Student Opinion: Understanding the Twisted World of Incels, The Rising Extremist Group

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By Liam Benedict

Incels are an online extremist group, who got their start as a terrorist organization around 2014. Comprised of extremely misogynist, often mentally ill men, this group exists and spreads its message of inciting violence against women online through shadowy forums both on the surface and in the deep web. 

At the moment, there have only been a handful of violent attacks over the years by incels causing over 44 deaths. This includes attacks from people who identified themselves as incels, or people who were later claimed by the incel movement. 

They are not well known to many people, but everyone should be aware of the danger this group poses. And to do this, we must delve into the dark, complex and twisted world in which they live. 

Firstly, incel is short for “Involuntarily Celibate.” Their community comprises mostly of straight white men, with a survey of 312 incels confirming this. According to Homeland Security Today, “9.6 percent of respondents said that incels were not exclusively male and 25.0 percent said that incels were not exclusively heterosexual.”

These men have all been rejected by women, leading to a deep, violent, irrational hatred of them. They spend their days wallowing in self-pity, blaming their genetics for their lack of sex. 

Men who they view as genetically superior alpha males as referred to as “Chads.” Meanwhile, shallow, beauty-obsessed women are referred to as “Stacys.” The terminology goes on much deeper than that, with other frequently used incel slang such as “The Black/Red Pill” and “Sub 8 Male.”

It is also worth noting that many incels are just as obsessed with race as they are with women and sex. Often, incels will bitterly gatekeep other people from joining the incel community. Some incels believe in a strict racial hierarchy when it comes to sexual success. For example, it is often stated among the incel community that white incels are superior to Asian incels, but African American incels are superior to white incels. This is rather surprising, especially considering that in another survey of 550 incels, it was revealed that “55 percent of respondents identify as white or Caucasian.” 

However, even more disturbing than their hateful rhetoric are the acts of terror committed by incels. Although the incel community took credit for the actions of Marc Lépine, the perpetrator of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, the first self-identified case of incel terror was committed by Elliot Rodgers in 2014. 

Rodgers went on a monstrous killing spree, stabbing, shooting and running people over with his car before eventually killing himself, ultimately killing six people and wounding 14. Right before the attacks, he released a video to YouTube called, “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” describing the attacks he was about to commit. He also emailed a 107,000-word manifesto titled “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger” to his friends and family––describing his hatred for his own mixed-race blood, other mixed-race couples and women as a whole. 

This vile human, seen as the quintessential incel, is revered by the incel community. Despite being a foul racist and murderer, he is lovingly referred to as “Saint Elliot” by fellow incels. 

And unfortunately, Rodger’s attack emboldened a whole generation of incels to follow in his footsteps. One such inspired attacker was Alek Minassian, the person responsible for the Toronto Van Attack, in which 10 people (8 of which were women) were killed and 16 were injured. Before the attack, Minassian posted a Facebook status update, claiming his allegiance to the Incel Rebellion. 

Although the number of attacks is not very high, the number of incels does not seem to be going down at all, with tensions between the two genders only getting worse in recent years. Unfortunately, tackling these incel terrorists is a difficult process. Georgetown University Professor Bruce Hoffman notes, like many long-lasting terrorist groups, “The movement is completely decentralized, without any hierarchy or leaders, and therefore no targetable offline organizing or funding streams.” 

One necessary step is to label these crimes for what they are terrorism. We took a step towards this in 2020 when the Toronto police officially labeled an incel murder at an erotic spa as being terrorism

However, we must also work towards destigmatizing mental health illness for men. A  Homeland Security Today survey found that the vast majority of incels believed themselves to be mentally ill in some way. 

These mentally ill men isolate themselves online and eventually find themselves radicalized by the incel movement. If we wish to halt this growing tide of incels, we must not only treat these attacks as terrorism, but we must also increase mental health support for men before they take “The Black Pill” and become radicalized by the incel movement. 

Liam Benedict is a first-year English major from the small town of Galt, California. He is a writer and is planning on becoming a lawyer in the future.


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8 thoughts on “Student Opinion: Understanding the Twisted World of Incels, The Rising Extremist Group”

  1. Alan Miller

    Wow, that was dark.

    I appreciate your taking this on, and recognizing it as a mental health as well as a criminal issue.  I’m not sure the value of labeling these as terrorist attacks is, although they are certainly on the same level.  These incidents appear to be a subset of the larger problem of social-recluse-cracks, turns to violence, and kills a bunch of people as revenge for their internal suffering.

    it is often stated among the incel community that white incels are superior to Asian incels, but African American incels are superior to white incels.

    I had heard about the whole Chad & Stacy thing (envy), but this is the first I’d heard of a racial component to this, other than most of these people being white.  Usually, even if something is repugnant to me, I can imagine where someone’s thinking is coming from.  The above quote, however, makes absolutely no sense to me.

    the number of incels does not seem to be going down at all, with tensions between the two genders only getting worse in recent years.

