Guest Editorial Dean C. Alexander and Dominic Lesniewski
In December 1989, Marc Lépine, 25, shot and murdered 14 women and injured over a dozen others, the majority women, at an engineering school, École Polytechnique de Montréal.
Lépine, who killed himself during the incident, disclosed in his suicide note that feminism ruined his life.
(A new BBC documentary highlights the subculture consisting mostly of men that began as a community for providing comfort and evolved into one that led some individuals to real-life violence. Courtesy of ABC News and YouTubee. Posted on Aug 14, 2019.)
Nearly a decade later (June 2009), George Sodini, 48, shot and killed three women and wounded nine others, before killing himself at a women’s aerobics class at LA Fitness health club in Collier Township, Pennsylvania.
Sodini’s website chronicled his rejection by women, which he described as resulting in severe sexual frustration.
(Share a glimpse at one lonely man’s spiral toward murder. Self posted online videos of the “gym gunman” George Sodini reveals some of his desire to impress women as friends mourn the deaths of their loved ones. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Aug 6, 2009.)
Ten years later, this melding of disdain against women, sexual frustration, and accompanying violence are characteristic of a dangerous faction of a strange movement termed, incel, for “involuntary celibate.”
Male incel doctrinaires, often radicalized and communicating online (e.g., Reddit, Facebook, and incel-oriented websites) lament their inability to develop a romantic relationship with a woman.
Some incels believe it is their right to have such relations: a pseudo-sense of “aggrieved entitlement.”
They attribute their incapacities to find female sexual partners due to self-described maladies ranging from physical appearance, social skills, and mental challenges, among other reasons.
Some incels even perceive that they cannot find a romantic partner absent a significant change, such as surgery to improve their physical appearance.
Selected incel followers bemoan they are further undermined in their quest for copulation because of feminism, by not being affluent, or otherwise in-vogue.
Also, incel members have espoused that men should be able to force women to have relations with men.
(The Incel community has been linked to the Toronto Van attack and now CityNews gets an exclusive look into the life of Incel from one of its members. Courtesy of CityNews Toronto and YouTube. Posted on May 9, 2018.)
Incel enmity is particularly thrust on whom they perceive as attractive, popular, and promiscuous women (Stacys) and men (Chads).
Even more bizarre, this inability to attain sexual satisfaction with females has manifested itself in violence against women, including acts of murder.
One could characterize this threat or use of violence against women as hate crimes, as it targets individuals based on their immutable characteristics (their gender).
Some segments within the white incel subculture assert that their sexless life is due to competition from non-white males, including blacks, Asians, and Hispanics.
This mindset is personified in racist views on chat rooms and other echo chambers of the Internet.
These bigoted views on race and ethnicity, anti-feminism, coupled by the paradigm that accounts for the sexual successes of Stacys and Chads, contribute to incel members claim that society is structurally responsible for their so-called “sexual oppression.”
Oddly, too, participants on incel forums have spewed harsh language at fellow “members,” encouraging already marginalized and distraught persons to commit suicide.
(Self-described involuntary celibates, or incels, have been tied to a handful of mass shootings in the past few years. Blaming women and society in general, they feel that their sex-less lives are a direct result of social progress. Joey is 23 and lives in West Palm Beach. He’s identified as an “incel” since late high school, and, for three years, has moderated an incel chatroom tied to the 4chan board /r9k/. Elle Reeve visits him to learn more about this bizarre, and potentially dangerous, subculture. Courtesy of VICE News and YouTube. Posted on Aug 2, 2018.)
Elliot Rodger, 22, an incel member who killed six people (two women) and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, explained his predicament, “I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me.”
Prior to his onslaught Rodger wrote, “One day incels will realize their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system. Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”
His lengthy manifesto was entitled,” My Twisted World.”
He posted a video online, “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.”
(Excerpt of the Inside The Secret World Of Incels. Courtesy of BBC Three and YouTube. Posted on Jul 15, 2019.)
