Friday, 14 June 2013

The sophomoric Red Pill nonsense


Well isn't it sophomoric?

I gather that in a movie called The Matrix, the protagonist was offered a Red Pill which allowed the perception of tough reality, while the chooser of the Blue Pill lives a life of deluded happiness.

At any rate, the Red Pill has - I notice - become a self-congratulatory trope beloved of self-styled secular realists who want to self-advertise their brand of tough, selfish realism about politics (and sex).

This term - like The Cathedral - seems to be another of those unfortunate obfuscatory memes inadvertently launched by Mencius Moldbug.

So, what is the motivation of those who claim to have swallowed the Red Pill? Apparently, inferentially, it enables more effective understanding, prediction and manipulation of the world with the ultimate goal of increased status, pleasure and power, and avoidance of suffering.

In sum, the Red Pill enables its smug users to outwit pathetic, wishful-thinking, soft-headed, reality shirking dupes - including the mass of Leftists and the minority of Christians - and run the world for their advantage.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot... and for somebody else's advantage as well, according to various theories - those who it is mutually advantageous to help, or the family, or the nation, or race...or when helping someone else increases personal satisfaction.

Yes, well... I would be more impressed by the protestations of realism if the users of this term were more realistic about what actually has been and is successful; rather than wildly theoretical abstract schemes of what might/ would/ could be a successful strategy (if only everybody else would go along with it...)


Note: I wonder what the Red Pill is supposed to contain? Cocaine, perhaps? Most likely anabolic steroids to enhance the effects of body building and provide chemically-fueled machismo rage. 


Ugh said...

When I stumbled across this Internet sub-culture I was immediately struck by the self congratulatory tone of their perceived ascendance. My initial thought was these are unmarried twenty-somethings having a hard time finding suitably attractive, submissive females from their parent's basement. They feel for some reason their place in time is so much more difficult than ours was (70's/80's). This Red Pill nonsense as you say will wash out of them when they've lived a little and had the world knock them about a bit - wisdom will follow.

Adam G. said...

People who think that finding the Red Pill means finding a key to personal power and lust are doing it wrong. The red pill, if it means anything, means the realization that reality is intractable and not arranged to suit either your own dreams or those of your society.

Bruce Charlton said...

@AG - That's what it looks like to me. I don't suppose that's how it feels to the Red Pill-ites themselves.

You may not know, but what originally got me interested in Mormonism six years ago (when I was not a Christian of any kind, and pretty much a Red Pill-ite myself) was the realization that you were the only economically successful/ educated/ above average intelligence group in the modern West with above replacement fertility. In other words the only group in the history of the world who *choose* to have significantly more than two children.

That is the reality.

That led to other investigations of fertility and the recognition that the *reality* of the situation is that all non-religious groups are biologically maladaptive in this very basic sense; and that any group which fails to replace itself has (in the real world) something *seriously* wrong about it.

But this - apparently - isn't the kind of reality which the Red Pill shows people.

Samson J. said...

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I do believe the "red pill" metaphor is an appropriate description of the journey whereby one comes to believe, not only in an unpopular truth, but in a truth that one may subsequently wish one had never learned. This is particularly relevant to learning about the basic psychology of women.

On the other hand, it's true that most of the blogs where one would encounter "red pill" terminology are populated largely by young and immature men - who, although they seem to think they've unearthed big-"T" Truth by discovering the "manosphere", don't seem to have been changed by that Truth into anything resembling the great Men of old. It's been clear to me that only Christ can effect that change.

dearieme said...

The American noun "jerks" would seem to be applicable here. (Especially if you recall its origins.)

Jonathan C said...

I'm trying to figure out what aspects of the Red Pill you're criticizing.

The Red Pill is a very real phenomenon: the shock and the unmoored feeling of discovering that a large complex of your beliefs about how the world works are wrong, often the very opposite of the truth. I've gone through it multiple times, with respect to sex, to leftism (partly thanks to you), and to modern science (largely thanks to you). The Moldbug and Fight Club metaphors we use might be sophomoric, but these phenomena need names, the metaphors are powerful, and nobody has suggested better metaphors.

