From the Depths of the Internet: Incels and Violence

By Dan Reeves

In April of 2018, an armed assailant, Alek Minassian, drove a rental van into a crowd on a busy sidewalk in Toronto, Canada. In the wake of the destruction, ten people were left dead with an additional fourteen critically injured. The individual was also armed with a handgun that he kept in his pocket during the attack, which he later brandished to responding police officers. Ultimately, the assailant was apprehended without a shot fired by him or the police, however, the incident still proved to be among the deadliest mass-killing events in recent Canadian history. Naturally, as with every incident of this nature, the question arose: what drove Minassian to do this?

After a brief investigation, the answer became clear: Minassian was a member of a radical online hate group known as Incels. Since their founding in 1993, Incels have been responsible for more than 60 deaths in crimes that can be considered gender-based killing sprees. Additionally, it seems that with each attack, support of violence as a method of conveying their message becomes more supported within the Incel community. One post surfaced in an Incel chat-room in the wake of the Toronto killings that stated:

“I do not blame Alek Minassian for what he did,”

Another poster on writes:

“I blame society for treating low status men like garbage. There will always be more rampages because of the way society treats us.”

In essence, Incels believe themselves to be social outcasts that have made a home for themselves in the depths of online chat forums such as 4chan and Reddit, (however, they were kicked off of Reddit based on the use of hateful rhetoric). Similar chats surfaced on 4chan in the wake of the recent California shooting that claimed 13 lives, which was also attributed to an Incel fundamentalist.

The motive behind these crimes is generally a mixed bag of misogyny, negative body image, and psychological projection of personal issues. Essentially, the Incel movement is a sociopolitical movement based on the sexual failures of particular individuals. Additionally, Incel ideology supports the notion that attractive men and women, (referred to in Incel culture as Chad’s and Stacy’s) dominate the modern culture and make life difficult on those who are deemed less attractive/not worthy of sexual gratification. In short, the Toronto killings were simply the latest victims in a long tradition of gender-based violence perpetrated by Incels. Until they do not have a place on open internet forums, it is unfortunately probable that instances such as the Toronto killings will continue to occur in the future.