FBI Suggests: Slang Words ‘Red-Pilled’ and ‘Based’ May Be Linked to Violent Extremism


The FBI’s domestic terrorism reference guide contains a new section that indicates certain internet slang terms like “red-pilled” and “based” might suggest a person’s inclination towards racist, involuntarily celibate, or fascist extremist views, according to a recent report by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project.

The report revealed an excerpt from the FBI’s guide that pertains to “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists” and “Involuntary Celibate Violent Extremists,” which contains glossaries of terms supposedly used by these groups.

The FBI seal is displayed on a podium before a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. NurPhoto via Getty Images

The following are some of the “key terms” incels are wont to use, according to the FBI:

  • Chad — “Race-specific term used to describe idealized version of a male, who is very successful at gaining sexual and romantic attention from women. Incels unsuccessfully compete against Chads for attention”;
  • Looksmaxxing — “The process of self-improvement with the intent to become more attractive”;
  • Normie; Blue Pill — “Derisive terms used to describe ‘normal people'”; and
  • Stacy — “Idealized version of a female, who is very successful at gaining sexual and romantic attention from men.”

The following are some of the “key terms” RMVEs are wont to use, according to the FBI:

  • Based — “RMVEs use the term to refer to someone who has been converted to racist ideology, or as a way of indicating ideological agreement”;
  • Great Replacement — “First popularized among European nationalists based on a 2005 book of the same title, the term refers to the belief in a conspiracy to replace the white race and Western culture through high non-white birth rates, mass immigration, and other measures”;
  • Red Pill — “In the context of RMVE ideology, taking the red pill or becoming ‘redpilled’ indicates the adoption of racist, anti-Semitic, or fascist beliefs”; and
  • LARPing — “A term which stands for ‘Live Action Role-Playing’ originally meant to describe a role-playing game in which participants act out their roles as fictional characters. RMVEs and their associates use the term online to deride individuals accused of not being as extreme, or in possession of skills or other valued characteristics, they claim to have.”

The FBI’s use of terms like “red-pilled” and “based” as indicators of potential extremist activity has sparked controversy, as these terms are used widely and innocuously online, according to experts. While some terms in the FBI’s glossaries have a historical link to extremist movements, others like “Chad” and “LARPing” are more commonly used in pop culture and online communities.

“Chad,” for example, is a “universally understood term online,” optimally employed when referring to a person with a carefree attitude, “particularly if they’re doing something particularly badass,” according to Know Your Meme. Critics argue that such broad definitions risk unfairly stigmatizing individuals and groups who use these terms in non-extremist contexts.

According to Caleb Madison’s article in The Atlantic, the term “Red Pill” has its roots in the movie “The Matrix,” in which the character Morpheus presents the protagonist, Neo, with a choice between the blue pill, which would allow him to continue living in ignorance, or the red pill, which would reveal the true nature of reality. The phrase is now commonly used to describe a person who has been awakened to a new truth or perspective on a topic.

The term “based,” on the other hand, has more obscure origins. It first appeared on the online forum 4chan in 2010, reportedly as a misspelling of “baste,” meaning “to cover with a liquid.” However, it has since evolved into a catch-all term of approval for something or someone perceived as cool, edgy, or politically incorrect. In recent years, it has been adopted by some conservative and far-right groups as a badge of honor.

The FBI’s domestic terrorism reference guide has come under scrutiny after a newly released section suggested that internet slang terms such as “red-pilled” and “based” may indicate a user’s proclivity for racist, involuntarily celibate, and/or fascist extremism.

However, some of these terms have been widely used online and have nothing to do with extremist views. For instance, “Chad” refers to a person with a carefree attitude, while “red-pilled” indicates the realization of a previously unknown reality. Similarly, “based” refers to a confident and free-thinking opinion or person, according to How-To Geek. The term originated from the recreational drug culture of the 1980s, specifically describing someone addicted to crack cocaine. The FBI has been criticized for associating common internet slang with extremist views, as well as raising the alarm about Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

A document published in January by the FBI’s Richmond field office, which suggests that violent extremists with a racially or ethnically motivated agenda are showing an interest in “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology.” This despite the Catholic Church’s condemnation of slavery long before the discovery of America and its vocal opposition to racism. The FBI allegedly claimed to have “increasingly observed interest” in this ideology, though it has not released a glossary of extremist Catholic terms and phrases.


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