The online community linked to Alek Minassian, charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder, has been celebrating wildly in wake of his alleged van attack in downtown Toronto.
The group of misogynists, who self-identify as involuntarily celibates or “incels”, have praised Minassian, elevating him alongside Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger and Las Vegas shooter Steven Paddock, two mass murderers who the community holds up as saints for killing “normies“, or normal people.
Their sick glee was only exacerbated by the fact that most of the victims of the Toronto attack were women, including an 80-year-old grandmother who was an avid fan of the Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs.
“This random dude killed more people than the supreme gentleman Elliot [Rodger]” user Crustaciouse said on the incel forum Incels.me. “I hope this guy wrote a manifesto because he could be our next new saint.” Another user, Letting Go said that he had “one celebratory beer for every victim that turns out to be a young woman between 18-35.”
Other users on Incels.me debated new ways to bring terror to normies, including pipe bombs, acid attacks, mass rape and memeticized spamming of Elliot Rodger and Alek Minassian, according to the website WeHuntedTheMammoth which monitors online misogyny. Moderators on Incels.me, however, have distanced themselves from the attack. In a statement, SergeantIncel said that Minassian never posted on the forum, and that being an incel “has no relation whatsoever with violence, aggression, misogyny or other negative connotation.”
Incels have a variety of memes & tropes that they return to constantly, such as "Stacy" (attractive women who have sex) & "Chad" (attractive men who have sex). Non-incels are described as "normies" & they're also derided.
— Arshy Mann (@ArshyMann) April 24, 2018
But in other quarters the attention that the Toronto van attack has brought on incels has been greeted with jubilation. On r/braincels, the newest incel subreddit after the previous one got banned, some users wondered whether the attention could help increase the community’s size.
“Normies have short attention spans, they would have lost interest in gawking at us like they were at the zoo by now,” user Picopeso wrote. “I knew we would gain a decent chunk of people who would agree with the blackpill [incel view of the world] but not quite admit it to themselves immediately… We are still at 2000 users. Our usual numbers are around 450-750.”
But according to Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies, the incels jubilation will likely be short-lived. “It’s not a positive for them, it will only strengthen the case for shutting down [their forums] and potentially criminalizing them,” she told ThinkProgress. “I don’t have sympathy for them, I can see that they’re very hateful people, but I do think we need to be constructive [about what drives people to become incels].”
The incel community is not explicitly political, but their groupthink in blaming the state of their sad lives on women and feminism, coupled with the fact that their communities are almost exclusively online and that they prey on vulnerable young men, make them fertile recruiting grounds for the online far-right. But while many far-right-friendly sites, like r/TheRedPill, traffic in male sexual entitlement, none have the nihilistic rage that characterizes incel communities.
“The Red Pill is more about getting women to sleep with men in a world where they feel women now hold more reproductive power,” one former RedPiller, who did not wish to be identified, told ThinkProgress last November. “R/incels…[has] different undertones. Behind their posts is a lot of rage towards the women in their lives. They feel wronged by women as a whole.”
Ironically enough, the term “incel” was actually coined by a queer Toronto women in 1993. “Like a scientist who invented something that ended up being a weapon of war, I can’t uninvent this word,” she wrote in 2016. “Nor [can I] restrict it to the nicer people who need it.”
Of course incels don’t have a monopoly on horrible, misogyny-based violence, either in Canada or the US. In 1989, for instance, 25-year-old Marc Lépine killed 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada, specifically targeting feminists. Domestic violence and a history of violence against women has also been a common thread for mass shooters.