The Matrix, The Red Pill, And Our Glorious Censorious Future

The Matrix, The Red Pill, And Our Glorious Censorious Future

Twenty-two years have slipped by since The Matrix was first released. Our brains, in the interim, have been beaten and battered by the internet, shattering our realities, obliterating our beliefs, transforming our loved ones into unrecognizable mutations of their former selves.

Nothing that’s happening is actually happening, they tell us. Your senses deceive you.

Society has been transformed — shredded, decimated — by millions of people who think they’re following Neo and taking the red pill.

The redpilled think they can see what’s really happening here. The sheep — the poor bastards who take the blue pill again and again — think they know, but they don’t. I am Neo, the redpilled believe. I’ve awoken from the pink goo in my capsule, I’ve chosen to see through the fiction created by the powerful, and I’ve chosen the red pill. I can see: The facade has fallen away.

It’s very much a heartbreaking bastardization of Neo’s journey in The Matrix. Swallowing the red pill showed Neo the horrifying beyond-dystopian reality of humanity conquered by the machines they made, turned into batteries for those machines while they slept through a dreamed reality of what they believed to be their life. After trying and failing to reject redpilled reality, Neo accepts it, and fights the amoral machines that had scorched the earth in a nuclear apocalypse and enslaved every human that didn’t perish.

The Matrix was a beautiful and important metaphor for the final years of the 20th century, when the internet had just begun to warp postwar norms. By the end of the 90s, everyone’s life had come to revolve around media consumption, around constant entertainment. We had validated every fear of every parent in the 70s and 80s who warned of too much TV. And while we kept ourselves busy floating down a river of never-ending media — a river that rushes a thousand times faster today — elites went about their business, unimpeded by those enraptured by the glow of the TV.

With relative economic prosperity and no mass protest movements, elites got things done. They agreed on mostly everything, and they did anything and everything to ensure capital would expand into the 21st century, at any cost. They faced little resistance. Politics was a game for nerds in the 90s. History, after all, was over. It ended when we beat the commies. Everyone knew that.

The Matrix came along at the end of this peaceful, prosperous period and urged its audience to wake up. The message was hardly subtle: The movie ends with Rage Against the Machine screaming at its listeners to wake up after Neo tells the machines in no uncertain terms that he’ll show people “what you don’t want them to see.” There’s bad shit going on, the movie told us. Stop being docile. Tear yourselves away from the media that controls you. Wake up.

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The destabilizing events of the decade following The Matrix would force us to wake up to some realities that had been shaped while we slept. There was the stolen 2000 presidential election, 9/11, the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown that ushered in the era of zombie capitalism, the election of an insane game show host as president, and the COVID era, which will last for the rest of our children’s children’s lives. Everything has fallen to pieces since The Matrix offered one last desperate plea for us to stop dreaming and engage with the real world.

Two decades later, the very people who see themselves as Neo — or Roddy Piper from “They Live” — are marauding across the cultural and political landscape, insisting that the redpilled reality is in fact a right-wing fever dream of seeing through the lies of evil liberals bent on world destruction. The redpilled fight not for justice, but for injustice. They advocate not for truth, but lies. They actively defend the elite while saying they hate nothing more than the elite. They believe in nothing while claiming to believe in something — a something they often can’t name. The redpilled among us are the most asleep among us. How did this happen?

The red pill signifying a person’s turn toward fascism came to be, in short, because of shifting cultural norms. At the turn of the century, to believe racism was systemic, that LGBTQ folks should have rights, or that women should have representation in every facet of public life was radical. American culture — the stuff that starts in movies and TV shows and trickles into the political mainstream — was far more conservative on identity issues 22 years ago. If you’re of a certain age, you may recall George W. Bush winning a second term by putting LGBTQ discrimination on the ballot. No prominent political figure was pro-LGTBQ rights. They may have opposed crucifying gay folks on fences in the middle of nowhere, but they would not affirmatively support equal rights for LGBTQ people. The concept of a black or woman president in 2000 was as unthinkable as it was 20 years prior, or 20 years before that. We largely had the same politics in 2000 as we did in 1980.

