The growing Incel movement, and what it says of society as a whole


This is nothing to joke about:

“This is a novel, new violent extremist movement born in the internet age, which defies the usual characteristics of violent extremist movements that law enforcement and the intelligence community are usually used to,” said Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of CCDH, a US-based nonprofit. “Our study shows that it is organized, has a cogent ideology and has clearly concluded that raping women, killing women, and raping children is a clear part of the practice of their ideology.”

In March, the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center released a report warning that anti-woman violence was a growing terrorism threat. According to the CCDH analysis, members of the forum post about rape every 29 minutes, and more than 89 percent of posters support rape and say it’s acceptable.

I am generally against censorship in the commons, because a free exchange of opinions (theoretically) helps us determine the boundaries of right and wrong. It also drives some people underground, where they gather (like rats) into fringe groups, giving them a false sense of "power in numbers" which serves to reinforce their anti-social and misogynistic leanings. That being said, online platforms must exercise better censorship methods, because their ability to facilitate and amplify those voices is the equivalent of a PA system in an otherwise docile park:

The report says the forum has gained a mass audience largely through social media, singling out YouTube in particular, where, it said, videos promoting incel ideology have been viewed a total of 24.2 million times. “YouTube is a key part of incel education,” Ahmed said.

Forum members, the report said, often share content from misogynist YouTube channels and channels like Incel TV, which promotes incel ideology. Another popular YouTube channel mentioned on the forum, the report said, is SlutHate Creeps, where users post covertly recorded images of women.

“We remove content that targets or threatens individuals or groups based on protected attributes. Upon review, we removed and age-restricted several videos surfaced by CCDH for violating our Community Guidelines,” said YouTube spokesman Jack Malon in a statement.

Not good enough, Jack. It shouldn't require a 3rd party bringing something to your attention to generate action on your part. That reveals (via logic) that you are either 1) not watching the store as you should, or 2) allowing hateful content to propagate on your platform because you are profiting from it. Neither is acceptable, and it screams for government intervention.

But where do these Incels come from? What drives them to such extremes? The answer lies in the mainstream of social interaction and popular entertainment:

The #MeToo movement has revealed countless instances of powerful men using their power to abuse women whom they desired for their own sexual gratification. And in so many cases, this abuse happened under threat of severe retribution. Harvey Weinstein had the ability to end an aspiring actress’s career. Bill Cosby had the same power. Donald Trump, who still hasn’t been investigated for the allegations of sexual assault that he’s accused of, is infamous for suing his enemies into silence.

The public figures who’ve been called out and held to account by #MeToo possess a kind of economic and structural dominance that the Incels simply do not have. Alek Minassian couldn’t have bullied women into sex and gotten away with it, in the same way that someone like Harvey Weinsten or Bill Cosby or Donald Trump could have.

The Incel movement is the logical conclusion of sexual oppression that has run rampant in our society for far too long.

Lacking sufficient power to dominate women, the Incels have nothing but brute force and violence at their disposal. The Toronto attack will not be the final instance of a young man weaponizing his hatred of women, because that weaponization continues to occur in the most powerful sectors of our economy.

There is no "silver bullet" that will end sexism, misogyny, or toxic masculinity. But a good first step in marginalizing these things is to stop defending the indefensible. When (our favorite) politicians and actors have such behaviors exposed, how we react is important. It sends a message. And that message needs to be one of revulsion, not rationalization. Castigation and not commiseration.

Because making the wrong choice in that message leads to perpetuation.