Rodger, who referred to himself as the “Supreme Gentleman,” has been viewed as a cause célèbre among disparate incels; one whose violence against women (and others), should be replicated to bring attention to the incel cause.
One could dismiss incels and their predicament satirically, were it not that this movement continues to be marked by alienated individuals conducting violence.
The noteworthy record of recent incel-fueled violence in the United States and Canada includes:
In October 2015, Chris Mercer, 26, a self-described incel follower, murdered nine, wounded eight others, and then killed himself at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
Mercer’s manifesto and other writings referenced his inability to have a girlfriend, reverence for Elliot Rodger, and racist rants.
(The Umpqua Community College massacre on Thursday left ten people dead and at least seven people injured. Courtesy of ABC News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 3, 2015.)
Mercer also had disdain for organized religion, and—depending on witness accounts—asked his prospective victims if they were: “Christian, knew God, or had religion” or “Christian?”
As with other mass shooters, he sought notoriety and significance.
In an online post following a mass shooting in Virginia, Mercer wrote, “The more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
In December 2017, William Atchison, 21, shot and killed two students prior to killing himself at Aztec High School in New Mexico.
Before the incident, Atchison obsessed about mass shootings. Too, he was active on alt-right forums.
Like other incel members, he praised Elliot Rodger and used that pseudonym online.
(William Atchison, who scheduled his attack at a New Mexico high school, appeared to have threatened a mass shooting online just last year. Courtesy of ABC News and YouTube. Posted on Dec 9, 2017.)
On a thumb drive found on Atchison, the killer wrote, “Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks. I just want out of this [expletive].”
Clearly, one finds that violent actors within the incel movement are otherwise unsatisfied with their predicament.
On February 14, 2018—Valentine’s Day—Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Cruz articulated racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic precepts online.
(Chilling video has emerged showing the suspected gunman who killed 17 people and wounded 17 more at a Florida high school in February bragging about his plans to carry out the massacre. ‘When you see me on the news you’ll know who I am,’ Nikolas Cruz says while laughing creepily in three separate clips recorded on his cell phone. ‘You’re all going to die. Pew pew pew. I can’t wait.’ The video clips were released by Florida prosecutors. Courtesy of the Daily Mail and YouTube. Posted on May 30, 2018.)
On his YouTube, Cruz wrote, “Elliot Rodger will not be forgotten.”
Some incels now claim Cruz as their hero.
In March 2018, Cruz was indicted on 17 state charges of murder and an equal number of attempted murder counts. His trial is anticipated to begin in January 2020.
In April 2018, Alek Minassian, 25, purposefully drove a rented van on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto, killing ten (eight women) and injuring 16 others.
Minassian ultimately surrendered to a police officer after unsuccessfully asking the lawman to shoot him in the head.
Prior to conducting his attack, Minassian posted on Facebook, “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.”
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Eliot Rodger!”
(Ever since ten people were killed in Toronto after a man drove a van into pedestrians huge attention has been focused on a previously little-known internet subculture. “Incel” is short for “involuntarily celibate” and refers to groups of men who feel that they can’t enter into sexual relationships. They frequently vent anger against sexually successful men (“Chads”) and attractive women (“Stacys”). Incel forums include rants aimed at feminism and women, and some encourage violence. This week, BBC Trending takes an closer look at this dark online subculture. We speak to incels, ex-incels, and a woman who posed as a man online to keep an eye on them. And there’s a surprising twist, as we find out what one incel did shortly after our interview. Courtesy of BBC Stories and YouTube. Posted on Jun 10, 2018.)
Minassian was charged with 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. His trial is scheduled for February 2020.
In January 2019, Christopher Cleary, 27, was arrested in Provo, Utah, on his way to attack a Women’s March event.
Police found Cleary, a Colorado resident, by tracking him on his cell phone.
Authorities received tips from Cleary’s Facebook friends about his troubling online post: “I’ve never had a girlfriend before and I’m still a virgin, this is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the [sic] turned me down is going to make it right by killings as many girls as I see.”
