How lonely social rejects banded together to create a terrifying new phenomenon, and what it could come to in the near future.
Everybody feels lonely from time to time. But when this loneliness and isolation goes on for years or even decades, it isn’t surprising that one subject to this torture would act out. It is truly terrifying to be alone for such extended periods of time, even being used as a form of torture on prisoners via solitary confinement. Imagine an entire group of people subject to such loneliness bonding for the sole purpose of getting back at those that have caused their social isolation and rejection.
Unfortunately, imagination is not necessary, as a group like this is very real, and very dangerous.
As evidenced by several terrorist attacks such as the May 2014 Isla Vista mass shooting and the 2018 Toronto van attack, the mid-2010’s were just the beginning of a new type of terrorism: incel terrorism. Incel is short for “Involuntary Celibate”, originally coined in the late 90’s by a Toronto woman who wanted to make a safe space for “those who were struggling to form loving relationships”. Now, Incels are a group of lonely, bitter men who blame their shortcomings on women who rejected them as well as romantically successful men.
The Incel movement as it exists currently kicked off in 2014, after Eliot Rodger, a self-described Incel, conducted a mass shooting in Isla Vista, CA. Rodger has since been canonized among the incel community as an “incel hero”. The incel community also seems to idolize other misogyny driven mass shootings such as Marc Lepine, who conducted a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989, and Alek Minassian, who conducted the 2018 Toronto Van Attack (he himself admitted to being radicalized by Incels online). The martyring of previous mass killers who were fueled by their hatred of women raises immense concern for the future of the Incel movement.
The first possibility could be that the movement will eventually fizzle out of existence over time. Since one’s opinions and ideologies usually morph over the course of a lifetime, it is possible they may grow out of this line of thought. In addition, 36% of Incels reporting being between 18 and 21 and 27.9% report being between 22 and 25. It is entirely possible that these young men are simply too young and immature to cope well with rejection by women and other peers. However, there is no denying that they can commit heinous acts.
Another possibility is that which suggests that they may stagnate. This is unlikely, but it could be achieved through strict restrictions on popular Incel forums. Additionally, strict moderation of social media sites where Incels may spread their poisonous rhetoric is necessary, especially on sites like Reddit and Twitter. With these precautions, we could at least keep them at bay and take preventative measures to avoid any more femicides or misogyny-driven mass shootings.
The third and final possibility is that the Incel movement could spiral out of control. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated social isolation due to lockdowns and quarantines, adding fuel to the already growing fire. As more young men, already feeling increasingly alienated by society, entered into extended periods of isolation, these Incel ideas seemed more attractive to them. According to The Times, misogynistic forums dedicated to Incels has increased substantially in the past couple of months. What’s worse, the most popular Incel forums receive millions of visits per month. Because of all of these factors, this final possibility may very well be the most likely of them all.
The Incel movement is a new flavor of misogyny, which has existed for all of human history. While previous movements included Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) and other anti-feminist groups, Incels seem different. They have no affiliation to a specific group or even a political ideology (although most lean considerably to the right). All Incel attacks thus far have been self-radicalized lone wolves like Alek Minassian and Eliot Rodger. However, the trend of increasingly aggressive and violent attitudes towards women, along with the idolization of previous Incel killers, has drawn much concern.
The future looks bleak in terms of growing misogynist sentiment and Incel violence. Because of this, it is vital that mental health is prioritized across the board. Due to the stresses of current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has been on a steady decline for many people. Perhaps the most affected by the resulting isolation are young men, specifically those that make up the majority of self-described Incels.
If you are a young man and you feel as if you are being beckoned towards radicalization, do not be afraid to seek help. The best way to avoid radicalization is to prioritize mental health, seek professional help if needed, and interact with different kinds of people. It is never too late to get the help you need.