Blue pill, Red pill, Black pill

Radicalization narratives and pathways to male supremacists

Since the advent of the internet, people have been able to connect with others who share their interests, discover new communities, and ideas about the world around us. While the internet has been a mechanism for positive change, it has also allowed for identities and movements to form around hate, violence, and extremism. Male supremacists are one such group. Though male supremacists existed before widespread internet access, the internet and various social networks have facilitated the expansion of male supremacist ideology and spurred the creation of a variety of male supremacist identities. United in their reduction of women to their sexual or reproduction function, and in their belief that that they are the victims of an increasingly female-centric society in which men have lost power, male supremacists have perpetrated several deadly attacks across North America since 2009. While there is a growing interest in male supremacist identities, and more broadly gendered approaches to understanding extremism, there is little understanding of why or how individuals radicalize into male supremacists identities.

Thanks to the F.A.G.’s funding, I am able to research, and begin to understand, why individuals radicalize into male supremacism. My field sites are male supremacists’ online forums, YouTube videos, and other digital sources that can lead individuals down the radicalization rabbit hole. In their online forums, male supremacists identify the experiences and mechanisms that led them to accept these shared beliefs as ‘red pills’. This ‘red pill’ terminology is derived from a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix, where the character Neo is given the choice to take a blue pill, and remain ignorant, or the red pill, and awaken to the truth of how the world really works. Today, the ‘red pill’ is used, by a variety of groups, to describe an awakening to previously hidden ‘truths’ about the world. In identifying their ‘red pills’ male supremacists identify “trigger points” for why they began to align themselves with their extremist beliefs. Somewhat common experiences such as divorce, bullying, insecurity about their bodies, and sexual rejection are just some of the ‘red pills’ cited by members of these online male supremacist forums. In my work, I am analyzing these ‘red pill’ narratives and how they intersect with gendered expectations, to understand possible radicalization pathways to male supremacism. I argue that gendered expectations, especially expectations around masculinity, impact how these individuals interpret these common experiences. It is then the promise to reassert or prove their masculinity, by joining misogynist communities, that acts as a driver for individuals to align themselves with male supremacist beliefs and identities.

Dissertationsprojekt von Megan Kelly