For years, Patrick Stedman made a modest income deprogramming clients out of “the harmful (and hidden) mindset holding men back in dating.” In blog posts and sales pitches, he described himself as a former “social outcast” turned “playboy” who had dated four women simultaneously and thrown parties which hundreds attended. He promised to show men how women use sex to manipulate their partners, taught them to change a girlfriend’s fundamental beliefs to match one’s own. In January, convinced he was joining the revolution, he encouraged his followers to come with him to D.C.
In the weeks since a group of the former president’s supporters broke into the Capitol to menace elected officials and document their attempts at a violent coup extensively on camera, Twitter threads and documents identifying the various participants have provided a remarkable cross-section of the once-fringe elements of the Right. The people who ran through the Senate floor with Tasers and kicked their feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk spent their days in ordinary jobs, as realtors and bartenders and nurses. But their reality was shaped, by and large, in the noxious online communities they’d formed. They imagined themselves as founding fathers of the ethnostate, MAGA-branded colonialists, foot-soldiers for Q. Some, likely fueled by these same communities, imagined themselves as experts on how to date.
According to charges filed in the past week, at least two of the participants in the Capitol siege were self-styled pickup artists, the kind of men who say they can teach other men to attract desirable women, for a fee. It’s the sort of anecdote that spreads quickly on the internet, in part because the jokes write themselves: It seems obvious and absurd that the architects of the stupid attempted coup would embrace a 30-something self-help guru, slamming out blog posts about what a stud Donald Trump is from his parent’s home. But by the time the pick-up artists travelled to the Capitol, one with a not-insignificant cache of weapons, the jokes about lonely men and their acronyms hadn’t been funny for awhile. Of course an industry that alleged to help nerds bend reality to recoup the power they felt naturally owed bred people with enough loathing to fixate on taking it by force.
Like some of the groups that coalesced on that day, “dating coaches”
have been historically covered in the press with a sort of bemused remove. Even in comparison to the dapper Nazis who enjoyed lavish attention circa 2016, the mainstreaming of the movement was intense. The guys teaching men to treat women as targets in a military-style operation, who throw around words like “hypergamy” and arrange the objects of affection by genus and class to lend their flailing a scientific sheen, were profiled extensively through the 2000s. VH1 did a whole dating show based on the idea that men could learn to hack the female psyche in 2007. James Franco was hired to do a movie adaptation of The Game. Over time, the pick-up artists splintered or quit. Quite a number of them radicalized further. The desire to possess “traditional” women unadulterated by feminism is, after all, a natural complement to nationalist visions of a “traditional” West.
Stedman along with Samuel Fisher, of New York and New Jersey, respectively, both sold themselves as figures who could teach a man how to play the game. Both appeared to have been drawn into the QAnon conspiracy theory—and the complementary theory that covid-19 isn’t real. In the days leading up to January 6, Stedman tweeted that the day would “eventually be a national holiday akin to the 4th of July.” In blog posts leading up to the riot, Fisher, under his alias Brad Holiday, called it “the most historically important day of our lives.” Elsewhere on their websites, they presented themselves as functional babe magnets and promised that, for a relatively modest fee, they’d teach others how to be fully and most masculinely themselves.
Stedman’s posture appears less outwardly radical than Fisher’s: On his website, he says he’s worked as a dating coach since 2015 and does business under the name the Dynamic Man. He’s spoken at the 21 Convention, an annual event dedicated to “abolishing the feminist establishment” and saving the “West.” His blog posts address, among other things, a math equation determining how young a dateable woman can be and “Three Reasons Donald Trump Gets Hot Chicks.” In his sales pitch, he writes that he can’t help a person who hates women, though there aren’t many other motivations beyond hate to categorize a population into “high value” or “low value” assets to control.
In the months leading up to the Capitol riot, Stedman—who is married and has a young child—frequently tweeted QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories and recorded himself on a video channel he called “COVID/CABAL.” Last year, on the aptly named Masculine By Design Mancast, he warned about “satanic rituals” and the “Deep State Cabal.” During the Capitol riot, as the feds noted when they charged him with trespassing and disorderly conduct, Stedman posted videos of a group breaking through doors inside the building and another of a rioter interacting with a cop. He’s since returned to tweeting about what it means when women angle themselves close to you and how horror movies “program people to open themselves to demonic attack.”
When Fisher was arrested on the Upper East Side last week, investigators found tactical gear and multiple firearms. They also found two machetes. Under his alias, Brad Holiday, the 35-year-old blogged prodigiously about Joe Biden’s pedophilic tendencies and shared anti-Semetic treatises. For $150, Fisher would enroll a man in what he referred to as his “Attraction Accelerator,” an online class “about attracting women, money, fitness” and “much more” that had clearly been cribbing from incels and other areas of the misogynist communities that are adjacent to the far right. In a promotional post, Fisher displayed sample lessons like “look like a Chad” and “Face Care of the Gods.” Self-improvement sections included references to NoFap—the anti-masturbation dictum that first emerged on Reddit and was later adopted by the Proud Boys—next to tips for Mixed Martial Arts and “tactical hand-to-hand combat techniques.” According to the New York Daily News, a former client of Fisher’s recalled him giving out the advice that “sexual harassment is a saying invented by sissies who can’t get laid” and wishing someone would shoot a group of feminists instead of schools. On January 7, Fisher wrote on Facebook that the riot at the Capitol “was awesome. It was dangerous and violent. People died ... but it was fucking great if you ask me.” He was charged in federal court with disorderly conduct and unlawful entry on restricted grounds.
One story to tell about the Capitol siege is how quickly people who prodded curiously at the edges of online communities could be turned into unhired guns; it wasn’t so long ago that QAnon was a widely mocked fringe movement and the broader anti-feminist internet more of a punchline than an open entrance gate. The pickup artists of the insurrection are just a sliver of the broader coalition that will in all likelihood continue to swell, fueled by politicians who feign friendliness in exchange for votes and the imagined oppression of a centrist Democratic regime. The unified front that marched from a rally to the Capitol was really a patchwork of groups that had been considered too niche to pose a realistic threat—their politics, like those of the pick-up artists, goofy enough to curiously study and then mostly disregard.