I personally have empirically verified many times that the behaviors I was taught would be attractive to women are in fact sexually repellant to them, and the behaviors I grew up seeing men on TV get slapped for are often sexually attractive to women in real life. I suspected none of this until I read about it on the internet in my early 30's, and it allowed me to transform myself from somebody utterly unattractive to women to somebody who has a decent shot at marriage. Although many men use this information in unChristian ways, it is also crucial information for men who want to marry and not find themselves divorced. (I know you probably didn't need it, but please understand that sex relations are utterly different for the next generation after yours--we Gen X men were raised to be extremely feminine, passive, followers of women, and Gen X women were raised to lead men and have contempt for our authority. This dynamic annihilates women's sexual attraction for all but the most rebellious men.) That is why we now see Game blogs for married men and for Christian men who desire virgin marriages. (Most Christian churches teach men to behave in ways that all but guarantee their wives' contempt and lack of desire.)

The Red Pill for politics is equally powerful--when I realized that leftism is built entirely from lies, it was a shock. When your entire belief system collapses, you naturally feel an existential need to replace it. You're right to observe that a lot of Red Pill bloggers replace it with some pretty unrealistic fantasies. But I don't blame them; whereas any man can do experiments to learn what behaviors women are really attracted to, very few men are in a position to do experiments on how to run a country.

There are two parts to the Red Pill--spitting out the Blue Pill belief system, then finding something else to replace it with. Let's not underestimate how very, very hard the second part is, especially for people who have grown up with nihilism and know nothing else. A growing minority of these people (including me) are seeing that Christianity must be part of the answer, and I see many others recognizing that the Christian belief system worked well even if they can't bring themselves to believe in God. I think that even the majority of folks who reject the politically correct pack of lies and then choose an equally nihilistic belief system to replace it represent progress; they have more chinks where the truth might someday shine in.

Imnobody said...

Well, I am not a twenty-something (I wish!) but a forty-something. And no, I am not living in my parent's basement (cheap trick). I left my parent's house at the age of 17 and have a great job.

For me, the red pill blogs showed me how women's biology and psychology work and I will always be grateful. I would have liked to have this information when I was 20 but society and the Church lied to me. As a result of this lie, I had twenty years of pain, hurt and loneliness.

Every day I get a new confirmation about that. For example, an hour ago. Not to speak about scientific studies whose findings confirm these facts.

These truths are not new. The Bible tells these truths. The Greeks and the Romans were well aware of these facts. The Church Fathers knew them. All the Christian authors and secular intellectuals spoke about them until two centuries ago.

Then, especially in American culture, women were deemed angels and better than men. American Christianity grew out of this unbiblical and false idea. The Second Awakening, the Temperance Movement, etc.

Feminism grew out of American Christianity (the first feminists were Methodist à la Hillary Clinton), which show how unbiblical American Christianity had become in this aspect.

For more about the Church and feminism read "The Church Impotent" and "The feminist mistake".

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

The "Dark Enlightenment" is a farce, and a "Secular Traditionalist" is a contradiction in terms. It is, to use that wonderful word that atheo-liberals taught me, unsustainable in the long term. It accepts the tenets of traditionalism without accepting any of the underlying reasons for them, and thus it is a perfect encapsulation of the house built upon the sand that Jesus spoke of.

In short, "Secular Traditionalists" believe and do things without really having any solid reason for them. That's the very core of modernity - just the same as the "Secular Humanists" who say they can "do good without God"? Okay - why? And who defines what is "good"? Based on what? Moderns believe things for reasons that don't hold up to any serious examination (this is why, when their beliefs are questioned, they respond by yelling and calling names - that is really the only response open to them), and do things for reasons they don't fully understand. This is as true of "Dark Enlightenment"-style "Secular Traditionalists" as it is of liberals, Marxists, and "Secular Humanists" (or do I repeat myself?).

Red pills are small, round objects, as are grains of sand. A house built on the former won't behave any differently from one built on the latter.

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

Unlike "the Cathedral" the "red pill" metaphor is not a misdirection.

