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How Misogynistic Men Have Sparked A New Terror Threat

How the toxic online ecosystem breeding “incels” posts a deadly threat to womankind.

Credit: Cottonbro / Pexels

Elliot Rodger, a sexually-frustrated 22-year-old, unleashed a new violent form of extremism back in 2014 when he killed 6 people in California. Following Rodger’s brutal act, a wave of misogynistic attacks began to sweep across the world.

Back in May 2014, the picturesque beachside community of Isla Vista, California, birthed a new and horrific strain of terrorism.

The perpetrator of the attack, Elliot Rodger, fatally stabbed and shot 6 people, and injured a further 14. But unlike similar attacks, Rodger’s actions weren’t fuelled by racism or religious hatred, but by misogyny. But what role did misogyny play in all of this?

Well, Rodger was a self-pitying 22-year-old virgin who viewed his actions as “retribution” against women for sexually rejecting him. But Rodger was not alone, and his actions and worldview resonated with a number of bitter and entitled young men across the globe.

These young men view themselves as losers in the sexual marketplace, and to them, Rodger was seen as a martyr.

Credit: Vice / YouTube

Also known as “incels” (which stand for “involuntarily celibate”), members of this group/movement have carried out a string of deadly attacks since Rodger’s, including a 2018 van-ramming attack in Toronto, a 2020 machete attack in a Toronto spa, a 2020 mall shooting in Arizona, and a 2021 mass shooting in Plymouth, England. 

Incels are an extreme pocket of a toxic online ecosystem known as “the manosphere”. Known as an incubator for misogyny and anti-feminism, radical male entitlement and grievance, and even violent acts, the manosphere frequently overlaps with the far-right. This is predominantly due to the fact that they both share underlying beliefs around race and gender, despite incels being a racially diverse community. 

However, what centers these beliefs is that feminism has ruined modern society. The feminist movement has supposedly created a world in which women are equal agents, and this has denied men the dominance that they believe is natural. 

According to Sarah Daly, an expert on mass violence, gender, and online communities at Saint Vincent College, Pennsylvania, “they are all focused on the idea of males losing traction, or losing position and status in society.”

Jacob Ware, a counterterrorism expert and adjunct professor at Georgetown University furthers Daly’s points:

“There’s an ideological link, for sure. The view that women are backwards, that feminism is taking away our right to be strong men, to be strong white men.”

According to Ware, it’s very common to see incels using highly racialized language, as seen by Rodger (who was of mixed white and Asian descent) prior to his attack. Rodger ranted about how Black and Asian men had the ability to date white women.

But although manosphere ideologies closely converge with that of the far-right, according to Ware, incels diverge from the far-right’s attitude in one key way.

Credit: Vice/YouTube

The far-right has traditionally demonstrated something known as “benevolent sexism”, in which women are viewed as a fetishized “property” of white men who must be protected from external “threats”. 

According to Ware, however: 

“Incels redefined that – they’re what we call hostile sexists. So for the first time, we see that rather than committing violence in defence of that image of the perfect white woman, we’re now seeing hostile violence targeted at [women]. That’s a change. And it makes incels a new challenge and a different kind of threat.”

But this fine line between the manosphere and the far-right can often be seen in cases like the targeted shooting spree in Denver in December 2021 by Lyndon McLeod, a minor influencer in the manosphere. 

McLeod’s reputation had been built on a fiction trilogy called Sanction, in which he chillingly prophesized his own attack. The protagonist of the series, Lyndon MacLeod a celibate tattoo-shop owner, is bursting with contempt for the world and goes on a killing spree in a tattoo parlor. Two of the fictional victims shared the same name as McLeod’s real-life victims. 

Credit: Vice / YouTube

As well as presaging his attack, McLeod’s book functioned as some kind of far-right, masculinist manifesto. Within it, he championed white nationalist ideology, self-help libertarianism, eco-facism, and rallied against minorities or left-wing causes. Ultimately, McLeod’s work glorified mass violence as a redemptive act.

Following the attack, McLeod was shot dead by a police officer but was posthumously regarded as a “saint” by online far-right groups – like the Christchurch terrorist and other recent mass shooters.

But whilst the hateful ideologies of the manosphere so vividly bleed over into the far-right, Ware notes that extremism researchers are very wary of viewing the movement through that lens. Claiming that incels are a branch of far-rightism may risk underplaying the very real threat that incels pose in their own right.

According to Ware, “We already have a serious threat against female communities from the incel movement. Let’s not downplay that… It’s already bad enough.”

If you would like to look into this topic further, check out this video from Vice here.

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Content Writer and freelance journalist with an MA in Creative Writing. Passionate about films, books and general media.

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