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What is the 'incel rebellion'? And who are those behind it?

The spotlight has been shone on the movement in recent days.
THE INCEL REBELLION has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!

In the hours before he drove a rental van into a group of people on Monday, killing 10, 25-year-old Alek Minassian posted this message to this Facebook page.

The incident and post have trained attention on an online world of sexual loneliness, rage and misogyny.

But what is the “Incel Rebellion”? And who are those behind it?

What is an incel?


Self-identified incels, or involuntarily celibates, are an online community of men who describe themselves as being, for various reasons, unable to “enter into a sexual and/or romantic relationship even though they desire such a thing”.

While many facets of the community are vitriolic and deeply misogynistic, the majority are not violent. However, a small contingent argue that an “Incel Rebellion” is a reasonable response to being spurned by women.

Minassian’s post, which praises California mass-shooter Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed six people and himself after leaving videos in which he railed at female treatment of him, has revived concerns about violent thoughts and words becoming violent actions.

The incel community is “one of the most violent areas of the internet,” said Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. “It may seem to some people that this is kind of a group of pathetic, victimised white males who just are lonely. It’s not. It’s ugly.”

Yet some incel sites insist they don’t condone violence or misogyny. And Judith Taylor, a University of Toronto professor who focuses on social movements, notes that some participants in incel discussions simply feel forsaken, while others “can become very graphic and very toxic”.

NY: New York newspapers report on van attack in Toronto, Canada SIPA USA / PA Images New York papers in the wake of the Toronto massacre. SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Forums are laced with suggestions from users that at least some of the discussions are merely satire or a way of blowing off steam. While most have a skewed outlook on women, the vast majority of posts do not advocate violence, instead posting about shared experiences.

However last November, Reddit shut down its 40,000-member r/incel forum in a crackdown on content promoting and glorifying violence. However, an incel forum, called Braincels, remains on the site. The Braincels language is more toned down than that of its predecessor, but the tone is similar. The forum’s moderators say that they do not “support, encourage, or glorify any violence or physical harm, or those who commit such crimes”.

The forum promotes “blackpills”, which are generally memes: images that are designed to be shared with others which explain, promote or rationalise the mindset of its users. A blackpill, the forum says is:

A subjective term used to describe the real or perceived socially unspoken realisations that come from being a longtime incel.

Many “blackpills” will refer to women being selfish, cruel, shallow or all three.

Minassian’s post also referred to 4Chan, the anonymous online message board, though that board has no dedicated incel forum.

Where does the phrase come from?

UPI 20180424 UPI / PA Images Alek Minassian UPI / PA Images / PA Images

A Canadian woman reportedly coined the term “involuntary celibates” when she launched a website more than 20 years ago to offer support to people struggling to find partners.

But since then the woman, who asked to be identified only as Alana, said she had been saddened to see the phrase — shortened to “incel” — co opted.

“It was meant to be a helpful, supportive movement,” she told The Globe and Mail newspaper, explaining the term was meant to include “people of all genders who find themselves celibate or lonely and not dating.”

“It was a shock to discover that there was someone whose particular reason for violence was that they were lonely and celibate,” she added.

What are “Chads and Stacys”?

Incels refer to attractive sexually active men as “Chads” and attractive women as “Stacys”.

Both of the genders are set up by incels as unattainable ideals. Chads are tall, masculine, muscular but also generally uncaring or abusive. Many incels feel that women’s preference for Chads over them is an example of female vacuousity and shallowness.

Participants “see feminism, and women in general, as a reason their lives are so difficult,” said Maxime Fiset, a self-described former neo-Nazi who now tracks extremist websites for the Montreal-based Center for the Prevention of Radicalisation Leading to Violence.

Bailey Poland, the author of a 2016 book about online misogyny, says the talk of brutality is risky, whatever the posters’ intentions.

It’s “contributing to an environment where that kind of violence is seen as normal and acceptable. So even if you have no actual intent to do that, someone who does is going to see those posts and think they’re not alone,” said Poland, a doctoral student in rhetoric at Bowling Green State University.

Of course, Rodger wasn’t the first killer with a misogynistic mindset. And in 1989, a 25-year-old man who blamed feminists for ruining his life killed 14 women at a Montreal engineering college in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting.

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