The best "red pill" initiates are those that want to remain married to their wives and now have a more realistic grasp of what that takes.

This includes Dalrock, a tireless enemy of divorce culture and the illusions that fuel it.

Bruce Charlton said...

In general - the Blue Pill is Communism, the Red Pill is Fascism.

Yes Communism is the extreme of delusion, and (as a reaction against it) Fascism is *more* realistic than Communism. But that doesn't make Fascism correct, nor Good.

When I hear the arguments in favour of Red Pill secular Right 'manosphere' thinking, I hear the argument that Fascism is good as a intermediate stage between Communism and Christianity... well, maybe, perhaps, in individuals...

But the mind set of Fascism/ Red Pill-ite thinking - where hatred and pride are deliberately cultivated and sustained - is anti-Christian.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JC - I have read many defences of 'Game' along the lines you have made. But when I read the stuff (either deliberate sampling, or because it is hard to avoid) then my response is that the whole domain is repellent, rootedly evil - this is what my guts tell me, and how my heart responds; how the whole 'Game' discourse is structured - its aims, its motivations, its methods are anti-Christian.

Wicked things can be, and often are, turned to Good - or else none of us would have a chance! But that does not make them Good things. And the most spiritually-dangerous wicked things are those in which there is superficial Good.

In the end you can not take my word or anyone else's, but use your God-given powers of discernment and a warm and open heart to feel the Goodness, or otherwise, of ideas.


Imnobody - I'm not sure if you are addressing me or another commenter here, but you know I don't hold the viewpoints you are criticising!

But I think you are factually wrong about how US society used to be and also that "red pill blogs" are factually wrong about female psychology and human mating - I mean very seriously factually wrong, from my perspective as a professional evolutionary psychologist.

'Game' thinking is pseudo-science, and not very smart pseudo-science, and very obviously dishonest pseudo-science. To try and pick out the bits of truth from such a tissue of lies and errors is a futile activity.


@A-D-A - Well said. I agree.


@TDT - The Mormons have the most successful (and life-enhancing, and beautiful) marriages in the US. Do you imagine that Mormon marriage is based upon the principles of 'Game'?

The idea that Red Pill/ 'Game' thinking would help someone have a successful Christian marriage (NB: Mormons are included as Christians) is one of those vast and stunning unrealisms which expose Red Pill thinking as a fake.

Think about it. Who is the realist? The Mormons, with several generations of (relatively) solid, fulfilling and fruitful marriages and a dating and mating system which supports this; or the Red Pill/ 'Game' thinkers with their patent nostrum for a life of serial sex-without-string's seduction; yet which - supposedly - also happens to be the recipe for strong Christian marriage? Ha!

Jonathan C said...

@BGC: Do you imagine that Mormon marriage is based upon the principles of 'Game'?

Yes, absolutely! In Mormonism, husbands lead and wives follow. The principle: women are attracted to men who have authority over them (and sexually repelled by men who look to them for leadership).

Mormonism provides a lot of structure to ensure that men lead. Outside Mormonism, men have to learn to provide and enforce that leadership on their own, against fierce resistance from feminism, liberal society, and the woman's friends and family.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JC - I can only say that I believe you are wrong about Mormonism and about 'Game'.

These are polar opposites (although, like anything in the real world, there are respects in which opposites overlap).

If Red Pill thinking was realistic, then it would not exist - because its advocates (and I include Moldbug) would recognize that what they supposedly want actually exists in the USA in the LDS church - plus several other traditional religions.

And they would join one of these other religions. As it is, they excuse themselves from this rigorous obligation on the supposed basis of their ultra-truthful honesty. Excuse me if I don't believe it...

The fact that the Red Pill-ites do not acknowledge this already existing fact, and instead cling to a new set or combination of untested and incoherent secular theories - shows that the Red Pill-ites are insincere, deceptive, or confused; and do not really want the good things they say they want - but in fact want mainly many of the bad things - especially 'the sexual revolution' principally extra-marital and irresponsible sex - which can only be provided by secularism.

They want these things for themselves, even if they are prepared to state that other people should adhere to higher standards.

