On Tuesday, Philip Bump of The Washington Post had a clever way to keep up the coverage of Donald Trump's history of grifting people through his "Trump University" scam, which the state of New York (and many others) is suing him over. Under court order, evidence from the lawsuit is being released to the press, and in it is the training materials for the Trump U salespeople, manuals that display a veritable wasteland of manipulative techniques employed to dupe grandmothers and desperate people looking for a magic bullet to financial freedom.
"[A] lot of the recommendations for how to convince those Americans to pony up sound an awful lot like the recommendations offered by pickup artists," Bump writes, referring to a subculture of men, with a heavy online presence, who trade tips promising to teach socially awkward or even creepy men how to lure unwilling women into bed.
Bump pulled a bunch of quotes from pickup artist websites, mixed them up with quotes from the Trump U sales manuals and had readers try to guess which one was which. Which turns out to be nearly impossible to do, for good reason.
"In both cases, people are being trained to overcome strong resistance to something that they don’t really want," Bump writes. "It’s just a reminder that training people to get people to do things they don’t want to often looks and feels the same, regardless of who the customers are."
It's a fun little exercise, but Bump has just scratched the surface here. The alliance between Trump and the pickup artist community runs far deeper than a few rhetorical similarities. On the contrary, there is a deep ideological link between pickup artists and Trump. They share a reductionist view of society, one where all human relations are viewed in terms of dominance and submission, where every interaction — even sex — is about one party "winning" and the other "losing." It's a worldview that leads quite naturally to being incredibly sexist, treating women not as people to relate to, but objects to conquer and own.
Some of the big-name commercial pickup artists who make a living off selling books and seminars on pickup — think "Mystery" from the VH-1 show about pickup artists — largely avoid sharing political views, but some of the edgier pickup artists that have come up in the social media era and run their businesses through blogs share their beliefs more freely. Those pickup artists are a lot more free-handed about their voting habits and political enthusiasms, David Futrelle of the blog We Hunted the Mammoth told me.
At his blog, Futrelle keeps track of various overlapping online subcultures devoted to anti-feminism and out-and-out misogyny, such as "men's rights" activists, Gamergaters, and the "incel" community (short for "involuntarily celibate," a community of men, including the mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who blame women for their inability to get laid). Not all pickup artists are putrid enough misogynists to feature on Futrelle's watch list, but those whose blogs he monitors and reports on, chosen because they tend to be the most overtly misogynist, absolutely love Trump.
"Trump is, in many ways, their ideal alpha male, an arrogant, deliberately obnoxious asshole who treats women like shit but has a former model more than twenty years his junior as a wife," Futrelle told me over email. "It doesn't hurt that she's Eastern European; PUAs like Roosh Valizadeh contend that American women are basically spoiled by too much feminism, and see Eastern European women, by contrast, as relatively unspoiled."
Pickup artists like Daryush Valizadeh, who goes by the name "Roosh" to publish his "Bang" series of books purporting to teach men how to have sex with women in various countries, and James C. Weidmann, who goes by the ridiculous name Heartiste, absolutely adore Trump. In him, they see a kindred spirit, a man who believes women exist to be submissive and flattering and provide sex and have no value outside of that.
Heartiste is a blogger who teaches the "Sixteen Commandments of Poon." It's a manual on how to emotionally abuse a woman, with gems like if "she has displeased you, punish swiftly, but when she has done you right, reward slowly" and give "your woman 2/3 of everything she gives you," in an effort to constantly remind her that you believe she's less valuable than you.
Heartiste blogs constantly about how much he loves and worships Trump, but perhaps his most telling post is a short one, snapshot here for posterity:
Matt Forney, a pickup artist whose classics include “How to Beat Your Girlfriend or Wife and Get Away with It” and who argued "[w]omen should be terrorized by their men; it’s the only thing that makes them behave better than chimps," is a Trump fanboy through and through. Last week, he put up a post at the pickup artist blog Return of the Kings titled "How Donald Trump Is Inspiring a Masculine Renaissance in America."
While Forney takes his potshots at liberals, most of his vitriol in the piece is aimed at conservatives, which many Trump supporters call "cuckservative," after a racist subcategory of porn where white men are "cuckolded" by their wives having sex with black men.
"One of the massive contradictions of mainstream conservatism is that while it purports to advocate for traditional values and gender roles, its leading figures are all sackless losers," Forney writes.
He cites Ted Cruz as an example, calling Cruz a "whiner" and saying, "Cruz’s cult-like supporters respond to attacks on him by acting like crybabies."
"Contrast this with how Trump supporters defend their candidate by trolling his enemies and making funny memes," he concludes, satisfied. The renaissance of masculinity, indeed. Gary Cooper and Joe DiMaggio would certainly be impressed by the burly masculinity that it takes to photoshop Impact font captions over funny pictures.
Similarly, the most popular pickup artist forum online, Reddit's "Red Pill" forum, is indistinguishable from a Trump fan forum. The forum is teeming with discussion threads positing that Trump is a role model and that the disrespect and abuse he dishes out to women is behavior to imitate.
"Donald Trump teaches us something very important. Never bow down when put on the spot in front of a women," one poster's headline declares. In it, the poster explains that the way Trump treated Megyn Kelly, i.e., being a dick to her, was how men generally should, uh, handle women.
"This is a vital lesson to all men. Never ever let the hottest girl in the room manipulate you and break your frame. Never give in," the poster writes. ("Your frame" is pickup artist lingo for trying to project an aura of overconfidence and stubbornness, or mostly just about being a bully.) "Even if you make a mistake, NEVER apologize to a girl." He recommends instead that men exploit women's socialization to make the peace to bully women into accepting abusive treatment.
In another worshipful post analyzing how Trump treats Kelly, the poster writes, "He starts off by interrupting and mocking her, she responds but off guard now. He then agrees and amplifies 'I'm sure it was' which dismissed her attempt at shaming him. These are solid redpill tactics that are proven to work."
Of course, this is a pickup artist forum, and so, in theory, "what works" is supposed to mean "what gets women to want to have sex with you." It's doubtful, however, that even this pack of fools actually thinks that Kelly wants to have sex with Trump. Which, in turn, suggests that "pickup artistry" is not really about improving your game with the ladies, so much as it's about giving men permission to belittle and bully women under the guise of becoming "alpha."
That such men would love Trump, then, is no surprise. Trump is loud, orange, stupid, and ridiculous, but he is a bully, and to the pickup artist community, that's what it takes to be a man.