An extensive investigation by journalists at the Daily Beast has traced the creation of one of Reddit’s most fetid and misogynistic troll swamps back to Representative Robert Fisher, a 31-year-old Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
For those who don’t know, the Red Pill is a Reddit community nearly 200,000 strong and a self-described hub of “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” In other words, it’s a vile echo chamber populated by men’s rights activists and pick-up artists, special breeds of women-haters who alternate between blaming women for everything and creating elaborate strategies to trick them into sex.
The Daily Beast followed a twisting network of usernames to conclude Fisher was responsible for the Red Pill:
A post by Pk_atheist in the early days of the forum advertises the author’s blog, Dating American, a blog that immediately precipitated the establishment of The Red Pill in 2012 and which was “dedicated to the woes of dating in the American culture.” On the “about the author” section of Dating American, the author, who calls himself “Desmond,” promotes two other blogs he’s “authored”: Existential Vortex and Explain God. Performing a search of the unique URL for Existential Vortex led to a comment on an ex-Christian message board again advertising the blog, existentialvortex.blogspot.com. This post, written under the alias “Interested,” provided the keystone that connected Pk_atheist and Robert Fisher. First, the post revealed the user was the author of Existential Vortex (and thus, Dating American). Second, in the user’s bio, he stated his band—The Five Nines—had a new album out. Robert Fisher is the sole member of his band, The Five Nines.
When reporters called Fisher, he denied any involvement and even knowing what a pick-up artist is. They emailed him the evidence they had collected and within hours he’d wiped his two main Reddit users’ history and either deleted or hid four blogs connected to him. Because nothing says “innocent” like destroying evidence.
There’s an important, obvious lesson here many of us tend to forget: internet trolls live IRL lives, too. The Twitter eggs, or eggheads, who repeatedly tweet rape threats at women who speak their minds on the internet are not all bots. Instead, they log off and go to work—maybe at a place where you interact with them everyday. When an anti-Semitic troll isn’t leaving Instagram comments about gas chambers, he might be picking his kids up from Little League or serving you coffee at Starbucks. And that Reddit troll who spews whatever vile things he can about women? He’s not just some nerd living in his mom’s basement. He may very well be a state representative.
For too long, hate and antagonism on the internet have been dismissed as free speech, and treated as if they don’t impact the off-line world. We now know such quick dismissals are short-sighted and oblivious. This ignorance, or cognitive dissonance, is what allows situations like Gamergate and Pizzagate to explode into the real world. It’s what contributed to the election of Donald Trump. If people had seriously considered what was being posted in the dark recesses of Reddit and 4Chan a year ago, no one would have been shocked by Trump’s win. We’ve instead been too determined to believe in sensibility.
Online, Fisher reportedly “blasted women for their ‘sub-par intelligence’.” He said that women’s personalities are “lackluster and boring, serving little purpose in day to day life.” And he once commented, “It is literally the [female] body that makes enduring these things worth it.”
It would be foolish to believe that this misogyny is kept corralled in his online persona and doesn’t impact his political life. It would be just as foolish to write him off as a fluke or an anomaly. As we’ve seen from the normalization of people like Steve Bannon and Alex Jones—and from the fact that Trump was elected president even after calling Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas"—hatred isn’t relegated to the fringes. It doesn’t only live online. It’s everywhere. It’s in our governement. And if we ever want to get rid of it, we have to start by acknowledging it.