How Red-Pill Culture Jumped the Fence and Got to Kanye West - 2018-04-27
The meme blew out of its niche, though, when Gamergate—the widespread sexist harassment campaign against female game developers—happened. "The red-pill memes on 4chan and elsewhere were about dosing people with a piece of information that would shake their fundamental beliefs and awaken them to the 'conspiracies' of feminism," says Joan Donovan, the media manipulation research lead at New York City research institute Data & Society.
But since espousing one extreme idea is likely to expose you to others, becoming red-pilled often meant believing in other hateful conspiracy theories, like the patently false but very old idea that Jewish people are out to take over the world. Oh, and white supremacy. "A crucial red pill in the arsenal was to talk to people about the Trayvon Martin killing and ask them to answer the question, 'is George Zimmerman white?'" Donovan says. (Zimmerman's mother is from Peru, a fact the redpilled claimed as proof that no racism was involved in Zimmerman shooting the unarmed teenager. Allegedly, this is the red pill that catalyzed mass murderer Dylann Roof's radicalization.)
Since Gamergate, and even more so since President Trump's campaign and election, the ideas underpinning red-pill culture have become ever more mainstream. The idea that a media-directed conspiracy exists to hoodwink the (white, male, Christian) masses into forfeiting their power to women, minorities, and Muslims is central to President Trump's emotional power. But given that less than half of Americans voted for President Trump—and given that he has endured historically low approval ratings since his inauguration—there was a clear ceiling on how far that idea, and the red pill meme, were likely to spread. That is, until Kanye West, arguably the most popular living rapper and the world's biggest celebrity after Beyonce, chimed in.