Everything is different now. Institutions large and small have come to accept the culturally liberal belief system (which in no way includes leftist economic orthodoxy), as reflected in commercials one might see while watching a sporting event. Every ad has perfectly balanced representation: Mixed-race couples, LGBTQ couples, folks of indeterminate race or gender, black women advertising luxury vehicles and other capitalist trappings, sexually liberated women hawking feminine hygiene products, overt appeals to white people vaguely uncomfortable with racism, Asian folks cast outside the harmful stereotypes they occupied in the 80s and 90s — it’s all there. Even the U.S. military makes ads featuring women of color, men of color, and people who may or may not identify as women or men, to tell potential recruits that we, like you, are “woke,” as awful as that term has become. Meanwhile, liberals celebrate a woman being appointed to lead the CIA. When a police department comes under scrutiny after one of its officers murders someone in cold blood, the department fires its white man leader and appoints a woman — preferably a woman of color — as its head. Institutions know how to appease liberals, and it’s not difficult in any way. More women guards and all that.

The redpilled among us buck at such a dramatic shift in cultural norms. Multinational corporations and government entities embracing these liberal worldviews must mean this worldview is bad, and furthermore oppressive. People of color are in charge, the gays are in charge, everyone but white men are in charge — just look at your TV screen! To push back against those norms foisted upon the public from Big Business is not reactionary, but rebellious. Institutional buy-in on liberal priorities means conservatism is now punk rock. The redpilled see themselves as Che Guevera, navigating the cultural jungles in a never ending guerrilla war against Visa and Target and Nike and Cadillac. The red pill has revealed the enemy, and the enemy is a multibillion dollar corporation — not because the corporation exploits workers’ labor and immiserates millions of families or pollute the environment on a massive and planet-killing scale, but because they cast a transgender actor in their latest 30-second ad.

The red pill isn’t only available to regular working folks who have been trampled under the merciless wheel of industry their entire lives. Redpilling is not, in any sense, a class-based movement. Many of the redpilled people who tried on January 6 to overthrow the United States government live in spacious McMansions, drive nice cars, own multiple boats — all the trappings of what they might otherwise call an elitist. Log on any day of the week and watch as billionaires who inherited their money from dad’s emerald mine or from their crime boss father applaud the redpilled and say they have joined their ranks. That global elites consider themselves redpilled doesn’t seem to bother redpilled folks who otherwise loathe those in power.

Redpilling hardly marks the first time reactionary politics have perversely been considered subversive or rebellious. Some artists embraced naziism — decades after the movement systematically murdered millions — as a counter to the liberal order established following the horrors of the second world war. David Bowie in the mid-70s famously referred to Adolf Hitler as “the first rock star” and toyed with the facsist idea of the ubermensch, a superior human being who could take humanity beyond the myriad failings of the homo sapien. There was, in fact, lots of talk in artistic circles of the 60s and 70s about perfecting the human being, an always-fraught subject that inevitably leads to one final solution: Genocide.

Ron Asheton, guitarist for the seminal Detroit band The Stooges, wore a full nazi military uniform when he performed alongside Iggy Pop in the late 60s and early 70s. Asheton didn’t publicly subscribe to the nazis’ poisonous politics — he never took the stage with The Stooges and raved about blood and soil — but he liked people’s reaction to his embrace of the nazi aesthetic. It was the Nixon-era way of asking well-meaning liberals if they’re triggered, if they’re going to cry, if they’re upset by a simple military uniform. Like those who have swallowed the red pill today, nazi-curious punk rockers of yesteryear were nihilists. Nothing mattered to a guy like Ron Asheton, just as nothing matters to a red piller. And like Asheton, the red piller asks the so-called blue piller if they are triggered by incendiary acts meant to be provocative for no reason but to be provocative.

Every day I log on to the brain killer website we call X and I’m told — usually by white men preparing for the End Times by investing in computer money and online pictures of zombie monkeys wearing bifocals — that I desperately need the red pill. Someone told me last month to go “suck on more blue pills” after I pushed back on his assertion that all journalists were part of a grand conspiracy to spread lies created by evil billionaires with, naturally, liberal politics. The redpilled truly believe they see what others cannot, and their mixture of pity and disdain for “blue pill” types would be comical if it weren’t tragic. Some of them want more than anything for you to see what they see. They think sharing sources of information will do the trick, so in an online argument with the redpilled, you might get a half dozen links to or a thread from @TrumpWon420 offering indisputable evidence that the redpilled reality is the only reality.