Dark Enlightenment/ Red Pill/ Manosphere politics is simply not serious. It is mere pick and mix posturing. It's unseriousness is shown starkly by its unrealism - its preference for half-baked notions over actually-existing US subcultures.

Adam G. said...

Unlike Bruce, the Red Pill metaphor makes a lot of sense to me. As I pointed out earlier, I think the problem is just that *some* of the Red Pill folks don't go far enough.

I agree with a lot of what Jonathan C. says. But I have to agree with Bruce that Game stinks of evil. Its inception, its main body of practitioners, and the main drive for its promulgation, is nihilistic women-hating predation. When they are of age, my daughters will be forbidden to date anyone who is into Game. If I caught one of my young men at church (I'm the male youth minister) talking up Game, I'd drag him by his ear to his father.

As a happily married Mormon myself, I highly doubt that Game and successful traditional marriages are synonymous. Its possible that they are and that Game is still evil--implicit, customary practices embedded in a social matrix can be toxic when they are drawn out into the light of day, abstracted from their context, formalized, and used ideologically and instrumentally. But I think they aren't synonymous. I think there are key differences between Christian manhood and Game properly understood. Its hard to nail down the differences exactly because Game defenders are often pretty slippery about what constitutes Game, but I think a classic example is the Game contempt for 'white knights.' They have their own private definition of it, but the actual idea a white knight, a warrior for good, crystallizes Christian/Mormon manhood and its revealing that this is the special term of abuse the Gamers have come up with.

I don't want to get too much inside the sacred privacy of my bond with my wife. But suffice it to say that most husbands and fathers discover to their surprise that no matter how unassuming they normally are, they are quite ready to kill and die to protect their wife and children in extremis. And one evening a few years back, this knowledge, which had always been their inchoately for my wife, crystallized, and she told me that she realized it about me, and she was in awe because of it. This experience is one of the fundamentals of our marriage but it is neither feminist/modern unisex manhood nor Game. The Way is take that which is male--authority, power, wrath, intellect, violence, achievement, victory--and bind it to that which is good--family, love, wife, children, God. Game, on the other hand, tries to achieve that which is male by rejecting the Good.

C. said...

There are dozens of steps that could be taken to help marriage and fertility rates in the US. The country is extremely difficult to raise children in. For example, the country's ultra-car-based culture means that a woman raising children who wants to leave the house must strap them all into the minivan she had to buy because of carseat laws, unbuckle them at the store, lead them through an extremely dangerous car park with no walkways, control them in the store, lead them back out, buckle them in, drive to the next store to do it all again because there are no non-dangerous walking paths between stores... Can she leave the children at home with a relative instead of risking their lives in half a dozen parking lots? Nope, non-nuclear families are not done in the non-"ethnic" US, all those boomers are living by themselves. Leave them in the car for ten minutes with the windows open like her own mother would have done? Nope, someone will call the CPS. Hire an au pair? Nope, that's not done in the US, and the visa system is set up to discourage it.

That's just one example. Unless you are part of an extremely well-organized subculture, who WOULD have more than 2 children in the US? It's crazy difficult on a practical level.

But has any of this ever been mentioned or even hinted at on any of the American "red pill" blogs (even the ones supposedly run by women with children?) Nope, not even once. It's a thin veneer of "traditional marriage and family" over a swamp of "I want a woman who looks like a stripper and does dishes for me" (and occasionally, on the other side, "I have low self-esteem and wish my husband would hit me more.")

Anonymous said...

"...implicit, customary practices embedded in a social matrix can be toxic when they are drawn out into the light of day, abstracted from their context, formalized, and used ideologically and instrumentally."

That is very well put. It encapsulates a certain critique of modernism.

Christopher Burd

JP said...


I do not agree that the number of children people choose to have is an economic or "practical" choice. It is almost always an ideological choice, largely driven by unthinking adherence to the social norm that people are expected to have no more than two children.

I primarily know people in the "moderately high" income range. Enough of them have three or four kids to convince me that there is no practical or economic obstacle to doing so.

