On 24 April 2017, a Republican state lawmaker in New Hampshire was identified in reports as the creator of a Reddit online forum devoted to (and criticized for) gender relations, generally espousing the philosophy that women have it better than men because they can pick and choose their mates, and offering tips for turning the tables on women, particularly women who have, in their words, bought into "feminist culture".
The report links Republican Rep. Robert Fisher to r/TheRedPill through various online profiles. The forum, which borrows its name from a line in the film The Matrix, bills itself as "discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men." According to the report, the connection between r/TheRedPill and Fisher can be traced in part to a message board he created when he was in high school:
The website’s name, “Fredrickville,” appears over and over, and provides more links between him and The Red Pill—Fisher’s personal email account uses the name, the same email addresss used to register The Red Pill’s backup landing page, should it ever get taken down. In addition, Fisher’s customized Facebook URL, revealed in a comment on Fredrickville.com, uses the name Facebook.com/Fredrickville. That personalized link formerly led to Fisher’s personal Facebook page, which has recently been deleted. Fisher’s customized URL for his band’s SoundCloud also uses the name.
Fisher resigned on 17 May 2017, less than an hour after a House committee voted 8-6 along party lines not to pursue action against him. He said in an email to the Associated Press:
Unfortunately, the falsehoods, lies and comments of an overzealous blogger and some of my colleagues have created a situation where I must genuinely consider the safety and wellbeing [sic] of my girlfriend, my family, and myself. I’m happy that the House committee stood firm for free speech today, it is with a heavy heart that I will be unable to complete my term.
The Daily Beast reported that the forum was created in October 2012 using the alias "pk_atheist." Fisher, who ran unsuccessfully for office as a Democrat that year, was first elected to the state House in November 2014. He also allegedly served as the forum's lead moderator before stepping down in 2016.
Fisher reportedly denied being part of the group and asked, "What is a pickup artist?" (Pickup artists, or PUAs, use a combination of jargon, neuro-linguistic programming, and evolutionary psychology in order to make themselves more attractive to and successful with women; they also call themselves the "seduction community." Their methods have been derided, but they have also attracted plenty of fans: The Reddit forum r/TheRedPill lists nearly 200,000 members.)
However, Fishers then deleted (or made private) his two primary Reddit usernames and "four blogs connected to him" after being contacted by the Daily Beast. A source close to Reddit told us that the site, which hosts thousands of forums, does not confirm user identities. Fisher later admitted to the committee on 9 May 2017 that he posted under that username. But no member of the GOP-led committee asked him whether he created the forum.
State Democratic Rep. Tim Smith, who works in information technology, said on the day of the committee's vote that he found in his own investigation that Fisher also created the username "redpillschool," which he had claimed belonged to the person who took over the forum in 2013. Smith said:
Mr. Fisher made very little effort to cover up his tracks ... all he’s done is taken off his nametag. It’s clearly the same person. All of the technical information points to that conclusion.
Smith said that he emailed his findings to state Majority Leader Dick Hinch (R) and other committee members prior to the vote. But Hinch said he did not open the message, citing a concern over "potentially getting a computer virus."
The state Democratic Party and Young Democrats released a joint statement to us on 25 April 2017 saying that Fisher should be "deeply ashamed of himself". State Rep. Amelia Keane said:
If Rep. Fisher has any semblance of decency or shame left, he will resign his seat. This is particularly disturbing given the fact that legislation to strengthen the rape-shield law is working its way through the legislature. We hope and expect his Republican colleagues to call for his resignation, particularly given their support of a rape-shield and in clear contrast, Representative Fisher's clear predatory and misogynistic behavior as well as creating an permission structure for disrespect and abuse.
The state Republican party also did not comment, but state House Speaker Shawn Jasper did not signal an intention to call for Fisher's resignation in his own statement that same day:
While the representative from Belknap, District 9 has not broken any laws, his words and actions clearly rises to the level of conduct unbecoming of a legislator. I was sickened by what I read. As is true with any legislator, if their constituents are upset with the actions of their representatives, the only way to respond is at the ballot box by not re-electing them. With the immediacy of today’s social media legislators should realize that any comments or actions of this nature will spread like wildfire and will only serve as a distraction to the work we do at the State House. His actions have overshadowed all of the good that the majority of our members do while serving in the NH House.
One of the RedPill forum's rules accuses women of using their sexuality to "try and seize special attention on the internet." According to the report, accounts connected to Fisher also expressed concern about being falsely accused of rape. In 2012, one stated in a separate "men's rights" forum that he installed a video recorder in his room in order to protect himself from false rape accusations:
There is literally no legal protection I can think of that could eliminate the risk of a previous sexual partner of mine falsely accusing me of rape, no matter what the circumstances. I now have a video recorder in my room.
Fisher backtracked from that assertion in a 27 April 2017 statement published by the Laconia Daily Sun:
I never taped a sexual encounter, though I have often considered that it may be the best, or only, form of protection for men to prevent false rape accusations.
In a 2012 post celebrating the forum's growth, "pk_atheist" identified "mastering game" —described as "an important portion of a sexual strategy" — as one of its focuses and described feminism as a strategy through which women can "select mates, to determine when they want to switch mates, [and] locate the best dna [sic] possible." In the same post, he bemoaned what he described as a switch to a "feminist culture":
A president cannot be elected today without succumbing to the feminist narrative and paying them tribute. How many times has Obama given credit for his manhood to his wife? How many times has the debate hinged on women's pay gap — which is a myth that gets lip service because if you don't you're a misogynist!
Critics have also associated the site with the "Gamergate" harassment campaign and the white nationalist movement calling itself the "alt-right." (RedPill hosted a 2016 AMA — Ask Me Anything — with former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has also been associated with these groups.)
Democratic congressional candidate and software engineer Brianna Wu, who was targeted for harassment beginning in 2014 by "Gamergate" proponents, said that both that and the RedPill played on a "cultural resentment" that she felt has fueled a hijacking of the conservative movement. Wu, who is running in the 8th Congressional district in Massachusetts, told us:
Look at what "Gamergate" tapped into. "Gamergate" very famously tapped into this angry young male resentment that women were gonna come and take away their video games. In that same way, if you look at the RedPill movement, it's based on this real distortion about how the world works. It's really based on this deep, seething male resentment toward women.
Fisher did not respond to our request for comment.