(A Colorado man has been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill “as many girls as I see.” Police said they foiled a serious threat after Christopher Cleary, 27, allegedly traveled to Provo, Utah, the day before a Women’s March and then posted on Facebook about “being the next mass shooter.” A friend alerted police, who then took Cleary into custody, fearing he’d carry out his alleged threats at the march. Cleary is a self-proclaimed virgin, allegedly saying “all the girls turned me down.” Courtesy of Inside Edition and YouTube. Posted on Jan 28, 2019.)
In 2019, Cleary pleaded guilty to a count of an attempted threat of terrorism. He was sentenced to five years in a Utah prison.
In November 2018, Scott Beierle, 40, shot and killed two women at the Hot Yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, and injured five others, before killing himself.
Beierle, a veteran and former teacher with two graduate degrees and a criminal record of harassing women, uploaded misogynist videos, articulated anti-black sentiments, and compared himself to Rodger.
(The 40-year-old man who fatally shot two people on Friday and injured five others before taking his own life posted dozens of misogynist and racist videos online before the attack. The man, Scott Paul Beierle, also had a history of harassing women in Florida with multiple arrests, according to records. The father of victim Maura Binkley is calling for “a better way” to address people who exhibit “certain behaviors.” Courtesy of TODAY and YouTube. Posted on Nov 5, 2018.)
In 2019, various instances of domestic extremism/terrorism has merited law enforcement’s attention:
Violent white nationalism and other hate crime activity
Attacks by sovereign citizens and extremist anti-abortion operatives
Threats against politicians; and
Homegrown violent extremists (often jihadists)
Violent portions of the incel world appear to merit their place in the domestic threat matrix.
Incel attacks perpetrated by Rodger, Minassian, Beierle, and others show that alienation, loneliness, depression, and sexual frustration among some males are still being used to justify violence against women.
(Sam is a reclusive young man who finds solace with those who share the same self-described title as him: Incel. When his countless real-life efforts at love fail, Sam turns to this anonymous community of the “involuntarily celibate” for help, but instead finds himself increasingly pushed towards extremism. Courtesy of Short of the Week and YouTube. Posted on Nov 1, 2018.)
An otherwise empathetic public views all extremist violence as unjustifiable and illegal.
Society’s perception of incel-linked violence masquerading as legitimate conduct is no exception.
Fortunately, civil society is not doomed to be frequent victims of such aberrant, abhorrent, and militant behaviors.
Raising awareness about the incel movement, its “grievances,” and violent tendencies within its fringe could aid society to craft mollifying counter narratives and off-ramps in this subculture.
Countervailing routes to belligerency could be offered by family, friends, mental health professionals, educational institutions, youth counselors, as well as civic and religious organizations.
Such alternative paths might encompass features of resiliency skills, socialization, acceptance, and empathy even when frustration and alienation—aggravated by self-isolation and technology—are significant.
(Maxim Gaudette delivers a very powerful dialogue at the beginning of this great film, directed and co-written by Denis Villeneuve. Courtesy of dendufrygter and YouTube. Posted on Feb 17, 2017.)
In addition, law enforcement can combat incel-infused violence by:
Recognizing features of potential incel illegal behavior (e.g., violent speech calling for immediacy of action and a likelihood of it occurring; stalking; hate crimes; and plans for kinetic incidents)
Following up on tips from the public about threatening language online or offline; and
Using informants and undercover agents in sting operations
Heightened security measures at sites that have experienced incel attacks—educational institutions and health clubs, among others—could prove helpful.
Last, increased monitoring of online platforms by social media firms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), other technology firms (e.g., Internet domain registrar, web hosting, and other web infrastructure companies), online payment providers, researchers, government officials, and the public might undermine peripheral incel adherents who are mobilized to undertake attacks.
Dean C. Alexander is professor and director of the Homeland Security Research Program at Western Illinois University (WIU).
In 2019, Dominic Lesniewski earned a B.S. degree from the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at WIU.
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