Killer Incels: How Misogynistic Men Unleashed a New Terrorist Threat


In May 2014, in the idyllic seaside community of Isla Vista, California, a gruesome new strain of terrorism was unleashed.

Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the attack, fatally stabbed or shot six people and injured 14. His actions were not fueled by racism or religious hatred, but by misogyny. Roger was a pathologically self-pitying 22-year-old virgin who viewed his actions as “retribution” against the woman for rejecting him sexually.

Her actions and worldview resonated with a legion of embittered and empowered young men around the world, who saw themselves as hopeless losers in the sex market. For them, Rodger has become something of a martyr.

They called themselves “incels”, for “involuntary celibacy”. And they’ve carried out a string of deadly attacks since Rodger’s, a 2018 pickup truck attack in Toronto; a 2020 machete attack at a Toronto spa and a mall shooting in Glendale, Arizona in the same year; a mass shooting in Plymouth, England in 2021.

The incels are just one extreme pocket of a toxic online ecosystem known as the manosphere, an incubator of misogyny and anti-feminism, radical male grievances and rights, and occasional acts of deadly violence. It frequently straddles the far right and shares many of the same underlying beliefs regarding race and gender, despite incels being a racially diverse community.

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At the heart of these is the belief that feminism has ruined modern society by creating a world in which women are meant to be equal agents – thus denying men the dominance they believe is natural and essential to their happiness. .

“They all focus on the idea that men are losing ground or losing their position and status in society,” said Sarah Daly, an expert in mass violence, gender and online communities at Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania.

“There’s an ideological connection for sure,” said Jacob Ware, a counterterrorism expert and assistant professor at Georgetown University. “The view that women are backward, that feminism takes away our right to be strong men, to be strong white men.”

He said it was also common to see incels using highly racialized language – as seen in a long screed broadcast by Rodger (who was of mixed white and Asian heritage) before his attack, in which he ranted about the black and Asian men, and their ability to date white women.

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But incels diverge from the far-right’s attitude toward women in one key aspect, Ware said. Far-right groups have traditionally tended to exhibit what he called “benevolent sexism” – seeing women as a kind of fetishized “property” of white men to be protected from outside “threats”.

“The Incels have redefined that – they’re what we call hostile sexists,” Ware said. “So for the first time we see that rather than committing violence to uphold this image of the perfect white woman, we are now seeing hostile violence targeted at [women]. It is a change. And that makes incels a new challenge and a different type of threat.

The murky overlap between the Manosphere and the far right can be clearly seen in cases like the murderous targeted shootings at tattoo parlors and elsewhere in Denver, Colorado in December 2021 by Lyndon McLeod, a minor Manosphere influencer.

McLeod had built his reputation in the manosphere with a fictional trilogy called Sanction, which horribly presaged his own attack. The series’ protagonist, a hate-filled bachelor tattoo shop owner named “Lyndon MacLeod”, brimming with contempt for the world, goes on a killing spree at a tattoo parlor, killing two people who shared the same name as the real victims of McLeod.

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In addition to prophesying McLeod’s actions, the book functioned as a kind of far-right masculinist manifesto. McLeod championed strands of white nationalist ideology, ecofascism, and self-help libertarianism, railed against minorities and left-wing causes, and ultimately attempted to glorify mass violence as a kind of redemptive act. McLeod was shot by a police officer and posthumously canonized as a “saint” by far-right groups online, following in the footsteps of the Christchurch terrorist and other recent mass killers.

But while hateful ideologies from the manosphere can clearly spill over into the far right, acting as a potential gateway to far-right ideology, Ware said extremism researchers are reluctant to see the movement through. this lens. This, he said, risked downplaying the very real threat that incels inherently already posed.

“We already have a serious threat to female communities in the incel movement,” he said. “Let’s not minimize this… It’s bad enough.”

The post Killer Incels: How Misogynistic Men Sparked a New Terror Threat appeared first on VICE.


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