I also know a fair number of independently wealthy people, who could afford to have as many children as the woman was biologically capable of bearing. Yet they all have two kids. It is not economics or practical concerns that dictate this, but (usually) that's just what "normal people" do. They think only religious weirdos have more than that.

Jonathan C said...

Adam, I really like and appreciate your comment. The last paragraph in particular is powerful; I appreciate your telling us about it, and I think more men ought to hear stories like this.

I would love to see more discussion about how to encourage Christian manhood. My perception is that most Christian churches in America are doing the exact opposite: teaching men to always defer to women and feminism, with the result that most Christian men remain children forever. This is anti-Game--it causes women to hold their husbands and suitors in contempt and be sexually repelled by them. Surely even those who are convinced Game is evil can see that teaching men behaviors that make wives feel this way about their husbands is also evil.

I remain certain that one of the secrets of Mormon fertility is that Mormonism grants men authority over their wives.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JC - "I would love to see more discussion about how to encourage Christian manhood."

Indeed. But for the Catholic denominations it is very difficult indeed to move from discussion to effective action, since these churches are (essentially, in human terms I mean) Priest led. If or when the Priesthood has become epicene, there may be strong resistance to change and even with goodwill it would take several decades to change.

The main hope of positive change (leaving aside denominations which are already satisfactory in this regard) in the short/medium term is within the Conservative Protestant/ Evangelical denominations - as exemplified by blogger Alastair Roberts (who lives not far from me)

I think you will find the quality (and length!) of discussion on Alastair's blog to be second to none.

chris said...

@Bruce Charlton

"and also that "red pill blogs" are factually wrong about female psychology and human mating - I mean very seriously factually wrong, from my perspective as a professional evolutionary psychologist."

Would you care to elaborate please?

From my understanding "Game" is about teaching the theories and implications of Sexual Strategies Theory and the theory of Strategic Pluralism in mating that have been developed in evolutionary psychology from Buss, Schmitt and Gangestad, and then from within those theoretical frameworks coming up with real life tactics that will make you more romantically and sexually successful with women.

The only thing which I guess could be characterised as evil about it is that sometimes, within certain mating contexts, women can be attracted to evil, i.e. in short-term mating contexts women are more attracted to men with appetitive aggression (a lust for violence) (see, and that game can thus at times encourage men to behave in evil ways that inspire lust in women. But this is a moral failing and not a factual one.

So yeh, I'd be very interested in how you find that "Game" is factually wrong about female mating psychology.

Bruce Charlton said...

@chris. This is something that you will have to do for yourself. There are plenty of books and textbooks of evolutionary psychology - those written up to about 2000 are in general to be preferred.

Buss was building on the pioneer work of Don Symons Evolution of Human Sexuality. For the sexual selection stuff, The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller is very good.

I don't know whether you are a Christian? Or whether you adhere to some kind of secular (broadly utilitarian) morality? If you are not Christian, obviously I am not going to convince you that anything is evil, since I am arguing from a Christian perspective.

If you are Christian, what I am saying should be obvious if 'Game' discourse is compared with the discourse of devout Christians on the same subject.

The differences are not subtle!

Adam G. said...

Jonathan C.,
"I would love to see more discussion about how to encourage Christian manhood. My perception is that most Christian churches in America are doing the exact opposite: teaching men to always defer to women and feminism, with the result that most Christian men remain children forever. This is anti-Game--it causes women to hold their husbands and suitors in contempt and be sexually repelled by them. Surely even those who are convinced Game is evil can see that teaching men behaviors that make wives feel this way about their husbands is also evil."

Yes, good point. Game and its opposite-- feminism/female chauvinism/anti-sexism*--are both evil in my estimation.

What can be done? Unfortunately, I just sold my last panacea. What I try to do is promote an understanding of Christian complementarism, by teaching young men and young women about traditional virtues and roles, with insights drawn from scripture and modern science. Traditional sex roles are romantic and the alternatives are incredibly dreary, so I mostly find it pretty easy-going.

*Anti-sexism is in practice a rationalization for misandry, just as anti-racism is in practice a justification for denigrating Anglos.