Normal folks see these informational sources for what they are: The legacy of the internet, which magically turns theories — no matter how harebrained — into fact. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong because there is no longer right and wrong. The redpilled have ensured as much. The result is a thoroughly disorienting day-to-day reality in which nothing feels real because we can’t agree on what’s real. We reside in our online silos, safe from information that might jostle our view of Everything, screaming at folks in nearby informational silos who scream back over the din of ten million others in their silos, screaming themselves hoarse. We never see each other anymore, for we are online. There is no more human contact, just internet howling into the void and reality creation that slowly shreds the fabric of society. Being online for the better part of two decades, I’m only certain of one thing: The internet — and more specifically, social media — is incompatible with a functioning democracy.

You can have unfettered internet access or you can have democracy. You cannot have both.

Seeing What the Redpilled Sees

For the sake of science, I’ll cut the red pill in half and swallow it, the way you might at a party where you aren’t entirely sure of the drugs on the table and you don’t want to regret your pill-picking decision for the entire night. The half pill goes down my esophagus and dissolves in my stomach. Its content rocket through my veins and hit my brain stem. I am awake.

I see mass media outlets admitting time and again that they got the story wrong, and instead of seeing this as the inevitable result of a profit-driven news media driven to be first no matter the cost, I see it as a global conspiracy perpetuated by the far left (and maybe the Jews, depending on my upbringing and the hatreds I’ve carefully cultivated). I see people being banned from Twitter — the public square in an age of tech-driven alienation — for presenting the “other side” in arguments about the Holocaust or the existence of trans people or the the morality of slavery in the United States, and this, to me, is an affront against free speech, which, to me, means anyone can say anything at any time without consequence.

The major social media outlets — the central hub of ascendant fascism in every developed nation on earth — must be feckless libs because they banned the Free Speech Warriors with whom I agree on every conceivable issue — all because these warriors were brave enough to ask whether the Holocaust actually happened, or whether slavery was actually good for black people in the US, or whether transgender people are sick and should not be allowed in society. The half red pill makes me see this as outright left-wing suppression of conservative ideas.

The contents of the red pill continue to work on my brain. I see historians and professors and grade school teachers who want children to learn about America’s original sin of slavery, and I label this “critical race theory” because it sounds scary and anti-white, allowing me to be the victim. And it feels good to be the victim, for the victim can say and do anything he wants. The victim can lash out without consequence. I see this curriculum teaching historical facts about the brutality and systematic nature of racism in the United States and I take it as an attack on me, my ancestors, and my country. It is my country, after all. It’s not theirs. I’m not sure where I first heard “critical race theory,” and I’m not entirely sure what it entails, or if it’s taught in my kid’s school, but teaching children about the supposed evils of the fatherland will not do. The red pill helps me reject history, to edit history more heavily than The Sopranos on network TV, to make it fit my redpilled notions of what this great country was and is. Anyone who disagrees with me, even politely, isn’t just misguided, but villainous, working for a shadowy entity that trafficks children and may or may not worship Satan. Who’s to say?

And if I ever — for even a moment — drift away from the redpilled thought process, the media I consume reinforces these interpretations and ensures me that I am correct about everything. There is no grey area here, my media tells me. Don’t worry, it says, you are awake. We will keep you awake.

The end goal of redpilling isn’t clear to anyone, including — especially — those ingesting the red pill. My best guess about where and how it ends, after years of observing the corroding effects of the red pill, is the destruction of civilizational norms and a backsliding or outright elimination of democracy.

Conservative lawmakers have for generations watered down democracy with algorithmically created gerrymandered congressional maps and voting restrictions. This happened far before your parents and grandparents became redpilled, Trump-worshipping zombies. Anti-democratic politicians see the redpilled as a convenient vehicle by which they can whip up public support for a society that can be ruled by only one ideology. That’s why you can’t turn on cable news without seeing a Republican lawmaker riding the coattails of the most deranged movement in U.S. history — a movement with no goal but unrestrained power and utter destruction.

