Since 2014, multiple mass killings have been perpetrated by self-identified incels, as well as other instances of violence or attempted violence. After the 2018 Toronto van attack, incel communities have been repeatedly criticized by researchers and the media for being misogynistic, encouraging violence, spreading extremist views, and radicalizing their members.
- Terrorist Attacks
An incel (/ˈɪnsɛl/ IN-sel; an abbreviation of "involuntary celibate"), or sometimes incels, can be defined as a person associated with one or more of the following: an ideology, a mostly online subculture, an identity, a mostly online community, and/or a movement, that is characterized by public displays of sexual and/or romantic frustration.
Incels also believe that people seeking a romantic or sexual partner participate in a cruel, mercenary, and Darwinian sexual selection, wherein incels are genetically unfit and where women hold an advantage for reasons ranging from Feminism to the use of cosmetics. Incels may attribute their lack of sexual success to factors such as shyness, sex-segregated work environments, and commonly believe that the only thing more important than looks in improving a man's eligibility as a prospective partner is wealth.
Some incels justify their beliefs based on the works of fringe social psychologist Brian Gilmartin and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Estimates of the size of incel communities during 2018-2019 varied, and ranged from the thousands, to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands. More recently, a statistical analysis of the largest incel forum shows that only a few hundred accounts made up the vast majority of forum posts during all of 2021 and most of 2022.
Many discussions in incel-themed forums are characterized by hatred, misogyny, misanthropy, self-pity and self-loathing, ethnocentrism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against women and sexually active people. Incel communities became more extremist and focused on violence from the late 2010s. This has been attributed to factors including influences from overlapping online hate groups and the rise of the alt-right (see exposure: Faux Nationalism).
Beginning in 2018 and into the 2020s, the incel ideology has been described by North American governments and researchers as a terrorism threat, and law enforcement have issued warnings about the subculture. A January 2020 report by the Texas Department of Public Safety warned that incels were an "emerging domestic terrorism threat" that "could soon match, or potentially eclipse, the level of lethalness demonstrated by other domestic terrorism types".
Dr. John Horgan, a psychology professor at Georgia State University who in 2019 received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to study the incel subculture, explained why the incel ideology equates to terrorism:
The UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate ("CCDH") published a report during 2022 about an active r/incels offshoot incel forum that posted about rape every 29 minutes during their study period, and used the word "kill" 1,181 times in one month. 89% of forum users during the study period expressed that they support rape in general. According to the report, some posters on the forum try to normalize the idea of child rape, and more than half the total forum during their study period supported pedophilia.
Elliot Rodger was born in London, UK, and moved to the United States with his parents at age five. He was raised in Los Angeles. His father is British filmmaker (Assistant director, The Hunger Games 2012) Peter Rodger, his paternal grandfather photo-journalist George Rodger. His mother is a Malaysian Chinese research assistant for a film company. Rodger had a YouTube account, and a blog titled "Elliot Rodger's Official Blog", through which he expressed loneliness and rejection.
Elliot Rodger began his attacks at his apartment on Seville Road, where he killed three men by stabbing them multiple times. Two of the victims were confirmed to be Rodger's roommates according to an apartment lease, while police were investigating whether the third was also a resident or visiting the apartment on the night of the killings.
Rodger drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house at Embarcadero del Norte and Segovia Road near UCSB, where he knocked on the front door for a few minutes. After no one answered the door, he then began shooting people nearby. Two women were killed and a third was injured. Rodger began driving again. He fired into an unoccupied coffee shop on Pardall Road, then several times into a delicatessen; a man was struck seven times and killed.
Rodger exchanged gunfire with three sheriff's deputies, and was shot in the hip. At 9:35, police found Rodger dead inside his car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. In the car were three pistols, knives, six empty ten-round magazines, and 548 rounds of unspent ammunition.
In his manifesto, My Twisted World he wrote that being of mixed race made him "different from the normal fully white kids". On one online forum, he said that he opposed interracial dating and made several posts regarding African-American, South Asian and East Asian people, stating that seeing men of these ethnic groups socializing with white women "makes you want to quit life". In one online post, Rodger wrote:
Rodger made a racially motivated comments regarding another boy, outlining some of his manifesto plans:
Rodger stated in his manifesto that, in his ideal world, he would:
He said that he planned to kill his half-brother and stepmother, but was not mentally prepared to kill his father. According to his family's attorney and a family friend, Rodger had seen multiple therapists since he was eight years old, but the attorney said he had never been formally diagnosed with a mental illness. He was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, an autism spectrum disorder, in 2007.
