seeking out healthy masculine figures then ceases to exist.
Through the alt-right pipeline, it is easy for people to get exposed to the politics of the manosphere, even other content creators. Hearing non-political content creators promote manosphere talking points is usually either a case of grifting or pure internal misogyny.
Regardless, the current rise of alt-right and manosphere politics into other mainstream, seemingly apolitical media will be explored in part two of this article.