Major institutions have done little to preserve their legitimacy in the 21st century, as the failings of media, of the courts, of legislatures, of the executive have poured fuel on the redpill fire, providing never-ending justification for why these institutions must be eliminated. News media’s profit motive has led to decades of uncritical and surface-level coverage that has largely let the powerful operate outside public view; the hyper politicization of the courts has led the judges who function as politicians doing the bidding of those who appointed them to the bench; complete congressional inaction on every meaningful issue in the 21st century has eroded any semblance of trust that lawmakers work for their constituents rather than the corporations who literally write federal legislation; the all-powerful executive branch wasting life and riches on murderous foreign interventions has left the redpilled and bluepilled equally jaded. The dismissal of these entities as beyond salvation — so thoroughly corrupted they cannot be saved — clears the way for something different, something new, something that would have produced almost universal revulsion in Americans of an earlier era.

What the redpiller wants is authoritarianism, a total reset of what we’ve come to know as civilization. They would, of course, never call it authoritarianism. They’re more likely to call liberal democracy authoritarian because in the current iteration of liberal democracy, people lose their jobs and their social media accounts for spewing discriminatory venom. They want all institutions wiped away in a glorious cleansing of the land they love (it must be the land they love, for it’s certainly not the people).

The redpilled want one man — a strongman — not to save us all, but to save those worth saving. Who’s worth saving is the stuff of nightmares for those who have rejected the red pill but know how the redpilled think and what they want. We know all too well that the redpilled long for purity — political purity, religious purity, racial purity, gender purity, sexual purity. Beyond that, they want nothing.

The redpilled don’t care about tax policy. They don’t care about health care or family leave or universal pre-K or anything that might help the aggrieved in their ranks. They only care about abortion insomuch as outlawing it makes the libs cry. You can’t negotiate with the redpilled because they don’t want anything but your elimination. In that way they’re like the machines in the Matrix — negotiations are futile.

The scene in the original Matrix film in which Morpheus, on the cusp of freeing humanity's savior from the prison of his mind, offers Neo – or Thomas Anderson – a choice between the blue pill, which will send him back to the machine-generated virtual reality he has called home for his entire life, or the red pill, which will wake Neo from his computer-created slumber and begin his life in the Real World.

"You can feel [the Matrix] when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth," Morpheus says in such a calming manner it might put you to sleep if the words didn't depict such a nightmare.

"What truth?" Neo asks.

"That you are a slave, Neo," Morpheus says. "Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch, a prison for your mind." Neo then takes the red pill and wakes up, naked and hairless in his bathtub of pink goo. He finally, at long last, understands what the Matrix is.

I recently rewatched The Matrix with my 11-year-old son and couldn't help but imagine right-wing grifters listened to Morpheus' monologue and dreaming of ways his words could be leveraged to separate desperate people from the money. What an alluring message it is: You have been lulled to sleep by modern society, which has imprisoned you without you even knowing it. The ruling class – which, in the right-wing imagination, is often an mix of racial and religious minority groups defined by ugly stereotypes – is keeping you asleep with politics and sportsball and alcohol and weed and video games and TV shows and movies and YouTube and books and other mind-control devices. Let me – one who has seen the Matrix and broken free of its horrors – show you the way out.

Such is the case for alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate, a far-right online influencer actively poisoning the minds of young, lonely, vulnerable men across the world. Tate regularly posts online about "the matrix" attacking him for violating societal norms; this usually translates to people getting upset when Tate says something vile about women or LGBTQ folks or people of color. And for many far-right influencers, that is precisely what defines the Matrix: A societal rejection of using slurs and other offensive language. It's really all they want to do.

Tate, in hawking a fraudulent online course on how to get rich fast, described the matrix as a series of glass walls that hold people in place. "The second you try to go too far, try to think too big, try to be too free," Tate says, "you bump into the glass wall and realize it's not possible."

