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Nathan Larson, the self-described incel paedophile, is running for Congress. This is how he groomed vulnerable young men

Young men turn to forums for support and find themselves radicalised by misogynist extremists, advocating for the sexual enslavement of women

Tim Squirrell
Tuesday 05 June 2018 16:51 BST
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Self-described white supremacist and paedophile Nathan Larson running for US congress says he wants to decriminalise incest

The corruption of what used to be a support movement into a hate group means that young lonely men seeking a community are at risk of misogynistic radicalisation and recruitment into communities that glorify rape and paedophilia. In order to understand how this is happening, you need to understand Nathan Larson.

It’s 2018, which means it’s unsurprising that a self-described white supremacist and paedophile is running for Congress in Virginia. Nathan Larson wants to legalise child pornography and incestuous marriage, and repeal the Violence Against Women Act so that women can be classified “as property, initially of their fathers and later of their husbands”. He also established a number of forums on which he posted under the pseudonyms “Lysander” and “Leucosticte”, advocating for the rape of women and graphically describing child pornography.

Larson was recruiting from the incel community, which was brought to prominence following an incident earlier this year in which one of their number is alleged to have driven a van along a pavement in Toronto, killing 10 people and wounding more than a dozen others.

Incel, which stands for “involuntarily celibate”, is nominally a label adopted by men who want to have sex or a relationship but are unable to find one, but in practice it describes a set of toxic communities in which lonely, vulnerable young men who need support find nothing but misogyny, self-loathing and nihilism.

A typical post on an incel community sees users attributing their misfortune to inalterable aspects of appearance. Any attempts at self-improvement are mocked as “copes”.

The websites Larson created have been taken down after a campaign from the activist group r/IncelTears and Babe.net, but Larson is already looking for alternative hosting. As with the white supremacist sites Stormfront and Daily Stormer, it’s likely he’ll be able to acquire it, even if it is on the dark web. He’s found no shortage of support from forums like incels.me, the main incel community since they were banned from reddit in November last year for inciting violence.

While the story of an admitted paedophile running for Congress might seem warped enough, the bigger issue here is this. Young men turning to forums for support and finding themselves radicalised into misogynist extremists, advocating for the sexual enslavement of women. But moreover, men like Larson (who is not involuntarily celibate by any stretch of the imagination, given that he has been married twice and has a daughter who is out of his custody) make accounts on these forums specifically in order to recruit people they think will be sympathetic to their cause. In the words of one reddit user, “the incelocalypse owner is only part of the incel community because he sees it as a place where being a child molester isn’t considered a non-starter. It’s a great recruitment spot for him.”

Unfortunately, they’re right. Incel forums, which began as support groups in the late 1990s, now ubiquitously accept the concept of the “blackpill, which says that a man’s life chances are fundamentally determined by his attractiveness, and nothing they can do will change their fate. The only options left to them, then, are living in misery or taking violent action against themselves and others. They feel wronged by the world and they blame women, whom they hold responsible for not giving them the affection they believe they are entitled to.

Many of them advocate the rape or enslavement of women, or for the state to “allocate” women to them as property. Some of them want to lower the age of consent or abolish it entirely. It’s unsurprising, then, that in this community a paedophile like Nathan Larson might find common cause. In this barely regulated environment where the most extreme opinions are given the most credence, he is barely saying anything new. That means that people like him are getting a free platform to access vulnerable men and expose them to 3,000 word essays on “How to psyche yourself up to feel entitled to rape”.

It might seem like there’s not much that can be done to prevent this. White supremacist sites seem to find new homes whenever they’re brought down. But it’s worth noting that every time a community like Incelocalypse is shut down, it loses members. The old incels subreddit had more than 40,000 subscribers, its successor has just over half that, and incels.me has just 6,000 registered members. As these sites are driven further and further from the accessible surface of the internet, they become harder for potential new recruits to stumble upon.

Their location in grotty corners of the dark web or on slow servers hosted by Chinese domain registrars makes them seem less credible and more like the extremist fringe groups they are. If lonely men looking for support find only the incels, then recovery, self-acceptance and self-improvement become vanishingly unlikely. But if they find genuine support groups – and they are out there – then there’s hope for them. The only way to prevent the radicalisation of more men into world views that dehumanise women is to make sure that one kind of group is far more visible, welcoming and accessible than the other.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD researcher, into online communities, at the University of Edinburgh

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