Since the Toronto van attack on the 23rd of April this year, words like ‘Incel’, ‘Chads’ and ‘Staceys’ have been sprayed out all over the media. Minutes before the van attack, the suspect, Alek Minassian, stated on his Facebook profile that the “incel rebellion has already begun.” In the same Facebook post, Minassian referenced Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the 2014 Isla Vista killings. The Incel subculture has been gaining attention in the media since the 2014 killings, culminating into the attention it receives today. The common denominator within the Incel (involuntary celibate) subculture is the fact that these man are often misogynous and angry and they blame women for their involuntary celibacy. They view women as the basis, the root of their sexual deprivation: in the words of Rodger “they [women] are the main instigators of sex. They control which men get it and which men don’t.” The two attacks, in Isla Vista and Toronto, have both been carried out by men who are part of the subculture and their attacks have much in common with many terrorist attacks carried out nowadays. What does this mean for the classification of such attacks?
The Incel Subculture
The term Incel originated in the mid-1990s and was first used by a female statistician who decided to establish a forum online to talk about the difficulties she faced with finding an intimate relationship. This term quickly became the moniker for men who were frustrated and who struggle to form intimate relationships and blamed society in general and women specifically for their situation. On various online forums these men discuss their situation, often drenched with misogyny. They emphasize good looks and claim that men with good looks, so-called ‘Chads’ are able to have intimate relationships with beautiful women (so-called ‘Staceys’). This shows a contrast within the Incel subculture: on the one hand these men feel very inferior to other men who are able to have intimate relationships, whereas on the other hand, they feel superior to everyone who does not give them the attention they feel they deserve. On some of these forums, they also discuss their aversion from violence and violent means, showing that not all of these men are violent. However, most of these men support the ideas set out by Rodger.
One of the ‘heroes’ of the Incel subculture is Elliot Rodger. Right before the 2014 Isla Vista killings, he posted a manifest in which he stated that society and women owed him attention and sexual relationships. He saw other men as inferior and wrote in his manifest that: “the mere sight of them enjoying their happy lives was an insult to me, because I deserve it more than them.” Thus, it seems as if the men who are part of this subculture have a high sense of entitlement and view society as skewed and believe they are entitled to women, their attention and acceptance. One could even argue that these attacks against women could be classified as gender-based terrorism.
What does this all mean?
Two attacks by men who are part of the Incel subculture do not make the entire subculture a terrorist organization. However, Minassian’s attack is not classified as politically motivated, while this is not the first time that the motivation of the attack is rooted in hate against women. Violence against women is a systematic, structural and large-scale phenomenon. Often, terrorism studies classify a terrorist attack based on the many factors, of which one is instilling fear and causing widespread recognition. Now, with Minassian’s attack in Toronto, but also Rodger’s killings in Isla Vista, a part of the public is targeted and on various forums these men often talk about killing women as part of their retribution.
Currently, the Minassian attack is not classified as a terrorist attack, but the forums of the Incel subculture address “the worship of murderers, calls for mass rape and female genocide.” Thus, it seems worth it to look at attacks like these as politically motivated and focus on the underlying motivation. It might be wise to search into this barrel of lone actors for signals for to-be-formed extremist organizations, polarization or new extremist ideologies in order to know more about these lone-actor attacks.