‘Incels’ are a group of ‘involuntary celebates’: a group of male supremacists who believe that women would essentially be incapable of operating in society were it not for their vaginas, and that men are essentially their own ‘master-race’ who should dominate and control women, for the betterment of all humanity (Janik 1). So are incels really to blame for their own actions of terrorism?
Well, in one word: Yes. If you’re a terrorist (which these people are, which I consider any mass-killer with an ideology, but I’ll get into that in a bit), then there’s an element of social isolation. In England in 2017, the former government integration tsar Louise Casey told British police that a lack of social integration, and feelings of alienation and isolation are responsible for a rise in extremist, violent sentiment (Dodd 1). Political scientist Louise Richardson says we should resist calling the mass shooter and other spree killers “terrorists” because many define ‘terrorism’ as a politically motivated act which aims to send a message, and that message is more important than the act of violence itself (Gessen 2). These definitions of terrorism create a blurred line when we try to understand the motivation behind Alek Minnasain’s alleged toronto van attack on April 23, 2018 (Dempsey 1). Wesley Mack was one of the alleged killer’s neighbors, and in an interview with a toronto newspaper Mack said: “We are a very quiet, self-contained community. People are busy with their lives. We see each other come and go, but we are not a block party kind of community (Dempsey 2).”
One of the Casey was talking about muslim extremists, but the science behind extremism works for both traditionally defined terrorists, and the individual spree killers, who may or may not have latched onto a cause such as the “Men Going Their Own Way” movement or ‘M.G.T.O.W.’ (pronounced ‘mig-tow’, except it’s the ‘tow’ in ‘tower’ not ‘toe’ as in ‘my big toe’) (Gaudette 2).
There’s something else to be said of this understanding of incels as terrorists, and that is: I’m not afraid of them. But I’m probably not afraid of them because I (usually) identify as and (usually) dress as a man. My gender non binary identity and bisexuality does make me afraid of the alt-right and far right extremist groups because I could see someone unloading a pistol into my skull if I was dressed in some off-gender clothes, wearing makeup on a crowded street corner, but I don’t readily identify as a woman, so perhaps incels don’t scare me because I’m not the object of their fetishization. And make no mistake: these people DO fetishize women because their whole identity is created around the fact that they can’t get any (willingly: there’s a huge tendency in the incel, Red-Pill, and M.G.T.O.W. community to start calling for rape, and this is usually what gets these communities banned from the online forums they congregate around, such as Reddit and 4chan. Lately they’ve begun to focus on the chat service Discord, which was first created for gamers, but the intersecting nature of socially isolated gamers and socially isolated extremists probably had something to do with that (Long). Obviously gamers aren’t by nature shut ins (they’re by nature people who play fucking videogames, that’s their definition), but there’s an overlapping in the venn-diagram of the socially isolated radicals, and gamers: Some socially isolated radicals are gamers, and some gamers are socially isolated radicals, but not all socially isolated radicals are gamers, and not all gamers are socially isolated radicals.
But are all these people who are isolated, radicalized terrorists really at fault? Well I’d say mostly yes, and a little bit no, for the same reason I’d say so many drug addicts are mostly responsible for their actions, but if we have a clearly statistical trend of a specific set of people all participating in specific activity, and another group of people.
I think it’s something about our current 21st century social and political climate which pushes right wing political groups into extremism that doesn’t happen on the left, despite whatever antifa mythology Donald Trump wants to prop up.
We don’t see black lives matter supporters taking machine guns into crowded city streets, and there aren’t any #metoo bombers, or even the new wave of socialists, Marxists, and communists committing acts of violence: it’s only young white men on the right going to these extreme lengths. Why is that? I may address this question in more depth in a future blog post, but so far this is what I’ve found.
I’m going to make the same point here that I made earlier regarding the venn diagram of extremists and gamers: it’s not straight, cisgender, young white men who are by nature violent or extreme, but this new crop of alt-right terrorists seems to be all, or nearly all, disenfranchised young white straight (Cisgendered) men.
Dempsey, Amy. “Inside the life of Alek Minassian, the Torronto van rampage suspect no one thought capable of murder”. thespec.com, The Hamilton Spectator, 14 May, 2018, https://www.thespec.com/news-story/8605039-inside-the-life-of-alek-minassian-the-toronto-van-rampage-suspect-no-one-thought-capable-of-murder/.
Dodd, Vikram. “Social isolation behind extremism and terrorism, police told”. theguardian.com, Guardian News and Media Limited, 2 Nov. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/02/social-isolation-behind-extremism-and-terrorism-police-told.
Gaudette, Emily. “Reddit Bans Community of Celibate Men for Making Rape Threats”. newsweek.com, Newsweek LLC, 9 Nov. 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/reddit-incels-mgtow-red-pill-mens-rights-mras-706886.
Gessen, Masha. “Why We Should Resist Calling The Las Vegas Shooting “Terrorism”. thenewyorker.com, Condé Nast, 3 Oct. 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-we-should-resist-calling-the-las-vegas-shooting-terrorism.
Janik, Rachel. “I laugh at the death of normies”: How incels are celebrating the Toronto mass killing”. splcenter.org, The Southern Poverty Law Center, 24 Apr. 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/04/24/i-laugh-death-normies-how-incels-are-celebrating-toronto-mass-killing.
“Long Story Short: How Gamers are Facilitating the Rise of the Alt-Right”. nbcnews.com, NBCNEWS.COM, 27 Oct. 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/long-story-short/video/how-discord-became-the-alt-right-s-favorite-organizing-platform-1082921539520.