    Wait, what?  First, aren’t we no longer at two genders?  But beyond that, what do you mean tensions have been getting worse in recent years between the ‘two’ sexes?  I mean, there’s always been ‘tension’ – but are you referring to something in particular? . . .  as this is the first I’ve heard that things have gotten worse recently.

    These mentally ill men isolate themselves online and eventually find themselves radicalized by the incel movement.

    They aren’t the only group radicalizing by isolating themselves online – that in and of itself is a societal issue that must be dealt with.  And I’m sure all this isolation and screen time due to the pandemic isn’t helping things.  As things open back up, I think we’re going to find a lot of people have mentally degraded and radicalized due to isolation.  2021 should be a sh*t show.

    Always appreciate your articles and the variety of topics, LB

  2. Eric Gelber

    However, we must also work towards destigmatizing mental health illness for men. A  Homeland Security Today survey found that the vast majority of incels believed themselves to be mentally ill in some way However, we must also work towards destigmatizing mental health illness for men. A  Homeland Security Today survey found that the vast majority of incels believed themselves to be mentally ill in some way. 

    These mentally ill men isolate themselves online and eventually find themselves radicalized by the incel movement. If we wish to halt this growing tide of incels, we must not only treat these attacks as terrorism, but we must also increase mental health support for men before they take “The Black Pill” and become radicalized by the incel movement.

    We won’t destigmatize mental illness by attributing aberrant, misogynistic behavior to mental illness, including (as suggested in the linked survey) autism(?!). I’m certain many or most of these so-called incels could benefit from mental health services. But that’s different from attributing their aberrant behavior to mental illness. Perhaps we’re confusing cause and effect. Or perhaps if there are coexisting misogynistic behaviors and mental disorders, underlying environmental factors are the cause of each.

    The linked survey of self-reported mental health issues is a way of excusing and explaining such antisocial and often criminal behaviors by attributing them to mental disorders, thereby mitigating their own responsibility. The attribution is both unwarranted and, again, stigmatizing.

    1. Alan Miller

      I’m not sure your point, isn’t much violent criminal behavior caused by mental illness?  I don’t think that necessarily mitigates one’s responsibility, just saying that by nature committing violent acts against people, especially in mass-shooting/attack incidents such as these, I don’t know how any such person, or even someone sympathizing and excusing such behavior, could be considered sane.  Misogynistic behavior in and of itself may not be a mental illness, just a sign of being an arsehole, but when taken to the extreme of wanting to, or actually, killing women en masse — that’s no well balanced individual there, Moe.

          1. David Greenwald

            ” isn’t much violent criminal behavior caused by mental illness? ”

            For one thing, you don’t define what you mean by mental illness. Nor do you define much. Nor do you link your comment to any type of data or study. So now you have drawn a broad swath between violence and mental illness without any foundation and as Eric points out, it stigmatizing. That’s what I mean by “more careful”

        1. Alan Miller

          For one thing, you don’t define what you mean by mental illness.

          EG didn’t define mental illness either, nor did, I believe, the author.  You are asking me to define mental illness?  That’s a bit much to expect in the comment section of a local blog, don’t you think?

          Nor do you define much.

          Much:  “A great amount or quantity of”.

          Nor do you link your comment to any type of data or study.

          That what my college professors asked of me.  Not my blog masters.  I didn’t realize each comment here was expected to be backed by a link.  I’d argue that links actually degrade the comment section.  This is about opinions and points of view, not about trying to win by battling scientist vs. scientist.

          So now you have drawn a broad swath between violence and mental illness without any foundation and as Eric points out, it stigmatizing.

          The author wrote about the criminal behavior, even called it ‘terrorism’, then said many of these people attribute to mental illness.  Then EG said “We won’t destigmatize mental illness by attributing aberrant, misogynistic behavior to mental illness”  So you would rather attribute the desire to, or the actual killing of, women en masse, to ‘aberrant, misogynistic behavior’ – but NOT to mental illness?

          So if one has ‘aberrant, misogynistic behavior’ and kills several women, they must be labeled as bad criminals and misogynists, but not mentally ill — because in your world we need be careful so as not to ‘stigmatize’ the mentally ill?  Did I anywhere say all mentally ill are criminals or want to kill women in masse?  Of course not, because that would be ridiculous.  But you seriously are twisting that to say that we must be so careful not to stigmitize the mentally ill as a whole that we must deny the very grey area of ‘aberrant, misogynistic behavior’ could be based on mental illness, of whatever form?

          That’s what I mean by “more careful”

          Well, you be careful not to use your ‘I-get-to-answer-even-after-five-times’ privilege here so you can have the last word 😐 😐 😐

  3. Tia Will

    This article is not only very dark, to me, as a woman, the sentiments driving this group’s hatred are totally inexplicable. I can attest from both my personal and professional lives that men are not the only gender to experience sexual or romantic rejection. So why is rejection by women a trigger for violent behavior on this scale in men, but not women?

    I was also struck by the almost 10% who felt that the identification of incel was not limited to men. If indeed it is a manifestation of sexual rejection, does it apply ( in their minds) only to lesbian women?

    I find this a baffling topic and truly appreciate you taking it on.

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