Roosh V used to go out most nights looking to seduce a woman, but today he has a much easier task: He’s just looking to piss one off.
It’s opening day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland in July, and the most hated “pickup artist” in the world has infiltrated a group of protesters outside the arena. He’s wearing a Hillary Clinton hat (he supports Donald Trump), and in a video of the incident he streamed on Periscope, he and the demonstrators clash. “This girl just came up to me and tried to touch me without my consent,” he says into his smartphone camera, feigning the politically correct outrage he mocks. “She said, ‘Go back to the Middle East.’ She is Islamophobic!”
Roosh, whose father is from Iran, then turns his camera to the woman, who responds, “You’re a piece of shit. I didn’t touch you!” Then she calls him a rapist. A crowd forms. Another woman edges close, holding a microphone, and says she’s with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “Who are you?” she asks Roosh. Before he can answer, the crowd starts chanting, “Rapist! Rapist!” and the first woman says, “You should kill yourself.”
Roosh is pleased. He not only got to spar with some of the “social justice warriors” he despises but also got material to share with his many followers. And don’t forget all the free publicity, which he needs as he attempts to make his transition from pickup artist (someone who relentlessly practices the “art” of seduction) to a hero of the “alternative right” movement.
Like the bombastic presidential candidate inside the convention hall that day, Roosh thinks America is too PC. That’s largely the subject of his new book, Free Speech Isn’t Free, and since embarking on a lecture tour in summer 2015 (“The State of Man”), he has evolved from “game” guru to conservative provocateur, joining figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, the flamboyant Breitbart editor whom Twitter recently banned for inciting harassment. Yiannopoulos is a leader of the alt-right—a meme-obsessed nationalist subculture that grew out of online forums, gained a following among Trump supporters and mirrors the right-wing movements spreading overseas. Its members include white supremacists, anti-Semites and internet trolls.
— A.J. Hoge (@ajhoge) October 15, 2016
Though Roosh says he is not part of the movement—they just have common enemies—his alliance with its leaders was evident at the RNC, where he went to a party Yiannopoulos threw. Also there: Geert Wilders, the controversial Dutch politician on trial for anti-immigrant hate speech. A journalist who attended described the event as a “hell full of manic trolls and smug neo-fascists from every slimy corner of the internet.”
Followers of Roosh, whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, know him as a blogger who has been running websites devoted to “game”—the tricks and techniques to use to seduce women—since around 2001. His website Return of Kings “aims to usher the return of the masculine man in a world where masculinity is being increasingly punished and shamed.” There are more than a million posts on his forum, and he has self-published 18 books.
He’s perhaps best known—and most hated—for his proposed International Tribal Meetup Day in February. Attendees (no women or gay men allowed) were to congregate at set locations, identify one another through a code phrase and then go to bars or cafés. The 165 gatherings in 43 countries would offer “the opportunity to meet other like-minded men,” he wrote.