Red Pills, Blue Pills, and Liberty – Misconceptions

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The red pill has represented a reveal of uncomfortable truths since its origin in The Matrix in 1999. Since then, it has been used to mean the reveal of many different kinds of truths, especially in the political and cultural spheres. In one context, the red pill meant to be aligned with the men’s rights movement, becoming the name of a popular Reddit community for men’s rights activists, as well as a 2016 documentary by Cassie Jaye exploring the movement.

In a more political context, the red pill is not a set of political beliefs, but rather one’s understanding of the elites, whether they be called the Cathedral, the intelligentsia, or simply the establishment. Michael Malice, who would certainly be considered red-pilled in this political context, defines it below:

“Red-pilling is the concept that what is presented as truth by the corporate press is, in fact, a carefully constructed narrative designed to keep some very unpleasant people in power, and that they do this not hypocritically [or] accidentally, [but] intentionally and by design.”

To be red-pilled is not the equivalent of being right-wing, or socially conservative, or populist, as some (both on the left and right) seem to think. To be red-pilled is to peel back the façade of proper procedure from the elite institutions and reveal the corruption and evil underneath.

Note that this is, of course, a generalization. Not everyone that works at a DC think tank or elite university is terrible. These organizations can include certain great people and do great things. There are minor exceptions to every rule. Think of it instead as George Carlin described it: “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

Since there is the red pill, there is also, as its opposite, the blue pill. To be blue-pilled is to accept the veneer of respectability and professionalism as legitimate. It is to think from a perspective that is consistently within the bounds of mainstream opinion. It is to have confidence in the modern liberal democratic systems across the West as imperfect, but righteous. These imperfections can be caused by incompetence, as well as a few bad apples, but these are blemishes on an overall decent system. By contrast, the red-pilled see it as rotten to the core.

“America is Back”

A perfect example of what it means to be red- or blue-pilled is one’s reaction to Joe Biden’s recent tweet stating “America is back.” One’s pilled status doesn’t require one to vote for any particular candidate, but one’s interpretation of this tweet likely does. To the blue-pilled, Donald Trump’s incivility was a blemish on America’s democratic system. Finally, America can get back to the good old days of civil discourse and be respected by the world once again.

To the red-pilled, this is a declaration that the elites are firmly back in control, and that we can continue with the consensus on invading foreign nations, spending into oblivion, and signing backroom deals.

Note that this red-pilled view is not an endorsement of Trump. The red-pilled will notice that when Trump dropped bombs and approved massive spending bills, he was called “presidential” by the corporate press, but whenever he slightly ventured off the approved path, he was literally Hitler.

The blue-pilled saw Trump as “a danger to the legitimacy of our democracy.” The red-pilled wish that was actually the case.

Science Denial, Fact Checking, and Election Fraud

The blue-pilled will accuse others of “science denial” for daring to read scientific literature and coming to a conclusion that differs from Dr. Fauci or the mainstream press. They will report neighbors for not following lockdown guidelines. They will cite Snopes and Politifact as unbiased sources.

By contrast, the red-pilled will be aware that there is an agenda (not simply a bias) behind mainstream reporting. This does not mean that the mainstream is always wrong, or but rather that the mainstream is not reporting the truth, or what they perceive to be the truth, but instead what they want people to believe is the truth.

Regarding election fraud, the blue-pilled naïvely believe that “[this] was the most secure election in American history.” The red-pilled would be shocked if it were the case that there wasn’t any fraud, given the United States government’s extensive history of regime change.

Blue-Pilled Libertarians

The hostility of the red-pilled is aimed at the corporate press, the state, and academia, not to the blue-pilled. There are many great blue-pilled libertarians (John Stossel and Justin Amash have been cited as examples).

Gary Johnson’s blue-pilled perspective led to a lack of enthusiasm for him among many libertarians. It’s hard to imagine fighting the state by rallying behind someone that, when prompted, refers to Hillary Clinton as a “wonderful public servant.”

Because libertarianism is such a radical philosophy, to be both blue-pilled and libertarian creates some problems. One must be only as extreme as is approved by elites. One might be able to hide their radicalism within a long policy analysis, or may proclaim radicalism in a way that’s not too threatening to the established order, but they cannot be a Murray Rothbard without becoming blacklisted.

Any honest and intelligent libertarian is an asset to the liberty movement, but operating within the confines of the established narrative can make opposing the establishment difficult, and this means at times becoming apologists for the state without necessarily intending to. A red-pilled progressive like Jimmy Dore can be a much bigger threat to the establishment than certain blue-pilled libertarians.

Compare, for example, the power behind a red-pilled libertarian like Ron Paul, who firmly and unapologetically stated what he believed, often taking radical and unpopular positions, compared to recent blue-pilled libertarian campaigns. The energy is simply not there when one operates within the confines of the established narrative.

The red pill does not mean believing in crazy conspiracies about lizard people, or believing that every single action within the world is decided by elites, or that every opponent of this establishment is secretly controlled opposition. It means pulling back the curtain. It means recognizing that the media is not merely biased, but pushing an agenda. It means that views outside the overton window are not automatically wrong (or automatically right). It means that poor government schooling is a feature, not a bug.

It means holding to one’s radical beliefs, and not apologizing for them.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]

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