At Hustlers University, Tate will show you 18 wealth creation strategies that will help you break free from the prison of the matrix, which cannot hold a person if they exceed a certain annual income. Proof of the matrix's existence, Tate goes on, is found in the refusal of banks and governments to allow Hustlers University to operate. Anything Tate doesn't like, in other words, is the matrix. Tate, along with countless other toxic internet influencers, has corrupted the Matrix's message of justice and freedom and used it to destroy the lives of people looking for any way out of poverty in our late-capitalism nightmare.

Our Possible Redpilled Futures

What does our redpilled future look like, exactly? We have two choices here, neither of which include the extinguishing of redpilled politics (since fascists are the henchmen of capitalism, the final guardians of the system who are deployed without hesitation when all else fails).

The first redpilled future — the bleakest one — will deliver a redpilled speaker of the House by 2023, a radicalized Republican member who garners just enough support among their fellow redpilled members to overthrow the GOP establishment’s choice for speaker. The mere prospect of this eventuality has led to longtime Democratic House members retiring in shocking numbers. They understand what happens after the redpilled take over the House: Systematic persecution of any congressional lawmaker who opposes them, including frivolous investigations and imprisonment on the grounds that mainline Democrats pose a threat to the nation. The redpilled House Republicans will continue their campaign to get Ilhan Omar assassinated — this time with the power of the bully pulpit. The redpilled House leadership will never relinquish control of the chamber even if Democrats somehow recapture the majority in 2024 or 2026. They’ll do what comes naturally: Refuse to recognize House norms, refute the results of close House races, and never recognize that they’ve been overtaken. A redpilled House majority is a permanent majority.

The redpilled House majority — with faint voices of Republican dissent crushed by the true believers — would guarantee the next presidential election ends in a real, actual coup if the Democratic candidate wins the electoral college. Republicans have created the necessary state level mechanisms to reverse a Democratic presidential win in key states like Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona. No Democrat will ever win those states again if our nation lasts another 500 years. Those state-level insurance policies against a Democratic victory will be fully embraced by the redpilled House leadership. Those are the rules, they’ll say. They’ll shrug. And they’ll overturn the results of a Democratic presidential win in the House, just as they tried in 2020. There was almost no Republican opposition to the 2020 coup attempts. There will be none in 2024.

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Most dangerously, the redpilled takeover of the Republican Party ensures a redpilled candidate will earn a spot on the party’s presidential ticket — maybe not in 2024, but certainly by 2028. Donald Trump is not redpilled. He understands the terrifying nihilism of the redpilled and he’s expert in pandering to their basest instincts and ugliest desires, but he is not redpilled. He uses the redpilled. Once in office, he had no energy or desire to pursue a redpilled agenda. Steve Bannon tried to get the Big Boy to get off his phone and institute some full blown fascist policies, but the Poster In Chief proved incapable of logging off. He was too lazy, his brain too atrophied to be effective. A truly redpilled Republican president will have no time or interest in Twitter hysterics. Instead, he (or she) will use his time and resources to remove any and all barriers to remaining in power. All the precious guardrails we’ve heard about on Sunday morning talk shows for the better part of six years will vanish in an instant and we’ll have a perma-president, someone who will carry on with the traditions and veneer of elections with absolute certainty that they can’t be deposed.

We'll have our own Putin, whom American conservatives love dearly.

How do we know this will happen? How can I be certain of this? Look no further than Republicans’ first move once they’ve seized a state-level legislative majority. Before they ban abortion or crush labor unions or make sure immigrants die in the street or pour public funding into vile charter schools, they solidify power by carving up districts, banning early voting, and erecting barriers to the ballot box for anyone who’s likely to oppose them. Unlike liberals, the redpilled are interested in power. One can do nothing without power, they know, so when one can create a path to never-ending power, one does what’s necessary to achieve that aim. The redpilled, for all their flaws, have an inherent understanding that politics is toothless unless you use your power to first destroy anyone who might stand in your way. They are effective political actors because they don’t care for tradition or norms.

The redpilled president will incite riots and dispatch the National Guard or, more likely, his own privatized fascist military apparatus, to crush his opponents. Murders and disappearances of redpill opponents will become commonplace. School curriculum will be dictated by our redpilled president — children will learn what he deems appropriate (we already see this happening with frothing redpilled parents running for school board seats because their child learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. in social studies). Actors or athletes who publicly oppose our redpilled president will be run off the stage or the field, or simply killed by the redpilled. In our redpilled future, they will face no consequences for this, for the justice system will exist to protect the faithful.

