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‘Incel’ forums should be tackled like any other kind of terrorist activity

Misogynistic extremists have been radicalised, we must recognise this to prevent further Plymouth-style shootings

Katherine Denkinson
Monday 16 August 2021 11:59 BST
Jake Davison named as Plymouth shooter

Thursday night was strange in the most mundane ways. My partner’s phone beeped (he ignored it) and I received a Facebook message from a friend I’ve not spoken to in a while. She sent me a link to local news, reporting a shooting in progress just down the road. As I read through the updates (shots fired, police called, no new info), my partner responded to messages from family checking we were alright.

The next two hours were spent poring over news and social media apps to find out what had happened. Rumours were moving faster than the truth and everyone was worried. Local news posts drowned under thousands of comments as everyone vented their frustrations online.

By 9pm it was over. A man with a gun had shot five people and was now dead. The details were not officially confirmed until Friday morning, but we already knew his name thanks to the terrified friends of friends who had seen him on their street. Jake Davison was 22-years-old, worked locally and made YouTube videos about the unfairness of being single.

The world according to Davison was awash with cruel, avaricious women who didn’t care about “that little autistic maths genius kid in the corner”. To him, his lack of success in relationships was all down to his lack of looks and money.

Mass shootings in the UK are thankfully rare but Davison’s ideology is frustratingly familiar. Known as Incels (involuntarily celibate), young men like Davison have colonised the dark corners of the web for years to mutter and plot against the women who reject them.

As with a lot of what happens online, it’s easy to dismiss our concerns as melodramatic. It’s the way that many members of Incel forums attempt to portray themselves; easier by far to congregate and rage if half the world thinks of you as harmless shut-ins. There is also an element of projection; they are merely venting frustrations, it’s the rest of the world that’s wrong for demonising them.

Primarily right-wing, their speech patterns echo those of the Alt-Right. Those who oppose them are easily offended “snowflakes”, ”cucks” or “libtards”. In place of woke, their preferred insult is Femoid and women’s selfish refusal to find their simmering rage and social ineptitude attractive, is framed as a left-wing plot to render “sub-par men” (their phrase) obsolete.

As with much of the Alt-Right movement, having run out of valid arguments against the Left, they blame a lack of traditional societal roles. Mostly atheists, their idea of traditional society appears to date from somewhere around 35BC.

If they had their way, women would be removed from their parents aged twelve and placed into a lottery. Forced to submit to whichever man “won” them, relationships would then be fair and no man need go without. Sex is viewed as a human right and women failing to provide it is cruelty of the highest order.

For those who don’t spend their lives online, the concept of Incel can be hard to grasp. How these lonely men have mobilised to the point of mass shootings is equally hard to get our heads around. Writ simply, they have been radicalised.

Men and boys, lacking self-esteem join these groups to find friends. By wallowing in their collective self-pity they feel accepted and important. Unfortunately, many of them also lack empathy and rather than boosting one another, it becomes a race to the bottom.

For the long-term group members, this comes down to one thing – believing that women are the root of all their ills. To be taken seriously and accepted, you have to parrot the party line and declare your seething hatred of any and all women. The more extreme your expression of hatred, the better.

In my time within these groups, I have seen men claim they want to impregnate a woman just to leave her and ruin her life. I have seen rape advocated as a valid punishment and femicide celebrated as the ultimate act. Elliot Rodger and Anders Breivik are revered figures; they actually did what many fantasise about.

As nihilists, these men do not believe that anything awaits them after death. There are no harps, no wings and no salvation-only the satisfaction of knowing they will be remembered by their peers. That somebody will see.

They do not care if we hate them and do not seek our approval. The only way to deal with them is to approach it like any other case of radicalisation and remove our sons from the equation. By connecting to our children when they are lost and working through their problems with them, we lessen the grip of a group whose aim is to become their only friend.

Nothing can excuse the behaviour of men like Rodgers and Davison, but we can try to understand it. In doing so we give ourselves the tools to fight this misogynistic extremism and to tackle the externalisation of personal problems by which it is characterised. Women are not (and have never been) to blame for male violence. It is time for those in positions of power to stand up and say as much.

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