To those not intimately familiar with the peculiar argot of the self-declared “involuntarily celibate,” the Facebook message that Toronto van attack suspect Alek Minassian left as his calling card must have seemed less like a political manifesto than a strange missive from another world.
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” he declared. “We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Welcome to the world of the "incel," a world in which well-adjusted, sexually active young men ("Chads") and women ("Stacys") are somehow responsible for the misery of the dateless. A world in which the misogynistic spree killer Elliot Rodger is not only the “supreme gentleman” he sometimes imagined himself to be, but a bona fide saint.
The world got its first look at the incel subculture in 2014, when Rodger murdered six people in what he saw as an act of “retribution” against the women of the world for rejecting him. Rodger, who ended his murder spree by killing himself, left behind a hundred page autobiography-cum-manifesto in which he detailed what he called his “twisted life” and set forth the rationale behind his murder spree, which could be reduced to a simple proposition: if others were getting laid and he wasn't, they deserved to die.
That basic proposition, at once chilling and faintly ludicrous, might as well be the motto of the “incel” movement as a whole. Incels are an offshoot of the larger male supremacy movement, whose penchant for wildly misogynistic speech and violent actions landed them on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of official hate groups this year. Rodger managed to disguise the petty narcissism underlying his murderous impulses in 100 pages of autobiography. Minassian, by contrast, reduced his own motives to a set of incel cliches, offering a justification for mass murder so weirdly glib and impersonal that many people were convinced the Facebook post was a hoax, not written by Minassian at all but rather the work of some bored 4chan user.
What makes the incel subculture so dangerous for the young men that engage with it - and for those outside the subculture who become the targets of incel rage - is that it takes the bitterness and sadness we sometimes feel when faced with sexual and romantic frustrations and turns this misery into a mode of being.
Instead of encouraging them to move on from their disappointments, the incel subculture encourages young men to stew in their own bitterness. Instead of encouraging them to learn from their mistakes, the incel subculture encourages young men to blame “Chad and Stacy”- but especially Stacy - for their lack of love and sex. Instead of encouraging those who need professional help to get it, incel culture tells young men that their problems are unfixable - that they are simply too ugly for anyone to ever love.
Incels direct so much hatred at the outside world - and at women in particular - that it's easy to lose sight of the many ways incel culture promotes a deep and hopeless form of self-hatred, one that is not dissimilar to the self-hatred our mainstream, looks-obsessed culture cultivates in women. Like an influencer's Instagram account, incel subculture encourages these men to fixate on the things about themselves that they cannot change - their height, the shape of their face, the particular slope of their eyebrows - rather than those they can, like, say, their hatred of women and resentment of other men.
Incels hate women, yes, but they hate themselves nearly as much, and the incel subculture not only encourages both kinds of hatred, but it teaches them that there is no way out. This is what makes the incel subculture so poisonous to everyone it touches. It has transformed young men dealing with depression - or simply the ordinary unhappiness of life - into a veritable underground army of angry, bitter misogynists who feel they have nothing to live for and have no hope of improving their lives in what they see as our “gynocentric” society.
If these young men aren't stopped, there will be more horrors like what we saw this week in Toronto, if not worse. In the forums on incel hangout Incels.me, some are already hailing Minassian as a hero, and looking forward to the next wave of incel terror attacks. “[W]e're the real victims,” declares one forum regular who has contributed more than 5,000 comments since joining the site last November. “It's time we fought back.”
“I laugh at the death of normies. They will die while we survive,” writes another commenter, with more than 4000 comments under his belt.
“Us incels spend most of our time inside, there's no way we would ever be victims of an attack. But normies must now live with fear for the rest of their lives, they can't go to school, the mall, or on a date without having to fear another incel attack. And they should fear it, this is what happens when you leave us without any love or companionship.”
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