After turning 18, Rodger began rejecting mental health care and became increasingly isolated. Family friend Dale Launer said that he counseled Rodger on approaching women, but that Rodger did not follow the advice; Launer also commented that when he met Rodger at eight or nine, "I could see then that there was something wrong with him ... looking back now he strikes me as someone who was broken from the moment of conception."
Harper-Mercer killed nine people and injured eight others before killing himself in a shooting at the Umpqua Community College campus on October 1, 2015, in Roseburg, Oregon. He left a manifesto at the scene, outlining his interest in other mass murders including the Isla Vista killings, his anger at not having a girlfriend, and his animus towards the world. In his journal writings, he had related with Elliot Rodger and other mass shooters, describing them as "people who stand with the gods".
Some students victims were shot multiple times; one woman was struck several times in the stomach while trying to close a classroom door. One witness said he made a woman beg for her life before shooting her, shot another woman when she tried to reason with him, and shot a third woman in the leg after she tried to defend herself with a desk. One victim, Sarena Dawn Moore, was killed while trying to climb back into a wheelchair on his orders.
Before the attack, when someone on an online message board had speculated Harper-Mercer was "saving himself for someone special", Harper-Mercer had replied: 'involuntarily so". Several hours before the shooting, someone suspected to be Harper-Mercer posted a threat to a Pacific Northwest college to /r9k/, a 4chan board with many incel posters.
The Umpqua Community College shooting was the deadliest mass in Oregon's modern history.
After an April 23, 2018 vehicle-ramming attack in Toronto, Ontario, Alek Minassian was convicted of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Shortly before the attack, Minassian had allegedly posted on Facebook that "the Incel Rebellion has already begun" and applauded Rodger. Following the attack, a poster on a website created to supersede /r/incels wrote about Minassian:
Following the attack, police claimed that Minassian had been radicalized by incel communities. A video interview was later released in September 2019 showing Minassian being interrogated by police shortly after the attacks. In the video, Minassian is shown telling police that he was a virgin, and that he was motivated by a resentment of "Chads and Staceys", as well as women who gave "their love and affection to obnoxious brutes" rather than to him.
A Facebook post made by Minassian (following the attack) was uncovered in which he identified himself as an incel ("involuntary celibate"). The post, dated shortly before the beginning of the attack on April 23, allegedly read:
Beierle killed two women and injured four women and a man before killing himself in a shooting at the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio in Tallahassee, Florida. He had been a follower of incel ideologies for a long time, and also had a history of arrests for grabbing women's buttocks. In 2014 he posted several YouTube videos of himself espousing extreme hatred for women and expressing anger over not having a girlfriend, mentioning Elliot Rodger in one video.
Armando Hernandez Jr
Hernandez allegedly opened fire on May 20, 2020, at Westgate Entertainment District, a mixed-use development in Glendale, Arizona, before being arrested by police. A 19-year-old man was critically injured, while a 30-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl suffered minor injuries. According to the Maricopa County prosecutor, Hernandez identified himself as an incel and claimed he wanted to target couples and shoot at least ten people.
The prosecutor said, "Mr. Hernandez is a self-professed incel ... He was taking out his anger at society, the feeling that he has been bullied, the feeling that women didn't want him". The prosecutor also alleged that Hernandez sent a video of the attack to a woman he wished to impress.
The Plymouth shooting occurred in Keyham, Plymouth, Devon, England, United Kingdom, on 12 August 2021. The gunman, 22-year-old Jake Davison, shot and killed five people and injured two others before fatally shooting himself.
The 22-year-old first killed his 51-year-old mother after an argument. He then left the house with what witnesses described as a pump-action shotgun, and shot and killed a 3-year-old girl and her 43-year-old father in the street. Next, he injured a 53-year-old woman and her 33-year-old son before shooting and killing a 59-year-old man in a nearby park.
Davison had posted videos online in which he reportedly expressed misogynist and homophobic views, expressed hostility towards his mother and others, and likened himself to incels. He had also used incel forums on Reddit to express hateful views.