That’s our worst-case redpilled future. The other avenue has nothing to do with compromise or political gamesmanship or finding consensus. The other avenue is silence. In this future, anyone who voices support for redpilled priorities or causes is instantly and systematically shut down online. For a person in 21st century politics does not exist if they are not online.

Consider Trump, who dominated every facet of American politics for five full years because he had a Twitter account. The moment he was banned from Twitter, he ceased to exist. He still doesn’t exist, which is why a right-wing billionaire forced Jack Dorsey out as CEO of Twitter. When Trump’s Twitter account vanished, a vacuum opened up in American politics — you could feel it if you closed your eyes. Trump might release an unhinged (and damn funny) screed via statement from his Florida headquarters, but it doesn’t have a fraction of the impact of a Twitter post. The spell was broken the minute Twitter kicked off the Poster in Chief.

Mass censorship of an entire political movement constituting tens of millions of Americans will cause an hysterical outcry from journalist-activists who are paid by billionaires to provide political cover for the redpilled. They’ll howl about the First Amendment, about the founding fathers, about all political factions being equally good and bad. They’ll do this in bad faith and must be ignored. Perhaps they should also be silenced, considering their critical role in normalizing redpilled politics over the past five years. These professional lib triggerers are as dangerous as the broken brains for whom they provide cover. That free speech warriors only defend the most dangerous (and bad-faith) forms of speech reveals their end goal: To allow any kind of speech for the sake of allowing any kind of speech. What they don’t seem to grasp is that they too will be silenced once the redpilled take over. They will not be spared.

Free speech is consuming itself, like all freedom eventually does. Free speech is used by those with bad intentions to inject the most harmful, destabilizing ideas and concepts into the political mainstream. The redpilled, of course, give not one shit for free speech; they only know that one cries out “FREE SPEECH” when one is universally condemned for supporting deeply dangerous ideologies. They would eviscerate free speech the moment they seized power — you know it, I know it, they know it. Before that comes to pass, they must be flushed out of our political discourse, out of the digital domain where presidents will rise and fall over the next century. We must come to grips with a new concept of speech in an era in which anyone can reach millions of easily fooled people with nothing but a Twitter account and an internet connection. The loonies aren’t posting their screeds on crumpled paper nailed to the city hall bulletin board; they’re injecting it directly into the brains of anyone and everyone with an iPhone.

Redpilled ideology can’t be ignored. It can’t be left to sit. We cannot expect it to work its way through the body politic and be pissed out one glorious day. It’s here to stay — and to consume everything in its path — unless it is erased from the only common reality: the internet. Corporations making calls about who can speak is surely a path to hell, but a path that can be nudged toward the light with enough political will, whereas there is only darkness on the redpilled political path.

The American Civil War never ended, it’s only taken different forms over the ages. Today it’s online, and the Confederacy — dispersed into every suburban neighborhood in the country — is on the verge of total victory. And once victory is claimed, it can never be taken back. A censorious future is not anyone’s idea of a utopian future, but it’s the only alternative to the end of Everything As We Know It. Do you want your vote to count, or do you want to ignore the wailing of triggered redpillers losing their social media accounts? I’ll listen to their crying for the rest of my life if it means they can’t participate in public life.

The new Matrix movie comes out as the seeds of 21st century destruction — planted in the first years of the 2000s — are in full bloom. Most developed nations now have a radicalized right-wing party gaining footholds or outright seizing power. The United States is no different.

Millions upon millions of Americans believe they are Neo fighting against the amoral agents of the machine world. And they will stop at nothing to vanquish their enemies, both real and imagined. No democratic norms can save us now. Mass censorship or all-out political violence are our only choices. I choose the former. I refuse to accept a future in which my children live under redpill power. If avoiding that harrowing fate means putting free speech on ice, so be it. I won’t be ruled by a generation of bastardized Neos.

Follow Denny Carter on BlueSky at and on Threads and X at @CDCarter13.